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A Close Look At: Lights & Lasers

A Close Look At: Lights & Lasers
Can You Have Too Many? Nah …

Someday an MBA-type should do a thesis on how a competitive free-market economy works, using flashlights as an example. It seems only a couple of decades ago when the first very bright, compact, tough, water- and shock-resistant flashlights appeared on the market. Most of us didn’t know we wanted one until they came out. Then we all wanted one, though they seemed awfully expensive. If the makers had gotten complacent — sitting back and counting their money — they’d be out of business by now.

Instead, they plowed profits into R&D to make better products. LEDs are the most significant development, which unlike earlier bulbs, run cool on relatively less current. People used to say LEDs would never work — they’re not bright enough, etc. Well they are now because the R&D people are pretty darn bright themselves.

Want a light just bright enough to read fishing regulations, without waking your fishing buddies? Or a very bright strobe to disorient an assailant or send a distress signal to a search plane? Well, you can have it all — and more — and you can have it in one flashlight.

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Brite-Strike lights are extremely well designed and built. The RHIGHT Duty Light is another ingenious design, using a rechargeable battery. Previously, a rechargeable battery had to be removed and charged in a separate unit — since a charging port in the flashlight itself would be an opening for water or dust to enter. Brite-Strike’s R&D people found a better way. Rotate the lens housing and it telescopes out, exposing the charging port. Plug in either of the two supplied power adapters (for vehicles or house). Once charged, unplug and rotate the lens housing so it retracts over a rubber O-ring, making it, according to Brite-Strike, “waterproof, not just water-resistant.” Tapping the blue end cap gives options of 600 lumens, 170 lumens and strobe at 600 lumens — either locked on or momentary on. Light, bright, tough and no need to buy batteries. And we thought lights couldn’t get any better!

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I can remember when laser sights were about the size and weight of a .44 Magnum pistol, cost well into four figures and had a beam imperceptible in daylight. Viridian put a great deal of research into developing green lasers — which many people find easier to see on target in daylight. The C5 compact weighs just 2.34 ounces and fits subcompact (and of course full-size) pistols. The X5L for full-size pistols has both the green laser beam and a 190-lumen white light. These are the brightest laser beams I’ve ever seen. Even in full daylight the green dot is easily visible on target at any range at which a pistol would be used defensively. It can be set for constant on, or used in pulse mode, which makes it even easier to see.

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LaserMax makes frame-mounted lasers for popular pistol models, guide rod lasers and rail-mounted lasers. The Genesis is a very light (1.4 ounces), compact rail-mounted laser with green laser beam. Instead of replaceable batteries, it uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery with a covered micro USB port for charging. It has dual activation switches so the beam can be activated from either side. The pulsating green laser is bright and effective in daylight. It’s an excellent laser, so light and compact it can be permanently attached to subcompact as well as full-size handguns.

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TerraLUX makes a huge array of LED light products for a wide range of uses. The TerraLUX Portable division makes flashlights as well as this TLH-50 Headlamp. The headlamp has illumination levels of 20, 100, 250 and 540 lumens, with a strobe function at 540 lumens. Battery runtime varies with the power level, from three hours at maximum to 65 hours at lowest intensity. Tested to be waterproof at one meter for 30 minutes, the TerraLUX headlamp weighs 5.3 ounces complete with two CR123A batteries. It’s a very useful and versatile light.

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Streamlight’s PolyTac and PolyTac HP both use two CR123A batteries and put out 275 lumens at full power, 14 lumens at low power. The standard model is intended for all-around use, while the HP has a deeper reflector and narrower, more focused beam. Both use solid-state regulation to maximize output throughout battery life. As they come from the factory, the activation button cycles through high output, strobe and low output. Users can program them to provide high output only or high/low only. Shucks … I’ve already accepted I can’t program a cell phone, now I’ll have to find a kid to help program my flashlight.

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The AEL280PI from AE Light is a 280-lumen light with a bright, even beam, made of hard anodized aluminum and waterproof to 2 meters. It runs on two CR123A batteries or a rechargeable lithium ion battery. In its basic form it’s a simple, dependable and very tough light. Several available accessories greatly increase its utility. A replacement LED module adds dual high/low power with 480 lumens at high power. For crime scene investigators, there’s a 365nm UV LED module. The smooth standard bezel can be replaced with what I’ve heard called a “DNA sample gathering” bezel. There’s also a clever lantern head option, which can be hung up to use as an area light while camping.

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The Bushnell Rubicon series adds a clever twist: a red halo light in addition to high and low beams. The T300L puts out 371 lumens at full power. If even low power is brighter than you want, slide the switch to “R” and a circle of red LEDs on the circumference of the reflector light up. The T300L runs on four conventional AA batteries rather than the more expensive lithiums. It has a 1-meter drop impact resistance rating and IPX4 water rating (splash resistant). It weighs 12.9 ounces with batteries. The T100L has a 152-lumen rating and toggles between full white-light power and the red halo light. It has the same drop and water resistance as the T300L, runs on one AA battery and weighs just 3.1 ounces with battery.
By Dave Anderson

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  1. Good article, but the damning thing is how to carry a weapon-mounted light. Gave up waiting for Galco Gunleather to add pistol w/light in Miami Classic components, so just ordered their Halo Belt Holster (Black), Glock 23 with Weapon Light, Right Hand. Hated to possibly add yet another to my unused basket, but don’t know until you try them. Standardized on Cat Laser Sights after review in American COP Magazine, because they work with most holsters I already had (except retention ones of course).

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