Maximizing on-body lighting capability in a simple system.

ekardscribner73

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Hi all,

I'm obsessed with improving and perfecting my "systems." This week I've been debating with myself on the subject of daily carry lights. Here are the capabilities I need:

1. A tactical-bright flashlight with enough output and throw to illuminate a potential danger area, disorient an attacker or support handgun employment. Must be able to access maximum output in a momentary mode with no chance of accidentally activating a different light mode.

2. A utility-bright flashlight with low enough output and with enough flood to complete close-up tasks comfortably without totally ruining night vision. Must have long enough runtime to last me through an emergency such as a breakdown or injury in a remote location that would require me to hike out or treat myself or someone else.

How would you satisfy both of these requirements within what can be reasonably carried on your person? (Secondary lights in a bag or vehicle are good but don't resolve the dilemma, because often one needs to use what's close at hand.) Other "mission-essential" gear limits even cargo pocket space; is it worth finding a way to carry two lights? On the other hand, is the compromise of choosing a jack-of-all-trades worth the performance hit?

I've read some other similar threads but I'm hungry for more discussion. I realize that it's not that complicated, but you all know how complicated such a decision can seem for someone who cares about the details of a good system. I am interested in hearing from people with varied lifestyles and professions who have relevant experience, especially LEO, mechanics, or people who wander around at night for fun. Is anyone interested in talking through this?

Cheers,
Drake

ETA: This is my first real post here; I won't be shocked to get some rolling eyes or some suchlike reaction. Fire away!
 
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kerneldrop

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What's your budget?

The only one-light solution for your two scenarios would be a multi-mode light that turns on 100% output, and goes down from there upon mode selection.
Some examples of modes % output: 100/50/20/1/F, 100/50/15/5/1/F, 100/33/5/F, 100/15/F, 100/33/5, 100/33/F
Those modes are available on most Sky Lumen lights.
Here's one for example: https://skylumen.com/products/sky-l...2-clicky-thrower?_pos=46&_sid=b1fbe4290&_ss=r

The problem with that setup is that every turn on the light will be obnoxious at 100% output. But that might not bother you.

However, if #1 is that serious of a scenario, then a reliable USA made single high output only flashlight is the way to go.
But then you're back to a two light scenario.

I'm unfamiliar with import lights....I'm sure there's several other brands.

I'll take 400 reliable lumens over 4,000 somewhat-reliable lumens. And that leads me to Malkoff or Elzetta.
 
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idleprocess

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1. A tactical-bright flashlight with enough output and throw to illuminate a potential danger area, disorient an attacker or support handgun employment. Must be able to access maximum output in a momentary mode with no chance of accidentally activating a different light mode.
The traditional solution to this problem is a dedicated weapon light mounted to the pistol: always where it needs to be, single-mode operation, frees up a hand. There are a number of options in this field; I personally prefer something fueled by a lithium primary cell for reliability and the ability to immediately swap cells. 1x123A and 1xCR2 can be had from a variety of vendors. Holsters are typically available to accommodate mounted weapon lights.

2. A utility-bright flashlight with low enough output and with enough flood to complete close-up tasks comfortably without totally ruining night vision. Must have long enough runtime to last me through an emergency such as a breakdown or injury in a remote location that would require me to hike out or treat myself or someone else.
There are a far wider variety of solutions to this problem - to the point that you'll need to clarify your output and runtime requirements as well, acceptable limits are for "on your person", and whether carrying space cells is acceptable.
 

KITROBASKIN

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Welcome new member from Camp Pendleton! You have good questions. Fortunately flashlights are not so expensive that some experimentation is possible. Hearing from others first can save time and expense.

If you are going to be armed, then a simple reliable one-mode flashlight, in my opinion, is the only way to go. Whether momentary only, or otherwise, that is a consideration.

During the day, lightweight is the answer for me: Hi CRI Nitecore TIP on a Grimloc, with a Cyan Photon attached. Then a Photon on the keychain. Work/Day bag has a multi mode, single 18650 thrower (EagTac with ~2.5 inch reflector) and a single 18650 multi-purpose with decent throw.

We walk the dogs every night, so usually a Zebralight SC 64 LE, Eagtac D25LC2 clicky with low mode activated and a SST-20 4000K, or a Lumintop FW1A with same emitter as Eagtac (More throw with the EagTac but nicer cast with the FW1A). Sometimes it's good to take a triple or quad for a pleasant, wide view of the forest, but I try to always have something that can penetrate the night for safety and chance wildlife viewing.
 

ekardscribner73

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Everyone, thank you for the detailed, thoughtful responses. I value your experience and your opinions. Wish I could respond to all of it!

