Click. Snap. Click. Snap. Hear that? It’s the sound of me doing two things – Annoying everyone within earshot, and completely enjoying my new pen. This is a review of the TiScribe Bolt, an aptly named bolt-action pen from Urban Survival Gear. It’s an incredibly interesting design, assuming you’re into this kind of thing. And if you’re not, well… Click. Snap.
If my intro and questionable photography already have you typing “TiScribe” into the Amazon search bar, well, you’re out of luck. Urban Survival Gear debuted on Kickstarter, and they still produce pens in batches. The most recent run has ended, but preorders for the next are wide open. Check out any of the links below for purchase info.
As a quick aside, Urban Survival Gear also offers lead-powered versions of these writing implements. If you’re in the market for a mechanical pencil, I’d give these a look. Anyway, on we go.
Whatever your taste in material, each Bolt comes with a 5.58-inch stonewashed barrel. The pen’s diameter is a comfortable 0.375-inches, perfectly fitting my medium/large hands. My brass tester features a healthy heft, with a weight of 1.25-ounces. Nick Shabazz’s titanium model tips the scale at 0.8 ounces, and the bronze model finishes with 1.3.
Each TiScribe Bolt features a titanium pocket clip, attractively etched with the Urban Survival Gear logo. Grip is excellent, thanks to five nicely machined grooves just aft of the tip. This is also where you access the pen’s internals. A few twists of the cap reveal a non-captive spring and the refill cartridge. It’s a simple setup, with a rubber o-ring helping to seal the chassis. You’ll find another at the back of the pen, in a screw-off cap which I assume served as an assembly port.
In essence, the Bolt is little more than a stylized metal tube with an interesting deployment mechanism. But the quality of its machining and attention to detail make it one of the best pieces of EDC gear I’ve ever purchased. There is one thing I’d like to see addressed, however. Take a look at the photo above, showing the bolt channel. The tip of the hooked area is actually pretty sharp. I had to take a sharpening rod to it, in order to knock down the edge. It’s still a little pokey, but much better than when it arrived.
But really, that’s my lone issue with the TiScribe. It’ll patina, sure, and your hand will smell like a roll of coins after using it for too long, but that’s the nature of brass and bronze pens. There’s a wonderful sense of craftsmanship here, lending a unique personality to the Bolt.
4.5 stars out of 5
So, now you’ve got a sense of how the TiScribe handles. But how does it perform on the page? In a word: Beautifully.
Ok, let’s give it a few more words. Smooth – Yeah, that’s a good one. This describes the Bolt’s deployment, ride, and writing experience. The included Pilot G2 refill was nice, but the Mont Blanc I swapped it for is positively silky. (FYI – You’ll need to trim about 1/16” from these cartridges to make ‘em fit.) While perhaps not as effortless as a fountain pen, it beats the pants off the Fisher and Parker refills I’ve been using.
I’m going to knock it a half point for one weakness, however. Because of the open nature of the bolt channel, the TiScribe is somewhat susceptible to dust. For 99% of folks, this won’t be a problem. But I currently work at an Eisenhower-era, coal-fired power plant in the middle of the desert. Ash, dust, and dirt are facts of daily life. This caused a touch of grittiness after extended field use, though I was able to clear things up with a partial disassembly and a can of compressed air. Like I said, people with tidier working conditions shouldn’t encounter this problem.
Here’s another word for the Bolt– Balanced. This pen has a wonderful weightiness to it. So much so, in fact, that one coworker did a double-take when I let him use it. “Damn,” he said, looking down at the pen and waggling it in the air. “That’s nice.”
If I had to pick a final word to sum up the TiScribe, it’d be Satisfying (With a capital S). This was apparent from the very first time I deployed the tip. Though I had my initial sharp-edge nitpicks, the spring and snap of the Bolt’s hardware proved immediately addicting. Just ask my wife, who stared bullets across the room after only a few minutes of ownership. Sorry, dear. I’ll keep my clicking to a minimum. In all seriousness, it is something I have to watch during meetings. Left to my own devices, I’ll fidget with the Bolt for minutes at a stretch. The action has worn in splendidly, without any apparent weakness.
This satisfaction extends to the entire ownership experience. Every time I clip it to my pocket, take it out, use it, or see it sitting on my desk, I’m pleased with this particular purchase.
4.5 stars out of 5
Look – This is a solid tube of metal. Unless you’re an incredibly aggressive writer or a mutant with acid hands, this pen should last for years. The brass and copper models will acquire a unique patina, and the titanium version should hold up just as well. The full-metal internals should be nearly maintenance free, aside from the aforementioned dust issue.
Beyond the included Pilot G2 and the trimmed Mont Blanc, here’s Urban Survival Gear’s compatibility roster:
- Pilot V5
- Pentel Energel Series
- Uniball 207 Gel
- Uniball Jetstream
- Schmidt 5888
Impressive, right? With choices like this, you should be able to walk into any office or department store and find a compatible refill. Heck, even grocers usually carry the G2. The TiScribe folks also sell a Parker Style converter kit, allowing you to accommodate some slightly smaller cartridges, including Fisher Space Pens.
In short, the Bolt offers a robust chassis with a huge variety of ink choices. I can’t wait to try some of these different cartridges once the Mont Blanc runs out. This kind of versatility is a huge selling point.
5 stars out of 5
Speaking of selling points, let’s talk cost. I purchased this pen through Urban Survival Gear’s official website as part of an early V2 production run. It cost me $60, which I felt was a fair price.
A couple days later, I received a promotional email from the manufacturer. They were offering a holiday special, advertising a discount on all preorders (somewhere between 20-25%). But when I went to check out the site, they’d raised the retail cost to the point where the “discount” was essentially a wash with what I’d paid a few days earlier. I’m not trying to make a big deal out of this, especially since the price I paid now seems to be the standard. And lord knows I’m all for small manufacturers turning a profit. Even if I’d missed a discount by a few days, I wouldn’t bemoan the extra cost. But a sale that’s not really a sale is a little weird. Maybe I went straight from one promotional offer to another? Oh, well.
Semantics aside, I absolutely feel that this pen was worth what I paid. In fact, I’m thinking about ponying up the extra cash for another in titanium ($80) or copper ($70). The innovation and workmanship here are excellent, and I’m all for supporting talented makers. Still, it gets a small knock for the lack of finishing around the bolt. It’s an easy fix, but one that should be made by the producer.
4 stars out of 5
If (by way of crazy and questionable life choices) I was told I could only have one pen for the rest of my days, the TiScribe Bolt would be my unwavering choice. It’s strong, well-built, and versatile, with a unique personality backed with functional excellence. This is a spectacular writer, and one of the best tools I’ve had the chance to review. If you’re looking to upgrade to a next-level pen, check out the Bolt. It may take a while to arrive, but trust me – It’ll be worth the wait.
Well done, Urban Survival Gear.