5.11 Tactical have been around for many years and have an established reputation for making hard wearing quality tactical clothing. 5.11’s first venture into lights was with the innovative Light for Life with its capacitor based power pack enabling almost instant recharging.
This has been supplemented by the ATAC range of lights, primarily aimed at LEO/service personnel the features of these lights make them a good general purpose light for anyone.
On test here is one of the CR123 powered ATAC lights, the L2.
All of the ATAC lights have a distinctive ribbed battery tube which, to me anyway, is reminiscent of a picatinny rail.
Simple and solid, the ATAC lights will not have you tripping over complicated user interfaces, instead giving you light when you need it and no messing about when you really don’t need it.
What is in the box:
All of the ATAC range come in well presented boxes which have the light’s features marked clearly on the front, making it easy to compare their features.
The L2’s box
The plastic carrier tray removed the light comes with CR123 batteries, instructions and the ATAC break away lanyard.
The ATAC belt clip packaging
Taking a closer look and looking inside:
Like the other ATAC lights the L2 has a steel pocket clip and rubber anti-roll ring. The ribbing on the L2 is wider than on the A1 and A2 I reviewed recently.
Looking straight down on the clip
A useful feature of the L2 is its built in lock-out tailcap. Rather than have to unscrew the tailcap (which is not possible with the L2 as it doesn’t have anodised threads) there is a ring round the switch which allows the switch to be locked out.
In the ‘live’ position
And locked out with the tab next to the padlock symbol
The ATAC lights have a break away lanyard. This is a very good design providing a significant resistance to breaking away so there will be no accidental loss of the light, but should an assailant grab to light, the lanyard will break away preventing any impairment of your movement. Once the light is recovered the lanyard clips back together with no loss of security.
The resettable lanyard in the broken state.
Taking the tailcap off - the L2’s negative contact spring is fixed to a circuit board
The tailcap viewed from the side
Looking down the battery tube the flat positive terminal can be seen, and this view also show the rubber anti-roll ring giving the square shape to the end of the tube
The L2’s LED - The bezels of the ATAC range have fixed crenulations
Compatible with the ATAC belt clip, here it is shown with the belt fixing open ready to slip onto a belt. You can see the movable belt width stopper. This feature allows the belt clip to be fitted to various width belts and fit closely to the belt.
The belt fixing opens by squeezing the sides of the clip allowing easy fitting and removal.
The ATAC range have a removable clip.
Here the ATAC A1 is shown with the clip removed (The L2 clip can be remove in exactly the same way)
There is a locator to keep the clip correctly positioned
Modes and User Interface:
The ATAC range have been designed with simple reliable operation in mind.
The tail-switch is a forward clicky giving instant access to high.
There are three modes, High, Low and Strobe. For the L2 this is 222lm, 10lm and strobe at 222lm.
The light default to high and if left off for about 1s will revert to high. A quick double tap of the switch gives low. This has to be quite quick to change down roughly 0.5s between taps. Then a quick triple tap will give the strobe, again with about 0.5s between taps.
This is with the switch half pressed. Once you have the output mode you want, you can press the switch fully to latch the setting.
What makes this so good is that the light is really easy to use in a hurry as normally this is when you want maximum output and a bonus is that it is easy to lend as it simply defaults to high.
Batteries and output:
Supporting CR123 and although not specified, RCR123, the L2 is primarily designed as a LEO specification light, the battery tube will only accommodate CR123 cells in diameter and length.
Here you can see the most trusted brand of li-ion, AW, in comparison to primary cells. The AW protected cells are the closest I’ve found to an original CR123 in size and do fit into the XT8. Also tested are the AW IMR unprotected cells which again closely match the size of a primary.
Topping up the AW cells with Cottonpicker’s Nona-Charger.
If used in hostile environments, you will not be bothering with rechargeable cells, so stick with primaries. In less hostile environments, you may choose between unprotected cells which avoids sudden loss of output due to protection kicking in, or protected to prevent cell damage. In both cases, the AW cells are ideal as the IMR chemistry is ‘safe’ though lower capacity, and the protected cells are the only cells of this type I know of which will fit.
