My Flashlight Collection: Some Winners and Losers
Dr. John Woods 02.24.14
My gear supply box is overloaded with two things, well maybe three. One is an outlandish selection of socks — wool, cotton, synthetic, you name it. Another one is an overly broad choice of gloves — leather, cotton, nylon, insulated, not insulated, etc. I am just a sucker for socks and gloves.
The third item for which I am overstocked and nearly driven into bankruptcy is flashlights. I have virtually every conceivable brand, type, size, power, battery type, tube material, configuration, and color. Some of these are (were) quite expensive, and a good many of them don’t perform as advertised or broke down in short order.
And yes, I am prepared to expose those brands I own that have not been a good value in terms of performance, cost, reliability, and long term function. Some of these brands are like sacred cows in the flashlight industry, but if they don’t work, they don’t work.
Personally I have had exactly zero luck with Mag-Lite. I own four of them from the little, two AA cell types to the bigger, 3 D-cell size. Currently none of them work. They simply quit working for no apparent reason. I replace the batteries and buy new bulbs, but nothing. I guess the bigger one could be used as a CQB club, but not much else. Sorry, Mag-Lite.
Another brand I have cast aside is Pelican. I own three of these, but only one still works and its illumination factor is pitiful. Also it burns up batteries like a teenager going through a bag of potato chips. I kept one in my bathroom drawer for power outages, but the only outage I have had is with this flashlight. It just quit working for no known reason. Replacing the bulb and batteries was no fix. I like the heavy duty construction, but a flashlight has to work every time.
I have two Browning Black Ice flashlights, and truthfully I really like them. However they eat batteries in short order. Never, ever buy a flashlight that uses a CR-123 battery. Have you priced those lately? It’s ridiculous. Also on one of these the off/on button got sticky and half the time does not work. Battery life is the real downer on these.
There are more in a box of lights in which I have too many to count. They are destined for the trash bin. Ironically, the so-called name brand lights I own that universally have good reputations in the marketplace are the worst lights I have. I cannot think of one single light among these that I would really rely on as a critical need light.
Now to the list of brands that actually have performed to reasonable standards of expectations. Like socks and gloves, I keep buying flashlights, trying to find a brand or type that actually works time and time again without crashing my budget for batteries.
Again, a side note here, never buy any flashlight or other battery using device if it can be helped that does not use a standard AAA-AA-C-D lithium battery or comes with a rechargeable battery and the charger unit. Make sure you can purchase new rechargeable replacements, too, because they do eventually wear out and won’t take a charge. And in a perfect world, the device that takes a recharge battery can also use regular batteries. I mean if the grid goes flat, you’re out of business when you need a flashlight the most.
This is a short list, but of course, I have not used every flashlight on the market. If any manufacturer cares to send me samples to test, I’d be happy to do so. That is after all what I do. If it’s good, I’ll write it up. Otherwise it goes in the junk light box.
Really good, tough, reliable flashlights are made by Nite Hunter out of Texas. They have many models to choose from. I have two mounted on things that go bang. These mountable, hunting type night lights are 300 lumens, can be had in green or red light lenses for varminting or feloning, or regular white light for dark alley illumination. They can be used as regular handheld flashlights as well. The kit comes with a battery recharger and extra battery.
Another good flashlight that has yet to fail or disappoint me is the Insight Technology models HX150 and HX200. These are different sizes and different powers. The aluminum light tube, screw threads, and switches are high quality. The beam is concentrated and true. There is a neck lanyard with an adjustable length lock. The switch is positive and works every time.
If I had all this flashlight shopping, buying, and testing to do over, I probably would have just bought five of my favorite model of flashlight, which I found for sale at a local gun show sold by Glock Pro of Pearl, Mississippi. Chad is a certified Glock armorer that does triggers and sights during the shows. His dad Hudie sells Glock accessories and flashlights. (Contact them at [email protected])
The flashlight I’m talking about is a Cree light out of North Carolina. It is small but tough, built with an alloy tube. The glass-breaker bezel is adjustable for flood or narrow beam by pulling the front housing in or out. The light uses one long, rechargeable 3.7v Li-ion battery with extras available at Radio Shack or an Interstate Battery Store.
These batteries have a 10-year shelf life and can be recharged approximately 600 times. The light as supplied by Glock Pro also comes with a three-AAA battery cradle for backup power. The Cree Light “bulb” really isn’t. It is an LED rated at 300 lumens.
The push button on/off switch is on the tail cap end of the light. Three functions offer full bright beam, a lower beam, and a strobe light, which is touted to blind anything in its tracks both four-footed or two. If you happen to look at this light, you will see stars for five minutes at least.
As sold by Glock Pro the Cree Kit (as I call it) comes with the light, a wall charger, AAA cradle, and two batteries. The charger has a shut off circuit that prevents the battery from overcharging. So you use one in the light and keep the backup on the charger, plus you have the AAA cradle.
The body of the flashlight has an orange rubberized gripping cover with raised edges. It allows for a good grip even when wet. Also, for hunters or other outdoor use applications, the light can easily be found if dropped because the cover is orange.
The really special feature of this light is the extremely bright beam it projects. The first time I used it in the field, a friend had lost a deer after a bad shot and could not locate it after an extended search. I walked 50 feet into the woods where he said the doe ran, switched on the Cree light and the white stomach of that deer was immediately visible. We were all rather amazed. I just sold three more flashlights. They retail for $40 plus $5 shipping. Free shipping comes with orders over $50. What a deal. If you need a good flashlight, this one is it.