Sunday, November 06, 2011

Stepping boldly into 2006.

It's been a good five years since LED flashlights pretty much took over the "tactical" light market, but I've been carrying the same old xenon-bulb Surefire Z2 "Combatlight" for eons. It has an adjustable wrist lanyard on it and a narrow, flat-sided section in the middle that, along with the rubber collar behind it, makes it easy to use one handed, even wearing gloves, even if I have a pistol in the other hand.

Of course, the downside is that the xenon bulb sucked the electrons out of those expensive lithium batteries like a shop vac in a Dixie cup.

Last gun show, I finally got around to upgrading to the LED version, the Z2S, which is not only brighter and has a longer run time, but also has a strobe function, whose utility I am not entirely sold on.

I thought about just upgrading the lamp assembly, but while it would have been about a third cheaper, this way I can take the older flashlight and keep it in the car for emergencies and suchlike.

(Staying with the same model of flashlight also allowed me to move my GG&G T.I.D. over to the new one. I can't think of any possible situation where I will ever hit somebody with a pocket flashlight, but it looks cool and I got it on sale, so what the heck.)


Carteach0 said...

I was first introduced to the strobe function by one of Balckhawk's slightly tamed seal dudes... in a blacked out room.

Since I have elves... um.... 'students' of my own, I have tried out the strobe function many times since then. Most times it does exactly what one might expect... the little buggers freeze for a second or two when hit with the strobe. Not every long, but it seems a lifetime when one is prepared for those few seconds.

When I walk downtown, the hand in my coat pocket is holding one of my lights, set to strobe, and my thumb already on the button. It's comfortable, natural, and deploys as easily as pulling my hand from
the pocket.

Wayne said...

I find the headband lights very useful when you need both hands free, like working under the bathroom sink. The Energizer one has both red LEDs and a couple of white LED patterns, and is hinged so it can be tilted.

Anonymous said...

strap the flashlight to your handlebars and use the strobe function at twilight. You know, when you need to be seen, but you don't really need the light to see.

It should also at least double the battery life, so it should be good for say a life raft or something.

I really think the user interface on many flashlights could be improved by adding an extra button. One for off/on, and one to switch modes.


Earl said...

Had not thought about the strobe to freeze a potential target, but do know that the flashing light attracts more interest than a steady one, so if you want found put the strobe out and don't move.

Tango Juliet said...

Well, I have it on good authority that strobes are THE thing in the cat coo'er world. I'm kinda lusting after the Z2X myself.

I don't care for a lanyard. I attach a large rubber "O" ring and call it good.

Anonymous said...

Strobe function would be very useful in a disco inferno.


My old 6P probably needs the same up grade.

Homer said...

Since strobe seems to work so well, where is the golf-ball-sized, bottom-weighted, time-delayed strobe device? Complete with belt pack that dispenses multiple said devices....

Sport Pilot said...

I see your point Tam and will add I much prefer the KISS prinicple in training and gear.

Tam said...

Tango Juliet,

"I don't care for a lanyard. I attach a large rubber "O" ring and call it good."

I guess it's just sticking with what I'm familiar with. I know that everybody who's gone to TR or Shootrite uses the O-ring...

ToddG said...

I'm a believer in the strobe for the same reason as Carteach0... when not expecting it, many people (though not all) will be momentarily affected. It will not make eyeballs explode nor will it knock people unconscious, but a free second or two is probably a nice thing to have when you need it.

The Surefire strobers, however, have a ridiculous user interface requiring you to click three times. Clearly designed by a Judy Garland fan.

Tam said...


Of course, when not expecting it, many people are also momentarily affected by having an eyeball-melting light shone in their face, blinking or no.

I agree that the "wiggle-your-finger-for-strobe" interface is lame.

Stingray said...

I'd been running a surefire g2 or 6p led for ages and thought I had a pretty good light. Sure, it took up a crapload of real estate on my belt, but it was handy as all get out and didn't do anything wonky.

