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Thread: The vintage California cop light company thread

  1. #271
    Flashaholic* LiftdT4R's Avatar
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Sold!!! That one didn't last long. A good price for a one of a kind light. Try finding a Maglite from that era NIB. I've only seen a handful. That LA Screw, has to be the only NIB one in existence.

    Hopefully it went to a good home. I know it saved me $100 because I was about to pop on it. If anyone here scored it let's see those pics!!!!

    For those interested in LA Screw Lights. Sgt 253 here hooked me up with an old LA Screw Distributor who sent me a ton of info, old advertisements, and some parts. I posted most of it on my blog at: http://otherflashlights.blogspot.com...-4-lights.html

  2. #272
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    I finally picked up a nice little LA Screw 2D. It seems like LA Screw made these lights from 1976 to 1985 when they were bought out by GT Price. The 1976 to 1979 ones were stamped Pats. Pend. on the tailcap like below. pretty neat lights!!




  3. #273

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Good score.

    It seems they made some "Executive" lights that were a Code 4 without the Lego aspect. IE, not a Code 4, nor stamped Code 4, but a black body number available in either 2D or 3D.
    Perhaps that one is one of those?
    John 3:16

  4. #274
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Hey, that's interesting! This light does not have the Code 4 stamping but it is stamped "Police Equipment For Police Use Only". I assumed that's because it's one of their early designs before the Code 4 branding came into use.



    I think the executives were all polished aluminum. The grip could very well have been from one. It's probably lost to time. It doesn't appear to ever have been anodized. I wish I could figure out the numbering scheme on these switches too.

  5. #275

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Is it a clicky?

    It seems to me Ed Torr once said early Code 4's had "police use" instead of Code 4, which came later.

    The early ones also had a very aggressive knurling. If you compare it to the Smoke Cutter the difference is very pronounced.
    John 3:16

  6. #276
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    It is not a true clicky. It has the switch protruding out of both side of the barrel. It's almost like a slide switch that goes through the barrel. I thought all LA Screw lights were like this and the later GT Price's used a true clicky.

    EDIT: Love the new PK quote too in ur sig!!!

  7. #277

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Correct. The Smoke Cutter etc used the same switch.
    A novel approach to on and off prior to Tonys famous switch assembly.

    I did not know when the clicky version actually occured.
    John 3:16

  8. #278

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Recently acquired a 90's California Cop Light from a retired cop in Arizona. It was kinda-like SureFire's answer to an SL20 in a way.


    The 6R
    It was a near double length number (but not quite large enough for 4 cells) that utlized a proprietary battery that was 6 volts.


    Used an R60
    Rated at 50 lumens the R60 provided a better run time between charges than a 65 lumen P60.


    Much smaller spot
    The throw is virtually the same, yet it's a pencil beam light where the additional 15 lumens of a P60 place more spread causing a P60 equipped light to seem a lot brighter.


    Tex Shoemaker holster
    Where Don Keller was teamed up with Bianchi holsters, Dr John Matthews teamed up with Shoemaker holsters.

    This particular light will be stored with other California Cop Lights of various brands instead being part of a SureFire display since it carries very much like those larger lights but has a girth like a golf club handle instead of a Lousville Slugger.



    3 pencil beam'd classics
    L to R:
    - A 1973-ish Kel-Lite CPL-2 with LifePo4 18500's and a Mag 4 cell bulb puts out about 100 throwey lumens
    - A 1977-ish Bianchi B-Lite, runs on 2D cells and the Mag bulb, ultra clear glass with the B-Lite reflector put out about 45-50 throwey lumens.
    - A 1999-ish SureFire R6 with stock setup puts out about 50 throwey lumens.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-12-2018 at 03:50 PM.
    John 3:16

  9. #279

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    By the 1980's California Cop Light makers Maglite, and Streamlight were downsizing the flashlight to a keychain sized number. Everybody remembers the Solitaire. But even Streamlight forgot about their incan Keymate and 2xAAA Pocketmate.
    I did a thread about a Keymate vs Solitaire, but when the crowd kept groaning about how dim the Solitaire used to be I asked for it to be closed.
    Point was about nostalgia, not how dim the 1xAAA light of the 1980's was.
    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...light-key-mate
    Click on the icon to see the pix

    I scored a nice blue Keymate recently.

    Here it is with some others of the era.
    A VareBeam, a Pocketmate, 2 Keymates and a minimag.
    Note the triple A minimag is an LED type. My incans are all stashed away.


    Blue one next to a black one.


