Tuesday, May 29, 2012

S&W MP tactical pen


I recently received a neat gift from a close friend of mine, a Smith and Wesson M&P (Military and Police) tactical pen. I've always wanted one of these for testing and evaluation and here's a review of the pen and the concept of tactical pens in general.

The pen is 5.7 inches long and weighs 1.4 oz. , machined out of 6061 type III aluminum, with a hard anodized coating. With the cap on, one end tapers to a point, just blunt enough to make it useful as a stylus for touch screens on smartphones and other devices. The caps snaps on and off the pen and when the pen is used the cap attaches to one end. The ink cartridge is a Schmidt Refill P900 which writes rather smoothly. I've used it for a few days as a daily carry pen and aside from being somewhat heavier than the plastic gel ink pens that I usually carry, it's just like any other writing instrument.

It looks a little "tactical" but it is just a pen


The cap snaps onto one end, and it feels just like any metal pen


Now you and I know that you didn't check out this review to read about how it well it works as a pen. So let's examine this pen's capability as a defensive tool.

I don't consider this as a pen masquerading as a weapon, regardless of how it looks. It's more of a pen with a functional stylus on one end, which can be used as a self-defense tool. It's far different from those crappy pens with hidden knives inside them. This is a multi-functional instrument, and one of its uses - as a weapon - is in plain view.

I've always believed that kubotan / palm stick type weapons are practical, in the right hands. Note the emphasis. I remember an online discussion with a fellow martial artist who runs a popular MA messageboard. He stated that palm sticks don't work, and I disagreed with him. He said, “Well, they'll work for you, but not for others”.

It doesn't take MENSA membership to figure out what the pointed tip is meant for. The “business end” of the pen can be driven into both soft and hard targets of the human body, with predictable results if done correctly. The knurling on the body of the pen is positioned in such a way that it helps my pinky get a good grip on the pen and I can rest my thumb on the flat top of the cap. This pen feels good in my hand as a weapon.

It's pointless to test the pointed end on all sorts of materials and targets. It's not designed to go through kevlar, sheet metal or brick walls. That's not what it was meant for, but I think this can be used to shatter a car window in an emergency. I'll update this review after I get a chance to test this idea. 

It's sculpted from high grade aluminum, making the point more than hard enough to do damage to human bone and flesh. Imagine someone trained well in FMA using his or her superior hand speed and power to drive this pen into someone's more tender parts, concentrating all that force onto a tiny point. It's definitely going to hurt.

What are these choice spots on the body that should be jabbed, stabbed, pressed or hammered with this pen? As with all similarly dangerous topics I might discuss on my blog, I'll let those who have training figure that out. These targets should be common sense to even the novice Filipino martial artist.

I prefer to use this weapon as primarily an impact tool, rather for just pain compliance techniques. I'm leery of any palm stick training that is all joint locking or attacking pressure points from a static position. In my opinion, slamming the pointed end of this pen onto a vulnerable spot with maximum speed will very quickly create more overwhelming and shocking pain, a lot more than using this tool to reinforce a joint lock.

I can only imagine what it will feel like to be hit by this instrument. People who question the necessity of causing enormous amounts of pain to an attacker in a self-defense situation with this pen clearly do not understand the role and effect of drugs and adrenaline in most assault cases.


Tucked into a shirt

To deploy it, grab it with your thumb and the base of your index finger

Then close the grip and the sharp end is ready for use

So are tactical pens worth it? It depend on how serious you are about being prepared for self-defense. I can pick up any pen or pencil and use it in the same way as this tactical pen. They can do the same damage but they'll also probably come apart in my hand after the first strike. I always have a pen on me, but I want to carry one that will survive first use as a weapon. I can also get a cheap stainless steel pen and use it without fear of it shattering or breaking. But why not go a step further and use a pen with knurling to improve my grip on it and a sturdy aggressive point that is designed for use as a last ditch weapon?

In my opinion a tactical pen is not a revolutionary self-defense essential but rather an interesting evolution of the palm stick, one that was bound to happen. It's a kubotan with other uses, and as such it's quite handy. I can keep this clipped on my shirt and and get to it faster than a keychain kubotan. I doubt if the police and security guards in the Philippines know what a tactical pen is and looks like. I can probably carry this on me for years before I get questioned for it.

Which brings us to the next question: how long before this becomes illegal? Hopefully not soon, unless some miscreants start using these to attack people on the street for kicks. Then it gets put on the lengthening list of objects that are deemed too dangerous for innocent people to carry for self-defense. The TSA in the US is already starting to spot these and ban them on flights, but so far the policies on these are inconsistent (as with many TSA regulations, I suspect).

I'll end this review with a caveat. A tactical pen, regardless of how many sharp points or vicious features it has on it, will not jump out of your pocket to defend you if you get attacked. You need to pick it up and use it, and use it well. Like all self-defense tools, it requires skills to deploy and use for maximum effectiveness. If you train properly enough, you can extend those skills to using everyday objects as weapons. Which is precisely why the Filipino Martial Arts are so effective as self-defense systems. A tactical pen is just a tool, the person wielding it is the actual weapon. 


Monday, May 21, 2012

The slow decline of the balisong industry


An excellent short clip on the current state of the balisong making industry in Batangas. Almost every PTK visitor (and FMA practitioner in general) who has been to the country has been to Bario Balisong and the huge number and variety of blades being sold apparently does not reflect the true condition of this knife making tradition.

The problem also lies with the image of the knife. The knife really has a fearsome reputation, one that is tied to criminals and violence. There is no escaping that image. If I got caught with a balisong on me in Manila, I stand a far greater chance of being dragged to the nearest police precinct and treated like a wanted murderer than if i carried an imported folder. The balisong is still being used by muggers here and the police do have a reason to suspect anyone carrying this knife.

But the balisong is also a part of Filipino culture, a knife that was used by Batangas men to defend themselves and their loved one. Duels were fought with them, and I'm sure not a few families have stories to tell of how their kin have used them to settle matters of honor.

For the balisong to survive, it has to fight to distance itself from the criminals that use them and have made the knife infamous. The industry needs to upgrade and make better products, using better blade steels. Non-government entities can help create apprenticeship programs to teach the balisong making skills to a new generation.

It will be a sad day for Filipino martial culture when one of the best knife designs in the world dies out in the country of its creation simply because criminals sullied its reputation and the average Filipino could not care less.