Then NFO showed off that frickin' portable sun of his at Blogoradao3 (surefire e2d defender led). Suddenly my perfectly adequate light source looked about like a paper match on a moonless night.

Naturally, jealousy kicked in. How come *he* got to have a portable fusion-ray in his pocket?* I tried to track down which light it was while waiting a chance to ask him directly, but in doing so I found what's in my pocket now. Streamlight makes basically the same thing minus the strike bezel, for $160 less.

$40 seemed worth a gamble, and holy crap do I love this thing. Even if the strobe function is goofy and it takes practice to get it into low-power mode. But now the brightest (reliable) flashlight at the Nerd Ranch is pocket sized. And that's awesome.

And I guess if you do want to go all mall ninjactical with it, 180 lumens to the face is a pretty disorienting effect even without the strobe, so there's that.

*Because he's NFO, and he's awesome.

Carteach0 said...

I carry a Fenix PD-31, although I paid a little less than this:

Calling it 'Bright' is an understatement. 300+ 'Lumens'.
It will very literally blind someone for a few moments if they catch it full in their eyes.

It's the light in my pocket all day at school, and I use it perhaps 40 times a day. With that much use, it eats a set of CR123 batteries every few weeks.

During our recent blackout (s), it became my 'reading lamp' on it's lowest possible setting. Run time at that setting is slightly longer than my expected life span.

I figure the next step up in technology will be an implant alongside my left eye, capable of burning star cruisers out of orbit.

Will said...


A friend has a patent on that. Unfortunately, no one was interested in making it.

A delayed light source you could toss/roll into a room, while searching for a BG, that wouldn't burn it to the ground.

Carteach0 said...

You mean these?

God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

Tam... the only trouble I've had with my flashlights and weapon lights that have the strobe function... seems when it's turned on and strobing away... the Bee Gees start singing "Staying Alive" off in the distance...

Dann in Ohio

lucusloc said...

my friend and i have played with strobe functions before. the first time you are ambushed in the living room with one it causes some real disorientation. the second and third time not so much.

my current thoughts on it are it is a potential advantage, but not one that should be counted on or expected. It's not something useful enough to bother purposefully switching a gunlight to.

Rob Reed said...

I want my light to go "On" and "Off"." No strobe, no blinking out SOS in Morse code, and no variable power levels.

When I turn it on, I want it ON and as bright as it will get. When I hit the switch again, I want it OFF, not switching to stroke, or dim, or anything else.

If I need to use it in a "tactical" situation, I don't want to worry about what output level I'm going to get, or if it's constant or strobe, or how many times I have to click it to get the REALLY BRIGHT light.

All I want is a nice, simple, ON/OFF interface, is that too much to ask?

Needless to say, I'm sticking with my older Surefire E2E for now.


Tam said...


"All I want is a nice, simple, ON/OFF interface, is that too much to ask?"

On the Z2S, you push the button and the light goes on.

To get the strobe, you have to twitch the button three times fast, hence the gheyness ToddG referred to. If I handed you this light and never explained how to activate the strobe, you'd never know it even had that setting.

Robert said...

Carteach0; Thanks from the heads up on the Fenix.

WV revel
Soon I'll be able to revel in the light of 304 lumens.

TimP said...


A compromise I like is on my Fenix L1T [I don't think you can get them any more, but some other torches use a similar system, the Quark tactical]. It has only one mode on the button (on/off), but if you have the bezel twisted the full way up it will run on bright (~100 lumens for 1.5h), but if you undo it about a quarter turn it will run on dim (~15 lumens for 20h). Dim is plenty bright enough for most uses; it's about the same as an old AA maglite.

Tango Juliet said...

I'm thinking Tam, if you tried the "O" ring thing, you'd like it.

It's not at all difficult to install. Connect a small metal split ring to the Surefire ring and then attach an appropriately sized rubber "O" ring to the split ring.

I really like the "Tiger Ring" setup on my Gladius torch. (Yes, it strobes.)

