OK, I admit it. I’m a flashlight junkie. I come by it honestly due to spending a lot of years running around at night chasing bad guys, often with really poor flashlights. As a result, I’ve come to appreciate the technological advances that have given us tactical lights today that deliver a lot more light and run a lot longer, like the Streamlight ProTac HL 5-X flashlight and TLR-7 weaponlight.
Going back a ways, the earliest of the true tactical flashlights was a SureFire that produced 60 lumens of light and had a run time of about 20 minutes. It got hot quickly, and if you dropped it you were out of business as the bulb was sure to break. These days, tactical lights use LED bulbs that won’t break and last seemingly forever while producing hundreds of lumens of light for hours at a time on one charge or set of batteries.
When we’re talking about light output, back in the bad, old days we referred to candlepower, as most of our flashlights gave off about as much light as a candle. These days we talk about lumens. Without getting into a technical discussion let’s just say that more lumens means more light in a given area. Where 60 or 100 lumens used to seem like a lot of light, it’s more common now to find lights putting out several hundred to several thousand lumens. Streamlight’s ProTac HL 5-X is my current favorite for high light output, with a staggering 3,500 lumens. Not only that, it has a run time of 1.25 hours on high, 3 hours on medium at 1,000 lumens and 11.5 hours at 250 lumens on low.
This light puts out a huge beam focused for long range allowing you to see objects at night at 450 meters or more. When I use it to light up my property, I can easily see across 2.5 acres. That brings us to another measure of light, a term called candela. For our purposes we should think of it as the “throw” of the light – its ability to reach distant objects. On high, this light produces 51,000 candela, which means that the beam can get way out there.
Powering this beast are a couple of the coolest rechargeable batteries I’ve ever seen. Requiring only a micro USB cord, you charge the battery by plugging right into the micro port in the battery. No charger, simply a USB cord. How’s that for trick? The light can also be run off three CR-123A batteries but this reduces the high output to 2,500 lumens, still a heck of a lot of light. Finally, the light is a reasonable size for hand held use, is very durable and won’t cost you an arm and a leg for a superior tactical light. I found one offered for sale on Amazon for $169.
The other Streamlight product I want to bring to your attention is a compact little weaponlight called the TLR-7. Using only one CR-123A battery, it produces 500 lumens and will run for up to 1.5 hours. The beam is concentrated, reaching out more than 130 yards, and has plenty of peripheral light. I like this little light so much I have installed it on my wife’s house pistol, a Smith & Wesson Shield EZ in .380 ACP.
The light comes with a number of different inserts so it can be fitted to just about any rail or pistol size and has an ambidextrous on-off tap switch that you can reach with your trigger finger or the thumb of the support hand. And, while I caution against searching with a weapon light alone, if you have to point this light at a bad guy he’s sure to be temporarily blinded and disoriented by the powerful beam. Another bargain, I found the TLR-7 on Amazon for $115.
The TLR-7 is a real breakthrough in terms of producing a lot of light, with a long run time in a very compact package. As a matter of fact, both of these lights break new ground and I’m excited to see what’s next from Streamlight. The company continues to amaze me with powerful, innovative products at a reasonable price.