The modern ballpoint, which has a long and fascinating history, is still quite relevant. While many other pen types have come about and fountain pens have seen a serious resurgence, ballpoints have gotten much better as well.
Ballpoints are no longer the default writing utensil they once were, but they are still useful and pretty great.
As always, check out our Best Pens page for an overview of all the best pens you can buy today. If you only care about ballpoint pens then read on.
At Unsharpen.com we define ballpoints as pens with oil-based ink and a traditional feel. Many Japanese pen manufacturers call all pens with oil-based ink “ballpoints” including hybrid pens. Hybrid inks (which Zebra calls emulsion ink) is what is found in great pens lines like The Uni-ball Jetstream, Zebra Surari, and Pilot Acro.
This article will focus on traditional ballpoints — which have been greatly improved over the years — and we’ll do another article on the best hybrid ballpoint pens.
Zebra Tapli Clip
The Zebra Tapli Clip is a super smooth ballpoint pen in a retractable design. The main features are a spring-loaded, binder-style clip, and extra long ink cartridge, and a rubberized grip.
The pen is sold in 0.4 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 1.0 mm, and 1.6 mm sizes with the 1.0 and 1.6 mm models being exceptionally smooth.
The refill, known as the LH-1.6 (in the 1.6 mm size), is affordable and very long longstanding but is quite long and skinny so it’s difficult to use in other pen bodies.
Bic Cristal Bold
The Bic Cristal is the classic ballpoint pen. It’s been made forever and the quality has tipped in all those years. It still has the sturdy clear plastic bodies we all know and love and the ink, while remaining a classic ballpoint, has only gotten smoother with time.
While the Cristal is now available in a number of difference sizes, down to the skinny Cristal Xtra Precision at 0.7 mm, the 1.6 mm Bold remains our favorite. The wide, luxurious ballpoint is made for comfort but is still undeniably reliable. The Bold is also incredibly fun to use, with many people using its width for serious art (as in, not just doodling).
Fisher Space Pen CH4
No ballpoint pen list could be complete without at least one Fisher Space Pen. The typical choice would be the classic AG7, the real-deal Space Pen, but the Shuttle Pen CH4 is our pick. Why? The CH4 is cheaper, lighter, and better balanced than the AG7, all while being nearly as iconic a design as the original Space Pen. It’s also more comfortable to hold over extended periods of time and uses the same excellent ballpoint refill.
Here is a comparison of the CH4 vs AG7 Space Pens.
- Buy a Fisher Space Pen CH4
The Parker Jotter is basically the most recommended ballpoint pen of all time, which makes sense because it’s such a great pen. The Jotter is known for it’s powerful click, sturdy construction (especially the full stainless steel model), and small size which makes it extra portable. The Jotter is the often imitated — but never replicated –ballpoint that seems so simple but has been able to withstand the test of time because Parker got it just right.
The Jotter wins extra points for its long history and numerous collectible editions. Many Jotter enthusiasts happily spend top dollar to find vintage models online, usually prizing the “brass thread” models as well as hard-to-find colors and clip designs.
Ballograf Epoca P
The Epoca P isn’t an icon in the United States (yet), but it’s been a great ballpoint pen for over 50 years. This Swedish pen is wonderfully designed and super handsome, with a really comfortable shape. It has metal hardware and high-end plastic for the body. If all that wasn’t enough it has a traditional ballpoint refill that is good for 8 kilometers of writing.
What is a Ballpoint Pen?
A ballpoint pen is a writing utensil with a rotating writing ball at the end of a tube of thick, oil-based ink. The invention of the ballpoint is commonly attributed to Lazlo Biro in the 1930s but non-commercially viable designs existed before that.