Will said...


Guess he'll have to check for patent infringement. Might have expired by now, too.

Homer said...

Will and Carteach - yeah, that's what I was thinking of. I've had an E2D for quite a while, carry it daily; also have an older 6P that has its own slot in the mag carrier on my Galco SSII (I need to upgrade that to the new LED 6PX - Tam's depiction of Xenon, electrons and shop vacs is quite accurate), and there's usually a Fenix L1T in a coat pocket as an emergency spare or to hand to someone who needs a light.

Like Tam, I'm not sold on the strobe thing in a handheld; when I want light I want a lot of it and I want it now, not after I decipher the state of the control mechanism. I'm of the opinion that an instant 200 lumens centered on the bridge of the nose does me more good than any combination of flashy-blinky.

Gewehr98 said...

"Strike Bezel"


Anonymous said...

The best thing about the LED-vs-Xenon is that with the LED lights you can use RECHARGEABLE CR123s and save a ton of money. I got the charger and batteries from or I get things from both sites.

Old NFO said...

Good catch Tam, guess I should do the same update... buying the new light is probably smarter too!

Spud said...

First time on = disorientation
Second time on = you the target

Tam said...

Shooting In The Dark = Rule 4 Violation and Potential Homicide Conviction.

"Oh God, honey! I'm sorry! I didn't want to give away my position to the VC!"

og said...

One of the problems I've had with the Surefire is that everyone wants it. "hey, can I borrow that bright little flashlight?" And then another set of batteries is hosed. They turn it on and leave it on for minutes at a time, pointed at the ground, while they discuss whatever.

I may upgrade to the LED but I may just get a chunk of titanium and make my own. If I'm gonna pay two hundred bucks for a flashlight I don't want it to be $.90 worth of aluminum, that galls me about the Surefire stuff.

Drang said...


I remember when the Mini-Maglite was the most coolest uber-tactical light out there. As in "Holy crap, Drang, you've blinded me!"
All us Light Fighters had 'em, complete with red lens.

Nowadays, it's practically considered to be a night=vision/NVG safe light without the colored lens...

Tam said...


Sadly, that's part of the downside of Made In The USA anymore.

Twenty bucks of flashlight, twenty bucks of name brand, and a hundred bucks of taxes and regulatory compliance.

Tango Juliet said...

I believe it was in an episode of Personal Defense TV where a shoothouse demo was given of the effects of a strobe light. It did appear to cause a distinct lack of depth perception. One couldn't tell if the lightwielder was moving away or towards the viewer. This, of course, was through the monocular viewpoint of a video camera, so I'm not certain about IRL consequences.

I haven't tried this on myself or anyone else for that matter 'cause I don't like looking into that dadblame light in any mode. The Gladius (modded to a reputed 275+ lumens) is a nasty little critter.

1) Off (locked out but still slowly sucking juice)
2) Variable speed mode, i.e., start low, gradually increase intensity or start out @full power and gradually decrease output.
3) Strobe at full power Rudolph!
4) Paint peeler.

Switching modes on the Gladius is relatively simple compared to most lights it appears but still it adds complexity in what could be a stressful situation. I carry it "off" and find it easy to roll it over to the stop at full power when and if needed.

og said...

"Twenty bucks of flashlight, twenty bucks of name brand, and a hundred bucks of taxes and regulatory compliance."

yeah, that is making me want to buy about a dozen Magpul pmags before that same effect occurs to them

The same people who let me build the compass last year, I';m trying to convince them to let me make a flashlight next year.

Tam said...


Still, I am happy with that Z2 I've had for all these years.

I used to demo it to customers by turning around and whacking my own flashlight against the wooden ammunition shelves as hard as I could several times; like driving nails hard. With the incandescent lamp running the whole time.

Then I'd turn around and finish the sentence "...and that's why they cost so much money." ;)

Anonymous said...

