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What's the Latest in Police Flashlights

The latest lights for your duty needs.

November 01, 2008  |  by Scott Smith - Also by this author

5.11 Tactical

Almost all flashlights on the market today use chemical batteries as a power source. 5.11 Tactical's Light for Life uses an ultracapacitor system to charge in 90 seconds.

Ultracapacitors have been around for about 15 years. They are energy storage devices that charge very quickly and discharge almost instantly. So until now about the only practical use for an ultracapacitor in a consumer product was in the flash systems of digital cameras.

To make an ultracapacitor suitable for a flashlight, engineers had to find a way to regulate the discharge of power. And that's exactly what the team at Ivus Energy Innovations has managed to do. Using Flashpoint Power Technology—a combination of computerized circuitry and an ultracapacitor—Ivus developed a power source suitable for a duty light.

5.11 Tactical's Light for Life UC3.400 is an 11-inch, 1.75-inch diameter, hexagonal head duty light that uses Ivus Energy Innovations' ultracapacitor system instead of batteries for fast charges. It operates in three modes: standard with 90 lumens of output, burst with 240 lumens of output, and a 270-lumen strobe. Runtime in standard mode is about 60 minutes with an additional 30 minutes of reserve. The Light for Life's LEDs are rated for 50,000 hours.

The 5.11 Light for Life duty flashlight is expected to reach the market in February. Price has been set at $169.99, including a 12-volt DC car charger. The light has a limited lifetime warranty.

Blackhawk

One of the biggest suppliers of products for cops and GIs is Blackhawk. The first Blackhawk light I used and tested was the Gladius. My first experience with it was at the SHOT Show several years ago, when I volunteered to be a crash test dummy for the new light. After being on the receiving end of the stroboscopic light of the Gladius, I was hooked.

The Gladius is just about 6.25 inches long, uses two CR123A batteries, and can be used as momentary on, locked on, strobe, or locked off. The tail cap has a four-prong thingy (how's that for technical) called an anti-roll cap to keep the Gladius from rolling when set on a slanted object such as a car hood. It also is a great holder when using the Roger's syringe light/shooting technique.

I like the Gladius for duty because it gives you light options. Because I work in an environment that has me rotating to a locked down psych ward, I like having the option of disrupting a patient's senses with light over having to go to OC or other means. This is also useful if someone gets overly frisky on a traffic stop.

Brite-Strike

Brite-Strike is a fairly new company, started by two police officers. Brite-Strike's lights are designed to give officers a multi-purpose light. They are sized small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or comfortably in a pants pocket, yet they are long enough to be a last resort impact weapon.

The Blue Dot 198 Series of lights offers a couple of versions of end caps: hi/lo/strobe, or momentary/hi output, both with an output of 198 lumens. This allows you to decide what will best serve your needs.

Of all its offerings, I was most intrigued by Brite-Strike's RID3 Light. This is a set of three high-intensity balls, each with two white LEDs in it. These are deployed by simply rolling or tossing them. The rolling action will disorient and confuse the bad guy. If he happens to look directly into the light, he will be temporarily blinded. This will allow your team to make an entry without using a "flash-bang" distraction device.

These lights provide you with enough illumination to mark a landing zone for a helicopter or mark off a checkpoint. Only your imagination can limit the RID3's uses. It comes in a handy holster and its maximum runtime is 20 hours.

First-Light

What makes the lights of First-Light so different is that they allow the operator to maintain and use a normal shooting grip with a handgun or long gun. And if you are a K-9 handler you can operate the light in your hand along with your sidearm and still hold the leash.

First-Light has two lights: the Liberator and Tomahawk. The Liberator is what many of us would consider a "duty" light. It is attached to a bracket that slips over the back of your hand (I prefer my non-dominant hand). This allows for a normal shooting grip, easy manipulation of your weapon for reloads, and lets you do something as simple as open a door or as complex as type. The Liberator operates on two CRA123As with an output of 80 lumens and has three brightness settings. The ST model features a strobe.

The Tomahawk is the Liberator's baby brother and can be handheld or easily clipped to a tactical vest. This smaller model offers three levels of brightness in the standard white light version, which has a maximum output of 80 lumens. Billed as the Safety-Strobe model, the 120-lumen Tomahawk LE includes First-Light's Ready-Strobe function along with a ring of colored LEDs in red and blue. It also includes a Safety-Strobe function: alternating white and colored flashing strobes. If you need a light to use with night vision, the Tomahawk NV features the white light of the Tomahawk with a ring of Infrared LEDs.

I like this light in all its versions because it is bright and compact.

Emissive Energy (Inova)

My first contact with Emissive Energy, which manufactures Inova lights, was in the form of a small squeeze-operated LED that I have on the pull ring of one of my Gore-Tex parkas.

Today the Inova T-4, a 175-lumen rechargeable tactical, is on the cutting edge of light technology. The T-4 uses Lithium Ion batteries, which seem to run forever on one charge. Inova specs the runtime at two hours with useful light out to more than 100 yards. Not bad for an LED light. It wasn't long ago an LED could be barely seen on the display of a wristwatch.

Inova has a heavy-duty Military/LE line on the boards that should start shipping shortly after this article comes to print. The details on these new lights are being held close to the vest, but I am sure they will be tough and durable.

Insight Technologies

Insight Technologies has been making infrared modules for the military for years. Its M3 light—which was a project with Streamlight—and its TLAN—which was designed with Heckler & Koch for the SOCOM Mk III—brought Insight to the public's attention.

