I like fountain pens for their longevity (I have 100 year old pens), how they write, how comfortable they are to write with (if you are willing to try out different weights and widths of pens), and the variety of ink colors. Expensive pens write well and have the durability and workmanship to last 100 years but (since it’s a good time to carry your own pen) I try not to own anything I’d fear losing while running errands.
My few (not very) expensive pens stay home for letters and long form writing but I am always on the lookout for inexpensive pens to treat more cavalierly. I especially like finding fountain pens at drug stores, office supply stores, and discount stores. For this hot minute Five Below sells two types of fountain pens: the “2 Count Calligraphy Fountain Pen” ($3.25 US) and the “8 Count Fountain Pen” ($5 US). This is a review of the first (a “Made in China” knock off of the excellent and more expensive Lamy pens found in bookstores and stationary stores).
The package comes with two pens (one with a Fine nib, the other with an Extra Fine nib) and four generic black ink cartridges. There are directions on the back but you will need to push firmly if you are using your own ink cartridges, instead. (The package helpfully(?) notes the ink feed’s diameter is 3.4 mm. I have no idea how this compares with other, standard pens.)
The “2 Count Calligraphy” pens are not calligraphy pens. They have ordinary fountain pen nibs that write “Fine” (hooded nib) and “Extra Fine” (standard nib) – not the wide square tips for fancy lettering.
They will write with a line like a ballpoint’s: for actual calligraphy fountain pens there are several good choices at most crafting stores. These pens do have an advantage: most high end fountain pens do not come with “Extra Fine” nibs (“Medium” is far more common – think of a thick-lined 1 mm gel pen) but the tradeoff is that fountain pen fans are always looking for paper that won’t feather the ink like a cheap felt-tip pen or have it show through badly on the other side of the page. If you want a fountain pen that will write well on nearly any paper (ordinary notebook paper, printer paper, most cards and stationary) an “Extra Fine” pen is your best bet. There are two flat places on these pens for your fingers so you know you’re holding the pen correctly. (Write with a fountain pen at a low angle to the paper: for best results write with the blob on the side of the nib not with the very tip of the sharp point.)
These Five Below pens write beautifully. They have ink windows that let you see when you’re running low on ink. These are not eyedropper pens: blowing into them shows air leaks around the ink window. Unless you could seal the window without covering it over there will be no filling the whole back of the pen with bottled ink. (I recommend using up the ink they came with then filling the empty plastic cartridge from your choice of bottled ink with a dull syringe: an online pen store of your choice can set you up with both.)
These pens take standard international ink cartridges (ye generic standard ink cartridges) but I had to press hard on a firm surface to get the narrow end of the cartridge to seat correctly. (It took a few tries to get the cartridge flush to the back of the feed so the pen could not leak.)
I was prepared to write a you-get-what-you-pay for review about the usual faults of cheap pens (‘won’t write, write only in ink blots, won’t take any kind of cartridge you can ever find again, leaks’) but I recommend these pens: they are good starter pens that write surprisingly well and pleasantly, do not feather or bleed on most ordinary types of paper (sticky notes, free charity notepads, printer paper, school notebooks, inexpensive Thinking of You cards), and so far they write without blobbing or leaking. They are a good choice if you want to try out fountain pens or want a pen for that off-brand glitter-filled or corrosive vintage ink that might clog (or eat) a pricier pen.
Note: I have no connection with Five Below, I bought these pens on my own initiative at full price, and I owe a thanks to YouTuber SuperRaeDizzle (check out both channels, esp. the tests of historic art supplies and vanished paint colors!) for mentioning that Five Below has a website.