High is regulated and when the batteries can no longer provide maximum output, the high mode simply dims gradually. As there is no sudden cut off so you will not be left in the dark and have plenty of warning. The light does not drop down to the low mode when the batteries are running out, this is still accessible.
High is constant output, and low is provided via PWM. The frequency is high enough not to be very noticeable.
To see if there was any difference in output using different battery chemistries, I used an integrating sphere I have recently constructed to give relative results. AW cells were used for the Li-ion testing.
The actual readings from the integrating sphere are as follows:
The L2 performs marginally better on primaries, but this is not noticeable to the naked eye.
In The Lab
In an attempt to quantify the actual beam profile I developed the following test. There are probably many flaws in my method, but it is simple and easy to carry out and seems to provide a good enough comparison.
The method used was to put the light on the edge of a table 1m from a wall, with a tape measure on the wall. The zero of the scale is placed in the centre of the hotspot and a lux meter is then positioned at points along the scale, with the measurements recorded. Beam shots are often taken with the light shining on a flat white wall, so this method is simply measuring the actual intensity across the beam on a flat surface, not the spherical light emission.
The results are then plotted on a graph.
For the best throw you want to see a sharp peak with less of the distracting spill. For the best flood light the trace should be pretty flat.
The L2 is shown here with the ATAC A1 and A2 and with a standard Cree R2 powered by an 18650 for comparison. The L2 has a nice wide diffuse hotspot good for area lighting.
Taking this a little further, I calculated an approximate factor to apply to the lux measurements, as each measurement gets further from the centre of the beam, it corresponds to a larger area onto which the light is falling. It seems to me that this should also be taken into consideration, so I applied these area corrections and came up with this odd looking graph.
The key quantity here is the area under the graph line. This should correspond to the total light output.
The L2 has a significantly greater overall output to the other lights shown here, and has plently of light in the spill making a versatile light.
The beam of the L2
The ATAC L2 does have a strong hotspot, but it is has soft edges and the spill is bright. Overall a very good bright beam. The L2 has enough punch to give reasonable range, but is good for close-range work as well.
It does not have the uneven corona noted in the A1 and A2 review.
Using the L2
I’ve found the ATAC L2 to be a highly usable light. Straight forward to use and the ribbed texture make for a very comfortable and secure grip, bare hands or gloved.
The tail-cap switch is well designed with the sloping shoulders of the cap giving easy access to the switch. Even with gloved hands these light operate easily.
As I don’t have police or military issue gloves, I used my motorcycle gloves which have a very similar construction and feeling.
The belt clip works well, but unfortunately doesn’t hold the light’s clip firmly. I would have liked the light to click into place to make it more secure. The last thing you want is your light popping off the belt clip while you are running.
5.11 have produced a well thought out and solidly made range of lights. The ATAC L2 has many strong features primarily designed for LEOs, but that transfer well into general purpose use.
Review sample provided for review by 5.11 Tactical.
I’ll update post 2 of this thread once I have some more comments to add....
I had a chance to hold on of these at Dick's sporting goods and I was impressed. It has a nice stealthy feel. Thanks for the review.
These ATAC lights (including the A1 and A2) continue to be great users. Their simplicity of UI makes them easy to use and lend, and have proven great for my wife (who doesn't want to mess about with all those silly modes).
The A2 seemed a little bulky compared to the L2 although I still thought it was a unique design :thumbup: I really liked how the tail cap on the L2 is designed, it makes it easier for one hand operation.
Have you tried to use a single 17670 or a single lithium rechargeable in this light?
I really like the sleekness and styling of this light compared to all other popular brands. It's really under rated and overlooked at by members of CPF like the Sunlite brand. I'm really tempted to purchase this light and install the new XP-G2 emitter.
Have you tried to use a single 17670 or a single lithium rechargeable in this light?
The answer is now yes on the 17670.
The battery tube is already a close fit for CR123s and the protected 17670s I have needed a slight nudge to go fully into the tube (and a little persuasion to come back out again) however once fitted, the L2 functioned perfectly normally and appeared to be the same brightness.