After the surge in people looking for advice on their first entry-level fountain pen a few years back, it would seem that many of the initial surges has taken to using a fountain pen as their every day carry for pens and are now looking to upgrade to an intermediate or premium price point pen. Over the last few months, we have noticed more and more people reaching out and asking for advice on a number of higher price point pens with a spike in people looking for a direct Pilot Custom 74 vs Sailor 1911 comparison article.
Due to this, we have decided to publish this ultimate comparison between the Pilot Custom 74 and the Sailor 1911 to try and help our readers workout the better option for their needs. With both pen models coming from each of the two dominant fountain pen brands in Japan and having excellent reputations amongst the fountain pen enthusiast community, it is not surprising that so many people are looking to add either to their collection.
As usual, we have our comparison table below offering a quick comparison between the two pens for anyone short on time and then below our comparison table we have our detailed, in-depth look into both pens for our readers who have more time available. Please note that there are some specific circumstances that can make one pen better than the other for your needs but as we move through the article, we will touch on these to make you aware.
Pilot Custom 74 Vs Sailor 1911 Head To Head
As you can see from our Pilot Custom 74 vs Sailor 1911 comparison table above, our primary recommendation for our readers is the Pilot Custom 74 and although the Sailor 1911 is a great pen with an excellent reputation amongst the community, we feel that the Custom 74 pushes itself ever so slightly ahead for the majority of people. As the Pilot Custom 74 has a slightly lower price tag than the Sailor 1911 too, it also opens it up to people with a tighter budget without having to pay the higher price for the 1911 when the Custom 74 is probably going to be better for most people.
Pilot Custom 74 Review
Getting into our more detailed look at both of our featured pens and starting with our primary recommendation, the Pilot Custom 74 as we feel that it is going to be the best option for the majority of our readers. As you would expect from Pilot, the Custom 74 is an excellent pen and although it is not their flagship fountain pen, it is still jam packed with excellent features and the high standards that the community have com to expect from a Pilot fountain pen.
The Pilot Custom 74 Nib
One of the best features on Pilots Custom 74 fountain pen is the rhodium-plated 14-carat gold nib that offers you one of the best writing experiences that you are going to be able to get for under the $200 price point. In our opinion, the only fountain pen in this price bracket that is a challenge to the Custom 74 when it comes to writing experience and nib design is the Lamy 2000 and its slightly larger customer base and excellent reputation backs this up.
The 14 carat gold nib of the Custom 74 helps to keep the nib as springy and flexable as possible when writing and although it does not have as much flex as a Pelikan nib, the design of the Pilot nibs does stay true to the natural movements of your hand when writing. This pushes it was ahead of the fountain pens that use a gold plated stainless steel nib or just a regular stainless steel nib and helps the pen glide over your paper when writing.
The Custom 74 is available in the standard nib sizes of extra-fine, fine, medium, and broad as well as the less common soft fine and fine-medium sizes that tend to be less popular in the less but are very popular options in Japan. The fountain pen is also available with a double broad nib size but it is even less popular and tends to only have a niche market and the double broad nib size tends to be harder to find in local stationary stores due to the small customer base for them.
If you are looking to upgrade to the Pilot Custom 74 from another fountain pen then please note that due to Pilot being a Japanese pen brand, they stick to the Asian nib sizes rather than the western nib sizes that most of our readers will probably be used to. Due to this, if you are upgrading to the Custom 74 from a fountain pen from a western brand then it may be an idea to upsize your nib if you are wanting to keep the same font when writing.
As an example, say you currently have the Lamy 2000 made in Germany that conforms to standard western nib sizing but are wanting to upgrade to the Custom 74. If your Lamy has a fine nib size and you like the font when writing then you may want to opt for the medium nib on the Custom 74 as it is closer to the writing size of a western fine nib.
The nib of the Custom 74 does tend to be on the dryer side, especially when you first get the pen after ordering it and have not had a chance to break it in yet. This is intentionally done as it is much easier to widen the nibs to improve ink flow than it is to narrow them to reduce it. That said though, some people do prefer dry writing fountain pens and they do offer some advantages over wet writing fountain pens, especially if you are left handed.
Being a dry writer comes with its advantages and disadvantages though just like any other fountain pen on the market. The dry writing nature of the nib on the Custom 74 means that you are able to write on lower GSM paper without having to worry about feathering, bleed, or ghosting due to the slightly lower ink supply from the feed to the nib when writing. Bleed and ghosting when writing with a fountain pen is one of the main complaints that we see from the community and Pilot have done a great job of reducing the chances of this happening with their Custom 74.
On the flip side of this though, if you are writing on lower GSM paper, you can end up having a slightly scratchier writing experience with the pen, especially if you are using one of the fine nib size variants. This is due to there being less ink being released from the nib when writing causing minimal scratch. That said though, this tends not to be an issue with the medium or above nib sizes and usually does not occur when writing on higher GSM paper anyway.
