What makes a durable and dependable LED flashlight?

Woods Walker

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Pardon me for asking WoodsWalker, but is your pre-lockout tailcap on your G2 waterproof?

Part of me thinks that the seal around the tailcap button creates gaps everytime the button is pressed.

I think it's waterproof because much like a standard lockout SF tailcap as there is an o-ring on the plug in addition to the rubber boot but then again the M60LL can run underwater on it's own right.
 
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Woods Walker

The Wood is cut, The Bacon is cooked, Now it’s tim
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Thus far thermal management has not been looked at. But as the nuclear bomb of brightness has begun to find it's way into smaller and smaller hosts this is an item folks should keep in mind.
In the incan days it was very often built into designs but these days... not always.

I have what I consider very reliable baby cop lights that are over 700 lumens yet after 30 minutes are relatively cool to the touch. I ask myself "is that module inside an ez bake oven?"

Yet a PK and a Powertac of similar output feel warm within a minute or two. Neither require oven mitts to comfortably carry. However I do feel that those lights that get warm on the outside will be less prone to a slow bake of internal items, which in time may cause items to become 'brittle' ... leading to stuff breaking if/when a drop occurs.

The PK FL2 reportedly gets to 130° F on the outside over time and my Powertac Warrior 850 has cooling fins over top of the emitter. Those two things helped lead to the decision to place them in my reliable category of edc rotation while leaving a couple of quality products at various locations in my home to serve short duration duties.


Note the stealth cooling fins on the Warrior 850 and the Streamlight ProTac HL.
The fins are directly over the emitter on the Powertac. They are forward of the emitter on the Streamlight.

PK took another approach. Cooling fins, yes. But disguised as burlyness...


The PK Warrior II at 1000 lumens has a pair of gigantic radiators. Gigantic in terms vs the typical cooling fins.


Note the similar radiators he put into play on his FL2.

Something left over from his SureFire days?


Was that a simple anti roll? Or was PK already thinking about the days of 700+ lumens from an LED when deciding on placement of said anti roll when the "P" version of the fabled "6" was redesigned? Hmmmm

I think the 6P bezel was intended for pure anti roll and easier grasping when changing out the P60. That was from incan days when people changed those as they blew. Today we change drop-ins mostly for tint snobbery. LOL! I did wrap the heck out a hi-output NW XM-L2 drop-in with Al foil. I am testing a Nitecore HC30 and it has thermoregulation via the driver based on actual temperature. Some other lights like the Fenix HP12, HL50 and E41 are just timed and/or press and hold. I think the AT Prime/Tiara uses some kinda thermal step down as well and this might be the cause of some customer complaints as they keep saying "constant brightness". Consumers complain about bust/turbo modes being advertized as normal running modes so manufactures are coming up with ways to do the burst but make it seem not so obvious like the E41.

Basically ways to have unsustainable output to cater to customer demands. I think ultimately driving the light too hard and looking for ways to compensate might harm the long term dependability. But that said the output of some of these driven lights is amazing.
 

bykfixer

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If you look back at the 6, not long after the 6 was called 6P there was this thing called P60L that as many still do, used the thermal sensor to lower the temps by lowering the chemical reaction causing light, which in turn lowered the output of light.

Meanwhile PK was somewhere in his lab trying to figure out ways to better regulate those internal temperatures.

Now I'm not saying definitively that the anti roll was done as a cooling device... Yet Mr. Kim was so far ahead of the curve at the time that it wouldn't surprise me that shape and location was either light years ahead thinking, or played a roll in similar principles in the future to radiate heat more efficiently.

If you hold an FL2 turned on high in your hand for a few minutes while holding a 6P with a Malkoff on high for same period you'll see what I'm getting at.

Paul Kim is the Soichiro Honda of flashlights.
 

ven

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Great thread mr walker(as always);), my experience with using the lights i mention is limited, but have a strong following hence having,

Pretty much most surefires, the 6p seems a tough basic light, with a solid drop in(potted) it should be very dependable. Same with my C2 and M2 models..........

The HDS is solid,potted and bullet proof, definitely in the class of dependable as is mcgizmo, really inspire confidence



Chinese brands now, Fenix, maybe the tk range are quite a solid light and i have confidence in mine! Very thick walls and basic UI


Armytec predator pro v2.5 is a solid light, really like this in warm flavour.............the ano is above and beyond many!!!


Then the solaforce L2T in stainless, now its not the light host you worry about...............its the poor floor it hits!!! This is one hefty,solid light...................


So for me, materials, simple UI ideally and if drop in compatible, custom/malkoff types ..............Potted ideally!
 

easilyled

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McGizmo has always built his lights with durability in mind and, in my opinion, the AquaRam must be one of the most durable designs. Check it out on the McGizmo forum.

A few reasons of many for supporting this:-

1) Built from Titanium which is very strong and won't deform in a drop. Can withstand just about any substance and doesn't corrode in acid or salt-water.

