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Thread: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

  1. #1

    Default 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    I have a question regarding batteries and my LED light.

    I have a Q5 CREE LED light from ultrafire.

    What is the difference between using one 18650 3.7 volt battery and using two CR123A's 3.6 volts?

    Isn't two 3.6 volt batteries actually 7.2 volts?

    So would I get more power/length from the 2 batteries?

    The LED's operating voltage is 3.6 to 9 volts.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* PhantomPhoton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    It really depends...
    In the case of the cheap electronics from the ultafire it's hard to say exactly what will happen but let's go thru a basic comparison between the two power sources.

    An RCR123 runs average 3.7V and has a capacity of around 700 mAh (a generous estimate imho) therefore we have (volts x amps = watts) ~2.6 watt hours per cell. 2 of them are therefore around 5.2 watt hours.

    An 18650 also using the same chemistry runs an aerage 3.7V and has a capacity of about 2200 mAh. So we have 8.1 watt hours.

    The 18650 is clearly superior on paper.

    LED lights don't get brighter from more voltage like incandescant lights do. LEDs have a very specific voltage required to make the LED light up. So driver ciruits are often put into lights which allow use of a range of voltages and cell configurations.
    Now depending on the driver circuit the 18650 may or may not run the LED at full power. In the case of your ultrafire I'd bet it only stays in regulation for half of the battery life on an 18650. Then after that it will start to dim slowly as the simple circuit no longer controls the voltage to the LED. However this will just give you even more runtime on an 18650 for a negledgeable drop in output.

    So in almost every case I'd go with the 18650.
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    Flashaholic* Superdave's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    1 18650 powering my 6PDL (W/Q5 dropin) is a little dimmer than using 2 RCR123's. But i get about 3 weeks of use with the 18650 vs 1 week with the others.

    If it ain't bright, It ain't right!

  4. #4

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Thanks Phantom!!! That's great information.

    I'm hoping that being a bit dimmer isn't the case with my light. I have two of these now (i liked the first one so much I wanted another one).

    One has CR123's and the new one will have 18650 battery. So we'll see which one is better.


    Specifically the info on the light is below if this helps:

    • <LI class=STYLE27>Material:6061T Aluminium <LI class=style67>Bulb: CREE XR-E Q5 LED, 270 lumens output(Max) <LI class=STYLE27>SuperBright, blinding Effect <LI class=STYLE27>Lifetime-above 10,000hrs <LI class=STYLE27>Working Current: 450-600mAh <LI class=STYLE27>Operate Voltage: 3.6-9V <LI class=STYLE27>Batteries: Lithium 2xCR123A 3.0/3.6V, 1x18650 3.6/3.7V <LI class=STYLE27>Runtime: 1.5-4.8 hours depend on battery capacity (continous working) <LI class=STYLE27>Body Color: Black <LI class=STYLE27>Switch: Tailcap Clickie On/Off <LI class=STYLE27 style="COLOR: rgb(255,0,16)">Waterproof, It's water-resistant ! use it in rainy day, no problem ! <LI class=STYLE27>Size(mm): 133(Length)x31(Diameter)
    • NetWeight(g): 110
    Last edited by michiganstud; 11-17-2008 at 11:39 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Please post in the correct place. This obviously belongs in the Batteries section, so I'm moving it there now.
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    Flashaholic Policetacteam's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Ok...this is kinda off target but what brand of 18650 / and charger set-up would you guys recommend!?! Battery station has a huge supply but I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for. It would be for my Fenix TK10.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    AW's 18650's are top notch. You can buy batteries and chargers here.
    “The anvil is not afraid of the hammer.” - Charles H. Spurgeon

  8. #8

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    One other thing to point out is that lithium batteries don't like to be driven at more than 1C or so. So for a CR-123 battery you're looking at an optimistic 800 ma draw before voltage sags and you start losing more power in the batteries internal resistance, and cell chemistry limits. So you effectively have a battery that can't output as much as it's rated for. But if you must absolutely have flat regulation go for CR-123's as they'll output voltage higher than the vF of the led. The disadvatage is that you'll go from full power to no light with practically no warning since all of a sudden a cell will go into protection, or worse if you're using unmatched primaries is you're light will go

    I personally don't mind my 18650's dimming, gives me warning that I need to change the batteries with freshly charged ones. And though I only get half the battery time with regulation on the light, that half is actually longer than the total runtime on 2 RCR-123's.

