Please help me find a perfect tactical (not tacticool) light.

Mentat

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Apr 7, 2024
Messages
4
Location
USA
I'm looking for a quintessential tactical light. The key requirements are as follows:
  1. Simple UI. It should be possible to configure it so that it always turns on on turbo/high.
  2. It has to be possible to get a very strong grip on it.
  3. As much reliability and durability as possible.
  4. A beam that emphasizes throw, but with some spill for situational awareness.
Desirable but not necessary:
  1. Serviceability/availability of spare parts. So ideally no proprietary batteries…
  2. Not too much crenellation - I would like to be able to air-travel with the light.
The standard checklist is below. Choosing the right one would require hands-on experience, which I, unfortunately, lack. I hope you could help me with your combined decades of experience.

***

I have done some research. Please find some options I have considered below. I noted down my concerns. However, please, by all means point out if any of the assumptions I'm making are incorrect. My knowledge comes from research on the Internet, I have not handled any of the below lights in person.

Malkoff M61 HOT: Would have been perfect, if not for two issues:
  1. I believe Malkoffs maintain a steady output rather than stepping down after a few minutes. However, I do not expect to use a tactical flashlight for more than a minute at a time, and certainly not continuously. Having 50-100 kcd rather than 20 would would be preferable.
  2. I'm not sure how good a grip do the new sculptured bodies offer.
Surefire EDC2 DFT: Looks excellent, very high throw, but:
  1. There is very little knurling.
  2. The clip looks like it could be very uncomfortable if gripped hard.

Modlite Handheld 18650: Another compact thrower, potted electronics, but:
1. Lenses have been shown to crack quite easily in multiple YouTube videos.

Acebeam P16 Defender: High throw, seems durable (steel bezel, TIR lens), more affordable than the other options, but:
  1. What is the risk of accidentally activating the low mode during operation? Does anyone have hands-on experience with it?
Weltool T14 or T2/T8 TAC: Look perfect on paper. Replacement parts readily available.
  1. I wasn't able to find much credible information on durability/ergonomics.
  2. I can't figure out why the more compact T14 is so much more expensive than the T8 despite comparable performance. It's still less expensive than Surefire and Modlite, but I would like to know what exactly I'm paying for…
I would be very grateful if anyone with first-hand experience of these lights could eliminate any of my concerns - or recommend something I haven't considered. Thank you very much in advance!

***
==================Flashlight Recommendation Checklist================

1) How would you prefer to purchase the light?

__X_This will be mail-order or Online (location doesn't matter).

2) Budget: An easy question, but you may change your mind after answering the rest!
pastedGraphic.png

__X_Essentially unlimited.

3) Format:
__X_I want a flashlight (hand held/self contained).

4) Size:
__X_SMALL - Every day carry (4-7 inches).
__X_MEDIUM - Holster/belt ring carry. (>7 inches)

5) Emitter/Light source:
__X_LED (known for efficiency, longevity, and compactness)

6) Manufacturer:
__X_I want to buy a light from a large/traditional manufacturer that is ready to go out of the box.
_X__I am interested in assembling my own components. (for example a "host" or flashlight body from one manufacturer, and a "drop-in" emitter from another source).

7) What power source do you want to use?
__X_I intend to use Rechargeable cells based on less common formats (18500 or 18650 Li-Ion, RCR123, et-al).

7a) If you have selected a rechargeable option
__X_I want a separate/stand-alone charger (this involves removing the batteries to charge)

8) How much genuine out the front (OTF) light do you want/need? Sometimes you can have too much light (trying to read up close up with a 100 lumen light is not a happy experience).
__X_I want search and rescue type illumination (800+ lumens).

__X_SPECIAL NOTE: Burst/Turbo mode Category - There are several lights that will run at a super bright maximum for a very limited period (usually 5-10 minutes) and then will "step-down" to a lower level for thermal control. Check here if this is acceptable.

9) Flood vs Throw: Flood covers an area, Throw reaches out to a distance.
__X_Wide Throw: I want a beam with a noticeable hot-center for distance throw and a significant amount of "side-spill". Good for rough trail hiking, search and rescue, and general distance work.
__X_Narrow Throw: I want a beam with a very tight "hot center" and minimal "side-spill". Good for distance viewing, fog, and looking through dense undergrowth.