    Another view


    The blue one is clean, clean, clean

    Now in those days the krypton bulb was putting out much brighter light with multi-cell numbers. With a single triple A, well you got the brightness of a fat birthday candle with a fat wick instead of the usual 2-6 lumens. And with Streamlight using a slightly larger head the beam was nicer than a Solitaire.
    These were probably great for a tooth hold while officer O'Reilly looked around for a dropped hand cuff key, or perhaps made his way to bed after pulling a double without waking Mrs O'Reilly.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-12-2018 at 03:51 PM.
    John 3:16

  10. #280

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Turning things a bit more modern, in the SureFire age, this post is about a pair of California companies who entered into the SureFire aimed market and did it with a bang heard all across the state.
    Pelican and Pentagon.


    Shown is a variety from both.
    I tossed in a couple of LED numbers to show how they had begun to enter the LED market at an early point.

    I'll start with Pentagon.
    Based out of the San Fransico area they were making some pretty good stuff. Now like many before them, they were not above producing items that infringed on patented ideas without permission. At first they quietly went about out SureFiring SureFire in some ways. Durable coatings, super bright bulbs, and inovative approaches to the electric fire on a stick. They made lights based on the old SLR camera battery too. They built shock isolated bulb modules, placed thick o-rings at each end and glass lenses. They built weapon mounted lights too.

    The x1 was a light similar to the famous 3P was and was a big seller that had a decent output for a 1 cell flashlight.

    The x2 was a direct competitor to SureFire's 6P, and Streamlights Scorpion (that was also a 6P competitor). It featured a good output with twisty tailcap, that unfortuneatly used a patented lockout feature owned by SureFire. (Strike 1).

    The x3 shown was a 9P competitor that used a larger front end to cast light farther than the 9P. Both the x2 and x3 used an innovative clip that allowed bezel down carry on a belt, yet still allowed it to slide into a holster.

    The K2, which featured a bezel that could be rotated to expose a near knife sharp ring of crenalations. It was slimmer, lighter and featured a near silent clicky.

    All were natural hard anodized to a dull finish similar to olive drab. The Pentagon Light company went after some military contracts SureFire had spent years (and millions of dollars for R&D) trying to obtain. (Strike 2.)

    The ex2 was a cop light. Plain and simple. Now unlike the 6P, it was smooth-ish round body. Some knurls but the chosen coating was like teflon. Ease of holster deploy. It featured a twisty activator and had a pretty good beam. Not as broad as the 6P, but was more of a thrower. In side by side the 6P was much nicer, but the ex2 was cheaper. So for an officer on a budget that was a boon.

    Pentagon made good holsters too. They featured a plastic cap that was glued over snap parts inside the holster that prevented the light body from being scratched. Now the button required a firm tug to open the top and a firm push to close it. And Pentagon tailcaps were stiffer to activated. But their lights were cheaper than SureFire (and Streamlights). Cheap is good, right? Well not always, yet to folks making peanuts for wages it was a definite selling advantage.

    At some point Pentagon entered the LED arena and did some pretty good stuff there. Using the same sized heads as incans they did some stuff that was to this day hard to beat in terms of beam tint and color rendition. Smooth, ring free output that appear brighter than the numbers suggest. The Lx2 for example at 65 lumens has a modern looking tint and the later 90 lumen version is one of my favorite LED cop lights. Batteries go in upside down from the norm in these. Now Pentagon claimed they were 100% US made items. (Strike 3.) It turns out that their LED's were not US made, but were apparently coming from Korea.

    The little Molle light shown was apparently made of Korean parts and pieces too. Nice little right angle 1x AA light that was a portable number aimed at special ops folks. Available in tan or black and featured colored filters that mounted onto the bottom of the light when not in use and a cheesy little compass that on paper was a good idea. Yet it sucked at accuracy. Plus, unlike Eveready who placed a compass across the bulb to see at night the Pentagon compass was buried in the bottom so the only time one could see it was in daylight (or lit by another flashlight).

    Folks at SureFire had been steaming mad about Pentagons approach for a few years. Now lawyers being lawyers, they said "wait until they get big and you'll win lots of money". So when Pentagon went after a big contract in Texas the SureFire lawyers hit them with a lawsuit claiming the company was falsely claiming US made lights to win a contract that required lights to be 100% US made. For good measure they added the patent infringement(s) showing where the ideas belonging to SureFire had been duplicated by Pentagon without prior permission. A judge agreed that Pentagon was taking shortcuts that violated certain verbage requirements in the contract and sided with SureFire's lawyers. They were awarded a big dollar amount but SureFire management agreed that if Pentagon would cease operations that would be enough. Pentagon agreed and quietly ceased operations for producing more lights but stayed in business a bit longer to honor warranties. It is rumored that they continued producing parts briefly so that warranties could be honored.

