Some notes on reliability from a flashlight user

Quiksilver

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Joined
Jul 21, 2010
Messages
472
Hi guys,

Think a few of you guys might find this helpful.

Just a small review of flashlight reliability.

I consider reliability to be the highest priority out of a tool, including flashlights.

I have owned and operated lights from these companies:

Malkoff
HDS
Fenix
FourSevens
Surefire
MagLite
ZebraLight
???
(a small company which makes 9-volt battery flashlights, not sure the name anymore. They sent me a nice hand-written letter with the lights too.)


The only companies which have made products that haven't failed me:

Malkoff
Surefire
(and the small unknown 9v light company :) )

All the rest:

- Fenix
- FourSevens
- MagLite
- ZebraLight
- A few others

I now have no lights remaining from those companies. The only lights I have left are Malkoff and Surefire.

Why is this?

They have broken/failed/died. After a few years (or weeks) the light just fails for one reason or another. The result is that, after awhile, I now have only Malkoff and Surefire lights left functioning.


Other notes:

* My Fenix LD05 keychain light has never failed.
* My HDS Rotary is in for repairs currently after it failing a few years ago (yes yes i know, lost it for awhile).
* I do still have a MagLite however it has a Malkoff drop-in, so not sure that counts.
 
Last edited:

leon2245

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Thanks for sharing, but you know they're going to get mad.
 

Berneck1

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Feb 14, 2012
Messages
509
I have often heard that Surefire lights in particular are very reliable. However, while I understand that you get what you pay for, you can in many cases purchase two or three good quality lights for the same price as some of these "more reliable" lights. I prefer to have redundancy than rely on one much more expensive light.

I have had lights from Eagletac, Olight, Nitecore, Fenix, Thrunite, Maglite and a few others. I have had one or two fail, but largely they have not let me down. And, because they are less expensive than lights like Malkoff, Surefire and HDS, I have many more to rely on.




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osef

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Jan 3, 2015
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NC
Thanks for the data point. I have all of the brands you mentioned (except for FourSevens), but I haven't experienced a failure . . . yet. I did receive a defective AA light from a small company, but they are working on a replacement.

A living catalog of flashlight models and their failures would be very useful, with potential for sticky-dom.
 

NoNotAgain

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Jan 25, 2014
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Blue Ridge Mountains, VA
I have often heard that Surefire lights in particular are very reliable. However, while I understand that you get what you pay for, you can in many cases purchase two or three good quality lights for the same price as some of these "more reliable" lights. I prefer to have redundancy than rely on one much more expensive light.

I have had lights from Eagletac, Olight, Nitecore, Fenix, Thrunite, Maglite and a few others. I have had one or two fail, but largely they have not let me down. And, because they are less expensive than lights like Malkoff, Surefire and HDS, I have many more to rely on.

I've got lights from Fenix, Mag, Nitecore, Olight, Surefire, and Thrunite. I haven't had a failure out of any of them, however I don't typically drop my lights either on the ground or in water. I did have a light fail on me, but I can't remember what light it was, but it was my fault not the lights.

The cost of a Surefire 6P running around $60 isn't an expensive light by any means. The simplicity of the light that operates without a switch means that it's going to be rugged. Having the body bored to accept an 18650 and CR123 cells is also a plus.

IMO, I think the thing that has contributed to a number of light failures is that with the introduction of RoHS, meaning lead free solder, that a number of the light failures after being dropped are a result of cold solder joints.

I still have a large supply of 60/40 rosin core solder, and anything I take apart gets cleaned and when put back together get lead based solder. Lead is much more ductile that the tin based solders. Tin based solders also have a known problem of when exposed to humidity to grow "tin whiskers" which cause short circuits.
 

rotncore

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Feb 16, 2006
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Toronto
I have often heard that Surefire lights in particular are very reliable. However, while I understand that you get what you pay for, you can in many cases purchase two or three good quality lights for the same price as some of these "more reliable" lights. I prefer to have redundancy than rely on one much more expensive light.

Pretty much this. While Surefire lights are reliable (I have several bored 6Ps as my core handheld lights, and Malkoff drop ins) you can buy multiple less expensive lights for the same price. I'm hesitant to loan them to people, or leave them in my car or somewhere I'm not present for this reason. Tools get lost, and the best tool you can have is one that is always with you. 4 Solarforce lights purchased for the same price and with higher output than a Surefire/Malkoff combo will likely last longer, accounting for loss and theft if truly used day to day. Not that I don't like my SFs, but abandoning other brands entirely for pure reliability doesn't make sense to me in the longer term. There is a ratio of reliability to cost that I also consider on a daily user/beater light, and a lower cost makes the '2 is 1, and 1 is none' adage easier to adhere to.
 

ven

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Oct 17, 2013
Messages
22,533
Location
Manchester UK
Appreciate the time/effort of your results:),for me imho its really only good for you. You now have brands you will stick with and may avoid others. I can tell you ,brands that you have not had an issue with,someone will have had,and visa versa.........