    I think too many people were indoctrinated by Surefire and Inova to think CR-123 is the ideal power source, I mean Surfire even has a light that uses 20 CR-123 batteries called The Beast II that's just inviting trouble to try and power it with that many individual primaries, think of it as a bomb in your hand with about a 2 hour fuse before a bunch of cells start reverse charging and BOOM goes the dynamite.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by Policetacteam View Post
    Ok...this is kinda off target but what brand of 18650 / and charger set-up would you guys recommend!?! Battery station has a huge supply but I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for. It would be for my Fenix TK10.
    18650 cells do not fit the TK10, your need two 16340 cells. Many people uses the AW brand cells, they have protection and are good quality.
    Your can buy them here on the market place

    Many people are using the WF139 charger, including me. It is not the best charger on the market, but it works.

  10. #10
    Flashaholic gilly's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by Policetacteam View Post
    Ok...this is kinda off target but what brand of 18650 / and charger set-up would you guys recommend!?! Battery station has a huge supply but I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for. It would be for my Fenix TK10.

    The Pila IBC charger is widely regarded as the premier charger for Li Ion cells. Good price for it here:

    http://www.flashlightz.com/product.p...product=171829

    Most folks here on CPF trust AW's cells best. I have a few 18650s and they are working out great. You can buy RCR-123s for your TK10 here:

    http://www.cpfmarketplace.com/mp/sho...d.php?t=184670

    Glad to hear you got the TK10. I'm sure it is performing well for you.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by gilly; 11-18-2008 at 08:30 PM.

  11. #11
    Flashaholic chewy78's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    What do you guys think about wolf eyes li ion cells? Don't they have robust pcb's? I am using them with my m90 rattlesnake/ lf ho-9l. And pila ibc charger I got got from flashlightz.com

  12. #12
    *Flashaholic* mdocod's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    I generally recommend Wolf-Eyes, AW, or Pila brand protected li-ion cells for flashlight applications, they should all be pretty darn good cells.

  13. #13

    Thinking Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Protected 18650 = Wolfeyes 168a

    Or am I mistaken????

    Nevermind, just checked Wolfeyes site, appear to be the same type....
    Last edited by corrections operator; 12-28-2008 at 10:25 AM.

  14. #14

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    I'm considering opening up my 6P for use with 18650's but there's a couple points I'm still not clear on.

    I've seen non-rechargeable CR123a's advertised as having 1400mAh capacity. If that is the case it would appear that two non-rechargeable CR123a's would have a longer life than 1 18650. Can that be realistically expected or is it marketing hype?

    Also would boring out the body to accept an 18650 adversely affect the light's ability to reliably function on CR123a batteries? I'm concerned the slightly looser battery tube might result in contact problems.

  15. #15
    *Flashaholic* mdocod's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by GreyShark View Post
    I'm considering opening up my 6P for use with 18650's but there's a couple points I'm still not clear on.

    I've seen non-rechargeable CR123a's advertised as having 1400mAh capacity. If that is the case it would appear that two non-rechargeable CR123a's would have a longer life than 1 18650. Can that be realistically expected or is it marketing hype?

    Also would boring out the body to accept an 18650 adversely affect the light's ability to reliably function on CR123a batteries? I'm concerned the slightly looser battery tube might result in contact problems.
    mAH alone does not translate to runtime, total WattHour energy storage at the load in question does.

    A CR123 primary delivers an average ~2.5V during a discharge, while lithium cobalt rechargeable cells deliver about 3.7V on average into a load. Both voltage and capacity must be factored in to describe the total energy stored in a cell.

    There are also variations in the way that these cells perform at different loads. Generally speaking, the li-ion rechargeable cell starts to pull ahead of 2 CR123s when the load gets a little higher, while a pair of CR123s will have more available stored energy when discharged slowly.

    In the end, a 1x18650 light and a 2xCR123 light are going to be in the same ballpark of total runtime, as both configurations have similar stored energy.

    After factoring in the fact that the 18650 is rechargeable, comparing it to a primary configuration is less meaningful, it should instead be compared to other rechargeable options as the recharge-ability is a major feature that sets it apart. To get the same output/runtime from competing battery configurations would require 4 RCR123s or 3AA NIMH or 3 14500 li-ion cells. All of which would be far more space consuming.

    Eric

  16. #16

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Thanks for the reply, it's given me a few things to research.

    As far as comparing CR123a's to rechargeables I understand it's a little apples to oranges but my goal isn't to be rechargeable, it's to get more runtime. I've heard a lot of people talking about the 18650's so I'm trying to understand what they can do better.