2) The Sapphire Glass lens (which is already pretty tough) is cushioned on both sides by two thick O-rings which makes it less likely to shatter than the usual single o-ring either before or after the window.

3) Designed to withstand very high pressures since its a dive-light and McGizmo has tested it with a pressure-guage to imitate the pressure of the water from diving.

4) Simple Twisty UI, so not switch parts to seize up.

These are only a few points off the top of my head, but the light is built like a tank.
 

scout24

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Reputation is probably the best starting point, but nothing replaces pocket time, and time in use. when it comes to generating confidence. I agree with Easilyled above, Don's lights are built to withstand some abuse. I subjected my Haiku and Mule to daily pocket carry and hard use as a mechanic, dropped both too many times to count, and eventually took my spare LE and McClicky switch home when it became apparent neither was likely to fail me. And both look dainty compared to the AquaRam. :) To echo previous posters- Fenix E01, HDS, Malkoff, Surefire...
 

TKC

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Reputation is the best starting point. But, like has been said, nothing replaces pocket time. Don's lights have are tough as nails, and I had been carrying my Haiku for 5 years. My Sure Fire lights have been great, and VERY dependable. So has my Dark Sucks/Prometheus Blue Label. And these are the lights that I have stuck to buying. And from what I have read, I expect that my new Malkoff will be too.

Also, from own user experience, I will NEVER buy another Fenix light again.
 

Woods Walker

The Wood is cut, The Bacon is cooked, Now it’s tim
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Dang. This sure feels durable and dependable but time will tell. Still not sure what could go wrong.



Something interesting. SF G2Z M61NL, 6P M61WL are both Durable and Dependable. But what of the third one?



The 4/7 2XAA mini has like all the rest of my 4/7 lights have been dependable but kinda feels like toys when compared to the robust build of SF. However they're UL and not really subjected to the same beatings the G2Z has taken over 10 years. The bezel, window and engine were replaced multiple times as tossed that light in a bag of AK mags, rolled around the bottom of my pack, dropped etc etc etc. The 4/7 mini and my Quarks never failed to turn on but they are used for lighter duty. Still not failing to turn on is kinda important.

4/7 1XAA NW mini ran for years in this role. It's not hard duty but work just the same.

 
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I agree that pushing the emitter too hard will adversely affect reliability. Like many/most folks at CPF when LED lights first came out I got caught up in the whole lumen thing, but I've been "over it" for years. Most of my lights have pretty good output but only a few are over 300 lumens. I'm more concerned with reliability and tint.
 

Woods Walker

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I agree that pushing the emitter too hard will adversely affect reliability. Like many/most folks at CPF when LED lights first came out I got caught up in the whole lumen thing, but I've been "over it" for years. Most of my lights have pretty good output but only a few are over 300 lumens. I'm more concerned with reliability and tint.

Tint for me is a combination of luxury and necessity. Necessity because with so many gear options in this class if I dislike the tint odds are I will use lights with preferred tints. For me even CW can look ok so long as it's not alien abduction angry blue or squid **** green. Luxury in that greater than dark beats dark so if I need light any tint even a poor one trumps a not functioning neutral white etc etc etc. Naturally when durability and dependablity plus tint all come together it's a winner!
 

Woods Walker

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Speaking of everything coming together just right. Wow! The MD2 is really well built. Winning tint as well.



 

ZMZ67

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I think the KISS principle applies here. I suppose the LED and electronics are never going to be quite as simple as an incan bulb but if they are well made and offer some shock resistance LED can be very reliable. As far as the rest of the light goes simple and robust construction are at the top of the list.Look at the lights always mentioned when reliability is the topic,Surefire 6P,9P,G2,G3,C2,C3(all with LED drop-ins) and the Malkoff MD2,MD3. Simple robust designs with reliable switches and USER SERVICEABLE! The three main failure points,the lens, switch and of course batteries can be easily replaced if they break or fail. My Zebralight SC5 and Olight S1 have been reliable to date (the SC5 in particular has survived numerous drops on concrete with no ill effect) but if something fails besides the battery there really isn't an easy fix.With the SF or Malkoff lights you can even carry a spare drop-in should the original fail.Size may be a limitation, Malkoff is making the MDC that shares most of the same attributes but it still doesn't compete in size with something like the S1.Maybe something from PEAK would be the best among the smaller single cell lights.
 

RobertMM

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I remember taking apart a Surefire KX4-HA head and seeing the driver electronics coated or sealed in maybe a millimeter of clear epoxy(?). Poking at it, it was tough and no doubt contributed to the light's ruggedness.
Wonder how many of their newer lights have that. IIRC not all of even the older lights had that as well.

I imagine a 320/15 lumen G2X Pro with such potting, if you could call it that, would be durable as hell and able to take a beating like the rest of em.
 

Woods Walker

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Nice! I really need to get an MD2.