It would be interesting for a full brand survey,but would require 1000s of people to build a bigger picture. I admit some companies seem to have better QC than others......some by a long way from what people have had.........

Have many brands,fenix is the only one i got DOA or as near as possible,flickered then off,Fenix sent head out and received within 3 weeks for free. The brand people love to hate lenser,i had one fail due to me dropping on a tiled floor from 3ft+ on rear clicky,still worked,just would not always click(if carlsberg did unforgiving floors then...........:laughing: )Part was sent out,received next day FOC,no questions asked other than the address to send part. My Lensers have taken the most beatings out of all my lights and survived...........

I think if a light works for a week its good to go,usually fails happen straight away or within first few uses. What is important is warranty,customer service. Most now like Fenix and Lenser,Nitecore have upped to 5yrs which is great...........well compared to 2yrs of past anyway.

I am quite ashamed but admit i dont own a surefire,main reason is cells,3V 123=no good for me in UK,now 18650 option i may be swayed. I just cant see what much more they can offer over certain brands for a considerable hike in cost. Are they 3x or 4x as good.........? maybe i will find out. My £40 pd35 if lost i wont be happy,but it wont ruin my day,a £150+ light would!!!

Elzetta i really want,these look like you could hammer nails in with..........not to mention i love the design too. This brand i really want in my life.........just importing one is not cheap either.

I have read many reports on nitecore being unreliable,never had a single issue with any of mine,as reliable as any for me..........just not had a hard life like some lensers of mine.
 

reppans

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Joined
Mar 25, 2007
Messages
4,873
I would expect Surefire and Malkoff to outlast those other brands - no surprises for me. That said, I'm another one that owns most of those brands, and more, and (knock on wood) have yet to experience an outright field failure. I've had a DOA and few OTB issues (Malkoff included) that were swapped by dealer/manufacturer without much hassle or cost, though.

While I certainly do enjoy the build quality and pride of ownership of my quality US lights, they don't see as much use as my Asian-manufactured lights due to their lack of features/versatility - ie, output range (low lumens) and/or battery compatibility for me. I understand the feature/reliability trade-off, but I'm not in law enforcement and a failure would just cost me a few seconds to pull out my back-up light, and I've never needed it so far.

I'm with Ven on the warranty and CS issue though, it's nice to see Olight and NC stepping up to 5yrs (Fenix still seems ~2yrs??), but that only matters if their CS can make it hassle free. In my experience, Foursevens beats the US manufacturers in CS.

Lastly, I happen to enjoy participating in the failure threads, and it seems like 2/3rds of them are simple issues that can be fixed or avoided by a clean/lube, tightened retaining ring, or just using a spec battery (length and/or voltage), and the issues are usually easily diagnosed by understanding how to test/trace the electrical path.... well, at least for mechanical clickies - all bets are off with the trend toward electronic switches ;).
 

NoNotAgain

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Jan 25, 2014
Messages
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Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, VA
I'm with Ven on the warranty and CS issue though, it's nice to see Olight and NC stepping up to 5yrs (Fenix still seems ~2yrs??), but that only matters if their CS can make it hassle free. In my experience, Foursevens beats the US manufacturers in CS.

Fenix now claims a life time warranty on their lights.


Lifetime Limited
Warranty
Open Air Brands LLC, dba Fenix Lighting
US, guarantees all Fenix products
purchased from retailers directly supported
by them to be made of first-class materials
and therefore provides a lifetime warranty
against any defects in material and
workmanship.
 

JerryM

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Joined
Dec 12, 2003
Messages
1,042
Location
New Mexico
I do not doubt the truth of the OP. However, it is strange to me that I have never had one fail, and others seem to find most of those rejected brands reliable. I should change the never to the fact that years ago when the ARC was the edc rage, and considered to be bulletproof, I had three fail to turn on at various times. But other than those, I have not had failures of either cheap or Surfires.

I admit that I am not hard on lights, and have not had reason to drop them off cliffs. I just have to wonder how hard the failures were used? I have used some SK 68 and clones for years without a single failure. ????

I have noticed that many flashaholics are always fooling with their lights so their lights must get several life times of use every month.
Jerry
 

reppans

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Messages
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Fenix now claims a life time warranty on their lights.

Thanks... do you have a link for that? Only thing I can find is THIS saying 2yrs. Tried Fenixlighting.com which seems to be their US office/site(?) and there's no warranty info. Also, does "limited" mean you pay for parts?
 

NoNotAgain

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Blue Ridge Mountains, VA
Thanks... do you have a link for that? Only thing I can find is THIS saying 2yrs. Tried Fenixlighting.com which seems to be their US office/site(?) and there's no warranty info. Also, does "limited" mean you pay for parts?


The new warranty statement is in the 2015 catalog. fenixlighting.com/portals/0/images/FenixCatalog-2015.pdf It's on page 3 of 28.
 

reppans

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
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Messages
4,873
The new warranty statement is in the 2015 catalog. fenixlighting.com/portals/0/images/FenixCatalog-2015.pdf It's on page 3 of 28.

