Some pens are literally mightier than the sword. Exhibit A: the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen.

Looking like something M might give a covert operative, the Impromptu Tactical Pen is better suited to a Daniel Craig than a Roger Moore version of 007. Instead of a sleek sheath, it's got a radically notched shaft more reminiscent of a mechanic's tool than a paper pusher's weapon. This is no dainty Montblanc.

The militaristic design has a purpose. This pen is meant to be firmly gripped in case of emergency, namely when you need to break the proverbial glass or a car window. Housed inside its machined-steel sheath is a threatening tip that protrudes alongside the ballpoint pen opening, so that it's always at the ready. Yet it doesn't impede movement across the page when you're using it to jot down notes. Or sign a contract. (Talk about an intimidating writing implement.) It's even designed to write in the rain.

According to Gerber, the Tactical Pen was created with law enforcement needs in mind.

In other words, the tempered window-shattering tip is intended to apply deadly force when required. Just the sort of stylus G. Gordon Liddy might have appreciated.

Despite its potential lethal application, the Gerber folks brag that their tactical pen can pass through airport security without notice. They are right. On several international and cross-country flights, the pen elicited nary a second glance from security. A good thing, since we have enough embarrassing moments explaining all the gear we typically carry.

Just be careful when you're toting this tactical gadget. With its sharp pointed tip and heft (it weighs over an ounce), it will bore a hole in your shirt pocket, tout de suite, if you're not careful. [$62; gerbergear.com]