Lots of Kickstarter lately! This is actually good to see as it keeps things fresh in the market and community.
The folks over at Bastion Gear are currently running a Kickstarter (wrapping up this week!) for a new bolt action pen and were kind enough to send me some samples to review.
A little about Bastion, started in 2012 they are a company that seeks to source all things EDC, and seem like a bit of a powerhouse in daily carry and tactical-type gear. From gun accessories to Apple Watch cases, they have a little bit of everything.
At first glance, their bolt action pen is sleek and streamlined without any textures, knurls, or protrusions. For being in the "tactical" style arena, this is a pretty conservative approach, but one I think that will appeal to a broader audience. Nothing super crazy, but a really sleek and attractive looking metal pen that will likely be noticed when someone sees you using it.
Actually, in looking through more of Bastion's catalog, they steer pretty clear from the tactical stereotype of all things needing an extra glass breaker, leg stabber, (and don't forget the bottle opener...) and go for a more streamlined approach. That being said, their new pen stays true to that design aesthetic.
The pen comes in two models: the all stainless steel and stainless steel with a carbon fiber sheathed barrel.
With both pens being stainless steel, this adds weight and puts both versions above 2 oz.
All Stainless Steel: 2.8oz
w/ Carbon Fiber: 2.3oz
The pens are also identical in length at just over 5 1/4 inches which for my larger hands leaves about 3/4" of pen hanging off of the fleshy part where the barrel rests.
The pen is a bit wider than a lot of the metal pens on the market coming in at 0.45" which also adds to the weight. It feels like a somewhat big pen (not unwieldy) but if you are familiar with the County Comm Embassy pen, it is just about the same diameter as the barrel, but doesn't have the inset grip section.
No question, 2.8oz makes for a hefty pen. This thing feels indestructible, but if heavy isn't quite comfortable for you, it may be a tough one for usability.
For someone wanting a pen that could likely be run over by a tank and still write, this is probably right up your alley.
Aesthetically the all stainless version appeals to me most since I generally enjoy more monochromatic design, but I can see the appeal of the carbon fiber. In hand the steel is cold, but the carbon fiber is a softer, maybe more comfortable feel and also cuts down nearly a half an ounce of weight which, in a pen, is a lot.
The clip on the pen is bent, sprung steel that has had the edges smoothed out and has been polished to a nearly mirror finish. It flows really well with the pens design and fits right in. From a utility standpoint it is strong and clips comfortably almost anywhere. I've clipped it to my bag, my jeans pocket, (even tested it on a thick cardboard box for whatever reason) and it performed great. It is affixed to the pen by two domed, hex-head screws.
From a branding perspective, Bastion opted for a pretty conservative approach by having a small etching of their logo "shield" and name etched (likely laser) near the end of the pen by the bolt that runs parallel with the barrel.
I think the logo looks pretty good where it is. It doesn't really distract from the design, but maybe feels a bit "tucked in" if that makes sense. I could also have seen a clip placement with the shield on top and BASTION running down letter by letter, or a "wrapping" logo at the top just under the domed end of the pen running perpendicular. This likely sounds EXTREMELY nitpicky, but is not meant to be seen as a criticism of the overall pen and certainly not something to be hung up about (I'm not). But, branding placement does impact the overall look and proportions of a pen and can make a difference to some people.
Ok, now onto my favorite part... the bolt and just how friggin' tough it is.
By tough I mean it takes a little bit of thumb torque to make it work. If I could have my way, all clicks or bolts would have stiff tension. Part of it is just that I know when I'm actually clicking/activating the pen, and it also means it has a strong spring in the front which impacts whether the tip wobbles around while writing. Think of a pen you've used that has a stiff knock/bolt mechanism... now, like 5x that. I think the folks at Bastion might have installed the spring from a truck suspension in here, but it is awesome.
Activation of the bolt is really on point. Even though it is stiff, you simply have to get it to the bottom of the "J" and I've found it just snaps into place in either direction with an audible "click".
The knob sticking out to activate the bolt is rounded which matches the domed end of the pen (for consistency of course), but is also comfortable to use on my thumb.
Some slight feedback, the inside edge of the bolt "J" cutout does have a couple of sharp corners that my thumb hits on occasion which may be annoying or uncomfortable to some. I'm not talking that we're drawing blood or anything, but there is a slight "prick" sensation if you get it just right.
And, as expected, the stiffness of the spring and bolt has made for a very firm writing experience with zero sway in the tip when hitting the page.
The pen came fitted with an unnamed and unbranded Parker style refill which writes ok, but I'll probably swap in an Easy Flow or Fisher Space for longterm use. I can't tell for sure which Parker style refill is in there, but you have options.
In design they were going for a seamless look and they succeeded quite well at it. There is a break in the barrel where the tip can be removed to replace the refill which is noticeable, but not overly obvious on the all stainless version. On the carbon fiber it doesn't really matter since the break happens at the carbon fiber sleeve. The tip is also fitted with a rubber o-ring to prevent the parts from coming apart easily.
The biggest surprise to me on this pen was actually the price when I saw it. For the Kickstarter they have offered a first tier for the stainless steel at just $39 ($49 for the carbon fiber) which is a pretty solid value for what you get in the pen. I'd expect the retail to be about 30-40% higher than that.
Only potential downside (if you can call it that) would be that it is only offered (for now?...) in a heavier metal like stainless steel. Although an aluminum version may not be quite as rugged, It would cut the weight by about 2/3 which I think more folks might go for.
I actually really like this pen and am surprised at the value of it. I think this makes it really accessible to a lot of people in a more mass-market approach.
Special thanks again to Bastion Gear for sending the sample for review and make sure to go check out their Kickstarter before it closes.