18650 Vs CR123

Lightboy21

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I have been thinking about buying a advanced flashlight and apparently the two popular battery types here are 18650 and CR123. Which is easiest to find? Do manufacturers like Duracell or Rayovac make 18650 cells? Do they come with the charger or do I have to buy that separately? Which would be the best value? How expensive are the batteries?
 

ChrisGarrett

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Li-ion 18650s have a lot of energy, but less voltage (4.2v) vs. 2xCR123As (6v)

If your light can handle the lower voltage and more lights these days will, get the 18650s and an appropriate charger.

$20-$30 can get you a decent charger--Xtar, Nitecore, Littokala, whatever and a couple of quality cells from either Sanyo, Panasonic, Sony/Murata, Samsung, or LG Chem.

Next question would be whether your particular light needs a button top, as found in typical AAs/AAAs. If you have a forward (head/LED) spring in the light, you probably don't need a BT and then the next issue is whether you want a protection circuit added to the base cell, to prevent overcharging, overcurrent or under-voltage.

Most modern lights have a low voltage cutoff built into the driver, so that point is now somewhat moot. Most modern, quality chargers don't over charge, so you fine on that front, which leaves high current cutoff, but a lot of lights don't exceed this, at least for single cells light, but some do.

Chris
 

xxo

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Get a dual fuel light that can run either a 18650 or 2x CR123A's. 18650's are cheaper to run, once you paid for the cell and a charger because they are rechargeable but CR123's are better for long term storage, extreme temperatures and special applications such as weapon lights and can be found at most stores that sell batteries, although they can be pricey unless you buy USA made brands such as Surefire on line - Chinese made CR123's may be unsafe and should be avoided.

These cells are much more potent than alkalines and there are some safety rules you will need to read up on and follow, such as not mixing partially drained and new CR123's or over discharging 18650's. Also you only want to use cells/chargers from reputable dealers/manufacturers - there a ton of dangerous fakes/junk on the market.
 

Scotty321

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I have been thinking about buying a advanced flashlight and apparently the two popular battery types here are 18650 and CR123. Which is easiest to find? Do manufacturers like Duracell or Rayovac make 18650 cells? Do they come with the charger or do I have to buy that separately? Which would be the best value? How expensive are the batteries?

A good vape shop should carry decent 18650's. The closest one to me had nice LG brand 18650's (brown wrapper). However, you might want to verify whether the flashlight requires non-protected, protected, high discharge (amps), or even proprietary versions (like some of the newer Olights and NiteCore's).

If you plan on using it every day or two, rechargeables are the way to go. If you keep one stored for emergencies, CR123's are a great option. Some flashlight's will take both, and some of those comes with an adapter so the CR123's don't rattle, or to allow CR123's with the proprietary battery design they made for their flashlights (i.e. NiteCore's P#i line - alhtough they use 21700's instead of 18650's). You might check to see if the manufacturer lists different outputs when using CR123's in their 18650 flashlight.

Generally speaking, I can pickup a pack of 12 CR123's directly from SF for about $25 before tax and shipping. That's less expensive than the 2 pack's of CR123's from Duracell, Energizer, and Streamlight at my local shops. They list a ten year storage life, and often have a "suggested use by" date printed on the battery.

A good unprotected 18650, (I would consider tbe brown LG I have just fine - rated 20A continuous discharge) should be prety inexpensive online, or at a vape shop that doesn't price gouge. Some reputable battery sites list ones for around $6, and it should last a number of years with daily use. However, some of the newer flashlights with higher lumen numbers might require "button top" cells, or the longer protected cells, or even cells with a higher Amp rating, i.e. Acebeam X10 requires 30A continuous for Turbo). Many times this is just a different branded flat top cell overwrapped with a protection circuit, charging adapter, and/or other wiring added on for specific flashlight designed for propietary batteries.

Keep in mind, that there are dangers with Li rechargeables, and you might need to pay more attention to your flashlight usage when using unprotected 18650's (or any Li rechargeable). For the record, you should use the same safe practices even if the 18650 comes with protection circuitry. I'd also NOT skimp on a good charger. However, if money's tight, some flashlights have USB charging built in (just remember not to do it when you are using the CR123's), until you can afford a good charger.
 

ChrisGarrett

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lightfooted

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What do you consider an "advanced" light? 18650 and CR123A despite having lithium in their names, are two completely different battery chemistries. The 18650 is rechargeable and the CR123A is not. The 123A performs better in temperature extremes, especially the cold while the 18650 is larger and therefore stores more energy.

In general you would need a separate charger for the 18650 unless the flashlight you buy has built in charging capability.

The CR123A being a non-rechargeable cell doesn't need a charger but re-supply can be expensive if only full retail is available.
 
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Katherine Alicia

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Get a dual fuel light that can run either a 18650 or 2x CR123A's.

100% agree.
You can even get P60 LED dropins that will cover a 3-9v range, so an 18650 will work or a pair of 16340`s, CR123`s, 16350`s giving you 4 battery types to work with.

edited to add: if you do decide to use CR123 cells as a pair, make 100% sure that they are matched under load!
 
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