Things go "bump" in the dark. Having a flashlight with you will make the dark less of a mystery while also making it easier to find everyday objects behind a couch or illuminate a dark
parking lots after a night out. Given today's wide choice of tactical flashlights, which one is for you?
I have been introduced to the world of high performance or tactical flashlights in 2004 when I bought my first Surefire L2. I still have it, although it has been relegated to nightstand duty.
My current choice for an EDC flashlight is Novatac 120 T. I want to take you through the steps that led me to pick it.
There are two primarily types of switches to turn the flashlight on or off. You have a choice between a clickie and a momentary. Lately, some companies introduced the ability to have both switches in one flashlight. Clickie is nice because once it's clicked on, there is no need to maintain pressure on the button allowing more freedom of movement. The downside that if you have to turn the light off, you have to click it again. With a momentary switch, the light stays on only as long as you are applying pressure to the button. I found that when performing weapon manipulation with a light, momentary is much better because you don't have to remember to click the light off when racking the slide on a pistol, for instance. Since at night the flashlight works both ways - illumination the thread but also giving up your location, the light should be off unless it is actively being used to search the surroundings or engage the target. Therefore not having to remember to click it off is a major bonus. That is why I decided that my flashlight of choice must have a momentary switch.
There are two main light technologies - LED and incandescent. However, given today's advances in LED's, incandescent lights should no longer be the choice. LED's have essentially unlimited life span, can last longer on a battery charge, less susceptible to recoil and shock. Another benefit for LED - there is no need to replace it. While an incandescent bulb for a flashlight such as Surefire costs between $15-20 and has a lifespan of about 60 minutes of continuous output.
The tactical flashlight should be large enough to allow a comfortable handle. Keep in mind that since you may be using it with a pistol or rifle, there should be enough area to allow for positive control without the flashlight falling out. In my opinion most single CR123 flashlights are about the minimum size for this purpose. With the advances in technology a single CR123 flashlight today is the equivalent of a double CR123 flashlight from a few years ago. I also like the the body of the flashlight to have some knurling or other "grip enhancing finish". While smooth body flashlights may have less wear and tear on
clothing, trying to grip one with cold/wet/numb fingers would most likely result in the light falling out.
The chosen flashlight should have a sufficient output/run time. 60 lumen is the recommended minimum output for a flashlight that may be used for "social" situations. Most flashlights today provide at least this level of output. The run time is another issue. 30 minutes of continuous output at the maximum setting should be the minimum for a light. It would also be a good practice to carry at least one spare set of batteries in case the flashlight must be used for a longer period of time.
In recent years there has been a trend toward attaching strike/crenelated bezels to flashlights. E2D comes to mind. While the idea has some merit, the bezel will likely to poke you, and tear clothing/car seats, etc...A flashlight with a plain bezel can be used just as effectively while appearing less "threatening".
Surefire makes a claim about using the bright light to allow blinding of an opponent. However, just like saying if you shoot somebody with caliber X, they will immediately go down, the same care must be applied to assuming that a bright/strobing flashlight will always blind/incapacitate an opponent. Chances are it will work, but be prepared if nothing happens and you have to go to plan B.
When it comes to carrying flashlight, I prefer to use a pocket clip with a bezel down carry. This allows the bulk of the flashlight to remain inside a pocket, and makes deployment faster. Some people may prefer to carry a flashlight on the belt, however, the EDC flashlight should be pocket carryable since it is not always possible to fill your belt with pouches.
Given the above criteria, I had the following lights in mind when making my choice:
* Bezel down carry
* Two output levels
* Good battery life
* Two slick - can fall out of wet/cold hands
* Clickie tail cap used to toggle between light outputs. Can cause confusion in stressfull situations.
Surefire L1 - new production
* Great form factor for a single cell light - fills hand nicely
* One of the best switches - press lightly for low, press all the way for maximum output, with lockout feature
* Good battery life
* Bezel up carry by default. Can be modded for bezel down carry.
Surefire E2D LED
* Good form factor
* Crenelated bezel can shred fabric of pants/car seats
* Clicky tail cap
* Bezel up carry
* Compact form factor
* Bezel down carry
* Versatile switch - momentary press and hold turns on Max output. Can be used as a clicky if desired. However, the clicky is only required to go to lower output.
* Fairly short battery life due to high output at maximum level.
* A little on the short side.
Given the above list and my personal preferences, it came down to a choice between L1 and Novatac. At the end I chose Novatac because I was able to find it cheaper than L1, and there
was no need to do any mods or scrounge for E1B clip to turn L1 into bezel down carry. So far I am very pleased with Novatac. It is small enough that I grab it every-time I go out the door,
and the adjustable output allows me to get more run time by using less light for most instances. It is also rugged enough to withstand daily use.
My EDC flashlights