Remember when all you had to choose from were those fragile general use flashlights that would break if you sneezed and weren't all that bright? And then when they finally came out with heavy-duty models, they wouldn't break but could be unwieldy? Nowadays you can choose from several flashlights that are big and lightweight or any number of other combinations, including mini and superstrong and megabright. Whichever flashlight you choose, the new models are brighter than ever.

All of these offerings can effectively blind a potential threat, even in the daylight. This tactic can give you valuable seconds to evaluate your circumstances, and to act on the subject if necessary before he regains his sight. Flashlights are more than convenient sources of light; they can be used as life-saving tools.

For some examples to help in sifting through the infinite possibilities, read on.

The "Old" Standby

Believe it or not, the old standby ain't that old anymore. Traditional flashlights have been revamped; they're brighter and even more reliable than the first heavy-duty models MagLite came out with in the '70s. And there is a much wider range to choose from. For example...

ASP Triad Lights are high-intensity flashlights made of extra strength aerospace aluminum for durability. A foamed vinyl grip lets you keep a tight hold on your Triad. Each flashlight's two leak-proof lithium power cells provide one hour of continuous run time and have a 10-year shelf life. You can adjust the beam from a soft flood to an intense beam, depending on your situation. And in case you're in a tight spot, the on/off switch is sensitive and quiet, so no one will know what's going on until you blast them with light.

Garrity's Tuff Lites are heavy-duty rubber flashlights made to withstand all sorts of weather and abuse. They even float in water, in case you run into a huge downpour. Garrity's Sure Grip design of textured rubber makes the Tuff Lites easy to hold onto, so you won't accidentally drop them. But if you do, hey, they'll just float or bounce.

MagLite, known for introducing heavy-duty flashlights to law enforcement, offers a wide selection of traditional flashlights, among other types of lights. You can even get MagLites in different colors, including silver, red, blue, green, camo, and purple, if you're so inclined.

Features on MagLites include a high-intensity adjustable light beam that can be adjusted from spot to flood and a recessed, pushbutton, 3-position switch. Its body is anodized inside and out for improved corrosion resistance and it's water and shock resistant.

There's even a spare lamp secured inside the tailcap, so it will be ready when you need it.

LED lights may not seem traditional, but they're becoming widely accepted in law enforcement applications. Because LED lights don't use the old filament-type bulbs, you're less likely to lose your light source due to breakage. They also use much less power than other bulbs, so you won't have them burning out as quickly.

Lightwave's Lightwave 4000, distributed by LED Lites, is a 3 D-cell LED flashlight, which means it's big and powerful and it won't break if you drop it. It has 10 LED lights, not just one, and it's shockproof and waterproof, so it's good for all weather conditions. It also lasts for up to one month of continuous use.

Charge It!

Rechargeable flashlights mean you don't have to worry about them running out of juice-as long as you remember to recharge them. Two options for recharging make this easy. You can get both auto and home chargers, so you won't be caught unawares in the dark.

Pelican offers several different sizes of rechargeable flashlights. The M7 is fairly small at 61/4", while the M11 reaches 111/4". Both come with their own specific rechargers and have an on/off button at the end of the flashlight (as opposed to the side), which can be helpful if you're carrying it up over your shoulder.

Streamlight, which brought the first rechargeable flashlights to law enforcement, offers the rechargeable UltraStinger, the new and improved version of the SuperStinger. The UltraStinger is five times brighter than its predecessor, emitting up to 75,000 candlepower for one hour. This makes it the brightest Streamlight flashlight available. This rechargeable weighs just over a pound, has a machined aluminum case, a super-strong polycarbonate lens, and features a spot-to-flood beam. Single and multiple AC and DC chargers are available for use with various Streamlight rechargeable flashlights. If you already have the SuperStinger, you can buy a kit to upgrade it to the new Ultrastinger.

Size Doesn't Matter

OK, maybe it does matter, but it doesn't have to be a limiting factor. You can get a lot of power out of teeny tiny lights these days. For those of you looking for big light in a small package, mini lights are the way to go. There are flashlights out there so small they fit on a key ring, clip to a zipper or hat, or fit in a shirt pocket.

The Photon Micro-Light 3-aptly enough, by Photon Micro-Light- uses a state-of-the-art micro-processor that makes it even more functional than previous models. The microprocessor gives you the choice of three levels of brightness, three levels of strobe, and a very handy one-minute auto shutoff. At any time you can squeeze the front button to bypass the electronics and turn on the light. It's available in seven different beams, runs on long-life lithium batteries, and has a water-resistant case.

The Photon Micro-Light is also available in a covert version, which adds an extended housing to shield the bulb. This reduces glare and effectively eliminates all peripheral light. Originally designed for covert military use, the Covert Photon 3 is useful for any situation where you don't want to attract attention.

The L1 LED flashlight from Pelican Products is water-resistant and provides a concentrated close-quarter beam. The LED lamp produces up to 50,000 hours of usage and uses four replaceable LR 44 1.5V alkaline coin cells (batteries included) for up to 100 hours of battery life. The light includes a breakaway safety lanyard and a handy pushbutton on/off end switch. It's even available in a choice of black or yellow.

The Lightwave Pocket-Bright uses LED technology. This mini light runs on two 2025 lithium batteries, included with the product. It works for more than 50 hours and is water- and shockproof. It even includes free accessories: key ring, neck lanyard, and hook and loop fastener. If you click it once it comes on. Click it again and it turns off.[PAGEBREAK]

Weapon Mounted Lights

You can hold a flashlight while you hold a gun, but many flashlights and flashlight attachments now make this unnecessary by effectively making a flashlight part of the gun. It's kind of useful to be able to see who or what you're aiming at.

