Things are moving quickly in the field of tactical and gun-mounted lights. It seems like a good time to get a quick look at what’s available. Not long since the advent of the first real flashlight for police duty (Kel-Light), these new lights are small, powerful and use aspects of new technology. The manufacturers are not standing still. In fact, new manufacturers have emerged.

The Insight Tech-Gear “M” series of gun lights has been expanded. Designed to be light and compact, the design team set about making a “bank vault” of the new products, designated by an “X” suffix.

The M6X is an M6 Tactical Laser/Illuminator that is much more sturdy than the original. A six-volt device, the “X” yields 125 lumens for about one hour. The laser has new windage and elevation adjustments that are better designed to retain point of aim/point of impact.

The rail system interface is as cross compatible as the original. It’s installed and removed easily without tools. One improvement is the new shock suppression system. The incandescent Xenon bulb is better protected from shocks and impacts. The new light is also proofed for 66 feet underwater for two hours.

The laser is good to within an inch of boresight at 25 meters. If you have a gun that needs a quick on/off laser along with illumination for target identification, give the M6X a good long look. The one I have has worked famously.

In fact, installing it under a Glock pistol, I used the M-6X as a training tool. A new shooter was having problems. Using the laser to confirm the student’s sight alignment/sight picture, I then used it to show the new shooter the “arc of movement” that we all have. Some people think the gun has to be perfectly still in order to make a hit. It’s far more important to control the trigger smoothly while holding the gun as still as one can. No one holds it perfectly still.

Streamlight has now issued their TLR-1 and TLR-2 – machined aircraft aluminum gun mount lights – with C4 LED technology. Bright at 135 lumens, the LED light source is estimated good for 50,000 hours.

Streamlight also expanded their tactical light line. They had the Tactical Light (TL) and Night Fighter (NF) lithium-powered lights for some time. In fact, I’ve worn some of the anodizing off of the TL-2 that was a constant companion on duty and off. The “grenade”-style cross-hatching on the aluminum body of the TL keeps it in hand even when that hand is wet, sweaty or bloody.

Using a tail cap press-on switch, it’s possible to use a number of different flashlight techniques. It can also be rotated to a constant-on setting when the momentary feature is inappropriate. The TL and NF lights have both accompanied me to training venues, some of which had me as the teacher. I used both as training tools.
Not satisfied with standing still, Streamlight moved ahead to a rechargeable flashlight that was the same size as their tac light series. This was realized via access to the lithium-ion battery technology. Used in small computers, among other things, this allowed a “tactical” size flashlight that is recharger-capable.

Called the Strion, the light has a recessed tail cap switch that can be rotated to constant-on, like their previous tac lights. An amazing 12,000 candlepower light is packaged in a tool that is 5.3 inches long and weighs a little over 4.5 ounces! The bulb is a xenon-filled, two pin unit; a spare is housed in the tailcap.

The anodized aircraft aluminum light can be charged with a 110-volt charger or a 12-volt DC car charger. The chargers are “smart” chargers, capable of reloading the light in 2.5 hours without overcharging (and damaging) the battery or the light.

A popular light as soon as it came out, it was difficult to get a unit for T&E. It arrived with a leather belt pouch. A vertical-type light holder, it was quality manufactured by Milt Sparks Leather. The belt loop has a snap closure. It was quite secure on the belt.

In fact, I carried the Strion on (non-uniformed) duty for about four months. Off-duty, the light and pouch went on for my day-to-day chores and for travel. The light has been quite reliable and seldom needs to be on the charger. The light is bright, easily as bright as the two Streamlight Stingers I’d used for years.

The Strion is a major leap forward in the tactical light market. The Tactical Strion followed. A Strion with a grooved barrel, it comes with a rail mount to be used as a weapon light. They’re both champion flashlights. The Tactical has become a close friend over the years.

Surefire LEDs
SureFire tactical lights have used incandescent technology since their inception. Big tactical light companies have used and currently use that lighting method. Both are also working on using glowing elements that use less power – making batteries last longer – and still having powerfully bright lights.

The first one of these to my hand was a gunlight, a X-Series WeaponLights.

The body of all SureFire pistol WeaponLights are made of aluminum, making them feel solid in the hand. The LED shines through a special Total Internal Refection focusing ends. Computer engineered, the lens sheds a “tightly-shaped central beam and a broad peripheral corona,” according to the factory. This tightly focused beam is useful at greater distances than similar lights are capable of. The lens is tempered Pyrex, which has an anti-reflective coating. The X-Series WeaponLights fit both the Universal Standard Rail as well as the MIL-STD-1913 rail. Adapter plates are furnished for exact fitting on both.

The switch is an ambidextrous toggle affair with paddles on both sides of the unit. They are accessible to both hands and provide mirrored operation so there is no confusion from left- to right-handed users.