    Like SureFire, Streamlight, Maglite and others, the lights were serialized. But early on they placed them on heads instead of the battery holding body. Also like SureFire and Streamlight, they produced their own brand of batteries for the 123 sized lights and included them with the lights. Unlike SureFire and Streamlight, Pentagons came with a glow in the dark sticker and used a clam shell package that allowed the light to be stored in original packaging when not in use.

    They nearly pulled off a coup in the world of California Cop Lights. Some of their lights are still available NIP and another outfit in Australlia opened under the name producing direct G2 rip offs. To me that is a shame because Pentagon did some really good products for a market that could not afford SureFire lights. It's too bad they used some false claims in the process.

    Next post I'll talk about a company that is still quietly going about producing some pretty good flashlights and remains viable in a crowded market loaded with gimmickery.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-12-2018 at 03:52 PM.
    John 3:16

  11. #281

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Pelican:
    Now this little family owned enterprise began selling dive lights. Plastic lights that floated when empty. The "Pelican Float" it was called. They developed the plastic Sabre Light and water proof cases soon after. They began in a garage in 1976 and in 2004 were bought out by a big capital firm and run by a former Microsoft executive.

    The Pelican company now has facilities across the planet, but they began near Los Angeles California. They now make all kinds of cases, back packs, thermal control units (we call coolers), luggage, cups and flashlights.

    Now I did a bunch of research for Pentagon and had the pleasure of comunicating with some of the players who participated in the industry during the Pentagon era. But with Pelican my info at this point is pretty limited. I plan to change that in time, but for this post I'll share what I know so far.

    Pelican shared some parts and pieces from Pentagon. Based on attempts at lego I wonder if they ended up owning some of Pentagons machinery. But that is conjecture at this point. What I do know is that some currently available Pelican parts directly fit Pentagons and vice versa. Did they enter the P60 arena to compete with SureFire? I do not know, but do know a P60 puts out a mighty fine beam in a Pelican 2320 (M6).

    The Pelican M6; a light that was a competitor of the 6P using Pelican shaping from the early days. They made other lights as well, but the one that was popular with police was the 2x123 2320. The early 2320's had trouble prone clicky's. It rendered the light as a momentary only number as the fragile switch would refuse to stay engaged. And a twisty was only made briefly (I'm told). Back then a solution was made by Kroll. Good luck finding Kroll parts though.

    The M6 was available in a matte black or matte silver and came with a nice holster that had a pouch for spare batteries. They did not make their own batteries nor did the light include them. Pelican opted for a type 2 coating where it was more like a painted finish than a hard baked on. So the durability of the finish was not stellar. At some point Pelican improved the clicky so failure rate was greatly reduced. Their warranty was great but tell that to a fellow who needs the light to work NOW.

    The LED market was becoming the norm and Pelican continued the 2320 until 2014. But they began a 2340 that was an LED upgrade to the 2320. It touted better runtime with the LED lifespan. Again a type 2 coating was chosen. It also came with the now famous Pelican holster. But price was prohibitive versus the Streamlight products of the day. And being early LED, the beam was less than critically aclaimed. It was a good alternative to the light bulb version, yet the bulb'd version still sold better.

    Later the 2390 arrived. It was a type 3 hard coated number with a threshold crossing 100+ lumen output. Some say it was about 90 though. By then the clicky issue had been solved as well. But what I like is that the LED module can directly swap out with a 2320 module. And for tailstand fans, a Malkoff tailcap fits. For lego fans, SportTac modules, Malkoff modules and P60's work as well.

    In a day of non serviceable lighting tools the 2320, 2340 and 2390 are fixable. The plastic lens can be replaced, easily. The switch can be serviced if need be and popular lanyard rings n clips fit them.

    I also showed some other 2300 series in the post above. I show them as a part of the evolution of the popular M6 that opts for more econimical fuel choices. The double A platform was where Pelican began and their 2350 n 2360 still use them as a fuel source. The 2350 began as a pencil beam number where it's little 100+ lumens throw like a brighter light. The next version carries the same name and look, but is user programable using a series of half presses to go from factory hi/strobe/lo to high only or lo/hi. Both have a beam tetering on the edge of neutral, but the 2nd gen touts nearly double the output while opting for a general use beam with much wider spread.

    The 2360 is up to its 5th generation and touts over 300 lumens in a programmable light that has a battery meter. Both sizes feature a very secure, removable clip and a knurled body. They are pretty stout for a double A light that allows a positive grip similar to the 1" bodied 123 lights, yet are more pocket friendly for EDC purposes.
    Pelican opted for battery saving low outputs that are around 40% of the high. This allows the light to be used in a general purpose manner with a high beam available if need be. Both feature the type 2 coatings and are made overseas.

    Pelican also makes 6000 and 7000 series lights based on policeman type uses, but I do not own those at this point. Perhaps others will chime in regarding those.