The type of flashlight or attachment varies, depending on the type of gun you're using. Some magazine mounts and handgun mounts work with a wide range of manufacturers' guns. For example, one TACM (Tactically Advanced Combat Mount) III mount will attach to any 1911-type gun. However, some are model specific, such as the TACM III mount only compatible with the Smith & Wesson model Sigma. This mostly depends on the gun you use and how unique it is.

TACM III "flashlight systems for firearms," from Diamond Products Tactical Flashlights, do not require gun modification or a new holster. Because the product keeps the gun and flashlight together as an integrated system, your gun's ready to use when you need it. TACM III products won't unbalance the weapon or prevent magazine changeout, both pretty important considerations when you're trying to shoot. You can find TACM III mounts to fit all manner of pistols, shotguns, long guns, and assault rifles.

SureFire offers "weapon lights"- the company's name for these products-that fit  just about any gun you can think of. The SureFire Classic System has a dedicated housing that securely attaches to the gun and uses two 123A size lithium batteries to provide either 65 lumens of light for one hour or 120 lumens of light for 20 minutes. The classic systems come with a molded slimline switch that allows you to activate the light from the pressure pad on the pistol grip and is ambidextrous for tactical needs.

Innovative Illumination

Specialty lights now on the market meet needs you didn't even know you had. These lights are so useful, you might soon wonder how you lived, or worked, without them.

The Ceptor, by KDA Industries, is a hands-free flashlight that attaches to the epaulet of a uniform. This makes it convenient and safe. It is designed for use in traffic stops and includes a stroboscopic light on the rear of the device to alert traffic that there is someone outside of the car. It's powered by a rechargeable Ni-mh battery included within the flashlight.

Streamlight's CuffMate solves the problem of uncuffing subjects in the dark. Now you can actually have enough visible light to uncuff them quickly and correctly. You can even check to see if the cuffs are doublelocked in the dark. The CuffMate contains an LED light that sits next to the key, so there's no fumbling with a bulky flashlight, trying to point it in the right direction without losing control of the subject. The CuffMate's special features include a swiveling keyring connector with keyring and a double-lock pin. It runs on two replaceable CR 2016 lithium batteries for 12-plus hours.

The new SL1 Survival Light from Tool Logic combines a knife, a flashlight, and an emergency whistle all in one. A white LED flashlight sits above the knife blade and works whether or not the blade is open. A twist of the barrel turns on this waterproof light, powered by three button cell batteries. To top it all off, built into the handle are a whistle and cavity for any small items.

There are also many ways to carry flashlights: keyrings, neck lanyards, carrying cases, holsters, and rings. Whichever you choose, make sure it fits the flashlight you want to carry and that you'll be able to get to it when you need it. This is especially important if you plan to use your flashlight with your gun. You don't want to be fumbling for it while someone is aiming at you. As with any important piece of equipment, it all comes down to what flashlight is most comfortable and effective for you and your job.

The Right Light

One of the great innovations in LED lights is the variety of colors now available. And this is not just an aesthetic issue. Different colored lights help complete different tasks.

Red Light. This intense color preserves night vision and can be used for signaling and map reading. Red is an internationally recognized attention color.

Orange Light. This bright light combines some of the aspects of both red and yellow lights. It doesn't disturb your night vision as much as the yellow, and illuminates things better than the red. It's great for signaling.

Yellow Light. A traditional flashlight type beam will easily project 20 to 30 feet onto an area you want to see.

Green Light. Nearly as bright as the blue, turquoise, and white lights but with a longer battery life, the green light will run up to 20 hours with one set of batteries.

Turquoise Light. The turquoise light appears slightly brighter than the blue. It is great for walking around at night. Wide angle beam lights up the whole room. The blue, turquoise, and white lights use two replaceable half-size batteries to boost light output. Because these lights use smaller batteries, the battery life is around 12-14 hours-still much longer than a regular flashlight.

Blue Light. Blue, turquoise, and white are the brightest of the Photon lights. The blue is tremendously bright and excellent for walking around. Wide-angle beam illuminates everything to the side as well as forward.

White Light. White is great for all-around use as everything you look at is viewed in full color. The narrow-angle bulb produces an incredibly bright flashlight-style beam.

Infrared Light. Used by members of the Secret Service, this Photon light creates a powerful infrared beam invisible to the naked eye. Rated at 11mW, this little light is quite a bit more powerful than your average IR illuminator. When used in conjunction with night vision equipment, it will illuminate a large area. Note: This Photon light is ONLY useful when used with night vision equipment or other equipment sensitive to infrared light.

For More Information

ASP
902-735-6242

Diamond Products/TACM  
800-530-0644
www.tacm3.com

Garrity   
800-245-0401
www.garritylites.com

KDA Industries/Ceptor  
1-800-Ceptor1

LE Technologies  
407-230-0676
www.letchlaser.com

Lightwave
678-393-9072  
www.longlight.com

MagLite
800-289-6241  
www.maglite.com

Pelican Products
800-463-6960  
www.pelican.com

PhotonMicro Light
541-925-3741
www.photonlight.com

Quik2See Flashlight Systems
704-895-8649  
www.break-free.com
www.quik-2-see.com

Streamlight
800-523-7488  
www.streamlight.com

SureFire  
800-828-8809  
www.surefire.com

ToolLogic
800-483-8422  
www.toollogic.com

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