Pens and Pencils | Reviews and Data

Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball Pen

Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball Pen

The Retro 51 (sometimes seen as Retro 1951) Tornado is a popular pen with the everyday carry (EDC) community. This is the case because it’s ruggedly built, good-looking, and uses Schmidt’s excellent P8127 0.7 mm rollerball refill. The pen is made entirely of metal, giving it a nice heft.

The Retro 51 Tornado is often seen in an all-black “Stealth” finish, but it’s sold sold in chrome, anodized neon colors, and dozens of printed finishes that vary from limited edition US states, to the military-inspired P-51 Mustang, to small collaborations done with popular pen blogs.

The Retro 51 Tornado uses a spike shape that is flat at the top and tapers down towards the bottom. This shape is why people lodge their main complaints about the pen: 1) it’s back-heavy which makes it uncomfortable and messy for many people and 2) the tapered front end makes finding the right spot to hold it difficult, so you tend to hold it too far back. Both of these are more personal preference than true shortcomings of the Tornado, but the point is that it’s not a pen for everyone.

The Tornado retracts with a twist of the knurled section at the top. This means using the pen is a two-handed operation, which is annoying at times, but also that the pen never accidentally retracts or extends. The twist action is slow and precise, giving the Tornado a wonderful feel.

How To Change the Tornado’s Refill

Looking at the Tornado, it’s not immediately obvious how to change the refill inside. The good news is that is’ very easy. You simple need to unscrew the bottom of the pen, not the top, knurled section! This is counter-intuitive because the top actually twists so you might be inspired to twist it further, but that’s not what you need to do.

To change the refill you just need to twist the piece of the pen that the ink refill comes out of. This is basically the two inches of the pen closest to your paper. Give this a firm twist counter-clockwise and it’ll come right off. The refill will slide right out.

The replacement refill you want to buy is the Schmidt P8127 or the slightly thinner Schmidt P8126.

Future of the Retro 51 Tornado

In late 2019 Retro 1951 announced in a blog post that the owners would be retiring and the company would be shutting down. People immediately started to stock up on pens, but now (about 3 months later) pens are still easily findable online, including through Retro 51’s normal distributors. Enough of these pens were made over the years they they should not be difficult to find for the foreseeable future, though prices may spike for some of the rarer limited editions (which was happening anyway, regardless of any closure).


Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball Pen Information

Street Price Check Price
Manufacturer Retro 51
Pen Type Rollerball / Gel
Barrel Color Black
Barrel Material Metal
Grip Color Black
Grip Material Metal
Country of Origin Taiwan
MSRP $25
Still Sold Yes
Similar To
Capped? Retractable?Retractable - Twist
Length Capped / Retracted (cm)12.1
Weight (g)28.0
Ink Color ShippedBlack
Writing Sizes0.7 mm