  17. #17

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by mdocod View Post

    In the end, a 1x18650 light and a 2xCR123 light are going to be in the same ballpark of total runtime, as both configurations have similar stored energy.
    I'm trying to wrap my head around this battery situation. I have been doing a lot of reading on here.....a LOT. I have chosen to go with protected batteries.

    I have a Surefire 6P with an LED Q5 bulb in it. Right now I am running crappy ultrafire rechargeable 123a's. Today I overdischarged one cell by doing a run test on them.

    So I am thinking of going with the AW brand as mentioned by so many people on here. It does seem like the way to go.

    So I am still stuck at 18650 vs 123a's. My ultimate goal is run time. Has anyone tested run time with AW's batteries?

    Or does anyone know which set up will run longer??

    Lastly, do primaries run longer than rechargeables? If so, how much longer.

  18. #18
    *Flashaholic* mdocod's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Hello michiganstud,

    If your ultimate goal is runtime, your best bet is going to be to run a single larger Li-Ion cell to drive the module, this will reduce your output some, but will give you a very efficient use of the cell through the discharge, with a steady but barely noticeable drop in output through the discharge.

    The stock 6P does not have room for an 18650 (you could run a single 17670 if you want), but if runtime and recharge-ability in that platform are the goal, then you'll want to pick up an 18650 compatible body for the light. CPF member Nite is selling some FM brand bodies that are really decent over in the custom-mod/BST section of this forum.

    As far as rechargeable vs primary runtime comparisons, this is a comparison that is not really fair to make, but I will try to summarize some of the important points:

    A pair of CR123s packs slightly more stored energy than a single 18650 cell when the 2 configurations are compared at a LOW drain rate (like an LED module).

    A single 18650 packs slightly more stored energy than a pair of CR123s when the 2 configurations are compared at a higher drain rate (like an incandescent module).

    A Single 18650, with its lower voltage than a pair of CR123s, will operate most buck regulated LED modules at a lower (read "direct drive or less") output than would be the case on a pair of CR123s. This results in less output, but much more runtime because less energy gets used over time.

    So... the answer to most of your questions will always depend on the specific configurations being compared.

    If your main goal is to get really good runtime, then I suggest you take the following things under consideration:
    1. RCR123s are the worst option for maximizing your stored energy.
    2. Something with multiple modes will allow you to run for extended periods of time with less power consumption.
    3. Just because a pair of CR123s technically has more stored energy than an 18650 at low drain rates, does not mean that you will always be leaving the house with a fresh set of CR123s loaded. With Li-Ion cells, you can "top off" your cells whenever you feel like it. This means that you are always starting "fresh" and never have to play the guessing game of how much of the batteries you have used up and whether you need to bring along spares.

    -Eric

  19. #19

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by mdocod View Post

    The stock 6P does not have room for an 18650 (you could run a single 17670 if you want),
    That right there pretty much solves the issue then! I don't really want to invest in a new tube for the light I have. And it seems the CR123's are going to be sufficient as long as I get good cells, right?


    As far as rechargeable vs primary runtime comparisons, this is a comparison that is not really fair to make, but I will try to summarize some of the important points:

    A pair of CR123s packs slightly more stored energy than a single 18650 cell when the 2 configurations are compared at a LOW drain rate (like an LED module).

    A single 18650 packs slightly more stored energy than a pair of CR123s when the 2 configurations are compared at a higher drain rate (like an incandescent module).

    A Single 18650, with its lower voltage than a pair of CR123s, will operate most buck regulated LED modules at a lower (read "direct drive or less") output than would be the case on a pair of CR123s. This results in less output, but much more runtime because less energy gets used over time.

    So... the answer to most of your questions will always depend on the specific configurations being compared.

    If your main goal is to get really good runtime, then I suggest you take the following things under consideration:
    1. RCR123s are the worst option for maximizing your stored energy.
    2. Something with multiple modes will allow you to run for extended periods of time with less power consumption.
    All great information and exactly what I was looking for!


    3. Just because a pair of CR123s technically has more stored energy than an 18650 at low drain rates, does not mean that you will always be leaving the house with a fresh set of CR123s loaded. With Li-Ion cells, you can "top off" your cells whenever you feel like it. This means that you are always starting "fresh" and never have to play the guessing game of how much of the batteries you have used up and whether you need to bring along spares.

    -Eric
    Now this is news to me. Does this mean that Li-Ion's don't have the memory effect and I can charge them any time I want to "top off" the batteries? Say before a patrol shift when I knew I used it several times the night before.

