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Government issue ballpoint pens


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In the navy the ink is black for log books etc. However, on some ships the co would sign or initial route slips other shipboard semi informal correspondence documents in blue and the xo red. Nobody else was allowed to do this....

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I used these pens and notebooks all thru school. Plus always had the red and black mechanical pencils.

crew chiefs being crew chiefs...we called these mechanical pencils...what else...crew chief pencils...red for the status of the day symbol in the 781's and the black to "write up" or clear a discrepancy..


I found two on the bay, gave one to my son, now a Raptor Crew dawg, and use the second one at work...

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Cobra 6 Actual

Here's a spiel about the Skilcraft pen:


"Blind workers assemble the pens in factories in Wisconsin and North Carolina under the brand name Skilcraft as part of a 72-year-old legislative mandate. The original 16-page specifications for the pen are still in force: It must be able to write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero.


It has been used in war zones and gas stations, and was designed to fit undetected into U.S. military uniforms. According to company lore, the pen can stand in for a two-inch fuse and comes in handy during emergency tracheotomies.


The unassuming pen stamped with the words SKILCRAFT U.S. GOVERNMENT in white letters has endured despite quantum leaps in communications technology that have rendered lesser tools obsolete. Taking over from the fountain pen, it has withstood the advent of the rubberized comfort grip and the freely flowing gel ink, not to mention computers, instant messages and smartphones. The U.S. Postal Service alone orders 700,000 a year.


The original design brass ink tube, plastic barrel not shorter than 4 5/8 inches, ball of 94 percent tungsten carbide and 6 percent cobalt has changed little over the decades. It costs less than 60 cents.


The pens roots date to the Depression. The 1938 Wagner-ODay Act required the federal government to buy certain products made by the blind, thereby creating jobs for a then-marginalized population. First came mops and brooms, but the program eventually expanded to include a full line of cleaning and office supplies under the brand name Skilcraft. In fiscal 2009, the program, now known as AbilityOne, raked in a record $658.5 million in sales of products and services.


The pens account for about $5 million in sales each year. About 60 percent of business is from the military, but the Agriculture, Commerce and Justice departments are all reliable customers, according to NIB. The pens are primarily issued through government agencies, though civilians can buy them by request through some retail stores.


Part of the pens cult appeal comes from its writing capabilities. Among other things, the original General Services Administration requirements for items FSC 7520 (the ballpoint pen) and FSC 7510 (the refill) dictated that:


-- The ink cartridge shall be capable of producing under 125 grams of pressure a line not less than 5,000 feet long.


-- Blobs shall not average more than 15 per 1,000 feet of writing, with a maximum of 25 for any 1,000-foot increment.


-- Writing shall not be completely removed after two applications of chemical bleach.


The pens have also spawned their own folklore. The length of the pen is said to be equivalent to 150 nautical miles on Navy maps, helping pilots navigate in a pinch. The metal tip has reportedly been cited as the maximum length for a womans fingernails in the military.


Chuck Lange, chief executive of Industries for the Blind in Milwaukee, said that the pens can write upside down and that they have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan."


The company also makes the B3 aviator multi-function pen with black and red medium ball point ink and 0.5-millimeters pencil, which is also a great pen.

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  • 1 month later...

Just some additional information. The first two images are some Vietnam War-era pens NOT made by Skilcraft but instead by Ballerina Pen Co. The Federal Stock Number is 7520-935-7135. The difference is easy to spot - as previously mentioned - the solid silver band. The next images are of the current Skilcraft pens (with the striped silver band), same Stock Number (now National) of 7520-00-935-7135. The correct issue pens are fine point. I still buy these for work, I am a cop during the day (or night I should say). I prefer them over the Zebra F-300-series "cop pens." I have written a lot of citations with these.









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A photo from one of my favorite series of images - USAF personnel during REFORGER '83.




Enlarged portion to show the Skilcraft pen:



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Brings back lots of memories using the skilcraft mechanical pencils, one side red the other side black, the ink pens, grease pencils all the Skilcraft products. Still have a few boxes in the office at the museum..



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Early 70s Skillcraft ballpoint pen and Scripto mechanical pencil. The pen was shown earlier on this thread


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  • 4 years later...
usmc grunt

I have a box of USGI office supplies that I kept when I completed my 3 year tour as a Marine Corps Recruiter. Skilcraft, Box of 12, Black ink, Fine point.

Skilcraft Pens (1).jpg

Skilcraft Pens (2).jpg

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Boy, this is a cool thread, and can't believe I haven't seen it yet! What an interesting topic! I never ever thought of Government issue pens! Thanks for sharing all the photos! Cool to see pens through the decades, too!

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the man who developed these 

govt. pens  and sold them to the military has recently passed away.

wish i saved the article

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