In the world of pressurized cartridges, I've come to expect a subpar writing experience. The old classic — the Fisher pressurized cartridge — isn't one of my favorite cartridges for general writing. I only use one if I know I'll need to write at an awkward angle or if there might be water involved. Why? Because I don't enjoy writing with a skippy pen, and that's exactly what I expect from the Fisher refills. That's not to say it's horrible, but it's not as good as something you'll get out of a gel pen. There are always trade-offs.
But maybe the Pilot Down Force is trying to change that. Maybe. The Down Force is a pressurized ballpoint pen from Pilot that writes very similarly to a Pilot Acroball or Uniball Jetstream, and that's a pretty big compliment for a ballpoint. So, how does it stack up as an all-around writing instrument?
Look and feel
First off, let's take a look at the outside of this pen. At arm's length, you might think this pen is made of metal sporting a matte black finish of some kind. Well, you'd be wrong. It's actually a well-done plastic that looks tactical, but doesn't deliver. The knurling on the grip is a great feature and I'm surprised it feels as good as it does, only because of the material.
It's a very lightweight pen, which is good and bad. It's good because it makes writing very comfortable, and it doesn't weigh down in your pockets. It's bad because it's not durable.
Pressurized special-use pens usually have a pretty sturdy body because they're meant to be used in environments not normally intended for writing instruments. Maybe we should call this category "off-desk writing instruments" (my pitiful attempt to draw an anology to off-road vehicles). Either way, you might be able to write in a harsh environment, but it wouldn't survive if it was run over by a lunar rover. And, let's face it, if you're writing on the moon, that's probably not an uncommon risk.
Kidding aside, I do wish the body was more sturdy. Really, if it was the same design but with a metal material, it would be several notches higher in my book.
The clip has a really satisfying "chunk" when you click it, and it also releases when you lift the clip. This will save any of us who unwittingly put open pens in our pockets.
The model I have is black, but you can also get other colors.
Where this pen really shines is in the cartridge. This is a smooth writer, and that's really surprising to me given the category. It feels similar to an Acroball or Jetstream, and the ink has a nice darkness to it (unlike most ballpoint inks). There is some noticeable skip every few words, but nothing that bothers me. I have to look pretty closely to see them.
Being a smooth writer makes it very comfortable for taking notes and jotting down ideas. This is the kind of pen that you could use for long-form writing if you're not sitting in a normal position, such as leaning back and propping a notebook on your legs so that it is perpendicular to the ground. This position always causes pens to stop writing after a couple of sentences due to the pesky effects of gravity on ink.
Apparently, a bit of pressure is applied to the open end of the cartridge when you click in the knock of the pen. The refill fits into a very tightly fit compartment, which would explain how they get an airtight seal on the open end. It's really pretty nifty.
Overall, the Pilot Down Force is a great writing pen. The fact that it has a pressurized cartridge is just a bonus. This is one of the first pressurized pens I've used that also offers a pleasant writing experience. I'd be really happy to see Pilot offer a more premium version of this pen body in some sort of metal, but for $7 it's hard to complain on this one.