  20. #20
    *Flashaholic* mdocod's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by michiganstud View Post
    Now this is news to me. Does this mean that Li-Ion's don't have the memory effect and I can charge them any time I want to "top off" the batteries? Say before a patrol shift when I knew I used it several times the night before.
    Actually, "memory-effect" as the industry has tried to convince you of, doesn't exist in any common type of rechargeable cell in any sort of normal consumer usage, there are other issues that can crop up that are often mistaken for "memory" effect.

    Li-Ion cells are perfectly fine being shallow cycled. You can use them for 10 minutes and top them off and that's perfectly fine. The only issue here is making sure you have a charger that can properly top-off cells without over-charging.

    Generally speaking, yes, you can top these off as you please, which in many ways makes them preferable to CR123s even though you may or may not have as much total energy stored.

    -Eric

  21. #21
    Flashaholic* DHart's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by michiganstud View Post
    That right there pretty much solves the issue then! I don't really want to invest in a new tube for the light I have.
    For $25 you can not only get a new "tube" which will work with an 18650 cell, but an entire working Surefire 6P-clone LED flashlight of very good quality, including Q5 or R2 LED lamp assembly, bezel with stainless steel lens retaining ring, 18650 cell, and carrying case... shipping included! I'm referring to the Solarforce L2 available from:

    http://www.solarforcestore.com/servl...GHT/Categories

    I just bought two L2s (6P clones) and a L2m (3P clone) and I assure you they are every bit as up to the job as the numerous Surefire models I have had for years. Today, Solarforce makes an exceptionally nice Surefire-clone for a remarkably low price. You can co-mingle/interchange any parts of the Solarforce L2 or L2m with your Surefire 6P parts. If you doubt the quality, do some research on this forum.

    I'd sure recommend springing for the L2 - 18650 model, even if just for the tube with some great extra parts. Solarforce bezels have stainless steel lens rings vs. plastic on the SF 6P. And the Solarforce tube is excellent quality. If I were you, I'd get the L2 18650 flashlight and move your Surefire 6P tailcap over to the Solarforce 18650 flashlight, use the 18650 cell and never look back. $25 including shipping. For real. Check 'em out!
    Last edited by DHart; 04-02-2009 at 01:45 AM.

  22. #22
    *Flashaholic* mdocod's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by DHart View Post
    For $25 you can not only get a new "tube" which will work with an 18650 cell, but an entire working Surefire 6P-clone LED flashlight of very good quality, including Q5 or R2 LED lamp assembly, bezel with stainless steel lens retaining ring, 18650 cell, and carrying case... shipping included! I'm referring to the Solarforce L2 available from:

    http://www.solarforcestore.com/servl...GHT/Categories

    I just bought two L2s (6P clones) and a L2m (3P clone) and I assure you they are every bit as up to the job as the numerous Surefire models I have had for years. Today, Solarforce makes an exceptionally nice Surefire-clone for a remarkably low price. You can co-mingle/interchange any parts of the Solarforce L2 or L2m with your Surefire 6P parts. If you doubt the quality, do some research on this forum.

    I'd sure recommend springing for the L2 - 18650 model, even if just for the tube with some great extra parts. Solarforce bezels have stainless steel lens rings vs. plastic on the SF 6P. And the Solarforce tube is excellent quality. If I were you, I'd get the L2 18650 flashlight and move your Surefire 6P tailcap over to the Solarforce 18650 flashlight, use the 18650 cell and never look back. $25 including shipping. For real. Check 'em out!
    I really can't argue with that. The only major problem with the solarforce is the cheese reverse clicky on the tailcap that likes to cause problems and bind up on the body of the light and pull out of the housing. It's a fixable issue. having said that, even the reverse clickers are very reliable, and if you slap your Z41 from the stock 6P on there, with the bezel of your choice, your reliability compared with being on the stock 6P stays the same.

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* DHart's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by mdocod View Post
    I really can't argue with that. The only major problem with the solarforce is the cheese reverse clicky on the tailcap that likes to cause problems and bind up on the body of the light and pull out of the housing. It's a fixable issue. having said that, even the reverse clickers are very reliable, and if you slap your Z41 from the stock 6P on there, with the bezel of your choice, your reliability compared with being on the stock 6P stays the same.
    I've had no problems at all with the tailcap switches on about six Solarforce lights that I have, though I am not a fan or reverse clickies. One of them being a Solarforce fwd clicky (the one with the soft, silent switch, which is actually pretty cool, though the tailcap itself is a bit on the large side.)

