A History of Streamlight and Its Growth in the LE Market

Streamlight, Inc., began as a company that designed a solar simulator for the space program. But during the past 50 years, the company has grown to be a major provider of portable and handheld lighting for law enforcement and other first responders.

Streamlight, now celebrating its 50th year, is known as a provider of handheld and weapon lights for law enforcement.Streamlight, now celebrating its 50th year, is known as a provider of handheld and weapon lights for law enforcement.Streamlight/POLICE Illustration

In the early 1970’s, NASA engaged a group of engineers from Fairfield, NJ, to develop a solar simulator for the space program that simulated sunlight outside the filtering of the atmosphere. This research was later used to design and develop a handheld halogen “super flashlight” that produced one million candlepower — casting a beam of over one mile — which was marketed to the military and law enforcement market sectors.

A private investor from the Philadelphia area, Harry French, moved this fledgling company to King of Prussia, PA, and in 1973 created the company that today is known as Streamlight, Inc.

In 1975, the SL-20 was launched, the first professional, full-size halogen lamp aluminum rechargeable in the world that used a nickel metal cadmium battery. Other models, including the SL-35 and the SL-15 polymer, were also added to the line during the 1970s.

During the 1980s, the redesigned “X” rechargeable series was introduced along with a line of standard battery aluminum lights. Also introduced in this time frame was a variety of LiteBox lanterns, right-angle lights, and miniaturized flashlights.

In 1994, the first model in the iconic Stinger series was launched. Compact, ultra-bright and feature-rich, the original Stinger quickly became the flashlight of choice by law enforcement professionals everywhere, and today is available in a wide variety of models. In the same year, Streamlight also launched the SL-20XP, as well as the Scorpion, the world’s first ultra-compact rechargeable flashlight, shining as brightly as lights several times its size. Lights including the PolyStinger, Stylus penlight, UltraStinger, CuffMate, Vulcan lantern, and a new line of ProPolymer lights soon followed.

Streamlight quickly became known to law enforcement users for its expert engineering approach to creating lighting products that feature extraordinary brightness, long run times, and versatile features, while also offering high value and durability.

As technology evolved, light output began to be measured in lumens in addition to candela. Nickel metal cadmium battery technology gave way to lighter weight nickel metal hydride and eventually to ultra-lightweight lithium-Ion batteries. Meanwhile, Streamlight was adapting new technology to replace incandescent halogen bulbs with ultra-bright LEDs in order to offer higher lumen products with longer run times, while also offering optimum candela levels.

Rechargeability and LED Lighting

Law enforcement personnel also began to appreciate the cost-saving benefits of using rechargeable instead of disposable battery-powered flashlights. One rechargeable battery that is used many times over eliminates the need to purchase hundreds of disposable batteries, resulting in an estimated cost savings of 62% over the lifetime of a flashlight product. Estimates show that a single Streamlight rechargeable light can result in a 99% carbon footprint reduction, while eliminating 42 pounds of chemical battery waste from landfills each year.

The company also has consistently launched innovative LED lighting products, such as the Strion, introduced in 2001, which provided the brightness of a Stinger flashlight in an ultra-compact lithium-Ion rechargeable light. Five years later, the company introduced the first LED versions of the Stinger flashlight, as well as launched its first aluminum gun-mounted lights, the TLR-1 and TLR-2. Today, Streamlight offers an extensive line of weapon-mounted lights that fit a variety of long guns, shot guns, and handguns.

More innovations have followed over the years to assist law enforcement personnel, whether for conducting searches, clearing rooms, handling traffic stops or while on patrol. They include:

  •  Dual switch technology, providing a second, independent tactical tail cap switch that allows officers to use one light for virtually any police work,
  • Ten-Tap programming, enabling users to choose from three user-selectable programs to suit their needs,
  •  USB-rechargeable flashlights and headlamps that offer the convenience of charging on the go from a USB charging source,
  • Multi-fuel flashlight “systems” that use a rechargeable battery but also can accept disposable batteries for alternate sources of power,
  • High lumen, long-range lights with an ultra-bright hotspot for illuminating a broader area on targets,
  • Scene lights that are waterproof and offer powerful brightness in situations involving smoke or water,
  • Compact work lights that fit in tight places, can be used hands-free or hanging, and rotate on their bodies for light wherever it’s needed.

Today’s Streamlight

Today, Streamlight offers a full line of lights, lanterns, headlamps, weapon light/laser sighting devices, and scene lighting solutions for professional law enforcement, military, firefighting, industrial, automotive, and outdoor users in the US and in over 90 countries worldwide. What began as a small operation with several employees has grown into a 240,000-square foot manufacturing and office space in Eagleville, PA with more than 350 employees. The company now holds over 525 U.S. and foreign patents, and over 135 U.S. and foreign trademarks.

Streamlight helped spearhead the development of a uniform rating system for flashlight products called the ANSI (American National Standards Institute)/PLATO (Portable Lights Trade Organization) FL-1 Standard, designed to help customers rate and compare the most important features of personal lighting tools.

Charitable Support

Streamlight supports a variety of charitable organizations. It is a major sponsor of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), as well as the National Fallen Firefighters (NFFF). The company also supports charitable organizations through its “Lights for a Cause” flashlight series. The program consists of a line of specialty keychain and other lights, from which sales proceeds are donated to charitable causes. Beginning with “pink” lights to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts in finding a cure for breast cancer, the program has expanded to include lights for C.O.P.S. and NFFF.

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