This Little Light of Mine Part 2
October 17, 2018 By Dave Young (YoungBuckDave)
Last month I dove into the subject of weapon mounted lights (WMLs) and more specifically, WMLs that I have mounted on my rifles and have used and abused. With all the options out there in the industry for weapon lights I wanted to be able to give people an insight into some of the brands I have used extensively and rely on. The three rifle lights I reviewed last month have suffered through a lot of abuse and never failed me and, regardless of the punishment they suffered, they always worked just as well as they did the first day I got them. This month I will be discussing the top three flashlights for handguns. I have put them through some serious paces and have determined they are lights I can rely on regardless of the situation. Two of the flashlights are made by Streamlight and the other flashlight is made by Surefire. Just like the rifle lights I reviewed last month, each pistol light I will be reviewing this month has a different lumen strength but they all have their own place and, regardless of which one you choose, you will not be disappointed. Both Streamlight and Surefire are trusted brands of military and law enforcement personnel because they work when you need them and can withstand extremely hard environments as well as abuse and never falter. When various military personnel or law enforcement officers come to GTI, I always check out the gear that they are using. From my experience, you usually cannot go wrong researching products used by military and law enforcement personnel due to the testing that is involved prior to being introduced into the field. When it comes to flashlights its either one of two brands; Surefire or Streamlight. So, lets dive right into my top three favorite pistol lights!
Just like last month I am going to start with the light with the most lumens out of the three. That light is the Streamlight TLR-1HL. Even though I use my TLR-1HL on my pistol it can be used on a long gun as well. I have even experimented with it on my long gun and it works very well, but for this topic of discussion we will just talk in relation to it on a handgun. The fact that it is versatile and can be used on both a rifle and pistol is an amazing bonus. (Streamlight has even made a kit so a pressure switch can be added by swapping out the standard battery door for one that is attached to a pressure pad if you would prefer a light from their TLR series on your rifle instead of a pistol. But lets get back to talking about my Streamlight TLR-1HL on my pistol). The TLR-1HL is an extremely affordable, versatile, and reliable flashlight. I picked mine up two years ago from a Black Friday sale and have been in love with it ever since. This is actually the light I have on my bedside gun which is a Sig Sauer P226 Legion chambered in 9MM. Prior to deciding this was an ideal light for me and my main choice for home defense, I turned off all the lights in my apartment and did some dry runs with various scenarios in my mind to see how the light worked and was very happy. The light illuminated everything extremely well; even at a distance within the dark corners of my home. This light is designed to provide the user with maximum illumination while clearing rooms. The TLR-1HL gives the user 800 lumens in order to see targets at a distance and any potential threats off to the side with the wide beam pattern. It runs off of two CR123 batteries. The TLR-1HL also has strobe capabilities with two or more quick momentary paddle hits and can completely disorient the person on the other end. This gives the user more time to ID the threat and decide on what to do. Once mounted onto the rail of my handgun it is extremely easy to manipulate the paddles to activate the light, but not so easy that accidental illumination would be something you would worry about. Basically, the light turns on whenever I want it turned on and stays off until I want it on! Even though I use the TLR-1HL on my bedside gun I do carry my HK VP9 LE with a light most of the time. Carrying it concealed with the TLR-1HL presents no problems whatsoever from my experience. This light has been through plenty of range time as well as some pistol classes and never faltered even with the wear and tear it would receive from using it as the tool it was intended to be. The TLR-1HL is the flashlight that is the newest (2 years old) out of all three but still has been through many paces and performed without any issues. This light is ideal for all walks of life whether you mount it on your rifle or pistol for home defense or patrol, choose to carry the light on duty attached to your department issued side arm, or a civilian just looking for a good quality light. You can count on it without the product breaking the bank and won't go wrong with anything Streamlight makes.