    What began as a fellow in his garage, producing a water proof flashlight has developed into a huge company and this thread would be amiss if the history of Pelican is not a feature. And like Maglite, the company in many ways has stayed true to its roots by producing old school looking flashlights for a modern world.

    Lets see your Pelicans....
    John 3:16

  12. #282
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    This may not be a vintage light but I sure do think it's a homage to one. I call it the 2 Cell Mag-Kel. I recently got this as part of a lot from Lightknot and it's a 2C Mag-Lite with the head turned down, the serial and stampings turned down, and hard anodized black. It resembles an early Kel-Lite but with all the functionality and adjustable focus of a new production Mag-Lite. We recently had a Noreaster here in NJ and lost power for a day and a half so this was my go-to light. I'm just running a Xenon bulb and alkalines for now but I'll likely throw in 2 18500s and a 5 cell bulb soon.




  13. #283

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Very good score!!

    Fits the spirit of the California Cop Light thread like a glove.

    The tailcap resembles a gen 2 bulb holding Kel-Lite with an added knurling.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 03-08-2018 at 05:08 PM.
    John 3:16

  14. #284
    Flashaholic* LiftdT4R's Avatar
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Thanks, it's a neat little project someone must have put some good machining time into. I figured I'd post it since there hasn't been a lot of action in this thread lately.

    I picked up a major score last night. I'm still researching it out a little but figured I would post a teaser pic. Hint: It's not attached to a Nightstalker or Tac-Lite (Triad). I'd be amazed if anyone could guess!


  15. #285
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Here's a light I showed some pictures of late last week. Well, I was finally able to research it out and I think I have most of the background.





    So what is it? Well, at first glance it's a 6C Maglite which is rare enough considering they were discontinued in 2003 after only 400,000 or so made. This model happens to be a 1990 or 1991 due to the laser etched bezel and a lack of the Panther logo. But, taking up 3 cells worth of space in the light is an ASP baton.



    These batons were designed to replace the end cap and use the stock tail spring. They worked on 5, 6, or 7 C cell lights. The bulb also needed to be changed to he correct voltage rating after subtracting 3 cells. In this case the light uses a 3 cell Maglite Krypton bulb. A 5 cell light would be reduced to a 2 cell and a 7 cell reduced to a 4 cell.

    These batons are very rare now mainly because they were produced in very limited numbers around 1991. The reason for this is that the already long lights became even more unwieldy when coupled with a 21" baton. Shown below is a pic next to a 7D.



    The lights were very difficult to swing and were more menacing looking than anything else. It's no surprise ASP went on to work with Kevin Truax to develop the Nightstalker which added a compact CR 123 light to the end of their baton and then later Don Keller to develop the Tac-Lite (Triad) as a baton attachement. Both of these lights offered their compactness as an incredible advantage to make the baton more manageable and easy to control.

    I'm surprised these attachments were produced considering a large C or D cell Maglite is a really a baton itself and doesn't need an additional baton. The baton, like most ASPs, is very difficult to close and requires that the end be pounded against a solid surface like pavement or concrete. I managed to break the filament on a bulb closing this one so after repeated use in the field it's easy to see how it might not work so well. Even when coupled with a 7C the light output of the reduced voltage, 4C, bulb is still unimpressive when compared to a Streamlight or Mag Charger.

    As unpractical and unpopular as these may be they are still a very interesting light that is a natural evolution from the super long Kel-Lite Baton Lights. As far as I know these were put out in very limited numbers for D cell Maglites, C cell Maglites, and some Streamlights. I believe ABTOMAT has an example of the Streamlight (3rd Gen Kel-Lite) version but the link is now broken.

    This one came from a survival instructor in North Carolina who bought it directly from an ASP sales rep in 1991 for self defense. Unfortunately the 6C he had it on had a battery leak and the light was lost. Luckily he saved the ASP attachment and I was able to buy it. I installed it on one of the 6Cs I own which is from around the time the baton was produced. This is one of my new favorite lights in my collection.

    I should have some more, interesting old school Cop lights coming soon too.

  16. #286

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Very cool!!

    And on the opposite extreme...

    For folks who said "screw the big lights... we have tazers now". lol.
    That was around the time OJ tv was sweeping the nation. "If it don't fit, you must aquit" and all that...

    Each one currently puts out between 60 and 120 lumens with modern Lumens Factory replacement bulbs. Stock were like 25 and 60 though. Still not bad for a pocket friendly flashlight vs D sized lights of those days.
    (Note the small black one is modern, but it's a lego to mimic the older ones)
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-12-2018 at 03:53 PM.
    John 3:16

  17. #287
    Flashaholic* LiftdT4R's Avatar
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    It's interesting to see how the thinking really diverged in the 1990s. Up until then the mantra was basically "bigger is better". 3Ds or larger were the norm. It seems like with the advent of the collapsible baton there really wasn't much of a need to carry such a large light anymore. Out of all the officers I work with I almost never see a D or C cell light anymore unless it's in their cruiser as a backup. Streamlight Stingers and Surefires are by far the most popular lights I see. I've talked to a couple getting back into Maglite with the Mag Tacs though.