10) Runtime: Not over-inflated manufacturer runtime claims, but usable brightness measured from first activation to 50% with new batteries (Measured on maximum continuous output).
__X_Up to 30 minutes (I want the brightest [and potentially smallest] light for brief periods)

11) Durability/Usage: Generally the old phrase "you get what you pay for" is very accurate for flashlights.
__X_Critical (Police, Fire, Search & Rescue, Caving, Survival).

12) Switch Size, Type, and location (choose all that apply):
__X_I want a tail mounted switch (found on the majority of today's high end lights).

13) User Interface (UI) and mode selection. Select all that apply.
_X__A simple on-off with only one output level is fine for me.

14)Material/Finish/Coating
__X_Anodized Aluminum – either type II or III (Hard Anodized) (Aluminum, specifically HA, is the most common material/finish for today's higher end flashlights).
__X_Stainless steel (durable, but much heavier than aluminum.
__X_Titanium (durable and nearly as lightweight as aluminum, but can be moderately to significantly more expensive).

15) Water resistance
__X_IPX7 (Waterproof to 1 meter/30min)
__X_IPX8 (Submersible to greater than 1 meter for 4 hours)

16) Storage conditions
__X_In house (temperature/climate controlled environment)
 

jacobd

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Jul 28, 2023
Messages
66
Location
Mount Isa, Australia
My initial thoughts, besides your options-

Malkoff E2XT with an 18650 E series body. Decent runtime, nice amounts of throw (500lm 55,000 candela). Insanely durable. Main draw back is going to be only one mode (on/off) and maybe less spill than you'd like. I think it has okay spill, but the narrow emitter and TIR lens still pushes most light into the hotspot.

Weltool T12- Insane throw and good spill from a 40mm lens (2000 lumens and 140k Candela) but it's not potted, and any glass lens can break with the right drop, no not as durable as the Malkoff, although Weltool's are still very durable. More efficient than the Malkoff.

I own both, and I love both. I'd take the Malkoff if I was really likely to drop it on some rocks or was thinking it's likely to get damaged somehow. Otherwise I'd probably take the Weltool, just for the boost in brightness, throw and runtime.

Either way I'd have a small throwy backup just in case, like an Acebeam TAC AA in cool white with a 14500 or something.
 

ebuchner

Newly Enlightened
Joined
May 28, 2017
Messages
138
Surefire EDC2 DFT: Looks excellent, very high throw, but:
  1. There is very little knurling.
  2. The clip looks like it could be very uncomfortable if gripped hard.
Where #2 is a concern, the clip is very likely to be removable/replaceable. Not necessarily saying it's going to be the perfect light for your application, but that would be an easy concern to knock off the cons list. I've also noticed that Surefire knurling (especially if it's anything like the Millennium Series lights) tends to be quite sharp and grippy even over relatively small areas.
 

bykfixer

Flashaholic
Joined
Aug 9, 2015
Messages
20,555
Location
Dust in the Wind
I see you requested rechargeable but a true tactical light runs on primary batteries so no chance of a low voltage circuit activating for sudden darkness or breaking from being dropped or used as a hammer (wink wink).

Elzetta Charlie C133 or C453.
Both currently out of stock.

The "3" at the end is for hi/lo tail cap where you twist it slightly loose for low. Tighten all the way for high only. You can choose a high only tail cap and save a few $ too.

Expensive lights but worth it.
 

vicv

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 22, 2013
Messages
2,965
Location
Southern Ontario
I'd recommend the surefire edcl2-t. The DFT is not a very good choice. I feel it's a bit intense for regular use. It is practically a LEP. Unless you really need a small spotlight. And like bkfixer said, shouldn't be using 18650s for a tactical light anyway. And it has the two-stage tailcap. The best tactical u.i
 

wacbzz

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Nov 1, 2006
Messages
1,600
Location
North of the South
Search out the Fenix PD35 TAC. It checks all four of your key requirements and both of your desires (but not requirements).