The second light I am going to talk about is the Surefire X300U-B which I have owned for 3 years. The Surefire X300U-B is capable of providing the user with 600 lumens off of two CR123 batteries. Surefire did just release a new and improved X300U-B that puts out 1,000 lumens but since it was just released in the recent past I have not been able to get my hands on it yet to try it out. Therefore, I will just be discussing the years of experience I've had with the older model, which I personally love. Just like the Streamlight TLR-1HL, I have used this light on both my rifle and pistol but now the X300U-B resides on an assortment of handguns. I loved my first X300U-B light so much I bought a second one just because for a long time I was going to keep one on my primary rifle but ended up changing that when I got my first Arisaka Defense rifle light, the 300 series. As I'm sure most of you know, Surefire has an EXCELLENT track record when it comes to producing products that are designed to withstand the harshest amount of punishment possible and keep on ticking. Remember at SHOT Show one year they had a flashlight on display that was mounted on a soldier's rifle that was inside the hummer with him when an IED went off? The light was completely mangled but, despite all that damage, it still was able to do what it was designed to do; that was provide the user with illumination. It absolutely blew my mind that truthfully anything could take that kind of punishment and still function just fine despite holes, cracks, charred parts, wires hanging out, and much more. I always knew the amazing reputation Surefire carried but actually seeing that light solidified it even more for me. So, when I got my own Surefire light (specifically the X300U-B) I was very confident that whatever I put the X300U-B through it will always work, and I wasn't disappointed in the least. Various drop tests on different surfaces like dirt, rocks, and cement proved to be no match for the durability of the X300U-B. I can even recall it taking a SIM round directly to the lens and didn't even suffer a scratch! Even though the X300U-B is 200 lumens less than the TLR-1HL it still provides the user with ample illumination. It delivers a high intensity beam with a large center spot to illuminate any target you may see as well as illuminating areas off to the side to provide situational awareness to the user and show any threats that may be lurking off to the side. Even with 600 lumens the light is still powerful enough to disorient anyone who is on the receiving end on the X300U-B light. Just like the Streamlight TLR-1HL you cannot go wrong with any Surefire product you purchase and rest easy knowing it is something you can count on no matter what the situation.
The last light I am going to talk about is the light I have owned the longest and has, without a doubt, seen the most punishment out of all three. That light is the Streamlight TLR-1S. The TLR-1S, like the other two lights, runs off of two CR123 batteries and provides the user with 300 lumens of bright light as well as a strobe feature that can be activated by quickly double tapping on the paddle. Even though the TLR-1S only provides the user with 300 lumens of illumination the light is still bright enough to illuminate a target and disorient anyone that is on the receiving end of the light when it is engaged. I have owned my TLR-1S for over 4 years and, despite the abuse it has received, it still functions just as well as it did the day I got it. One of the most noticeable battle scars my TLR-1S has suffered is something I briefly mentioned last month and, if your detective skills are good, you may have figured out that this is the light I talked about that has a cracked lens. It was mounted on my HK VP9 when it randomly decided to take a dive head first onto some concrete. After realizing the damage that was caused to the light I looked it over really good and realized that, despite the new scars, it continued to function just fine. Despite the lens being cracked right down the middle in a "V" shape crack there were zero pieces of glass flaking off.
If you rub your finger over it you can feel a crack but there isn't a gap in the crack to expose any internal parts of the light and/or bulb and there aren't any jagged pieces sticking out, which was very surprising. So rather that fixing the lens, I figured why not see how long I could continuously use the light before I had to repair it. I honestly was expecting it to fail after the first good range day with this new crack. I was surprisingly humbled that day and after an entire day of shooting hundreds and hundreds of rounds I checked the lens and didn't see any new damage besides the lens being dirty which will happen with any WML and can easily be fixed with a wipe down with a rag. So, after it survived its first intense shooting session after the accident, I surely thought the following session would be the one to completely break it . well I was wrong very wrong. So now 2-2.5 years later I am still waiting for my TLR-1S to completely fail and require a new lens. I think this speaks huge volumes about the quality of the product Streamlight is putting out. In my opinion it says to me, the user, that their brand is a brand I can count on regardless of the circumstance. This tells me that even if the light takes damage it will still perform as advertised to a point, and, considering that I still have that crack in my lens and it hasn't worsened over years and years of continued use speaks volumes about the reliability and quality that you get with any Streamlight product. Just like the three rifle lights I talked about last month, the same applies to the pistol lights and that is you cannot go wrong with any of the three lights I talked about. Of course, this is just my personal opinion which is backed up with my experiences that I've had with each light. I hope this helps people decide on a reliable product for their individual situation, and that they will be satisfied with the product's performance.