Friday, October 17, 2014

TT PockeTTools Stinger Review

There are few items more iconic, more associated with EDC than the Fisher Space Pen Bullet.  Its gleaming chrome body, simple shape, and great refill make it the perfect item.  Page through pocket dumps on the internet and not appears as regularly as the Fisher Space Pen Bullet.

But here is a little secret--its a pretty awful pen, when used as a pen. First, the refill, that vaunted refill, is just something I don't understand.  I know it writes everywhere, I know it writes for ever, but its slick feel makes it something I don't necessarily love. I am, however, willing to concede, that the refill is so unique that despite the oil slick page feel, it is still worth the hassle and a great design for EDC use.  But the other sins are unforgiveable--mortal as opposed to venial.  The pocket clip is simply atrocious. The cap is no good, and, frankly, having a cap on any EDC pen is kind of a bummer.  And while I like the LOOK of the sleek chromed shape, in application its not very good.  The pen feels slick or dirty, but nothing else.  The Bullet, for all of the pictures on the internet, just isn't that good.  

The problem is there is no real competition.  Sure there are small pens that run the refill, but they are all hiking/outdoor pens and none are suited for long term use.  They are all too spindly and thin or ridiculously overbuilt.  In order to find a good replacement you use to have to go to a much larger pen. The small, easily pocketable, but still useful form factor was something only the Bullet had.

Not anymore.

Here is the product page for the TT PockeTTools Stinger. It runs about $170.  Todd offers them in a wide range of finishes and materials.  There are no reviews and the only source is, of course, Todd.  The idea with both the Stinger and the larger TT pen, the Syringe, is that each one is unique.  They do run into very high prices with more exotic materials and elements.  An aluminum and camo version that is still available is $170.  Here is the review sample (sent to me by Todd) with a few other very compact but very capable EDC tools:


Twitter Review Summary: Very compact and VERY capable.

Design: 2

The design is very simple, yet it is quite effective.  It fixes all of the problems I had with the Bullet and it does so all the while improving the ruggedness of the pen.  Raw aluminum is a scratch magnet, but because each pen is unique you could easily get one without raw aluminum.  Also, I happen to like the way scratched up aluminum looks--sort of like the pen equivalent of stonewashing.  


The twist mechanism is great and the pocket clip works.  There is really nothing to complain about with the design self except this--price.  At $170 it is vastly more costly than a Bullet.  Justifying the price solely based on features is very hard to do, even though the TT Stinger IS a clearly superior pen.  But a lot of the reason why we hunt down cool gear is not just purely a question of utility.  Here you are getting a completely unique pen, handmade by Todd.  These aren't even made in batches.  The differences are all external, the guts stay the same, but the differences can range widely--different shapes, colors, and patterns.  In the end, you buy a custom, handmade product for reasons other than pure utility and if you look at this pen that way, the $170 price tag is still high, but not out of line for what you pay for other products made this way.

Fit and Finish: 2

With everything handmade, its unsurprising that the pen is clean, smooth, and comfortable in the hand.  Even the hand bent pocket clip is well made and fits nicely on the pen.  The twist mechanism was a little tight when I originally got the pen but it loosened up (though never to a sloppy degree).  As with all of Todd's stuff, the Stinger is just a well-built item.  

Carry: 2

This is really why you get a golf-pencil sized pen--it drops into a top shirt pocket easily and just stays there.  I really liked the entire package in the pocket.  The clip was great, the pen the right size, and the twist mechanism secure enough to make sure the tip of the refill would accidentally be exposed (unlike some clickies).


Appearance: 1

Its hard to evaluate the appearance of the Stinger because each is unique, but the raw aluminum version I got was clean and simple.  It looked like something that came from a machine shop (because it did) and not something that seemed made for sophisticated stacks of Tomoe paper.  Its not to say the pen is ugly, its just not particularly eye catching, its utilitarian.  And if there is one place I don't mind a little bling, a little flourish or flash, its the look of a pen. 