The new XTI Procyon is another weapons-mounted light that should help expand Insight's reputation beyond the military market. This light is truly ambidextrous with dual toggles and offers a strobe light, a first for weapons-mounted lights. It will also fit holsters for the M3. This is a change from many light "upgrades." It seems every time a company improves a light you need a new holster, which sets you back big bucks.

I have been impressed with Insight's other duty lights such as the Arcturus and SSL1; they are tough handheld and weapons-mounted lights. I have little doubt that the Procyon and other new lights from Insight Technologies will serve both soldiers and cops alike for many years.

Leupold

I was stunned this year when I saw Leupold advertising lights. The company makes optics not lights; what's up with that? So I investigated to verify this was not an Internet legend.

It wasn't. Leupold's MX lights are modular to fit your needs and requirements.

You can choose from a two- or three-cell body, LED or Xenon lamp to lamps with a strobe or S.O.S. flasher. These are not your daddy's lights. The bezel is threaded to accept Alumina filters and accessories. The light tube is one inch in diameter so you can mount it on a long gun with a standard one-inch ring. The price of the MX varies depending on what units and battery tube you purchase.

The MX that I evaluated has a variable action bezel. This allows you to have a low-intensity light, high-intensity light, strobe, or a blinking search mode. I liked the substantial feel of the MX, and for a "black" light it looks good; yes, looking good is important.

A simple 400 series light costs $249.99, the two-cell tube $64.99, and the switch $49.99. The combination will set you back a total of $366, more or less. Using these components you can build the light to meet your wants and needs. More details on the MX and all of its options will be out later in 2008 and early 2009.

Pelican

Pelican lights have been around for quite a few years. I have been impressed with the lights and their durability. Modeled on last year's 7060, the 8060 is making its debut. This new light is the 7060 on steroids; or that's the impression I was given.

Like its smaller sibling, the 8060 runs off of Nickel Metal Hydride batteries at peak output (150 lumens) for four hours. Should your charge fail, you can remove the battery pack, insert four C cell alkaline batteries, and the light will run for 12 hours. This will see you through a long shift.

The 8060 ships complete with a charger and cradle with a price of $259.99. And if you manage to break a Pelican Light, don't worry; the company will replace it, per its lifetime guarantee. I had to send back a light for replacement once when my dog ate the push button. A new light arrived in a couple weeks' time, no questions asked.

PentagonLight

PentagonLight is another manufacturer that burst onto the scene in recent years. I was impressed with its little MOLLE Light, designed to clip on your tactical vest or onto your shirt. This light goes anywhere, so I figured that Pentagon's duty lights would be just as impressive. I wasn't disappointed. A cool and unusual innovation from Pentagon is the Porcupine. It has a retractable crenellated bezel, a spiked bezel. This gives you a light that can be used as a defensive weapon and actually protect you, moreso than just using the light as an impact weapon.

The Porcupine has an aluminum body and bezel, runs on two CR123A batteries, and produces 70 lumens of light for an hour with a price of $129. This light is well made and it stays put wherever you clip it.

Safariland

One of the most interesting lights on the market today is Safariland's RLS (Rapid Light System). This light mounts to your belt with a removable clip that gives you a low-profile mode of carry.

The RLS can be easily used as a handheld light. This means you can use it to look under a car seat or couch for those missing car keys (purely a fictitious use we know that never happens).

Should the need arise you can mount the same RLS to your sidearm. Simply take your handheld RLS, slip it onto the rail of your handgun, and rotate the light left or right and the handheld RLS is now a weapons-mounted 65-lumen light.

Safariland's RLS retails for $125 with the mount. This is competitive with other duty lights. Safariland reduces the cost of the RLS by using three AAA batteries instead of pricier batteries, and the light will run for approximately 50 hours.

Streamlight

Another mainstay in the world of lights is Streamlight. Its Super Tac is a 6.5-inch-long light with a 2.25-inch-wide bezel and a one-inch battery barrel, so this lamp can be mounted on a long gun with an optional mount. To give the operator 135 lumens of light, C4 LEDs are used.

The Super Tac arrives with a holster that will fit on a duty belt so you can light the darkest of night shifts. To ensure you don't run the batteries down when not using the light, it has a safety cap; simply rotate it a quarter turn and the circuit is broken, making sure the batteries will be good when you need the light. The Super Tac will run at max output for approximately three to three-and-a-half hours on a pair of C123As.

Streamlight's Super Tac is a compact light that projects usable light nearly 100 yards. With a price tag of $119.95, the Super Tac packs a lot of bang for the buck.

SureFire

Long known for lights that can double as landing lights at the local airport, SureFire introduced the Backup for off-duty or on-duty use when a small powerful light is needed. This four-inch light uses a high-energy LED that produces 80 lumens of tactical light or five lumens of useful light. To switch between the light levels simply turn the light on and then within two seconds push the tail cap again, and the lamp is running on low mode.

Unlike other lights on the market, the Backup can be carried with the light bezel up or down. I prefer to be able to draw the light bezel down so the tail cap is at my thumb, ready to use.

Like its larger siblings, the Backup is virtually indestructible. It is made from machined aluminum and with its battery it still qualifies as a fly weight at 2.8 ounces. You'll find this light selling for $149; quality and technology aren't cheap. I have found SureFire lights to be worth the few extra bucks.

Federal officer Scott Smith is a contributing editor to POLICE.

Tags: Flashlights

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