It has the body thickness of a TK20 but with potted electronics. Also acryic window with not a great deal of exposed impact striking area. And the window is easily replaceable. Malkoff is the Kifaru of lights.



The TK20! Photos taken back in the day!








Over the years the glass has a bit (as in very slight) of a haze on the inside and somehow a few specks of dust got in there but doesn't seem to effect the beam. Wonderful tint on the XRE Q2. With the throw the light can still hang with my AT Predator standard or most any light.
 

D6859

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According to specs my Armytek Predator Pro v2.5 (NW) is the most durable light I have:
  • drop resistant up to 10 metres
  • submersible up to 10 metres
  • it can run on constant max output (600+ lm) till the battery dies and you won't fry the emitter
  • according to my cold weather testing it has no problem running in -26°C

But is it dependable? Yes and no. The flashlight is programmable so you could program it just to have one mode (e.g 70 lm / 20 h) and then have simple single-mode flashlight. On the other hand you could fail the programming and end up with firefly-only flashlight which you need a manual with to re-program. More about my thoughts on Armytek in the end of this post.

According to this classic video


Olight M22 is the most durable and reliable light that I own. Unfortunately it has problems working in cold temperatures as I noticed during my testing. Dependable? Not during winter.

According to my own experience the best flashlight to take a beating, stand cold weather etc. is my previous EDC, Thrunite TN12 (2014). As scout24 pointed out, you'll learn what's your most dependable light by using it. My TN12 has taken some so high drops that I was afraid I broke it but it's still working. I replaced it last year with the 2016 NW model. The first one had defect tailswitch though which made me wary. Both versions of TN12 also have their problem with turbo mode since the flashlight doesn't seem to have any kind of thermal protection. Durable? Seems so. Dependable? Well, I did recently depend on TN12 when opening a beer bottle and the tailswitch is still working.

If I was given one light to choose before I was thrown into the middle of a forest, I'd take Predator, steal both TN12's and start running, because two is one and one is none and there are some freaks after me who are trying to throw me into a dark forest :grin:

So what makes a light durable? Its specs. What makes light dependable? You. The light should have so good specs (this includes build quality, what the manual states etc.) that you dare to use it, maybe even test its limits. Once you notice the light can stand a little abuse, you'll start using it more often and after a longer use you can say it's dependable. You cannot just take a datasheet and say, that's a dependable light. The opposite is possible to state though.

===========================

So a little bit about Armytek as so many are talking about them:
I guess QC used to be better at AT few years ago. I have Tiara A1 Pro v1 and Wizard Pro v1.5. I really like them both but Wizard has pre-flash at ff2->mid1 transition and I'm strating to wonder if the voltage meter has broken. It shows 2.9V for protected freshly charged battery, under load though. They've never failed to turn on though. I bought AT Dobermann Pro few months ago. The led seems to be a little off-center (didn't think it's reason big enought to return it because it was last Dobermann the store had and now it's just annoying me) and the max mode stops working in the cold. It's still durable light according to specs and hasn't failed to turn on yet. I also broke the driver in my Partner A1 v1 (the limited edition with clear glass and xm-l2) when it fell from my hand on the floor. The high mode stopped working unless I had li-ion or fresh nimh in it. According to specs it should have taken the drop easily. I g
ot a replacement, dropped it to test the new head and sold it to a friend.

So in my collection,
2/5 Armyteks have had zero problems (Tiara, Predator)
2/5 Armyteks have minor problems (pre-flash, off-center led)
1/5 Armyteks I've broken in normal use, yet
5/5 Armyteks have never failed to turn on

It seems the more complex the flashlights become, the more often you have minor problems with flashlights that still turn on. I think I'll stick to using my old Tiara and Wizard and don't even dream about v2 or v3. Dobermann will be the last flashlight I bought from Artmytek for a while until I hear good news about their QC.

==========================

Jeez, this is one of the longest post that I've typed. Took me 2.5 hours :D I should be sleeping already.
 

Woods Walker

The Wood is cut, The Bacon is cooked, Now it’s tim
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Time well spent! :) I think the standard version of the Predator is probably more reliable/dependable as the UI is simpler. I also feel my Prime standard is probably more reliable than my pro and odds are has better overall run times though not tested that yet. I also like my Tiara pro V2 and hope nothing happens to it.
 

blanex1

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the surefire 6p would fall under this thread,durable,mixed with one of today's newer LED's and you have dependable= one of the best flashlights ever made!i own some and have never had them ever fail on me,run on CR123 or 16650 or 18650!just keeps on going,vary solid quality built.:)
 

tab665

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i actually stumbled across a set up on my bored 9P that has rendered it unreliable. im running a lumens factory IMR bulb, two 18490's, with an oveready zero-rez tailcap. sometime it comes on like normal, other times i have to tighten the tail down extremely tight to get the light to come on. no sure if its the bulb drop-in, the tailswitch, or the batteries, but something just isnt jiving up right.
 
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