I'll take 400 reliable lumens over 4,000 somewhat-reliable lumens. And that leads me to Malkoff or Elzetta.
I'm definitely in this camp as well. I'm good with Surefire/Malkoff/Elzetta prices, as long as the light is dead-reliable, and I'd like it to be what I call "heirloom-quality;" something satisfying to own and hold in the hand. I like the SkyLumen output level schemes that you shared, but I would prefer to be able to "lock" it in high-only mode like the Malkoff MD2 or Elzetta Bravo. I also wonder if I'd become frustrated at only having access to one low-mode brightness level.

There are a far wider variety of solutions to this problem - to the point that you'll need to clarify your output and runtime requirements as well, acceptable limits are for "on your person", and whether carrying space cells is acceptable.
I've thought hard about a weapon-light on my carry gun. I think that even with a weaponlight on the gun, a tactical handheld is still necessary to provide target-ID or nonlethal capabilities even before I point the weapon at someone.

Here's some clarification on my requirements:
-Output: I think I'd be alright with output similar to my Streamlight and that's only what, 7,000cd and 500 lumen? I'd like a moonlight mode and a few other low outputs between 1 and 100 lumens.

- Runtime: High mode: 1.5hr or so? Don't really care. Low mode: The light should have at least one output that could burn for 24hrs. Ideally closer to 50 so a full day of utility use wouldn't disable it as a tactical option. Extra batteries will be on hand in a bag but I wouldn't consider carrying any on my person.

-On-the-body limits: I've been wondering this myself. I'm comfortable with my Streamlight and I wonder if I could pocket an Elzetta Bravo comfortably as well. I usually throw it in my left cargo pocket.

If you are going to be armed, then a simple reliable one-mode flashlight, in my opinion, is the only way to go. Whether momentary only, or otherwise, that is a consideration.
I feel this way as well; this is really the problem I'm trying to get around!

You listed some great lights in your post. Do you feel that the EagTac or Zebralight are in the same durability class as the tough lights that I'm interested in for self-defense? I notice the EagTac D25LC2's UI is almost what I'm looking for.



The questions that come to my mind for all of you are
- Do you know of any lights that can lock in high mode (preferably a physical lock like a twist head) that meet my low-level output/runtime requirements and are tough and reliable enough to treat as a primary tactical light?
- Do you think that the HDS EDC Tactical could be an option, or is the rotary dial too fidgety to count on in a fight-for-your-life situation? Is the output enough? I like the pseudo-momentary function and the fact that you can lock it in momentary-only on the fly.
 

idleprocess

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I've thought hard about a weapon-light on my carry gun. I think that even with a weaponlight on the gun, a tactical handheld is still necessary to provide target-ID or nonlethal capabilities even before I point the weapon at someone.
Fair enough.

Here's some clarification on my requirements:
-Output: I think I'd be alright with output similar to my Streamlight and that's only what, 7,000cd and 500 lumen? I'd like a moonlight mode and a few other low outputs between 1 and 100 lumens.

- Runtime: High mode: 1.5hr or so? Don't really care. Low mode: The light should have at least one output that could burn for 24hrs. Ideally closer to 50 so a full day of utility use wouldn't disable it as a tactical option. Extra batteries will be on hand in a bag but I wouldn't consider carrying any on my person.

-On-the-body limits: I've been wondering this myself. I'm comfortable with my Streamlight and I wonder if I could pocket an Elzetta Bravo comfortably as well. I usually throw it in my left cargo pocket.
I'm confused because you're seemingly comingling requirements here.

Since you mention Elzetta, your tactical light could be something like the B551 or B451, which feature single-output push-momentary / twist-continuous.

Your utility light will need to be something else entirely:
  • "multimode" and "tactical" are for the most part mutually-exclusive concepts; runtime on tactical lights is generally an hour or less
  • "flood" is the antithesis of "tactical" and I don't think you want to deal with the general cheapness of zoomies
 

ekardscribner73

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I'm confused because you're seemingly comingling requirements here
I apologize for the confusing explanation. What you're seeing is my trying to get one light to do everything. It's seeming like that might require too many compromises for me to be comfortable with it.


