Today's generation of tactical lights is tougher than nails, bright enough to boil water and capable of paralyzing perpetrators at 100 yards. OK, I'm exaggerating, but the miniaturization, increase in output and improvement in durability we've witnessed in the past few years are nothing short of a handheld revolution.
They've become near necessity for tactical shooters. Even if it was only the dog's midnight garbage raid that woke you, the ability to spotlight the culprit while simultaneously wrecking havoc on their night vision is a decided advantage.
But flashlights either occupy the off hand, thereby sacrificing two-handed accuracy, or live on an rail. In the latter case, a spare flashlight is almost mandatory since a gun should never be pointed at anything you don't intend to shoot—even if the canine did avoid the collar until 2 a.m.
Safariland's Rapid Light System (RLS) adds a real twist to the situation,literally. It fits on most handguns, rifles and shotguns that have an integral rail system, although the system seems deceivingly standard at first. Slide it on until the rear part of the RLS meets the trigger guard.
Unlike other units though, the flashlight isn't combat ready with the light directly under the bore. In fact, the owner's manual calls that the "neutral" position. To lock into position, the light must be rotated to the left or right side of the gun. As the light moves, a lug rotates into one of the rail's locking slots, anchoring it in place.
Safariland recommends the light be moved to the side opposite your strong hand. By doing so, momentary activation is as simple as your off-hand thumb moving slightly from its purchase to sneak a peak at the problem. If all heck breaks loose, your thumb's close enough for a good, solid two-handed grip instantly.
The flashlight's deliberately swollen, protective switch housing prevents anything but momentary activation if you use the side of your thumb. For the light to remain on, it takes a conscious, tip-of-the-finger effort, dead center in the switch.
A Phillip's head screwdriver is all it takes to move the light back or forth to accommodate hand size. The LED flashlight, which is 41⁄2-inches long and 1 inch in diameter, produces 65 lumens of white light and is powered by 3 AAA batteries.
The RLS' simple mounting mechanism lends itself to another real twist, one the company explains makes the unit "…a professional-quality handheld light and gun-mounted light all in one." Simply grasp the unit, turn the light to the neutral position and slide it right off for handheld illumination. If you're comfortable with the system, then there's no real necessity of investing in a new holster for your light-bearing pistol.
What do you do with the light if it's not permanently affixed to the gun? The RLS comes with a belt clip attached to the flashlight, so storage is a waistline away. With a twist of a screwdriver the belt clip can also be adjusted to accommodate different belt widths.
The unit works well and after a few tries mounting and dismounting were very fast. The only reservation I have is in the remote possibility of passing a hand anywhere forward—even at this oblique angle—of a loaded gun. But after a few removal repetitions, consciously from behind and underneath, my concern was greatly alleviated.
The complete Safariland RLS system, with the flashlight, weighs 5.6 ounces and has an MSRP of $125. The RLS mounting system alone, which allows you to mount any handheld flashlight with a diameter from .970 and 1.060 inches, costs $45. For more information call (800) 347-1200 or visit http://www.safariland.com/.