Preface: Yep, I know I'm pretty late to the party concerning the A2 Aviator, but since I just got the light and have the need to share my excitement, I decided to write a review, which I will later modify a bit for structure and post to KevinL's FLDB. I will be comparing it on several occasions to my G2 Nitrolon, as it is the only other Surefire light I own.
With JasonC8301's help, I was able to purchase myself the A2 on Friday. The A2 Aviator was the light that sparked my interest in high-end flashlights, in a Surefire advertisement in Popular Science magazine. (this one - large image) For reference, I have the flat four-sided white LED A2, which features the Surefire logo on one side and Digital Plus Series || A2 AVIATOR on the other.
For some reason, many pictures of lights tend to make them appear much larger than they actually are, and the A2 is no exception. In my hands, the A2 was impressively small -- a lot smaller than I had envisioned it being. The clip is springy, but also fairly tight. I felt no need to adjust the pocket clip. Since I have previously EDC'd the Surefire G2, the A2 feels like it's barely there, clipped inside my front right pocket. I'm a little worried about the knurling making holes in all my pants, though. The A2, with its aggressive knurling, was a little uncomfortable to hold in my hands at first, especially if I held it like a pen, but I quickly got used to the feeling (and now I can't stop touching it). The HAIII finish is a beautiful matte gray / dark green with the added bonus that it is one of the hardest materials known to man, second only to diamonds. It's also very nice looking, with an aesthetically pleasing styling that reflects what the A2 really is -- a serious illumination tool, unlike the G2 which could be shrugged off as a cheap plastic POS (until you turn it on). The entire light just reeks of quality, and except for a very slight imperfection on the body tube near the bezel (so tiny I didn't notice it until examining the entire light very carefully), it truly appears to be the model of perfection.
And then there's the business end of the A2, the bezel. This is what the A2 is really all about. It's one of the few hybrid lights in existance, and its regulated incandescent lamp, outputting at least 50 lumens of beautiful white light (as we all know, Surefire consistently underrates their lumen outputs). The beam is beautiful, and although the hotspot is slightly oval, and casts a bright semi-ring around the flood it's amazing nonetheless. Coming from a reflector with 3 gaping holes in it (for the LEDs), it's downright impressive. The P60 in the G2 has a (barely) nicer beam in terms of shape, but the A2 has got it beat in whiteness. The incandescent lamp does not seem at all yellow to my eyes when switching between high and low output; rather, the only time the beam appears yellow is when it is competing with sunlight.
On low, the LEDs cast a bluish tint, but are definitely whiter than both the Arc-AA and Gerber Infinity Ultra I have to compare it with. Jason tells me it's the whitest one out of the batch he tested, and the bluish tint doesn't bother me at all. I guess like most "average consumers," I equate blue to "space-age," "modern," and "futuristic." The blue tint also doesn't affect me at all in what the low output was designed for, darkness-adapted reading. On low, the A2 is not the greatest for night-time navigation, but in a pinch, it will do fine. The great part is, even if the incandescent lamp burns out, you're not left completely in the dark.
Taking off the dual-stage tailcap, which appears to use firmer springs and requires a little more torque to turn than on my G2, you notice the beautifully machined threads, which are thick and smooth. No detectable metal shavings or machining remnants, which probably helps the tailcap in being so silky smooth to twist. The spring in the tailcap button is likely to tire out your thumb from the sustained pressure required to keep the light in high mode, but if you keep it on that long you should be twisting it on anyway. The witness marks on the A2 do not work as expected, as Surefire apparently changed the leaf springs to be more robust without changing the positioning of the witness marks, but still serve as a useful reference point in switching the modes of the A2.
Moving right along, back to the bezel. If you take off the bezel and look into the tube, you can see the metal contacts that hide the heart of the A2 inside the body tube. As a result, you can only replace batteries from the tail end of the light. The lamp assembly is tiny, and if you've owned any E-series incandescents, you'll know what I mean. Its diminutive size makes me wary of changing the lamp in anywhere but a controlled, unstressful environment. The lamp assembly lacks anywhere to grip it properly, so care must be taken when switching the lamp. Don't touch the glass envelope of the lamp! Surefire expressly warns not to, and for good reason: the oils from your skin can weaken the glass envelope and cause the pressurized lamp to explode when run. I'd also take care to not get any dust inside the bezel, as everyone knows touching the optics or reflectors of a light is bad.
As THE Surefire that got me hooked -- from the minute I saw it, I knew I wanted it, and at that point my wallet was doomed -- the A2 is sure to remain one of my favorite lights for many years to come. The A2 Aviator, as someone else once said, is certainly not the best at anything, but everything it does, it does well, making it a terrific all-around light. Bottom line is, if you're going to own only one good light, the Surefire A2 Aviator is the perfect candidate.
Thanks for listening.