After these several messages we've traded, I think this is what I'm looking for:

- high mode: somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 lumen/8000cd, runtime 1.5+ hours
- low modes: several options ranging from firefly to ~150 lumens. correspondingly high runtime.
- high mode selectable in a way that wouldn't allow accidentally selecting another mode.
- a balanced beam profile (punchy with useful spill) that would lend itself to a variety of use cases
- tailcap switch
- durability/reliability to the level of Surefire/Elzetta/Malkoff. Fully potted, etc.

I guess I'm wishing there were something like an Elzetta B133 with the twist high-low switch but with more than one low mode. I wanted HDS to be the solution, but it doesn't lock in maximum mode and the output might be shy of tactically useful. I'd be open to suggestions if there are any other lights that fit this description, but from what y'all have shared it's starting to look like I should just be focusing on how to comfortably carry two lights!
 

kerneldrop

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@ekardscribner73

I've learned through years of benchrest that you're best served buying a product built specific for your purpose.
Compromising is never satisfying...and leads to multiple purchases. So, like what @idleprocess alluded to , comingling requirements generally don't work out.

Now this gets pricey....but if you want an obtainable bombproof heirloom WITH several mode options, then here (This does not include the potted P60 drop-in): https://skylumen.com/collections/v54-lights/products/sky-lumen-nguyen-serial-61-100
Here's the VN4 modes: https://skylumen.com/pages/drivervn-drivervnx-programmable-circuits

If you don't want a multi-mode then maybe the Malkoff MD2 with the mechanical high/low switch makes the most sense. The M61 Hot may even be better for you, but only takes 18650. There is only 1 of both left.
I give Malkoff the nod over Elzetta strictly because Malkoff takes the 18650 and CR123 batteries. Elzetta only takes CR123.
And you can order a Malkoff today.

As far as HDS....only comment I have is there's no telling when you'll get one due to supply issues.
 

ekardscribner73

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That Skylumen is a beautiful thing! Doubtless worth every penny. Not really my cup of tea--perhaps a little too, er, flashy? I was about to ask you about your MD2 after seeing your thread from earlier this year. I think I like the looks of the standard M61 450-lumen drop-in. After having the chance to carry and use it, have you ever felt that the low mode was too bright for a certain situation? Too dim? Did you find the head to feel wobbly when loosened to low mode?
 

Hooked on Fenix

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The best option I’ve seen so far is to get a Nitecore MH12s, use it once on the high/turbo setting you want, to activate mode memory, and use it at that level for tactical situations. You have settings of 1, 50, 300, 1050, and 1800 lumens to choose from. The light costs $90. Other options like the Nitecore P20iX get complicated with daily and tactical modes and costs $120. There are few lights with a mode selector ring and even fewer that also have an on/off button (I thought Fenix PD40R v.2 came close to your needs until I found out there is no separate on/off button.)
 

scout24

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I'll be somewhat contrarian, just because I can. 😁 Tactical type light, max output and momentary capable, Elzetta Alpha with the proper tailcap. (Alpha 111) Anything bigger gets left behind, and it is bright/throws enough to identify anything you have any business pointing a pistol at in a defensive scenario, never mind using said pistol.
Utility light with awesome low, long runtimes, and built to last forever? Get an HDS. The UI and what is possible with it is mind boggling when you start delving into what it's capable of, yet you can make it so stone simple that your four year old can run it with 2 minutes of instruction. Huge plus, battery commonality. Throw a few 10 year shelf life 123 primary cells in your carry bag, and you can power either light.
 

CHNeal

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Malkoff Bodyguard V2 takes care of both the SD and task type lighting. Peak Eiger tossed into the bottom of of your pocket covers moonlight low and up close stuff.

I own other task specific lights and use them a lot but the above is my EDC along with the tlr-7a on my G19.
 

kerneldrop

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That Skylumen is a beautiful thing! Doubtless worth every penny. Not really my cup of tea--perhaps a little too, er, flashy? I was about to ask you about your MD2 after seeing your thread from earlier this year. I think I like the looks of the standard M61 450-lumen drop-in. After having the chance to carry and use it, have you ever felt that the low mode was too bright for a certain situation? Too dim? Did you find the head to feel wobbly when loosened to low mode?

MD2 on low is ~15 lumens
I've never been in a situation where it was too bright. But I'm not a sophisticated user.
Like what @CHNeal mentioned... Peak Eiger for the times you need moonlight is the ticket.
Peak is as durable and reliable as it gets.

From high to low is 1/32" of a twist....so it's not really loosened as much as less snug.
The head is not wobbly.