  18. #288

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    A new breed of California Cop Light...

    Brighter than a smart phone...


    LED, made in China and all that.
    Yet with todays world a hands free clip on is real handy.


    Amazing how far the cop light has come.
    Save the 5D for blinding dope smoking hippies and busting out the headlight of a perp trying to mow you down.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-12-2018 at 03:53 PM.
    John 3:16

  19. #289
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Quote Originally Posted by bykfixer View Post
    A new breed of California Cop Light...
    Save the 5D for blinding dope smoking hippies and busting out the headlight of a perp trying to mow you down.
    I think I'm gonna have to update my sig!

    I always wondered why the police became the gold standard when marketing flash lights. There are many professions that use their lights more. I always thought it was because police were the most visible though. I know a few officers that don't even carry or do carry but never use their lights.

  20. #290

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    I work with local yocals and statees in work zones at night nearly every summer. When tasked with sitting in work zones they get premium pay, so more times than not ones with seniority get the lions share. Many remember the good ole days when SL20's were king. The ones old enough to remember Kel -Lites are typically in positions of authority and largely perform management duties. We only see them on occasion or if something went wrong and there's no time to discuss flashlights.

    The days of carrying a belt holster'd flashlight are generally over. At least in terms of the Stinger or larger. I can't remember the last time I saw an officer do the ole "arm pit" hold thanks to smaller lights.

    Typically they write the ticket inside the patrol car and hand the citation to the driver on a clipboard lit by a small light. Often they approach the vehicle they pulled over with larger lights. I suppose for the same psycological reasons from long ago. Flashlight in one hand, other hand ready to grab a self protection device if need be. Side buttons still reign supreme.

    I am surprised how many use small junk. Those are mainly local ones in places where residents can leave home without locking their doors. So they've never really needed sturdy flashlights when pulling over some councilman's teenager for having a tail light out.

    To see cops carrying big ole incan lights anymore you have to watch old Clint Eastwood movies. lol. Yet every so often I see a young officer carrying a 6P, or an incan Stinger.

    Way, way back when Conrad Hubert was trying to expand sales of Ever Ready (still 2 words) flashlights, he gave them to local police departments. Soon after, police in New York and other large cities began carrying flashlights supplied by the department. By WW1 he convinced the military to use them. Many times police were outfitted with military versions of flashlights. Yet until Don Keller did what he did, things had not progessed much since the 1920's. Durability and brightness in a package much smaller than the typical 6+ cell light were a boon for police. No more lights so big a shoulder strap was used for carrying a small baseball bat sized light with a 5" glass lens. And instead of springs being meant for thermal expansion due to the heat, he figured out shock isolation using existing parts and pieces.

    Even though a 6D flashlight is considered ginormous these days, there was a time when those were considered small compared to their predescesors by Bright Star, Dog Supply House etc.

    100 year evolution of the cop light from about 1915.

    Baby C at the right put out about 2 lumens. The tiny clip on at the left puts out 20. In between are lights used by police and pilots during war time.


    Changes from before Don Keller and during his heyday.
    Take note how much smaller a 5D was compared to the copper clad 6+1 light.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-12-2018 at 03:54 PM.
    John 3:16

  21. #291
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Verry cool picture! I think it's also interesting how we're pretty much back at the same size lights as the turn of the century. It seems like they were small, got very large, and then started to decrease in size again. I'm guessing batteries were very expensive when the lights first came out. So much so that folks couldn't afford to operate a large light.

  22. #292

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Very expensive. A 2D for example was a buck 99. A car was $300. Batteries were a half dollar or higher. Runtime was minutes. Shelf life was days. Only the bulb lasted. The body would hold up if battery corrosion didn't do it in. Copper conductor parts tarnished badly though.

    That was up until Charles Burgess developed a battery that could store for weeks to a month or two in about 1917. He also built very sturdy lights. The 20's saw improvements slowly but surely. Being "the roaring 20's" nickel plated brass lights were very popular. Cop lights were still black. But instead of vulcanite rubber they were black coated brass.

    During the 30's the depression caused fierce competition for a tiny market. 1/3 of the country was out of work and there were no government issued stipends yet. Another 1/3 were barely employed so things like food and clothes took precedence. Many companies like Burgess resorted to giving away cheap tubes with a light bulb with the purchase of a couple of batteries. Numerous flashlight companies folded or merged. Winchester for example merged with Olin and Bond. Finding an Olin or Bond made in the 40's was a rare thing as they mostly had multiple names on them.