Appreciate it... that US warranty does look better than what appears to Fenix's Int'l warranty on my link above.... and sounds like domestic shipping too.
 

skyfire

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Joined
Dec 4, 2009
Messages
1,823
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Los Angeles
ive pretty much come to the same conclusion. surefire, and malkoff are by far, my 2 favorite brands. and could only recommend those.
i tried many other brands as well, and although i didnt experience a complete failure with some of them, most acted in a way that it wasnt suppose to at one time or another.

fortunate for me, i prefer simple 1 or 2 mode lights, so surefires, and malkoffs actually fit me better. its quality, design, ruggedness, resell value, and being modular with optional parts are just bonus'.
 

KosmoC

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Jan 1, 2015
Messages
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Location
Northern IL, USA
I have 3 dead Surefires, and a dead HDS in my collection. I should probably get around to getting those fixed one of these days.

All flashlights can fail, that's why I have many to choose from. The only rock solid item so far is a Malkoff M60 dropin that has never failed. The Surefire host? Not so much. :grin2:
 

Poppy

Flashaholic
Joined
Dec 20, 2012
Messages
8,323
Location
Northern New Jersey
Appreciate the time/effort of your results:),for me imho its really only good for you. You now have brands you will stick with and may avoid others. I can tell you ,brands that you have not had an issue with,someone will have had,and visa versa.........

It would be interesting for a full brand survey,but would require 1000s of people to build a bigger picture. I admit some companies seem to have better QC than others......some by a long way from what people have had.........

<snip>

I think if a light works for a week its good to go,usually fails happen straight away or within first few uses. What is important is warranty,customer service. Most now like Fenix and Lenser,Nitecore have upped to 5yrs which is great...........well compared to 2yrs of past anyway.

<SNIP>.

I would expect Surefire and Malkoff to outlast those other brands - no surprises for me. That said, I'm another one that owns most of those brands, and more, and (knock on wood) have yet to experience an outright field failure. I've had a DOA and few OTB issues (Malkoff included) that were swapped by dealer/manufacturer without much hassle or cost, though.

While I certainly do enjoy the build quality and pride of ownership of my quality US lights, they don't see as much use as my Asian-manufactured lights due to their lack of features/versatility - ie, output range (low lumens) and/or battery compatibility for me. I understand the feature/reliability trade-off, but I'm not in law enforcement and a failure would just cost me a few seconds to pull out my back-up light, and I've never needed it so far.

I'm with Ven on the warranty and CS issue though, it's nice to see Olight and NC stepping up to 5yrs (Fenix still seems ~2yrs??), but that only matters if their CS can make it hassle free. In my experience, Foursevens beats the US manufacturers in CS.

Lastly, I happen to enjoy participating in the failure threads, and it seems like 2/3rds of them are simple issues that can be fixed or avoided by a clean/lube, tightened retaining ring, or just using a spec battery (length and/or voltage), and the issues are usually easily diagnosed by understanding how to test/trace the electrical path.... well, at least for mechanical clickies - all bets are off with the trend toward electronic switches ;).

As ven noted, it is almost silly to draw any general conclusions from the experience of a single user. A scientific study of reliability needs to account for, or eliminate many variables, and needs to have, a significantly sized group, of each light in the study.

For example, I have a Rayovac 2AA light that I keep in my car loaded with Duracell NiMH cells. It has never failed me, the batteries have never gone dead, and it has seen temperature ranges from 6 degrees F to 170 F. Considering that two responders to this thread have had SF failures, one might conclude that the $14 Rayovac is more reliable than SF. :eek: :rolleyes:
 

Charles L.

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Feb 17, 2010
Messages
460
Location
Raleigh, NC
+1 to Poppy and Ven, except it is beyond silly to draw such conclusions. Especially in a forum that might, just might, have a few preconceptions when it comes to reliability.

It is even silly to assume that simple will be more reliable than complex. Unless your '74 Pinto was more reliable than your '14 Focus.

But hey, it's fun to be silly. Collecting flashlights is kinda silly. Now Poppy, where can I get one of those Rayovacs? ;)
 

edpmis02

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May 13, 2008
Messages
204
Location
Northern Va
Let me know when Malkoff and Surefire start making AA and AAA keychain lights! I have them in my pockets, around my neck and keychain.

MagLite is the only brand I have given up on even though I like the overall concepts. My three Led MiniMags flicker on NiMh and my 2D was stopped working. watch several videos on disassembley and took switch apart, but never got it working again.
 

Berneck1

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Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
509
It's true, this is all anecdotal. I have an old incandescent 2xAA light that still works! It has to be easily 15 years old. Should I consider that the most reliable? I think not. However, I do think if you go middle of the range in price and build, you should be pretty happy.


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reppans

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 25, 2007
Messages
4,873
Let me know when Malkoff and Surefire start making AA and AAA keychain lights!...

Malkoff MDC AA (great light, although large). Surefire AAA coming out soon - but SF doesn't believe in good lows.
 
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