It’s not very often a better mouse trap comes along in the world of tactical illumination. Generally we see improvements of an existing idea, or a minor change; but First-Light USA delivers a truly revolutionary idea in the Liberator tactical light.
This past year I met Jeremy Ross, CEO of the new company First-Light USA. He gave me the lowdown on his new tactical light, one he said would allow the operator a true two-handed shooting grip. I perused the prototype at the SHOT Show. The name, Liberator, seemed most appropriate since the light is designed to be a radical change to the current mix of “tactical” lights on the market.
Finally, in the first part of July, I heard back from the crew at First-Light USA; they were ready to ship the Liberator to customers. I made arrangements to procure a sample, but there was a provision. Jeremy and Dave Wittrock, his lead instructor and general manager of The Site training center, would deliver it and train me. I was shocked to find out that First-Light will give you hands-on training if your agency decides to purchase the Liberator, even though each light ships with a training DVD.
So what makes the Liberator itself so revolutionary? The mounting bracket and handle. The handle is the most noticeable because it wraps around your hand while the light is held parallel to your hand by the bracket. This is totally different than the standard tube-style light we all have used for the last hundred years.
The bracket’s pivoted design allows you not only to shoot, but to take notes, cuff, search, and climb, all while maintaining the light in a useable position around your hand, not dangling from a lanyard.
Incorporated into the bracket are the controls for the light. You have the option of a momentary-on touch pad, constant-on switch, dimmer for the constant-on, and a lock-off pad. It sounds like a lot of switches, but you only have three. And they’re easy to operate, even with gloved hands and in wet conditions.
The dimmer switch only reduces light output of the light in constant-on. This increases the run time of the batteries from one-and-a-half hours at maximum brightness to 60-plus hours on the lowest constant-on setting. If you hit the momentary pressure pad, you will have the light’s full 80-lumen output when needed.
To say I was skeptical about the Liberator would be an understatement. I had figured it was simply a light on a bracket. Well, I was wrong. Because the bracket adapts to both your shooting grip and the type of weapon you are using, once you slip the light on your hand, it is a fit-and-forget-it tool.
The Liberator can be used in the utility position, which is how you grab the light to remove it from its holster. Simply slip your hand into the grip up to your second joint and you are ready to use the light to search and still get a solid two-handed shooting grip.
Continue to slip the light onto the back of the hand and this is the “tactical” position, which gives you the most secure two-handed shooting grip and is hands-free at this point. This position works well with Weaver, Isosceles, and other shooting stances and with long guns that have a vertical fore grip. To align the lamp and weapon, simply rotate the light housing on the bracket. It literally takes two seconds.
If your long gun doesn’t have a vertical fore arm, you can still use the Liberator. Simply push in the bracket release, and the bracket will pivot to align the light and weapon. This operation takes two hands because you need to push in the bracket lock and rotate the entire assembly, but it’s no big deal. Again, it takes just a few seconds.
I’m sure you have questions about using the light, because I had them myself. So I’ll answer them for you. First, if a subject grabs the light, the strap and grip are designed to break away; and it takes a helluva tug. Next, the moving parts have been tested on a test fixture rotating them a million or more times. The switches have been pushed in extreme cold (-20F and lower) to extreme heat (130F) and they continue to function. The Liberator was built to survive what duty dishes out.
Nothing but the industry best is used in its construction: aerospace-grade aluminum alloy for the light housing and battery compartment, high-strength proprietary resins for the control bracket, and high-strength 2mm glass for the light’s lens.
First-Light USA makes a tough light, designed with the operator in mind. The Liberator works well and First-Light stands behind it to the point of training entire agencies in how to use its product. Not many companies are willing to do that. If you are in the market for a new tactical light, the Liberator is more than worthy of consideration.
Scott Smith is a disabled veteran who served as an active duty Army MP and in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard as a security policeman. He is a contributing editor to Police Magazine.