If you do multi-mode the performance will be hard to beat: https://skylumen.com/products/sky-l...6&_sid=467b671b2&_ss=r&variant=39822462255264
or it's smaller brother: https://skylumen.com/collections/v54-lights/products/sky-lumen-xvii-compact-18650-clicky-power-house
 

ekardscribner73

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@Hooked on Fenix Thanks for your input. I can tell you thought carefully about the lights you suggested. I've sort of fallen out of love with Nitecore of late. I have three of their lights but the newer and more complicated they get, the less I like them. I've had problems with their lights that make me doubt their reliability and lose confidence with them, at least as primary lights.

@scout24 Great suggestions! For some reason, I had written off the Elzetta Alpha series and moved straight on to the Bravo. If the Alpha is enough for my use case, the problem of primary vs rechargeables and the overall battery scheme of my system becomes quite simple. I will likely get an HDS one day when I can count on them shipping within the same year!

@CHNeal I hadn't even considered Peak. The Logan is amazing. A totally viable low-light device. And the price is incredible for what it is. I like the low-output overlap in your system. Seems easy to use.

@kerneldrop Thanks for the feedback on that Malkoff. It's definitely on my wishlist. I'll have to give Skylumen some more thought as I can tell you think highly of them.


This conversation has been very helpful to me; I appreciate all of your input. Right now I'm thinking I'll try a few Peak lights and one day an HDS for low-output tasks and general utility, with an Elzetta Alpha or Malkoff MD2 as a primary tactical light with a task-capable low-mode as a backup option or for use in emergency. I'll probably have to acquire them over time, but I'm looking forward to it!
 

kerneldrop

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... I'll have to give Skylumen some more thought as I can tell you think highly of them...


This conversation has been very helpful to me; I appreciate all of your input. Right now I'm thinking I'll try a few Peak lights and one day an HDS for low-output tasks and general utility, with an Elzetta Alpha or Malkoff MD2 as a primary tactical light with a task-capable low-mode as a backup option or for use in emergency. I'll probably have to acquire them over time, but I'm looking forward to it!

It's just the only high lumen output mode options I have experience with, has real lumen outputs and several mode options. Those lights are a reverse clicky. The only way to change modes is after the light is turned on....there's no accidently going from 100 to 30%. I was just trying to save you some $ with a suitable one-light-solution. I actually have mostly Peak. I just changed the mode on the 18650 XVII to 100% single-mode. That little light cannon is gonna shine.

To add a little fun to the selection process. Here's a 2-step option you can make your own:
Get a P60 host like this 21700 host (with the upgraded high-current reverse switch): https://skylumen.com/products/kdlitker-e6vn-21700-p60-host?_pos=1&_sid=b09cf4701&_ss=r
Then get the P60 potted light engine you want...so you can make it yours: https://skylumen.com/products/p60vn-light-engines?_pos=2&_sid=32b08c517&_ss=r

At least you know about HDS. Their fans enjoy the drama and chant the mantra "Trust the Process" as they wait an unknown time for their prepaid "hard use" light.
 
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bykfixer

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Bright guy has the 250 lumen HDS executive in stock right now. Is it the latest UI? Probably not. There are often pre-built HDS lights to be found on the web from previous generation operating systems.

On every good cop show when the perp has the hero in trouble and says "drop your weapon"……and the hero does, the perp then says "now your other one" and the hero pulls out one stashed somewhere. See a pattern?

The Elzetta Alpha hi/lo would be the other one in my estimation with a rotary HDS or Elzetta Bravo hi/lo as the primary. Nothing wrong with an MD2 hi/lo, and Bodyguard combo by Malkoff either.

Any way you go, for guarenteed protection a combination of two lights should be considered with an optional third light like a 2 double a or triple a as a shirt pocket light like a Streamlight stylus or aaa minimag.
 

fuyume

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I would suggest that the vast majority of attempts to get a tactical light to do the job of a utility light, and vice versa, are bad ideas poorly executed. If you really think you need to carry a true tactical, life critical, personal protection light, then buy a purpose-built tactical light, built around the 21700 battery type, and get a second, different, utility light for non-critical use.

I'm very happy with my Fenix PD36 TAC, and it can be physically locked into Tactical Mode, which has only one brightness setting of 2000 lumens. On/off/strobe, that's it. It's not as good as a utility light in Duty Mode, since the lowest mode is 30 lumens, which I consider too bright for many utility tasks.

I would also consider the Nitecore Pi and PiX series, which use their 21700i series batteries.