    Have to say, though, that my favorite tailcaps of all time are the Surefire Z-41 momentary/twisty and the Z-59 momentary/clicky. Pop either one of those on the Solarforce L2 18650 (6P size) or L2m (3P size) and you've got a kick-a$$ light of awesome quality and top shelf reliability.

    And to really frost that beautiful cake.... pop a Malkoff M60 lamp assembly into the head, an AW protected 18650 cell into the body, and you've got one of the finest flashlights you could ask for with outstanding output and beam, very long runtime, graceful decline of output, and awesome reliability. Recharge the 18650 at will for guilt-free lumens galore. Solarforce L2 $25, Z-41 or Z-59 tailcap $40, M60 $55 = $120 and never look back.
    Last edited by DHart; 04-02-2009 at 03:30 AM.

  24. #24

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by DHart View Post
    For $25 you can not only get a new "tube" which will work with an 18650 cell, but an entire working Surefire 6P-clone LED flashlight of very good quality, including Q5 or R2 LED lamp assembly, bezel with stainless steel lens retaining ring, 18650 cell, and carrying case... shipping included! I'm referring to the Solarforce L2 available from:

    http://www.solarforcestore.com/servl...GHT/Categories
    This light looks great!! I wish I would seen this before I purchased my Surefire. What I did was purchased a Xenon Surefire, tossed the xenon and dropped in my Q5 bulb from another light I had. Works great.

    Sometimes I feel so dumb for asking so many questions on here, but everytime I purchase something I always find something better later after my purchase.

    Do you happen to know if the outside diameter of the tube is the same width as the Surefire? One of the reasons I went with the surefire brand name is because I could easily find a belt holster in high gloss leather for my duty belt.

    I'm considering buying the tube and bezel replacements.

  25. #25

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    DHart....do you know what the run time is of either the Q5 or R2 running on either 123a's or the 18650's?

  26. #26
    Flashaholic* DHart's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    michigan... the L2 should fit whatever case you can fit a 6P into... unless you get the crenelated lens retaining ring, which makes the light a little longer.

    Sorry, I don't know the runtimes. But you're going to have the longest, for sure, with the 18650.

    Sounds like you just need to get yourself an L2 18650 from Solarforce and a charger and a couple of 18650's and see what all the fuss is about! You won't be buying more batteries for quite a while (unless you buy more lights that need 'em!)
    Last edited by DHart; 04-02-2009 at 08:57 PM.

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    Moderator Kestrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by DHart View Post
    You won't be buying more batteries for quite a while (unless you buy more lights that need 'em!)
    Ye gods, ain't that the case...
    In the past we have had a light which flickered, in the present we have a light which flames, and in the future there will be a light which shines over all the land and sea.
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  28. #28

    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by Kestrel View Post
    Ye gods, ain't that the case...
    I'm becoming a flashaholic. I have 5 tactical lights at this point, and i'm considering ordering the Solarforce now.

  29. #29
    Flashaholic notsobrite's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by DHart View Post
    For $25 you can not only get a new "tube" which will work with an 18650 cell, but an entire working Surefire 6P-clone LED flashlight of very good quality, including Q5 or R2 LED lamp assembly, bezel with stainless steel lens retaining ring, 18650 cell, and carrying case... shipping included! I'm referring to the Solarforce L2 available from:

    http://www.solarforcestore.com/servl...GHT/Categories

    I just bought two L2s (6P clones) and a L2m (3P clone) and I assure you they are every bit as up to the job as the numerous Surefire models I have had for years. Today, Solarforce makes an exceptionally nice Surefire-clone for a remarkably low price. You can co-mingle/interchange any parts of the Solarforce L2 or L2m with your Surefire 6P parts. If you doubt the quality, do some research on this forum.

    I'd sure recommend springing for the L2 - 18650 model, even if just for the tube with some great extra parts. Solarforce bezels have stainless steel lens rings vs. plastic on the SF 6P. And the Solarforce tube is excellent quality. If I were you, I'd get the L2 18650 flashlight and move your Surefire 6P tailcap over to the Solarforce 18650 flashlight, use the 18650 cell and never look back. $25 including shipping. For real. Check 'em out!
    dhart- how long did it take for shipping to the states?

  30. #30
    Flashaholic* DHart's Avatar
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    Default Re: 18650 vs. CR123A rechargeable bats

    Quote Originally Posted by notsobrite View Post
    dhart- how long did it take for shipping to the states?
    I received the flashlights about 8 or 9 days after I ordered. Working with the Solarforce store was smooth and swift... I would buy from them again without hesitation.

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