While I was out of town last week, I happened into a local drugstore chain and just had to walk down the office supplies aisle. What can I say? A week without this blog and all you wonderful readers and I was going through a bit of withdrawal. So, I was thrilled to find this Zebra V-301 refillable fountain pen. It cost less than $4 and came with two refill cartridges. It is a standard length, approxiamately 5.25″ long capped, 4.5″ from nib to barrel end and a little more than 5.75″ long with the cap posted. It weighs 16gms with the cartridge loaded.
The chart above was included to give you some weight comparisons.
Zebra lists the barrel as steel with hard plastic ridges at the grip area. The cap snaps on very tightly and will also snap to the end of the barrel to post with a click. Hopefully, over time, the cap will not be quite so hard to click on and off. Its a bit stiff.
The nib is a simple steel nib that I’d describe it as half-hooded.
I placed the nib next to my standard-sized TWSBI Diamond 540 for comparison. Can you see how much of the nib is covered? It would allow someone with a very low grip to hold the pen very close to the nib but this half-hooded look probably provides a bit of durability for the nib as well.
Shown above is the pen with the cap posted on the end. All in all, for $4, its not a bad looking pen. I am hoping that over time the printed text on the barrel will rub off making the pen even more aesthetically appealing. What is it with some pen companies putting huge logos on their pens?
For the writing test, I transcribed the information that was included on the back of the blister pack. It writes like a medium nib though it is not labelled as such. I would compare its writing performance to the Muji fountain pen though I have continued to use it over the course of the week and it is writing more smoothly each time.
After my less than pleasant comments about the Pilot Varsity, which is a fountain pen at a similar price point, I am pleasantly surprised. Is it as silky to use a Kaweco Sport or as write-right-now as the TWSBIs? No. For the price point though, its pretty nice.
Its refillable, though it does take Zebra proprietary cartridges ($2.10 for two) but the cartridges could be refilled using the syringe method. If someone asked me for an under-$5 fountain pen, I’d probably recommend this pen though I’m always inclined to talk them into spending closer to $20-$25 for a better pen. It was a lovely surprise to find among the Bic Stix and 3×5 lined notecards at CVS.
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I found one of those while I was on vacation last year – mine is really not writing well at all. If it gets easier, though, I’ll keep trying 🙂
Mine never worked well or even at all, too …
Going to buy one!
I think this is a great-looking pen. I especially like the hooded nib, since I do grip my pens very low on the barrel – something that can be a challenge when I write with a non-hooded fountain pen. And any day when you find a fountain in a drugstore is a good day!
I picked one up last week and it sucks. The flow of ink is not consistent.
Picked one up yesterday at Walgreens. I had been looking to see if they carried Pilot Varsity. It writes fine for me, though I’ve seen many customer reviews that complain about it not writing.
My everyday work pen is a Zebra F701 with a blue refill. This should compliment it aesthetically.
I was pleased to learn that it does have blue as well as black cartridges.
I didn’t notice until I got it home, unlike my other Zebras which are made in Japan, this is made in China (if you care about such things).
This pen and I shared one great moment… The moment I threw it in the trash. When it writes, it writes okay. That being said, it rarely writes for more than a few sentences before stopping. I don’t know if it’s the ink, the feed or the nib but I spent far more time trying to prime this pen than I did actually writing with it. Yes, it’s cheap so I didn’t expect much but I at least expected it to lay down ink. 95% of other reviewers seem to be having the same problem. Shame on you, Zebra.
Love them they never smeared on me once except for on post it note tabs
I bought one this year and I think they changed the design because my nib is even more hooded than the one pictured in this post. It works very well, much like the R-301 in performance but with a finer line. I love it. Just wish the cartridge refills were easier to find.
I picked one of these up at a local Walgreens, I was shocked to find fountain pens in a drug store. Apparently they are available in some CVS stores too.
Mine is a very different nib design than your article is showing, much more hooded, and different packaging too, though there were some of the older packages that look like the one in your picture further back on the rack.
Apparently I should have gotten one of the older packages, because THIS thing is a piece of garbage.
It does not work at all. It’s got a WICK which doesn’t even touch the nib. After an hour of fiddling, nothing works. Some folks online say to write upside-down (which would force the nib into the wick). Even that doesn’t work. There’s a little bit of ink flow IF I angle the pen so the wick touches the paper. That is all.
Looks like they changed the product design. For the worse. It’s unusable.
Not even a very good looking pen, and I like metal pens too!
I checked the reviews on Amazon, and they are mostly totally negative reviews, except for a handful of 5 star reviews (which have GOT to be plants; all they do is say “Great product”.)
I’ll be going back to the Pilot Varsity and Platinum Preppy for cheap disposable pens now, which work right out of the package (especially the Varsitys, which apparently also use an internal wick), write beautifully smoothly, and are the same price (Zebra was $3.99, Preppy is $4). Plus I can “eyedropper” the Preppy pens easily with a bit of silicone grease and a #5 o-ring and choose whatever ink I want, in huge quantifies. And you can get a converter for the Preppy, too.
Our local pen store owner also stocked some of the Zebras to try them out and found them to be garbage too, he won’t be re-ordering them, he says. He was quite angry.
I’ll be requesting my money back the next time I’m in Walgreens.
PLEASE don’t recommend these to people! You’ll turn off people who are interested in fountain pens!
I find it humorous that the back of the package says this pen is “Your entry level experience to the tempermental world of fountain pen writing.”. They spelled “tempermental” wrong! It’s spelled “temperAmental”. They can’t even get their ad copy right!
I’m sorry to hear that the product quality has degraded so much. I reviewed this a couple years ago so I will definitely take another look at the product.
Yes, the cartridges can be refilled with a syringe.
That ugly Zebra logo on the barrel comes off in a few seconds with some fine steel wool or a Brillo pad (the kind you clean dishes with).