While shopping at Bob Slate in Cambridge, MA about a month ago, I came across a pen that I have not used in about two decades: The Pilot Better Retractable Pen. I have fond memories of using this pen in grade school as it check all the boxes I required: click pen, sharp hex barrel, smooth ink, and a good grip surface. I immediately bought one in each color (blue, black, red). I was pretty skeptical about how these would perform against today’s offerings, but I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s break it down into two categories: aesthetics/build and performance.
Aesthetics/Build Quality: I love the look of this pen. I always will. There is something so elegant yet simplistic about the Better Retractable. The barrel of this pen is a lot thinner than one may be used to when it comes to pens— think pencil barrel thinness. This diameter is great for me as I have very small hands and like to press hard when writing. I also like the translucent, hard plastic and ribbed grip area on the barrel. As tight as my grip is and as sweaty as my hand gets, there is little to no slippage during a marathon writing session. The pen has a metal tip and clip which are nice touches. The clip while VERY durable is problematic at times. I like to clip my pens in my notebooks after use and the edges of the clip on this pen are so sharp that it rips the paper almost every time I use it. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is something to consider.
Performance: This pen writes super SMOOTH. On top of its velvety smoothness, it is consistent— it doesn’t clog up or leave blobs of ink when writing. The tungsten carbide ball point does not catch on the paper no matter how hard or at what angle I press. The pen is quite rugged and the hard translucent plastic really holds up. I also like the tactile feel to this pen— most pens have a rubberized grip that eventually gets dirty or wears away— the Pilot Better Retractable does not have this and instead has decided to go with a simple, raised plastic grip that is part of the barrel itself. This lack of extra rubber or grip makes the pen very lightweight which helps me with hand fatigue since I am a tight gripper.
Overall, these pens are at the very top of my favorites list. Super cheap (so you don’t feel bad when someone inevitably steals one from you), durable, and obtainable. You can find these pens at your local Stapes/office supply store or you can order them here on Amazon for around $12 a dozen.