For utility use, I would look for something with a Low mode of less than 10 lumens, and a Med mode of 30-50 lumens, that uses a common battery type. For my EDC light, I've chosen a Nitecore EC11 (sadly discontinued), with a Fenix ARB-L16-700UP battery (16340 type, 2.5A max discharge rate, micro-USB charging), but there are many other fine options.

IMO: A proper tactical light should only ever turn on in brightest mode. A proper utility light should only ever turn on in lowest mode. In neither case should they have "memory", although for a utility light, memory is tolerable so long as there is a way to bypass it. For a utility light, a red or UV secondary illuminator can be helpful.
 

SimulatedZero

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So, I have a bit of experience with maintaining an on-body system in a variety of environments and roles. The best that I've found for me is a primary belt mount light with a quick access holster and a pocket AA light.

Depending on what you need, a primary light should be able to maintain output and fill that jack of all trades in the sense that you can see far away without being tunnel visioned. My last two lights for this were a Klarus XT12GT when I worked day shift (always high or strobe from off, easy mode switching) Worked very well for searching or lighting things up in an ambient light environment and was a beast in dark environments. Never felt tunnel vision in buildings, rooms, or even Cars.

My other primary was an Eagle Tac GX30L2-R or something. They're older 2x18650. 1000 lumens, 40k candela, momentary only function or constant on. It didn't thermally step down and would last all night on one charge. The SX series was one I wanted, and never got, for the bigger battery and run time. The new ones have two buttons and still offer the same function, but I'd be a but worried about getting that right under stress. Would make an absolutely awesome general search light though.

Third option is carrying a single mode primary like Surefire and having the utility light as backup.

If you have the space and weight to carry three I would do a surefire in a quick draw on the front of my belt, a primary on the back non dominate side, and a utility in a pocket. But, I don't know what kind of stress use you anticipate. You may not need to be able to put light on something under duress and the surefire quick draw may not be necessary.

As far as utility light. I used and still use a Fenix LD22. Armytek Partner Pro A2, Thurnitre Archer 2A are good comps. Armytek probably being the toughest and highest quality. The common between is the dead simple UI. Tail cap turns it on, turns it off. Need more or less light, tap the side button, set to medium and forget it. It's not your primary, so it doesn't need to be a primary light level. AA batteries are common and every where. If everything went wrong, I could go to a gas station and grab more AAs. Always kept a Nitecore EA41 in my bag as a back up for that purpose. Trust me when I say the simple UI works wonders if your multi tasking and need simplicity.


If you're not anticipating high stress, I loved my Fenix TK16 caving and in the woods as my belt light with the single AA LD12 in my pocket.

Any number of lights will work well if your not considering tactical only as a primary. As far a output and beam shape, think of it like a ratio. For every lumen, you want 40 to 50 candela. IE, 300 lumens at 12k to 15k cd (Fenix TK15, fantastic light. Used one for years) 1000 lumens at 40k to 50k candela (Eagtac GX, Streamlight Stinger HL, etc). All make excellent distance lights with enough spill to be useful up close on low modes. Thats my personal preference for a general purpose work light. That being said, 200 lumens at 5k cd is a good ratio for a up close "workhorse" light like a Fenix LD22.

Just some thoughts on a system I used for a long time and what I look for in light output and intensity. Pick your preferred UI and fit within that. Or don't. But to me, a good belt light with a pocket general use, worked and still works very well. In a lot of different scenarios.

Cheers,
SZ
 

KITROBASKIN

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"You listed some great lights in your post. Do you feel that the EagTac or Zebralight are in the same durability class as the tough lights that I'm interested in for self-defense? I notice the EagTac D25LC2's UI is almost what I'm looking for."

Good question, and the simple answer is no for 'tactical' use. But then again, anyone recommending NiteCore, ArmyTek, Fenix, Klarus or others is not reliable enough for dire situations, one opinion. We've heard of people killing when thinking they grabbed their Tasers; Folks with weapon mounted lights getting confused under stress with tragic results; even a grown up intelligent person killing with a negligent discharge because an assistant director said a gun was safe but the actor did not check the gun himself.

Multi-modes beget potential issues. We occasionally hear about the venerable HDS not always being perfectly reliable, and that is understandable. By golly, even a single mode P60 installed by the user can have reliability issues. I can go into detail of why Zebralight, EagTac, and Anduril flashlights (including Lumintop) are not entirely stone cold reliable based on my use, if you want. But they work for our application and we always have more than one flashlight.

Interesting discussion and hats off to the polite, thoughtful thread maker here.
 
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