Although the older design of the Pilot fountain nibs were a pain to clean, the modern design offers quick and easy cleaning and a cheap fountain pen flush kit should easily be able to the pen to keep it writing correctly. We would recommend that you do clean your fountain pen on a regular basis to prevent dry ink and gunk building up in the section and potentially blocking the feed but this is standard for all fountain pens, not just the Pilot Custom 74.
The Barrel Of The Pilot Custom 74
The main point of criticism from the community when it comes to the Pilot Custom 74 is that parts or the majority of the barrel is made from high-quality, injection mold plastic depending on the variant of the pen you opt for. We can definitely see why this point is raised so often and we feel that this could be the reason that the Lamy 2000 is the dominant fountain pen in this price bracket due to its barrel being made from polycarbonate and stainless steel.
Although the plastic that Pilot use for the barrel is lightweight and surprisingly tough, it is not as tough as a polycarbonate grade plastic or a resin-based pen barrel and at this price point in the market, we would expect polycarbonate grade plastic as an absolute minimum. That said though, provided you take care of your Custom 74, we are confident that its barrel is tough enough to take any punishment during expected use and that it will last you for many years to come.
Another thing that holds the Pilot Custom 74 back and pushes the Lamy 2000 ahead is that the Custom 74 uses Pilots CON-70 cartridge convertor system rather than a piston filter system. Although the Pilot CON-70 is a great converter and one of the best available, especially with its push-button technology, piston fillers are the better option in our opinion as well as the majority of the community and the Lamy 2000 uses a piston filler as standard.
The Custom 74 is available with its barrel in a wide range of color options as well as the very popular clear barrel Custom 74 option. This offers more selection than most other fountain pens on the market in the sub-two hundred dollar price bracket right now and can help score it points if you care about the visual aspect of your pen.
The Pilot Custom 74 Cap
The cap of the pen is made from the same high quality plastic as the barrel and helps to keep it as light weight as possible to prevent you from having any issues with the pen back weighting when writing with it while having the cap posted too. Due to still being within a relatively cheap price point for fountain pens in the grand scheme of things, some brands still have issues with back weighting when writing with their modern models for their pens helping score the Custom 74 points.
The Pilot Custom 74 uses a twist to lock system when capping the pen helping to keep the pen secure when not in use and ensuring that the barrel will stay with the cap when clipped to your pocket or paper. Although the threads on the barrel of the pen for the cap to screw on to are firm, with frequent use they may have issues with cross-threading if you are not careful though so be sure to take your time when capping your pen.
The platinum clip on the Custom 74 has plenty of spring to it allowing you to easily clip the pen to your jacket pocket when not in use. Although the clip is springy, it also has a decent rigid form without having pressure applied to it so we are confident that it will be able to hold the pen in place once clipped to something without it giving way too.
The Ink Reservoir Of The Pilot Custom 74
As the Pilot Custom 74 uses the CON-70 cartridge convertor system it does not have an ink reservoir in the sense a piston filler pen would. The maximum ink supply for the pen is dictated by the ink supply of the cartridge and the Pilot IC-100 ink cartridges offer a maximum ink supply of 0.9ml. Although this is a little low when compared to the industry standard for fountain pens, especially at this price point, the Sailor 1911 also has a 0.9ml maximum ink capacity so we will not mark the Pilot pen down for this.
Although the Custom 74 does not have a traditional ink view window on the pen that can hold it back, the clear barrel variant of the pen allows you to see directly through the pen barrel to the cartridge. This allows you to check the current ink supply in your pen if you do opt for the clear barrel variant offering some indication of when you will have to replace your ink cartridge.
Pilot Custom 74 Writing Samples
Sailor 1911 Review
Moving on to take a more in-depth look at the Sailor 1911 that is by rights, an outstanding pen and Sailor really have done an excellent job in its design and engineering. That said though, although both featured models are relatively close to each other in price points, we would class the Custom 74 as an upper price point intermediate pen where as the sailor 1911 is a lower price point premium level pen.
The Sailor 1911 Nib
The main advantage of the Sailor 1911 over the Pilot Custom 74 is its 21 carat gold nib that does technically offer the user a softer writing experience than the 14 carat gold nib of the Pilot pen. If you are more of a fountain pen collector rather than just looking for a great fountain pen that will offer you excellent performance for the lowest possible price then the Sailor 1911 may be the better option.
On the flipside of this though, although someone who collects fountain pens for a hobby will be able to tell the difference between a 14 carat and 21 carat gold nib when writing, many people wont. As we try to always cater for the majority of our readers, we have to factor that most people reading this will not be fountain pen collectors so the higher carat rating of the nib on the Sailor 1911 is not enough to push it ahead of the Custom 74 for most people in our opinion.
The 1911 is available in the standard nib sizes of extra fine, fine, medium, and broad covering the vast majority of needs for most of our readers. As we touched on above for our break down of the Custom 74, the double broad, soft fine, and fine medium nib sizes as well as oblique nibs usually have a very small user base so the lack of offering these nibs does not hold the 1911 back.