    By the 1940's things had gotten pretty good (comparitively speaking). Plastics were also getting pretty good. Just right did an alluminum body AA aviator light covered with a plastic coating. It used a flip switch that covered or uncovered the bulb with red film.

    By the 50's the war was over and everybody had a job that wanted one. Flashlight sales were like everything else then... booming. "The machine era" saw lots and lots of "style" built in as companies vied for business.

    By this point it was not unusual for companies to copy other companies ideas. Heck that began when one caveman copied another caveman's idea for a spear. But in flashlight life many times a lawsuit resulted in the loser building X number of lights for the winner for daring such a thing.

    Things stayed largely the same until the late 1960's. Lights for a buck 99 were everywhere. Rayovac and Eveready (one word in the US since 1920 something, still 2 in England)... they were king. They made pretty good lights too. But so did Fulton, Bright Star, Burgess and others who competed for police contracts. Plastics were pretty normal and high end models carried names like Sportsman, Lazer Light or Captain.

    When a sheriffs deputy (named Don Keller) was trying out sprinkler pipe in California, Streamlight built a light for NASA to use in space mission practice to mimic the sun somewhere in NJ. John Matthews was inventing a laser sight for gun use out west and not far away Tony Maglica was crafting shell casings. PK was in elementary school somewhere in St Louis. Not long after that lights dedicated for police use were exploding on America like an atomic bomb. Finally a flashlight was available that would still work after driving a loose nail back down. And no more 'whack a palm' was required to get 100% output every time you activated the on switch.

    It seems we are stuck with "tacticool" until somebody invents a flashlight cooler than a California Cop Light.
    John 3:16

  23. #293
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Very cool pics/lights, great info, love your posts. Those clip on lights look very handy(lack of), thinking of the advantages ,over say a head lamp.

  24. #294

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    I was telling my wife last night about California style and how it has influenced American culture for a long time. On the east coast for example, flashlights began in New York. But once that invention had found its way to the San Fransisco world trade fair things began to change. Not at first because everything was coming from Michigan to Manhatten. Meanwhile most of California was still largely untamed back then. By world war 1 things began to take a turn towards what we saw from the 1950's (with mag wheels and chrome valve covers on our cars) to fashion and music. Blame it on the military perhaps.
    See, as soldiers were stationed out west they would eventually return with notions they'd seen while in the diverse cultured free thinking, great weather influenced state where the eastern influence was largely ignored. Folks from New England showed up there in suits or slacks with leather soled dress shoes. They returned in tshirts, shorts and sneakers.... Converse had begun in Massechussetts in 1908 making 'non skids' rubber sole shoes. But in the 1920's basketball star ChuckTaylor who played for 'the Converse All Stars' held clinics in high school where he also sold the "non skids" that became known later as Chuck Taylors. They were basketball shoes to atheletes across America. But in California they were "comfortable" shoes soon to be called sneakers.... see the point?
    California was a destination during the second world war for lots of what some would call refugees. It was also a huge depot for raw materials. In 1941 for example LA had 1.3 million people. That had doubled by 1945. Along with that the influence across the country was being influenced by all kinds of Made in California ideas. The industrial machine had officially arrived out west. Flashlights were still largely produced in middle America or back east.

    Where industry and population goes, crime aint far behind. An unfortunate reality, a reality none-the-less. Back east the stuffed shirt culture was slowly being influenced by California thinking in designs, art, construction and thinking. In the 1950's California was slowly being changed from an American Cold War industrial thinking machine to "the birth of cool" where folks like Miles Davis were arriving on the scene. European influence was taking shape as well. Meanwhile all things Hollywood had also influenced the American culture. Free thinking youngsters had begun to grasp the California culture and "the Beatnick" generation was happening. Groovey music, relaxed positions on life and smoking grass were gaining in popularity out there while the rest of America remained largely traditional in its values. The majority of California remained traditional as well outside of some population centers like LA and San Fransico. A few military brats had discovered big wave surfing in Hawaii.

    Police back east and in middle America were faced with drunk drivers, domestic disputes, burglaries and other typical issues. Criminals were doing what criminals did back then. Yet the basic structure of society was largely respectful of laws. Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie & Harriet type thinking. Out west police were seeing a change in attitudes. Police using flashlights was becoming normal. The designs of the time were getting more reliable thanks to military influenced production of more durable ideas.

