Tool Review: Combat Ready/GTI Range Master Tactical Pen

photo (74)

The fit and finish of the pen were much better than this post-testing snapshot would indicate.

I recently found myself on an impromptu trip to Cleveland to visit my mother. She is recovering from pneumonia and I had a window of a couple of days where I could quickly fly up from Knoxville and see her. I would be gate-checking my bag, so I needed to leave the EDC blades at home. I feel naked without a knife, and I wanted to bring something along that would be at least nominally useful in an emergency situation.

Kim Breed is a retired special forces Master Sgt. He is a knifemaker and field editor for Blade Magazine. I will take his opinion as a primary source. We were chatting at the Blade Show and he commented on the “tacti-cool” trend. I didn’t write down a direct quote, but an honest paraphrase would be “if it were you and me, and all I had is a stick, it would be a “tactical-stick”.

photo (76)

The pen/screwdriver is 6 11/16″ long. The TSA compliant length for small screwdrivers is 7″.

I need to put in the following legal disclaimer. In transporting the pen on a flight, I made every effort to comply with the law as I understand it. The pen is 6 11/16″ long. According to the website:

photo (6)

I made every effort to comply with the law.

If that final “Even if an item is generally permitted” clause were brought in to play, I was prepared to surrender the the pen, no questions asked and with no resistance. But I honestly believe as a layman not a lawyer, that I was in compliance with TSA regulation. If you chose to make the same decision, you do so at your own risk. I have been critical of the TSA and their ban on knives on airplanes, but I am not looking to make a stand for the 2nd amendment while traveling over a $16 pen.

(God I hate that I have to grovel like that)

photo (77)

I made no attempt to conceal the pen. It was clipped in the pen holder of my travel document case, which was submitted for screening.

Now that that is out of the way, on to my evaluation of the tool.

photo (78)

The pen rides somewhat high in the pocket.

The pocket clip is a problem for me. It rides a bit high and will scratch a car door if you are careless. The biggest issue I have is that the clip is non-removable. In an emergency situation (like your plane going down) it would be nice to unscrew and reverse the clip so that it points away from the pen. It could then be sharpened with a rock into a rudimentary blade as you evaluate your survival supplies. I would probably bend or break the clip off and sharpen it. But having the ability to have the clip firmly hafted to the pen would have been a nice touch.

photo (80)

The back screws off to reveal an AR sight adjustment tool  and the clip will spin but is not removable.

The back cap also screws off to reveal an AR sight adjustment tool – which happens to not fit my York flip-up sights (too big). Sort of a bummer as this was one feature that attracted me in the first place.

photo (81)

When the screwdriver tip is out, the body screws into the cap. When using the pen, the body snaps into the cap.

The screwdriver is useful, and can be used for light prying as well. In a pinch it could probably be sharpened into a rudimentary chisel-tip. It can push the connection pins between an AR upper and lower. It is pointy enough to rip tape if you are breaking down boxes. But its primary purpose is as the “tactical” point for the tool.


I guess the best way to evaluate the tool is in its 3 applications: as a writing implement, as a screwdriver point, and as a thrusting weapon of last resort.

As a pen, the Range Master is rather clunky. It does write well, including upside down.

As a screwdriver, the textured body provided substantial grip and the grip was of sufficient diameter to provide a fair amount of torque.

As a thrusting weapon, the texture provides a solid grip even when wet. My hand would dislodge when tested in plywood though.


Since the primary action the pen will be used for in a tactical situation is stabbing or thrusting. I decided to test against the following 3 substrates: A cardboard block, a small paint can lid, and a sheet of 1/4″ luan plywood.

Cardboard Block:

photo (79)

The cardboard block will become the TTAK test for measuring piercing ability of a tool.

The cardboard block piercing test is being added to the TTAK Knife Testing Protocol. I stacked squares of cardboard and bound them together with duct tape. Setting the block on the bench, I attempt to drive the tool as deeply into the block as I can.

photo (82)

The pen penetrated 2 1/4″ of cardboard. Not as much as the knives I have been testing, but it would definitely damage exposed neck tissue if you were attacked.

