Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tactical Flashlight Illumination

First thing, be aware that choosing a flashlight is a very personal thing, and my choices may not be your choices. I recommend you go and play with the selection of flashlights at an outlet that has selections of flashlights for you to test-drive before you decide on purchasing the one that will best suit your needs.
 Also be aware that normally when describing a flashlight as
being a tactical flashlight,  we are describing a flashlight  used in conjunction with a firearm to aid low light target identification by law enforcement or the military or some other force.

Now that may be true if describing flashlights used by police forces or the military, but in this case I am making reference to the flashlights that I have selected for my use in the activities that I may be involved at any one time that possibly include amateur radio, photography, hiking, camping, fishing, and many other reasons as why I have a flashlight with me at all times.

There are a whole lot more reasons that I could list for using any one of the LED powered flashlights shown here, or some of the others I own but not shown here. The flashlights shown are my favorites that I am inclined to choose at any given time, and this may be reasons such as needing a light with a serious lumens rating depending what I am trying to light up and at what distance.
The Nitecore P12 flashlight on the extreme right is rated at 1000 lumens and projects a fixed beam of light in a flood pattern.
The Cree Ultrafire second on the right is rated at 2000 lumens and has a zoom head allowing for adjusting the light beam anywhere from a flood pattern out to a spot pattern, and will easily reach out to 200 meters.
Both of these flashlights have various other modes to choose from that include varying the output of the light to a pulsing strobe for SOS work.
Both are totally waterproof with O-rings sealing the upper and lower sections of the housings.
They are both powered by 18650 3200mAh 3.7V rechargeable li-ion batteries popular with this type of light.
The Nitcore uses a single battery for power, and the Ultrafire uses two batteries for power.
They both use the same type of battery allowing for the same batteries as seen in the storage box to be shared by either flashlight.
I also like the Fenix quick-charger shown stored in the storage case with spare batteries that I bought separately from the chargers that came with the Cree Ultrlight, and the Nitecore P12, as it has a very important feature that the included chargers with each flashlight did not have, and that is the capability to be powered from either 110V or 12v. The stock chargers were strictly 110V powered chargers.
The dual voltage input is a great feature to have in a charger as it allows the charger to be powered from my mobile, or from a portable 12V power-pack, if 110V is not available.
The Streamlight Sidewinder flashlight 3rd from the right is another of my favorites and is US Military issue, and quite possibly the most versatile light available. Twenty flashlights in one! Each LED features 4 levels of output intensities: Low (5%), Medium (20%), Medium-High (50%), High (100%) plus a Strobe function (100%) and has a multitude of choices for the type of light beam that is emitted. including the blue light beam as seen in this photo besides a red and white selection as well as a infra-red selection which is not of much use outside of the military.

This particular light is powered by two rechargeable AA batteries the most common and available battery in the world. This in itself is a good reason to own a AA powered flashlight, as you could find yourself with a whole bunch of discharged batteries, but no problem, walk in to any gas station or 7-eleven, and buy a brick of Alkalines and your good to go.
Besides that, if you have AA battery cases to back up the li-ion battery pack that came with your favorite HT as I do, they can share the same rechargeable AA batteries.
This is a very interesting flashlight in a lot of ways, including the neat way of keeping track of which way you insert the batteries. Either side of the case has a molded in button that shows the positive sign for the battery to be inserted correctly for polarity.
However all you need to know in the pouring rain and on the darkess of nights is where that molded button is located, as that is how you orient the battery correctly before dropping it in the the battery housing and reattaching the o-ring equipped cover with its knurled screw-down thumbwheel.

The flash-head can be piveted through 180 degrees allowing for the flashlight to be clipped in different ways depending how you may want to carry the light in a working position.
For example I was out photographing the night sky recently, and when I wasn't using the light to make camera adjustments, I clipped it to my front jeans pocket till I needed it again. This is also a handy way of carrying it if you are lighting a trail in front of you, and you don't want to carry it in your hand, or you can clip it to your pack harness, or your belt, or....well you get it.
The clip as seen on the front of the flashlight body can be positioned on the back as well just by piveting the head in the opposite direction or by removing the mounting screw and moving the clip to the opposite side where there is a second threaded hole allowing for the switch to be repositioned on the left or right side, depending on which hand you prefer to use when handling the light and accessing the selector switch.
The cut-out in the clip is for attachment to the helmet worn by a American soldier who is issued one of these flashlights.
The black beam selector switch on the one side of the head is also the on/off switch.
Typical of military gear is the user instructions visible through the lens on one end of the head.
If there is a downside to the Streamlight Sidewinder,  I wish it had a bit higher lumens rating for the main light, as I find it a bit under-powered at times. The Nitecore p12 has a similar flood pattern, but far more output than the SS.
Still the SS is a very versatile light that has a lot of cool features and I find myself reaching for it regularly.
The fourth light from the right is my Black Diamond headlamp and normally would include a strap that allows the headlamp to be positioned on your head.
.Whether your using it for going down the trail while hiking at night, or around the campsite, or in your tent, around the house when the power goes out, or looking up under the dash of your vehicle, or while working under the hood, or reading a book, or....well you get it, I don't leave home without my headlamp that has both a variable output white light, as well as a variable red light,  both of which may be used as strobes.
After owning it for a short time, and owning a tactical Kryptek Typhon cap that includes 3 hook & loop panels for patches,
 I realized this light was the perfect accessory for my cap, and after removing the strap, and then cutting a piece of Velcro to size, and sticking it in place on the bracket that allows for adjustment of the light as to the angle required for the job at hand, I was good to go.
When I need the option of a headllamp, it takes a second with one free hand to install it in place on the cap that is already on my head, and the light is just as easily removed.
While out in the wilds of eastern Alberta recently, I found myself having to hike across the prairie to the remains of an old stone house in the dead of night with nothing but darkness surrounding me, and my hands full with camera equipment to carry that included a tripod.
With the Black Diamond headlamp attached to the Velcro patch on my hat, I was able to safely make the trek over the this old stone house while negotiating my way around rock piles, prairie cactus, and other things that go bump in the night if you are not equipped with a good light.

The fifth and final light in this group is my Quiglite Pro that for the most part resides on my Conterra radio chest harness.
The White / Red LED configuration was designed as a tactical light for those situations when night vision needs to be kept intact and position needs to be concealed as much as possible.
 I can use the white LED for normal reading and writing when the amount of light output is not a concern, and if required I can switch  to the red LED when required or if I want to make changes to my HT's that reside in my radio chest harness at night but wish to retain my night vision.
The QuiqLite Pro is equipped with a safety strobe function providing 50+ hours of continual light for those situations when maximum visibility is required like the times you may be participating in a public service event.
The output of the dual LED's is 10 lumens, and is activated with a quick push of the on/off switch positioned on the front. You can power on either red or white LED separately from the other. If you leave the light activated beyond 10 minutes, it automatically turns itself off.
Now you know what I use on a regular bases when I reach for a flashlight, and I hope this information helps you in selecting your next flashlight.

Note: all photos expand

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