    The post war anti-cold war movement along with a growing illegal drug trade was blossoming. Crime was taking on a new face there. I won't go into race relations except to say that in California a diverse culture didn't see skin tone as an issue for the most part. The rest of America.... well I'll leave it there for later. Washington DC was also very diverse in culture but the typical thinking was not.
    NASA had begun to use flashlights in general but they were an unlimited budget process thinking of ways to mimic sunlight... and sunlight brightness along with that.

    The 1960's saw a change in that Beatnicks had offspring, surfing was huge (thanks to Hollywoods Gidget movie) and protesting was catching on. America had dealt with the Korean conflict largely unchanged. But by late in that deal cold war thinking governments had sent "advisors" to a jungle called Vitenam. The big opponent to capitalism had begun to place their influence in territories with strategic thinking. America and its allies had licked fascist dictators in the 1940's and were not about to allow tiny countries to become run by communism. Agree or disagree with that philosophy today, that was the mindset back then. Across America tensions among its population were rising for several reasons. And the youth played a large role. Counter-culture was becoming the norm in many places, yet the vast majority had no idea of that. The police did though. They were on the front lines of it all. Trying to keep demonstrations orderly, disrupt the drug trade, and continue to fight "normal" crime caused them to take new steps in law enforcement.

    By this point factories across America were going 24/7 and all night stores were not unusual. An interstate roadway system was well under way, again thanks to military thinking whereby "if those dastardly commies invade we can get our tanks coast to coast in a few days". The "U-Tote-Em" stores that began in Texas as a basic staples idea with an Alaskan native theme had become a 7-11 store known for being open from 7 am to 11 pm 7 days a week. In 1963 they went to 24 hours and expanded across the country. Americans no longer slept after 9pm thanks to round the clock sunshine and round the clock employment. And with that American police were all becoming equipped with flashlights. Police departments no longer doled out one here and there in large populated areas. Places like Shreevport Alabama were now becoming modernized. Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles... they had been that way for a while. But even the proverbial one horse town's police were being issued flashlights.

    The need for a tactical approach was also becoming normal due to unrest, drugs and counter-culture. By the late 1960's about 1/2 of Americans owned a pair of Chuck Taylors and wore casual attire outside of work or school where dress codes were still in place. Police were facing lawsuits for over zealous behaviors and the divorce rate was escelating dramatically. Riots were breaking out too.

    The phrase "dope smoking hippies" was being used at dinner tables by factory worker dads warning their children of the perils of drug abuse while watching the Vietnam war on the 6:30 newscast. I knew what marijuana was by the age of 7. I lived during the Vietnam on tv period and saw a typical fridge mounted Rayovac become replaced by a Taiwann made Kel-Lite knockoff by Radio Shack. Tactical lights had found their way to our little one horse town that by then had three 7-11 stores and a 24 hour sunshine. Not everyone had one up to then. But if you knew a cop you knew where to buy one if you had the loot to spend on such a thing. By the time Maglite burst on the scene, the idea of a tactical flashlight was pretty standard.

    Between the threat of commies, crazed dope smoking hippies, the wacko/weirdo biker dude down the street and potential riots breaking out... oh and thunderstorms taking out the all night generator, we had come to count on a durable metal fire on a stick. By the 1980's as I said before, America was in a good mood for the first time in a while. The 60's were done. By then it was well known that the Hells Angels weren't going to abduct your little sister. Wages were on the increase and the minimag was available soon after. That little light may be the one that really changed things. 2D bright, tooth hold able, and worked everytime. Yeah buddy!! Police could now leave their SL20 in the patrol car and grab the minimag from their belt in a foot pursuit.

    Not known to most back then but a tiny company called Laser Products had set about changing the brightness available from a "tiny" platform. 5D bright and not much bigger than a minimag. Companies like Bright Star, LA Screw, and Maglite who supplied many police lights had no idea what was about to take place. Cocaine and its huge revenues caused police to change tactics again. Instead of a foot chase to catch a flip-flop wearing hippie carrying a napsack of grass, the drug folks had gone back to prohibition era tactics where automatic weapons were not unusual. Police needed more distance from their lighting tools as well. Coupled with law suits galore they were faced with the need for 'kinder-gentler' lighting tools while having the need for much larger sized lighting output. Those SLR camera battery fed lights were manna from heaven back then. American culture still prefered inexpensive flashlights. $80 for a flashlight was out of the question for all but a few. Yet by then Maglite copies were everywhere. Americans began to expect tactical durability at Rayovac prices and overseas factories were happy to oblige. Japanese and other Asian factories were good at making American style products. Again blame the military. America had played a hand in rebuilding the Japan they had destroyed in world war 2. Their culture combined with American know how had them able to compete with the rest of the planets industrial output, but for a lot less cost for a variety of reasons.