The empty paint can lid was pierced to a similar depth.  The pen hangs up on the step to the greater diameter of the pen housing.

photo (83)

The driver-tip easily pierced the paint can lid.

photo (84)

The 5th thrust expanded an existing hole to the pocket clip.


photo (85)

1/4″ Luan was no problem. 3/8″ plywood was.

I had no problem penetrating 1/4″ luan, but the 3/8″ ply stopped the pen cold. Then again, it stopped my Mora Bushcraft too.

One scenario I did not test is whether the tip would work as a glass-breaker. I have broken many windows in my firefighter days, and I believe it would be able to focus enough force in a small enough area to blow up tempered glass. I would like to test it before trusting it with my life.


I keep thinking of the saying, “Dance with the girl you brung”. If circumstances make the carry of a knife verboten, you might have to make do with what you have at hand. When viewed through that lens a tactical pen serves a role. I would have felt more naked without feeling something clipped to my pocket. The Combat Ready Range Master Tactical pen can be useful in many applications – especially if it your only option.

It works fairly well as a pen too.









  1. NavyRetGold says:

    Clay, I have wondered if there is any value in these tactical pens, so thank you for putting one to the test. The performance was better than I expected. I hope I am never reduced to carrying a tactical pen as my primary self defense tool.. It certainly beats nothing, but we will be no better than the UK if that’s all we have to defend ourselves with, and that’s a pitiful position to be in. Proud to be from Tennessee and Florida in that respect.

  2. Roger says:

    To be fair, I usually never get through the TSA in one piece. I always carry one or two of these just to be a dick to the aero-pedos. But they’ve looked the other way on my Uzi tactical pen before which was thoroughly surprising.

  3. janitor says:

    but how does it write? i cant carry a shitty pen

  4. Jay says:

    Hilarious. This “tactical” label attached to what are at best improvised weapons is getting out of hand. Next we’ll have a “tactical” jock strap which you somehow whip off in a fraction of a second and strangle your attacker(assuming he doesn’t die laughing). You’ve probably guessed I’m a skeptical ol’ fart. A walking stick(yes I do need one) is more lethal than any of that crap. And I don’t mean some ridiculous hollow “survival” walking stick. You’d be better off if you didn’t try to rely on a pen, which in this case is not “mightier than the sword”. Palm heel to the chin is more instantly disabling(leaving the bad guy to be injured further/killed in the next few seconds) than a shallow stab with a tiny blunt spike. And you won’t fumble to find your hands. That technique was “test driven” by Commandos and OSS guys during WWII. Stay safe.

    1. I agree it is sub-optimal at best. However, I went to great lengths to ensure that the tool I chose conformed to TSA regulations. I do stand by that it is one of the better improvised weapons that you could legally bring aboard a plane. I believe it to be a versatile tool in many non-tactical situations (prying, screwdriving, opening a bottle of beer) and besides, it is a decent enough pen with a pressurized cartridge.

      Agree with heel of hand to chin. Also if you strike the nose at the right angle with heel, you can drive a portion of the ethmoid bone into their brain. But you have to get it right. Personally, in the little martial arts training I do have, I specifically practiced low, knee-breaking kicks with the intent of being able to employ Run-Fu at the earliest opportunity.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  5. bart says:

    need an update… tactical pens are prohibited by TSA. TSA is very well aware of tactical pens. They better be in checked luggage only. Getting caught can result in more than just confiscation. You are better off with a metal pen like a Parker Jotter or stainless steel Sharpie than a Smith and Wesson, Benchmade, Schrade, Zero Tolerance, or another overpriced pen that says “Combat Ready” in bold letters.

    1. I read a piece on the Parker Jotter. Not a bad suggestion.

      I have flown several times, submitted it for screening plainly clipped inside my travel portfolio and never have drawn a second glance. I am not a lawyer so whatever you choose is on you.

      This one is less dagger looking than most. And as a screwdriver, it falls under the 7″ limit with room to spare.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tool Review: Combat Ready/GTI Range Master Tactical Pen

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email