Pilot are another Japanese fountain pen brand so remember to downsize your nib selection as we covered earlier in the article if you are currently using a fountain pen from a western brand and want to keep a similar font size to what you are used to. The Pilot 1911 is a wetter writer than the Sailor Custom 74 but not by much and the larger the nib size the wetter the pen gets with medium and broad being wetter than extra-fine and fine.
The wetter nib on the 1911 can end up resulting in more feathering, ghosting, and bleed when writing but it really is not as bad as some other wet writing nibs out there. Thankfully, if you are having issues with this then you can also use a 120 GSM rated paper to prevent the bleeding and ghosting while improving your overall writing experience too. If you are left-handed then we would recommend that you try to use a fast-drying ink cartridge with the 1911 if possible to prevent you from accidentally smearing when writing.
The wetter nib on the 1911 does tend to offer you a smoother writing experience than you would normally get from a Custom 74, especially with the fine rated nibs. This is due to the amount of ink coming out of the nib when writing being larger and lubricating the paper more resulting in a smoother writing experience as the nib glides over the paper.
The Barrel Of The Sailor 1911
The barrel of the Sailor 1911 does blow the barrel of the Custom 74 out the water in our opinion as it is made from High-Quality PMMA Resin but keep in mind that you will be paying for this in the higher price tag of the 1911. The resin is just as light as the plastic used in the Custom 74 but it also offers the toughness of a strainless steel or brass barrel without any of their disadvantages.
If you are using your fountain pen for work and have a job where your pen take more bumps and knocks than usual then the 1911 is the obvious option as we are confident in its ability to take more knocks than average without sustaining much damage. In addition to this, if you are more accident prone and work in an office but think your pen may accidentally roll of the desk often then go with the 1911.
Although the standard Sailor 1911 does use a cartridge convertor system for its ink, the Sailor 1911 Realo is available with a piston filler system. That said though, opting to go with the piston filler variant of the pen really does hike its price tag up pushing it well ahead of the Pilot Custom 74 in terms of price. If you are thinking of going with 1911 Realo then something like the Pelikan m600 may be a better option as it is a similar price point but a much better pen in our opinion for the money you will be spending.
Although the convertor used on the standard 1911 is decent and gets the job done, we definitely do feel that the Pilot convertor is a better and easier system, especially if you are new to using fountain pens. In addition to this, we are aware of a number of third-party ink cartridges for the Sailor range of pens but we would always recommend that you stick with the official Sailor ink cartridges as they are only a little bit more expensive but tend to have less issues with leaking.
If you are a fountain pen collector then the Sailor 1911 can be more attractive than the Custom 74 due to the wider range of colors the barrel and cap are available in. On top of this, Sailor also releases a number of limited edition, regional-specific designs for their pens that tend to actually appreciate in value due to them being released in such low numbers.
The Sailor 1911 Cap
The cap of the Sailor 1911 is also made from the same high-quality PMMA resin as its body helping to keep it as light as possible and preventing you from having any issues with the pen when writing with it while having the cap posted. As the cap has the same tough properties as the barrel we are confident that it will last you just as long as the barrel and has the potential to last you for decades to come with proper care.
The Sailor fountain pen range uses a twist to lock system similar to the Custom 74 but due to the Sailor cap and barrel being made from resin rather than plastic the threads on the barrel near the section are less likley to cross thread. Although cross threading the Custom 74 is rare, it can still happen and potentially end up causing you problems helping to score the 1911 some points over it.
Although some people have said that the clip on the 1911 is too rigid, we don’t see this as a negative due to the higher price point of the pen and the risk of the clip on the cap potentially giving way if it is not as rigid. When you look at it from Sailors point of view, we would imagine they rather have a few people say the clip is too rigid than have lots of people complain that the clip is too weak and that they have lost or damaged their pen because of it.
The Ink Reservoir Of The Sailor 1911
As most of our readers will probably be looking at the standard Sailor 1911 rather than the Sailor 1911 Realo we will be focusing on it but the Realo variant does have a traditional ink reservoir due to being based around a piston filler system. The standard 1911 has the same limitations as all other convertor based fountain pens with its maximum ink capacity forced on it by its cartridges.
The Sailor cartridges have a maximum ink supply of 0.9ml that is just below the 1ml average but the same as the Pilot Custom 74 so we call their ink capacities a draw. The Sailor ink is a little more expensive than the Pilot ink too but the difference is usually only two or three dollars depending on the supplier so it shouldn’t be an issue for the majority of people.
Sailor 1911 Writing Samples
That brings our ultimate Pilot Custom 74 vs Sailor 1911 comparison article to an end and we hope that we have helped you decide on the fountain pen that best fits your needs. In our opinion, the cheaper Pilot Custom 74 is the better option for most of our readers and can offer a slightly better writing experience to the general user in some situations. The Sailor 1911 does have some advantages but they are generally based around fountain pen collectors rather than general users cementing the Custom 74 as our recomendation.