    Oh and one more point. In the first world war era the western culture had decided to modernize a very poor, but resource rich, old world country called China. Along the way the Chinese government had become influenced by communist thinking leaders. Eventually it became a communist country. Now they had sided with the Russians and being a population in the billion range were a pretty scary group to have against the west. They had a potential gun toting soldier for every man, woman and child across the west. Uh oh!!
    In the early 1970's an American President reached out to Chinas leaders and began easing tensions by promising to lend a hand in modernizing the culture through technology and food products. In time those leaders saw the advantage of a well fed factory worker.

    Stemming back to the 1920's some companies were taking advantage of this new resource of cheap labor. The military for example had local people doing the cleaning, cooking and maintenance tasks in exchange for the militaries ample available supply of food and drink. By the 1980's that had blossomed into a fabric of Chinese society used to better. Not better like Chuck Taylor wearing surfer dudes in America, but better as in not hungry and thirsty all the time. Also used to being housed in the dry during the rain season. America (and the west) had gotten used to having more disposable income and with the import of Asian goods at cheap prices they clamored for more. By the 1990's Asian made products were replacing American made products. Even police and military uniforms were being made outside the US. The American government began to require US made items like uniforms, weapons and flashlights. Bright Star Maglite, Streamlight and SureFire benefitted greatly by that. And another potential great called Pentagon paid a heavy price for skirting that rule.

    By then the large flashlight was being replaced by smaller ones. There was still a mindset that bigger was better. Afterall 6D batteries could fire a light bulb way better than 2 double A's. The SLR camera battery was still largely unavailable to the masses and expensive when found. Runtimes of those small lights was about an hour and bulbs were notoriously expensive as well. The big light remained supreme. Asian made durability was also becoming standard.

    Krypton bulbs were better than their predescessors by far. Brighter and more durable. The golden glow from a 3D flashlight was at a place never known before. A 3C powered light was a hit with decent runtimes, able to withstand abuse and worked everytime you pushed the button. Life was good for the flashlight carrying police officer. Rechargeable lighting was also readily available. Officers could have a fully charged 3C sized light at the start of their shift and could top it off from the patrol car. Unknown to most at the time were those novelty ideas called LED's.

    Like the original flashlight began around 1900 as a tiny novelty flashing light pinned to a necktie, the LED began in a very similar way.

    I'll leave off their....
    John 3:16

  25. #295

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Later this day I was confronted by the drastic changes little kids are faced with as 3 young boys (about 8-10 years old) were walking up my street talking to each other using language that would make Snoop Dawg blush. One boy bragging how next time he beats up another kid he's going to have it recorded on his celphone so he can show those other (insert bad word here) how tough he is....

    As they passed by I asked if they thought speaking that way makes then cool. I heard a trio of "no sir" lol.
    It just re-inforced in my mind why police have to use smarter tactics these days and how it may have begun in some jazz club in California in the 1950's.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 03-19-2018 at 05:27 AM.
    John 3:16

  26. #296
    Flashaholic* LiftdT4R's Avatar
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Awesome read, thanks for the history lesson!! Very interesting!

    I picked up what I think is going to be another challenging restoration but should be fun.



    It's serial #573, a very very early Covina made Kel-Lite that was produced for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. It's also done in silver which is very rare on Kel-Lites. Most of the parts are here and it has a reflector which is great but it's corroded which is bad because replacements are either very expensive or non-existent. I plan to try something new and restore this reflector because I have several other Kel-Lites that have blurry reflectors too. I'm thinking I will either strip it and polish it followed by a clear coat if it cleans up nice or strip it, prime it, and hit it with a chrome spray. I need to purchase a switch cover too but I have a nice hook up for them. I'll post some pictures as it goes and if anyone has any tips for the reflector restoration please let me know.

  27. #297

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Cool!!
    I'll do some side by sides with vintage lights from the 50's and 60's I have and see what would work reflector-wise. That reflector and bulb setup look very familiar.

    My guess is they sourced parts from a current manufacturer in the early-est days. Rayovac, GT Price or Fulton suppliers perhaps. Folks who had made lights for the US during Korea and Vietnam days.
    John 3:16

  28. #298
    Flashaholic* LiftdT4R's Avatar
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Man I wish I knew more about GT Price. I know they wound up buying LA Screw's design and made some right angle lights for the military and scouts but other than that I don't know too much.

  29. #299

    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread


    I'm 99.99% certain a Fulton or GT Price MX-991 reflector would swap out in your small head Kel-Lite.

    Shown is the Fulton version.
    Last edited by bykfixer; 04-12-2018 at 03:55 PM.
    John 3:16

  30. #300
    Flashaholic* LiftdT4R's Avatar
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    Default Re: The vintage California cop light company thread

    Interesting, that would certainly be easier than refinishing. Does anyone make replacement parts for those Fultons or do you just have to buy a whole donor light?

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