Majohn A3 Review

Majohn's 3rd retractable fountain pen has arrived, but is it any good?

Majohn A3 Review
Listen to this post in the authors voice

A few years ago, I didn't "get" retractable fountain pens. It seemed like they couldn't possibly be a good thing. Surely they’ll have a terrible seal & be prone to leaking, right? The Pilot Capless1 was just too expensive for me to risk buying one and hating it.

Enter Moonman2.

I already had a couple of their pens, and I liked them a lot. Especially the C1 which is still one of my most used pens thanks to its massive ink capacity & the excellent Jinhao fude nib it sports. In late 2021 they unleashed the A1 on the world—a Capless clone at a fraction of the cost. A retractable fountain pen with almost universally positive reviews for only £20? Now that's a risk I'm willing to take. I fell for it almost instantly & realised that, yes, retractable fountain pens really are a good thing.

A little while later, they released the A2—a lighter & slightly thinner model mimicking the vintage faceted version of the Pilot Capless—this time for under £20! It very quickly became my preferred retractable due to its daintier build making it more comfortable to use for longer.

Then along came the A3. I didn’t know what to make of it when I saw the initial images. It didn't look anywhere near as sleek as its siblings, the clip was in the middle of the pen & looked like it had been lifted straight off a Platinum Curidas, and it has a weird twisty thing on the end. It also had very obvious branding on it for the first time, with a large handwritten-styled "Majohn" emblazoned on the side.

A closeup of the A3 showing the silver hand-written styled "Majohn" branding on the white body.
The large “Majohn” branding on the upper section of the barrel. It’s not obnoxious, but it feels out of place.

Oh, and this time it’s £30. But, I liked the first two, so I was willing to give it a chance. Into my basket it went.

Spongebob "Two weeks later..." meme time card

It's here, and after a week of use I still didn't really know what to make of it. So, here are the details.

Overhead view of the Moonman/Majohn A1/2/3, the Endless Creator, & the Platinum Curidas. Length, width, & weight information has been superimposed on the image.
Comparison of the A-Series, as well as with the Endless Creator & Platinum Curidas

This time Majohn have been ""inspired"" by the Pilot Capless LS, which apparently stands for Luxury Silent. This is a pen that I was vaguely aware of but knew basically nothing about, so I didn't immediately connect the two. The nib is extended in the normal way, but you won't hear the usual "click" that you’d expect. You do need to make sure you press all the way down. There’s been more than a few occasions where my subconscious clicks didn’t go down far enough. It is then retracted by twisting the knob on the back. I believe this was designed to be less obtrusive in board meetings, but it’s also very fun to fidget with during said meetings. It is indeed significantly quieter to deploy than the other A-Series pens. In not even remotely scientific tests with the Noise app on my watch3, the A1 & A2 peak at ~70-75db, while the A3 peaks at just ~50db. It's ~2-3mm longer than the A1/2, although it's virtually the same length as the A1 when the nib is extended, ~¾-1½mm girthier at their widest, & ~9-21g heavier, however the less streamlined shape of the A3 makes it feel much chunkier in the hand. At a little over 40g, this is heavy for a pen this size. Not quite on the heavy metal Kaweco Sport’s levels, but still a significant weight.

And that brings me to my major problem with the A3: Balance.

A heavy pen can still be great to write with if it's well balanced. My heaviest pen is a Gravitas Copper Pocket Pen at ~78g—almost twice the weight of the A3—yet it's still easy & comfortable to write with since the balance is near 50/50. Front-weighted pens are also easy to write with, often more so than centre balanced as it can give greater control of the nib. Rear-weighted pens? Not so much4, especially in a heavy pen. Gravity is constantly pulling down on the back of the pen, lifting up the nib & requiring a tighter grip, resulting in hand fatigue kicking in much faster. Which is a shame, as the nib unit writes just as well as in previous incarnations, and the body shape is comfortably chunky.

My second issue is the clip. While I appreciate not having the traditional Capless clip in the way, I think I would have preferred it over what they went with. They made a copy of the Platinum Curidas’ clip without the notches on the sides and nib-facing end keeping it in place. Instead, it wraps around the pen body in the middle of the pen with a single small notch on the nock-end to keep it in place. There are a number of problems with this design.

  1. The clip "wings" that wrap around the pen meet where the pen rests in the crook of your thumb, constantly rubbing against the web of skin there.

  2. Having the clip in the middle of the pen means that when you clip it onto something, it's sticking a good 25-35mm above other pens. That's providing you can even get it clipped onto something, leading to...

    A Sheaffer Snorkel Sentinel, Moonman A1, Majohn A3, & Platinum 3776 clipped  onto the back of a leather pen pocket.
    I swear I didn’t intend for this to look like a hand giving you the bird…
  3. The tab that keeps the clip in place has sharp edges at the point where the item you're clipping the pen onto travels under the clip. This not only makes it more difficult to clip it onto things, but it also tears at whatever you clip it to.

    Close-up of the leather pen pocket showing a large scratch where the A3 had been clipped to it.
    Scratch mark on the leather pocket just from attaching the A3 once. I had to clip it to the back as I couldn’t get it over the slightly thicker lip on the front without the clip coming off.
  4. What's more, the tab is in the wrong position to stop the clip from just sliding straight off the pen. Combine that with the difficulty getting anything under the clip in the first place means that, more often than not, the clip slides clean off the pen.

Triptych showing close-ups of the tab that keeps the clip aligned, and how it looks when removed.
The various stages of clip removal.

Visually, I like the way the end of the clip rests in the centre band5, although even then it doesn’t sit completely inside it. But there are just too many problems to make keeping the clip on worthwhile. I get that they’re trying to replicate the LS clip not being attached to the nose cone, but this clip just isn’t fit for purpose. At least it's easy to remove. I'll probably just sand the tab off completely and give my Curidas a second clip.

Photo of a green Platinum Curidas with the A3 clip attached to the back.
Now you can decide which way round you want to clip your Curidas depending on how spicy you’re feeling!

So, do I recommend this pen? No, not unless you specifically need a quiet retractable fountain pen and don’t have a spare £400 kicking about to buy the A3’s “inspiration”6. The A1 & A2 are far better options for less money. Do I regret buying it? No, I wouldn’t say so. I enjoy weird things, and I’d definitely call this a weird pen, but I don’t see it getting much use. I do hope that Majohn will keep “experimenting” with this line. I’d very much like to see their version of a Fermo or Decimo in the coming years. And maybe, if we’re really lucky, we might even get some nib options. We can but dream…

  1. Or Vanishing Point, depending on your region.

  2. Later changed to Majohn. Thanks, Kaweco...

  3. Measurement taken 100mm from the watch with a background noise level of 36db.

  4. At least in my opinion. Maybe you love them, in which case I affectionately think you’re weird.

  5. They did a great job with this centre band. It looks really good!

  6. #NotSponsored