Retro 51 Tornado Stealth


Can you be any sort of pen aficionado without having at least one Retro 51 Tornado in your collection? Probably, but given that Retro 51’s are a gateway pen for many pen wackos it seems unlikely. When you factor in their solid build quality, decent price, multitude of colors and styles and the variety of refill possibilities, failing to give the Retro 51 Tornado a close look would be a serious oversight for anyone wanting to be a pen person. Okay, maybe you don’t want to be known as a pen person; it’s definitely one of the nerdier monikers to have. That said, regardless of your level of pen nerdiness, you should check out the Tornado.

I’ve had a few Tornadoes over the years yet between moving, losing and giving, I somehow only have the Tornado Stealth currently in my possession. There’s a blue Tornado Classic Lacquer somewhere, but I think the wife keeps it at work. Anyway, lucky for me, if there’s one Tornado to have it’s probably this black beauty. As you can see from the pictures, my Stealth has some noticeable wear and tear which is perfectly fine by me. A worn pen is a loved and used pen and my Stealth is definitely both.


The first thing you notice when picking up a Tornado is the weight. It’s not a heavy pen but, at 31 grams, it certainly has some heft to it. The build quality is top notch. The knurled knob that deploys the refill turns smoothly and has just the right amount of resistance. The connection between the pen tip and the body, where you insert the refill, is nearly seamless. The only criticism I would offer relates to the clip tension; I’d prefer a tighter clip. It does the job but it may not keep the pen perfectly still when clipped to thinner dress shirt pockets. Of course the Tornado is a short pen (13 cm = 5.1 inches) so those with big beefy paws may find the pen is too short. Personally, I love the size and the weight.


How does it write? Well, that’s largely up to your refill preference. The Tornado comes with a capless 0.7 mm rollerball. Straight up, it’s a great rollerball. Schmidt also makes a slightly thinner 0.6 mm rollerball (P8126). You might think such a small difference wouldn’t be noticeably but you’d be wrong. It’s not night and day different, but the 0.6 mm is just a bit tighter of a line and is the refill I prefer. You can also load the Tornado with any Parker style refill you want which really opens up the options for this well-built and versatile pen.


The Retro 51 Tornado is such a work horse. So, if the rollerball refills or any Parker-style refill work for you it’s an absolute “Carry It” pen. I’ve dropped, scrapped, tossed, etc. this pen in so many different ways and yet it keeps on working, no questions asked. Other rollerballs are fancier. Other rollerballs are cheaper. The Retro 51 Tornado splits the difference nearly perfectly.

The Retro 51 Tornado is like your favorite belt. Most of the time you just need your belt to do its job. You don’t want to fuss with it and you don’t want to think about it. The Tornado does its job each and every time but then, like a good belt, it offers a bit of adaptability when you want/need it. Need to use a ballpoint instead of a rollerball? Not a problem. Ate a bit too much at lunch and need a little breathing room? Not a problem. Trust your belt and trust your Retro 51 Tornado.

The Tornado is a popular pen. As you might expect, others have lots to say. (Most reviews are discussing other versions of the Tornado.)
The Well-Appointed Desk
The Pen Addict
The Clicky Post
The Pencil Case Blog
Gourmet Pens


14 thoughts on “Retro 51 Tornado Stealth

  1. Like the look of that model, I have a Big Shot that I carry in my work meeting notebook. It’s been a workhorse, until this last refill when the threading that holds the tip in place came loose. It’s a separate tube of sorts…that was apparently glued into the end of the barrel. Through much shaking and possibly the use of tweezers, I got it back in place and got the tip screwed back on. However I’m not looking forward to the next swap. Anyone have any thoughts on getting this reaffixed a little more securely?

    1. Interesting. I tried visualizing the part that you’re referring to by looking into the tip of my own Tornado but I’m not exactly sure what you could be referring to. Two random suggestions. 1. Can you use the smallest bit of epoxy and get the part reset more permanently? 2. Contact Retro 51 and see if they’ll replace the tip of your Big Shot. I’m not exactly sure what their warranty is, but if you send them a picture of your issue and tell them how much you dig your Big Shot, maybe they’ll show you some love. Maybe if you tweet them publicly they’ll want to look responsive and take care of you. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

      1. I thought about epoxy, or even just super glue, I’m just worried about getting it on the threads and accidentally locking the tip in place. I didn’t have my camera handy when this was happening so I don’t have any pics, try to imagine what happens when a short length of tubing gets caught inside a larger diameter funnel, it gets lodged sideways, then when you shake it loose it ends up upside down or the other sideways.

        Anyway, If I get it sorted either on my own or by reaching out to Retro, I’ll let you know!

    2. Jesse, this is something we can repair. Call or email our customer service and they will take care of you so your Retro can get back to work.
      sales[at]retro51[dot]com or 1-800-466-1951.

      1. Hi Richard at Retro 51. Thanks for stopping by and for offering to take care of Jesse’s issue.

      2. Great products, and look at this for customer interaction and support! I’ll be in touch soon, thanks Todd for the great write up and playing matchmaker!

      3. Glad you saw Retro 51’s reply. I was just typing you an email to draw your attention to it. Good luck!

  2. Hi Todd

    Many thanks for this review and to introducing to me to this brand that I wasn’t aware of here in the UK. I really like the design of these pens and will be buying one soon. Thanks for bringing this pen alive in your posting. Keep the blogs coming!

    1. Hi David – Thanks for stopping by and the nice words. Yes, do grab a Tornado or two. I think you’ll enjoy them.

    2. Hi Todd

      So I have bought a Tornado Stealth, from Decent price and efficient service, so happy to recommend to anyone in the UK. The pen has a Retro 1951 branded refill, REF5P and writes really smoothly. Great heft and looks. It’s a winner! Thanks again for the review.

  3. They are excellent pens for the money. I own 7 and not one of them is the standard Classic Laquer finish. I still need to pick one (or two….possibly three because I like so many of the colors) of them. I’m with Todd in that I prefer the .6mm refill.

  4. Wonderful pens. After more than a decade, I count myself very fortunate to still have one of the original titanium models. Natural (gray) titanium (like the current Big Shot, but with SS point, clip, and top), not the blue or brownish tones that they were making for a while. And I agree with Jesse (above) — the near-real-time, online customer service is impressive!

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