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The Parker Reflex and Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens

Aside from all sorts of techno-gadgets, I’m also a fan of writing instruments. Even in this age of gel ink and space pens, there’s still something special about fountain pens. I don’t know how to explain it, but they have a certain romance about them and a different feel in the way they write. It’s been a while since I had a fountain pen, so I decided to go out and get one.

One of the problems with fountain pens these days is that most of them out on the market these days are rather expensive. Unfortunately, I can’t afford $35 to $50 for the average fountain pen, let alone the incredible price tags I’ve seen in the $5000+ range. Fortunately for me, there are still a couple of decent fountain pens that can be had for under $10!

I found two fountain pens in my price range (that would be CHEAP!), so decided to try both of them. The two pens I found were the Parker Reflex and the Pilot Varsity. Both are affordable and are made by well known manufacturers, but I still didn’t know quite what to expect.

The first pen I picked up was the Parker Reflex. This pen has a few things going for it aside from the bargain pricetag of $7.00. Some of the features I like are the attractive styling, rubberized grip, and the fact that it’s refillable. The nib is strong and it writes rather well and the plastic in the body is heavy enough to give it a good feel in my hand. Another nice feature is the clear body which makes it easy to see how much ink you have left. Last, but not least, the Reflex even has a nice metal clip that feels strong enough that I wouldn’t be worried about it falling out of a pocket if it’s clipped onto the edge.
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about the Reflex, just a couple of minor annoyances. The first thing I noticed about this pen is that it takes a while to get the ink flowing with the first cartridge, but that’s fairly normal for any fountain pen. While the $7.00 pricetag may be a bargain for a fountain pen these days, it’s still a lot for someone like me to pay for a pen that I might forget somewhere or lose. Hey, what can I say? I’m human, too.

The second pen I got was the Pilot Varsity. It’s unique among all the fountain pens I’ve seen on the market for one reason – it’s disposable! That’s right, there’s actually a disposable fountain pen. It’s even priced accordingly for a disposable pen, too. I picked up a two pack at a local discount chain for under $4.oo and so far I haven’t been too disappointed. It writes pretty well, actually better than I expected for a disposable pen. It also has a window into the ink reservoir so that you can see how much ink you have left and the caps are color coded to the ink so that you can easily tell what color it will write as the ink color isn’t too easy to see in the window on the body. One thing I really like about it is that because it’s disposable, it’s filled, primed, and ready to write right out of the package. I didn’t have to wait or shake it to get the ink flowing which would be a definite plus if I had to open up a new one because the one I was using ran out of ink in the middle of something.
While I can’t complain about the price, the Varsity falls short of the Reflex in a couple of respects. First, the Varsity doesn’t have a rubberized grip like the Reflex does and it’s lighter, so it doesn’t have the same weight as the Reflex, both of which make it less comfortable to write with than the Reflex. It also has a plastic clip which doesn’t feel nearly as strong as the one on the Reflex.
The funny thing about the the Varsity’s light weight is that it can be considered an asset considering that it makes it easier to carry.

So what’s my final verdict? I’d buy both of them all over again. The Reflex is a nice pen and I like the way it feels and writes and the fact that it’s refillable. It’s definitely a keeper for use around the house and it looks good enoug to carry when I go to an upscale event like a job interview. The Varsity is light and cheap enough that it’s not a problem to carry and it’s cheap enough that I won’t be heartbroken if I happen to lose one. It writes straight out of the package, too.

Here are a couple of links to the different products’ web pages. Just click on the name of the product.

Parker Reflex

Pilot Varsity

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2 comments to The Parker Reflex and Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens

  • ReginaPhalange

    I realize this is an old post, but just wanted to make a brief comment.
    1) the Varsity can be refilled. That, and the nib, give the Varsity the edge over the Reflex, IMO (I’ve read about the nib on the Reflex being worn down in a year’s time–that is NOT normal), though the Reflex does have more of a fountain pen-like look to it. I’ve got both and prefer the Varsity for a few reasons.
    2) cartridge pens can be fussy to start. Pens filled via built-in mechanism or with a converter usually will write as soon as you fill them, because you’re pulling the ink in through the nib.

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