Compared to something like the Pilot Vanishing Point, a pen in this price range (roughly speaking), the Stinger is a bit, well, lacking in style.  Even the more exotically colored Stingers lack that refined appearance that $170 pens from other sources have.  

Durability: 2

Though not a tank like the TuffWriter, it is still plenty sturdy.  The washer style clip is a great addition in a field crowded with bolt on clips.  I love it and I love the fact that there is no wiggle, click, or snap to this pen.  The lack of a spring and clicky contribute to the overall solid feel.

Writing Performance/Refill: 2

It takes the Fisher Space Pen refill and this is compatible with a wide range of refills based on the Parker refill.  This is my preferred refill format because you can find anything you need--an all surface writer, a ballpoint, a gel refill.  They are all available.   The included refill is a Fisher and while I don't LOVE it, it does serve a purpose.

Balance/In Hand Feel: 2

Obviously this is not the normal size a pen is, coming in smaller than a full sized pen and even smaller than the Tactile Turn Shaker, which is about 3/4 the size of a normal pen.  It is almost exactly the same size as the Fisher Space Pen capped.  


Despite its small size, I found the pen to be quite nice.  It never caused a cramp and always seemed to fall just right.  The aluminum body is exceptionally light and feels responsive in the hand, but never flimsy.  Balance is not really an issue as so much of the pen is captured by the hand.  There is nothing cantilevered out there.

Grip: 2

The grip section is good.  There is plenty of texture, but not enough to be offensive.  I also like that Todd did not resort to some material gimmicks to add texture.  Its nothing complex, but it works well without any hotspots or seam problems.  

Barrel: 2

I went back and forth here.  The barrel itself is nice and there are problem areas that rub against your skin.  It is solid and helps with balance, but it is kinda bland.  Since that was my sole basis for taking off a point in Appearance above, I didn't think it was fair to dock the pen again here. 
Deployment Method/Cap: 2

This is where the TT Stinger comes out ahead of the competition.  There is, of course, the Fisher Space Pen Cap-o-Matic, a clicky version of the Bullet, but it is both bigger than the Stinger and not really in the same league quality-wise.  The clicky mechanism rattles and isn't terrible nice.  But here you not only get the more compact size, you also get a much more solid deployment.  This pen is damn near bulletproof and the smooth, tight twist mechanism works quite well.  No accidental deployment here.  In fact, this is one of my favorite deploying pens ever (okay, nothing compares to the gadgety coolness of a Vanishing Point....).

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

Aside from a missing style point, there is not much to complain about here.  The price is quite high, but this is a hand made thing, made by a single guy and each is utterly unique.  It is also quite good for what it is...better than a Bullet, better than a Cap-O-Matic, better than quite a few pens that people think of as staples.  The Stinger is very solid, excellent in hand, and writes using one of the best refills on the market.  This is not the world's greatest writer, mainly because of the refill, but it is one of the best for EDC.  If your stuck on a pen the size of the Bullet, but want something capless and sturdy, this is it.  Long after you have lost the cap on the Bullet or obliterated the Cap-o-Matic the Stinger will still be going strong.   


  1. Take a look at the Fisher Telescoping space pen.

  2. The Move Bolt Action pen looks better, has a cool bolt device and is only $50 ($100 in Ti).

    1. Thanks for the tip! The Move looks like a slick little piece of gear!

    2. Skip the titanium if you get one, mine looked stonewashed after less than a day of pocket carry. Also, my titanium one had a tip that was not quite centered. I have replaced it with an aluminum move and am much happier.

  3. Cool upgrade for what I agree is a mediocre pen.

    Will Todd offer alternatives to the bullet refills? Maybe Monblanc inserts or Pilot G2's?

  4. If you're looking for an EDC pen, look no further than the Porsche Design Shaker. best EDC pen ever. Been in my pocket for the last 2 1/2 years on the same refill.