One to Watch: Barrel Flashlight Co. EDC
Tony Sculimbrene 07.24.17
The idea of a flashlight with interchangeable parts has been around for good while. In the early to mid 2000s Surefire produced a few lines of lights with almost unlimited swappable parts. “Legoing” your Surefire was an amazing and easy way to get a light that suited your needs perfectly. In fact, it was so successful that it made little sense for folks to buy NEW Surefires, when they could get a new head or body tube instead. In the end, the Lego Surefires faded away to message boards and aftermarket parts makers (some of them still populate places like Oveready).
But the history of flashlights with swappable parts has some blemishes too. A year or so ago 47s announced they were releasing a new Paul Kim designed light. Paul Kim is the engineer behind many of the most important innovations in the flashlight business and was a critical part of Surefire’s early expansion and domination of the high end flashlight market. Given the players alone, the announcement was exciting. But the product that was the result of this tantalizing collab–the Paladin and Knight flashlights–were horrendous designs. More Klingon Empire than useful tool, the market basically passed on them. The parts that were swappable–the clip, the crenelated bezel, and a retention ring–were so pokey that their “interchangeability” quickly resulted in most reasonable people removing them altogether.
This is the history of product design that Barrel Flashlight Co. released its first product (or tried to) in October of 2016. The light, a 1xAAA titanium flashlight, debuted on Kickstarter and, unfortunately, failed to fund, coming up about 50% shy of its funding goal. But that set back didn’t stop them. Their lights have started poking up all over the flashlight world–Instagram, Candlepower Forums–search and you will find them.
The idea is pretty different from the other lights with interchangeable parts. Instead of focusing on feature and performance upgrades like on the Surefires, the Barrel EDC really goes for aesthetic changes. The light’s design is similar to many flashlights–it looks an awful lot like a McGizmo Haiku at the front and back of the light. But in the middle there is a dual tube. The outer tube is marked with chamfered holes, giving the light the appearance of a flash hider or muzzle from a submachine gun. The inner tube can be swapped out for a bunch of different options. Barrel Flashlight claims that this dual tube design also allows for rapid cooling and heat dissipation, letting you handle your light even after it has been running for a while. In the original Kickstarter campaign there were different colors and finishes on the body tubes, ranging from a sandblasted finish to a rainbow anodized tube.
Since the Kickstarter, some of the photos show a multi-emitter array, whereas the original EDC was a long runtime, modest output design (which, frankly, works better in the EDC role). The pocket clip was nicely integrated and the tail allowed for stable and rugged tailstanding. The company itself is headquartered here in the US, in Pittsburgh, PA.
The idea of a parts-swappable light has a spotty history. Surefire got it so right it almost made new lights irrelevant. That’s not a good business model. 47s got it, well, not so right. Barrel Flashlight looks like they have found the sweet spot. Now let’s see if they can make enough of them to make an impact.