I bought this light brand new and carry it almost every day. Your search has ended if you're being honest about your requirements. 🙂
 

Alaskantinbender

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Oct 16, 2017
Messages
106
I have been pretty happy with the Streamlight pollyTac X. I'm an aircraft flight mechanic so it does depend on your particular use. It's very grippy and the rechargeable battery doesn't just "go out" but drops off as the battery loses power. And you can use primaries if you like. Comes on in high but you can select lower modes easily. Pretty tough plastic and won't short anything out if working around electricity. Best of all it's pretty inexpensive and fits great in my Carhart leg pocket.
 

bykfixer

Flashaholic
Joined
Aug 9, 2015
Messages
20,555
Location
Dust in the Wind
I have been pretty happy with the Streamlight pollyTac X. I'm an aircraft flight mechanic so it does depend on your particular use. It's very grippy and the rechargeable battery doesn't just "go out" but drops off as the battery loses power. And you can use primaries if you like. Comes on in high but you can select lower modes easily. Pretty tough plastic and won't short anything out if working around electricity. Best of all it's pretty inexpensive and fits great in my Carhart leg pocket.
Can't you ten tap a polytac to program hi only if you prefer that?
 

aznsx

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 24, 2015
Messages
1,727
Location
Phoenix, AZ USA
I have been pretty happy with the Streamlight pollyTac X. I'm an aircraft flight mechanic so it does depend on your particular use. It's very grippy and the rechargeable battery doesn't just "go out" but drops off as the battery loses power. And you can use primaries if you like. Comes on in high but you can select lower modes easily. Pretty tough plastic and won't short anything out if working around electricity. Best of all it's pretty inexpensive and fits great in my Carhart leg pocket.
@Mentat

I like mine a lot. The output / time characteristics you mentioned look like this:

Screen Shot 2024-04-10 at 3.36.13 PM.png


The rest of the info looks like this:




The Ten-Tap is great. Note the glass lens, but with a 3(three!)-meter FL1 impact rating. That's hard to match. It's not a billion lumens, but I find the intensity / output pattern very usable. The only real downside is the price - it's only $50USD;-)
 

Monocrom

Flashaholic
Joined
Aug 27, 2006
Messages
20,393
Location
NYC
Seriously consider getting an older SureFire 6P with a newer LED upgrade. This is the Original true tactical light. And, quite frankly, unless you enjoy chasing after lumens monsters; still a good choice today. Streamlight has a number of models that are Ten-Tap programmable. With one of the programing options being High-mode ONLY.

I have a Weltool T14C, and this might be your best bet in a modern-day tactical light. (The B variation throws a bit further but isn't as bright in terms of lumens as the C.) Three odd things with the brand. One, you pay about double for their lights compared to similar quality models from other brands. Just realize you're going to be overpaying if you go with the Weltool option. Two, unlike the T14 and literally one other complete model in their line-up, Weltool decided to put holes around the circumference of their bezels. Bezels that can't be removed or taken apart. Clip-carried models will pick up massive amounts of pocket lint over the time that will get stuck inside the bezels. Seriously, what the Hell was the company thinking? And three, the brand is unusually popular with Australian users. Check YouTube for video reviews.

SureFire EDC2 DFT body is too smooth. Has a lower setting that is a bit too easy to accidentally hit. It's a do-everything large EDC light. It is definitely not a tactical light.

Acebeam P16 Defender is a personal favorite. But having learned through experience and too much money wasted NEVER buy a light that has more than one tailcap switch. Whether two buttons or a recessed small paddle switch and a larger main button to take you directly to Turbo mode. You WILL accidentally hit that other switch and get kicked into a lower mode. It's going to happen no matter what you try to do to prevent it. Again, I have a Limited Edition color one in Forest Green. But the U.I. is exactly the same as that of the stock black one. Love the light overall, but dual tailcap switches means it's not a true tactical light.

Hope this helped.
 

Lights and Guns

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Dec 25, 2016
Messages
186
Location
New York
My vote is in for the Modlite Plh-V2 handheld with the new multi-mode head.

I have been using the modlite for duty use for over (4) years now. Rain, shine, sleek, snow, grime, sun... it's seen it all.

It's also been dropped I can't remember how many times. The thing is scratched and scuffed up, but ZERO issues functionally and ZERO issues with the lens cracking/breaking as a result.

I absolutely love the Modlite for "tactical" role. You can have it set just for (1) mode... HIGH --- or you can set it to (2) modes, HIGH and then a half click for LOW mode. I run mine with the latter, High->Low mode. It makes for the perfect combo.

