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Old April 3, 2012, 07:27 PM   #8
Nathan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 1, 2001
Posts: 1,843
can some one help me understand these new tactical flashlights? brands, prices, lumens, size, features, types of bulbs, led's, etc?

Well, CPF Forums is the right way to really dig in. Let me start off with some basics. First of all, I think you can get a good "tactical" light for $50 to $100. I have one at each price point.

Brands: I have a Fenix and a Nitecore. I think the there are many other good brands. Try 4Sevens.

Lumens:

5 - 10 - Good secret task light, menu light, movie theater light

40 - 60 - Good up close task lighting

100 - Good larger work space/task light

200 - enough to startle someone, even if they are expecting a light. They cannot look back at it easily, even with minimal eye dilation.

400 - Really bright. Good for searching your back yard and blinding what you find.

800 - Good for searching a larger yard and making someones eyes hurt at 25 yards or so.

Size:
Essentially, this is the size of a minimally thick tube and a torch head on it. 1 x AAA is a good front shirt pocket light
1 x AA is a good pocket light
1 x 123 same as 1 x AA, but more battery capacity
2 x AA is a good belt light
2 x 123 same. . .but more. . .
2 x 18650 Basically, still a small belt light, but mega battery! Rechargable only.

Bulbs:
Plain LED - 5 lumens each. You need a lot to do much.
CREE LED - Bulb type most super lights are based on.

Bulb Color:
Blue-White - Most LED's want to be bluish in color. This makes you see black and white. Not so good for some things.

White - Ideal for color rendition, but hard to find a real white bulb.

Yellow - White - Allows you to see color better than blue hues. Much of your house lighting is this color.

Features:
Momentary On - You want this capability so you can flash and move.

Single power on - You want this in a tactical. There is nothing worse, I imagine, than pulling your tacticool light to blast some BG blind and find out it turned on to 5 lumen mode!

Hi - Lo - option - Hi is great for blasting. It sucks for map, menu, etc reading, checking the oil, etc. For reading, 5 lumen is great and for oil checking, 40 lumen is ideal.
i see some measure their power in how many feet the beam of light goes, others in lumens. are bulb lights still the best or have led's caught up. most seem to use the 123 batteries while i see some are using aa or other regular batteries.

How to do it all with 1 light? Some programmables do it all pretty well. They do this with mode switches, momentary switches, long press, multi press, etc. Quark tactical series do this well for reasonable money.

Batteries:
This is where the learning begins.
AAA - Sucks. I change my work light battery all the time. I think it lasts a few days to a week depending on what I'm doing. It does have the benefit of being the size of my finger and weighing nothing in my tool pouch. As you can see, they still work.

AA - OK, but will be run hard to keep up with 123's. Result, you will use quite a few.

AA rechargables - Fine, but expect a regular recharge cycle.

123 - In a 1 x 123, I can use 1 battery for a month or so. Nice powerful battery for it's size.

16340 - I use AW 16340's in some fancy Chinese battery charger. If you don't blow yourself up, these are the way to go. I have 2 batteries and charge change about once a month depending on usage.

18650 - Again, AW is a good battery. These were made for laptops but now power mega lights like the TK35.

Beamshot:
This is what you pick a light on. Numbers are ok, but how is the beamshot. Is the middle small and hot, or does it have a larger more usable middle. Is it more throw, or more flood. Flood is better for task and throw is better for blinding. All modern lights have a spot-spill pattern. The spot is the bright part and spill is the surround. The relative sizes, brightness and total lumens to power the overall beam are how you pick a light. Online, there are tons of flashlight videos. These are quite helpful, if you remember the limitations of video. This is how you pick a light.

Heat:
Big lights or powerful for size lighting gets hot. It should never get hot enough to burn, but they will make you sweat. This is caused by the high current drain which makes them light up like a portable sun. The sun is hot and so are portable sun's. My rule is if the outside doesn't burn me, it is probably heat sinked well enough. The solution is a fan. Can you imagine a pocket light with a fan?

Surefire:
This has to be addressed. Surefire is a great brand. They have marketed as well or better than Kimber. Every tactical Tommy has one. I have a G2. Good lights. Everything you want, except they are behind the market in technology some and overpriced. That said, they are available locally usually, which is not true for everything else. Actually, good rechargable batteries are hard to find in America!


Other lights:
Well, I pretty much only use CREE lights which are well made except for my G2 which is stuck on my AR. It is too big to carry and Surefire owns the AR light mount market, IMO.

Conclusions from my use:
Yes, a good $50 - $100 daily EDC is worth it. I carry use/abuse my Nightcore daily. It's big brother Fenix TK35 has been relegated to dog finding and home intruder usage. Do you want 800 lumens in your eyes followed rapidly by 230 gr JHP's? A big brother light just gets less usage. Still, sometimes I really want it. Last, an assortment of headlamps is good. Headlamps are really better for working, hunting, camping as your hands are free. I have a Remington multi-output with optional diffuser and a cheap Rayovac for unglamorous duty.
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