Digital current regulation circuitry matches the LED’s power requirements with the battery’s output.  A consistent level of light output is available for the useable life of the batteries. Unregulated lights are subject to a steady decline in light intensity beginning as they are turned on. SureFire’s X-series WeaponLights yield over 2.4 hours of sustained high tactical light before it dimishes in intensity.

The most recent WeaponLight I’ve used in training, the X300, is simply a superb gunlight. It’s small and sturdy; weighing less than four ounces, and it uses new lighting technology. The batteries in the test unit have lasted a long time. The light is there to help identify threats so a user can be sure before triggers are pressed. Those are the reasons I think the X300 deserves a hard look.

Holster makers are a good barometer of equipment that “has legs” in this industry. Rigs for guns bearing M3/M6 lights came out early. Then models to fit the X200 were announced shortly thereafter. The X300 has since replaced the X200, but luckily it is the same size and therefore fits the same holsers. The X400 is SureFire’s newest; an X300 with the addition of an aiming laser, and will be a nice addition to the X-series.

Fighting Tools
I’ve used a few of the smaller SureFire lights for a few years. The Outdoorsman (with a KL-1 LED light unit) and E2 Executive lights have been packed along on many trips. SureFire recently updated lights that are more “striking,” so to speak.

Another in the Executive series, the E2D Executive Defender has the advanced technology Xenon lamp of the previous light. It also produces an intense spot-free beam with more lighting power than a standard – and larger two D-cell flashlight. Like the previous editions, it is built of an aerospace-grade of aluminum; it has a rugged coating, an optically-coated Pyrex lens and a steel pocket clip. Using the ten-year shelf-life lithium batteries, E2 and E2Ds have click-on/off momentary switching and a patented lock-out tailcap. The locking tail cap prevents flashlight ADs (accidental discharges) that can give away one’s position, overheat your posterior or just run the batteries down.

So what’s new? The E2D LED was recently introduced, which features the “crenellated Strike Bezel.” It was added to SureFire’s new and twice as powerful 120-lumen KX2C LED head. Like the incandescent E2D, the bezel and the tailcap are both scalloped and can be used to strike an attacker in a close-range struggle.

A great light, the E2D is even better. I have a pair of these, the only difference in which is the marking. Like any tac lights, they can be used like yawara sticks for wrist drags and other hands-on techniques.

I don’t think the flashlight should be a primary defense tool. I think it should be a light. It is damn handy that it can be used to help enforce the possessor’s will over an attacker’s.

Much larger than the E2D, the SureFire M3 CombatLight is also machined from aerospace-grade aluminum and coated in a hard-anodized finish. Powered by three lithium batteries, the M3 CombatLight boasts 125 lumens of light for one hour as it falls out of the box. With an ultra high output bulb, 225 lumens for 20 minutes can be realized. Like any light in the SureFire Special Operations Series, the M3 has a shock-isolated bezel/lamp assembly that can withstand repeated impacts. Like the other lights discussed, the M3 also features tactical switching, to twist for constant on or to depress the tailcap button for the on-off techniques used in searching activities. The unit I have is the M3-CB. Like the E2D, this M3 has a scalloped bezel to add impact to your argument.

Using a large aluminum flashlight like a club or a bludgeon is largely disapproved these days. It wasn’t so when I began the job. In any event, this “crenellated Strike Bezel” seems more appropriate to jabs or pressure point techniques. The M3 is short to be considered a bludgeon, but its powerful light and the front scallops can be used to push someone off you. Like the smaller lights, yawara stick techniques are also appropriate.

If size is not your thing, the SureFire Backup, a one-cell, 80-lumen light developed for plainclothes officers, is a great spare light – hence the name “Backup” – and is a very appealing alternative for carrying a large light.

BlackHawk Products Group produces a new illumination tool known as the Gladius. Another step in a technological line of LED tactical lights, the Gladius is so much more. The new light uses the common “123” model 3-volt lithium battery for power. The power source and its size are the two things the Gladius has in common with other lights.

The Gladius, designed by the Night-Ops group, operates in some ways like any of the lights discussed here; momentary pressure switch in the tail cap, rotating tail cap switch as a master shut-off (though it has other functions) and a raised area around the circumference of the light to allow the fingers purchase when using the Rogers/Cigar/SureFire light technique.

In addition, there is a sophisticated power management system that prevents the accidentally activated light from over-heating, notifies the operator of low-battery condition by flashing the beam periodically; it has adjustable light intensity, set by the operator, and a  “strobe” function, which can disorient a noncompliant subject.

The Gladius was tested to fifty meters (not feet) of depth under water for more than 24 hours without failure. The pressure did not cause the switch to turn the light on. You can get about 70 minutes of continuous light at the highest power setting; at the lowest setting you can get 400 hours!

This is impressive performance, but I think it could be the tip of the iceberg from Night-Ops and BlackHawk.

Up Next

New Products

Things are moving quickly in the field of tactical and gun-mounted lights. It seems…