Whenever I grab my light and activate it, it turns on in high. But if I don't need all the light in the world, a half click, and I have enough light for just about everything else.

I can't recommend this light enough. I still have my GEN 1 head from 4+ years ago now. It's still being used quite often, and its still working just as good as the day I received it.

I've gone through a ton of lights before and after owning and using modlites, and non have been able to beat or making me even consider replacing the modlite on my kit. Most of those other lights I've returned or sold off. Some I've kept but they are pretty much just collecting dust on the shelf! haha

Anyway, goodluck with whatever decision you make!
 

Mentat

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Apr 7, 2024
Messages
4
Location
USA
Thank you, everyone, for the helpful comments so far! I'm researching some of your suggestions already and I have a few quick comments & questions:

1. Many of the lights recommended so far have a throw in the range of 10-20 kcd. For "tactical" applications, is there a significant advantage of having more? @Lights and Guns, Modlite Plh-V2 throws around 50kcd, if I recall, did you notice a substantial performance increase for the said applications when you switched to it?

2. @Monocrom the suggestion to stay away from dual switches simplifies my choice a lot... I have two follow-up questions. How does a readily available modern-day Malkoff M61 stack up against an upgraded Surefire 6P? Also, I checked that the other Weltool without the holes is the T17, a light of similar size and parameters to an M61 (at least on paper), advertised as extremely durable. If 15-20 kcd were enough, I guess either could be a good option. Otherwise, I might have to overpay for the T14.

3 @jacobd I have looked at the E2XT. Have you ever seen it used with the Lumens Factory bodies?There is a business in the USA that sells Malkoff heads with Lumens Factory bodies and switches, which look grippier than the Malkoff bodies, and made of the more durable 7075 aluminium alloy.

4 @bykfixer I didn't realize primary lithium batteries offer a durability advantage over 186500/217000 lithium ion batteries. These Elzettas seem extremely well engineered, shame they're unavailable.
 

Bob A

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Nov 30, 2023
Messages
60
Location
Maryland
My extreme preference for a flashlight is for 2 settings, Hi-Lo, with Hi being the default.

I've carried mostly SUrefires, and am happy with them.

Their old E1B Backup was a favorite, because I liked the tight spot beam. The new ones have a spready beam that I wanted to avoid. The TIR head does have some spill, but it's vert dim relative to the MV. No very knurly, though. The throw vs the size is what kept it in my pocket for years.

Currently carrying en EDC1-DFT, which has throw to burn, but a lot of spill. There are circumstances where that might not be what you'd want. Rechargeable, but also runs on cr123 if you have issues about that. Again, pocket-sized. I have to add in its favor that the Lo setting, at a stated 25 lumens, has been very useful; I'd been used to the 5 lumen setting, and was concerned that there's be just too much light. Not so.

For your consideration, I might suggest looking into the Surefire Fury Intellibeam. I consider it to be a do-everything light, but on consideration it has much to recommend itself for night carry. It's mostly flood, but there is a center bias, though nowhere near as extreme as the ED1-DFT. Where it may shine for you is the intellibeam feature, which provides a nice useful bright flood beam, but it auto-adjusts its output to keep you from being blinded by splashback. Loads of situational awareness, and pretty high lumens overall for outside night work. Also, if you just really need the punch, the second click will deliver full power 1400 lumens, eliminating the auto-reduction feature. It's got some knurling, and the head has 6 deep cuts which enhance the grippability. Only issue is I don't think it's dual-fuel. If you have access to one, give it a thought or two.
BTW it is a sizeable light, nearly 6" long, and without a pocket clip. Feels good and solid in hand.
 

drunktank

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Jan 17, 2024
Messages
10
Location
california
I was in the same boat looking for a new light and ended up buying several Malkoffs, the EDC1, EDC2, all Cloud Defensive models, and all Modlite models.

If I know I'll be leaving the light on for long periods, I bring one of the Malkoffs along since they don't throttle down as much. All 3 of my Clouds had broken tail caps and 2 bad heads so eff those lights. The Surefire Turbos are great and made me get rid of my EDCL2-T as the high candela is king for me. You mentioned getting a good grip and that's where the Turbos lacked for me. I ran grip tape for a while and although it was a big improvement, I find myself running Modlite's or Turbo heads on Modlite bodies. Best of both worlds to me.
 
Top