If you want to get out and shoot a match with your photon thrower the is a night match in Dickson, TN in November.

There are 3 night matches in the general area here and it is good practice.

Did you know if you blast a white glossy wall at three feet with your 6P the backscatter will destroy your night vision for awhile? Trust me.


og said...

Fortunately, I rarely need a flashlight that durable. Shit, I'm not that durable anymore, or at least not as durable as I used ot be.

Anonymous said...

I shine the strobe on friends while camping. One of them will go to the edge of the campsite to take a leak after beer #9. I'll hit him with the strobe and announce "disco piss!"

It has also come in handy on my bicycle at night after my headlight bit it.

DirtCrashr said...

I have a Z3 that's about ten years old now, it's fine and I like it a lot. I take it with when I have to go change a burnt-out outside light on one of the Units. It's hella bright, more than either of the G2's I got on sale at Midway, but I'm taking the green G2 to Hawaii. The G3 is the light on the M4gery. I likes the rilly-rilly bright-light, the part that makes you see spots.

TomcatTCH said...

in the same ball park of cost is the First Light Tamahawk. I've been carrying one for most of this year, and it just rocks.

With the finger loop in the front, you can even do reloads without dropping the light, then it's right back to shooting.

The pressure switch only does high. You can use the constant on for low. Then there's the dim LEDs. It just rocks.

Earl said...

Not as durable. Part of that 'getting old' stuff, and all this information is cool. But, as I settle into the dust and dirt in the ditch beside the highway to the future, I am becoming happier with iron sights, shooting only what I can see or imagine is there threatening me. Something to read buy when the lights go out. Kerosene lamp, candles, fireplace - and if it is really dark and you can't shine. You might be dead and no one bothered to tell you.

Always a new way to package light, have they the LED app for the iPod?

wv nolde (new oldie?)

og said...

"LED app for the iPod?"

Have for years and years. My Android phone has a much more than merely acceptable flashlight app too.

Will said...


you could refer to that strike bezel as a "DNA Recovery Receptacle".

I suspect the origin of them is to allow you to see if you left it on when you set it lens down. And possibly to keep from starting a fire by allowing some cooling air to circulate. Making the crenelations sharp just gave it a two-fer.

Rob Reed said...


Thanks for the additional info. I may actually get one now. I would like a LED and the worries about the on/off interface were pretty much the only thing stopping me. (Well, that and the $$)


Nathan A said...

Personal experience here, FWIW:

First: I've had the pleasure to play 'bad guy' in several dark shoothouse training exercises (with that very neat ammo that replaces a lead bullet with a paintball, letting real weapons be used) and in the last two sessions, at least one of the 'good guys' had strobe flashlights. I found the strobe lights to be quite a bit more disorienting in the dark, I didn't like being on the receiving end at all. It was significantly more difficult for me to track movements, figure out locations, or even tell if there were people moving at all when the strobe was activated. Even when used properly (brief on pulses, never in the same spot twice) it was much easier to track movements and ultimately get a 'kill shot' off with good guys using a standard light. As a bad guy in a dark house, if I was able to choose what light the good guys had, I'd choose a non-strobe light every time. All that said, poor tactics on the part of the good guys are always the #1 'killer', strobe light or not.

Takeaway: If you're clearing rooms/buildings a strobe might be more effective. For situations you're more likely to encounter day-to-day, I think Homer is right in that 200 lumens properly placed is your best bet.

Second, because someone mentioned rechargeable CR123s and I'm a huge nerd: I work in the engineering department at one of the major 'tactical' flashlight manufacturers mentioned in this thread. I have personally done testing on all sorts of batteries, focusing on lithium cells, and I would not use anything but high-quality primary cells in a powerful, 'tactical' light. Many cells are simply not designed to withstand the high current draws that most of these lights require.

Bear with me here, please. Chinese-made cells are attractive due to price but quality control is atrocious at best. I've had some that perform as well as any Duracell or Energizer cell (both trusted manufacturers), while others from the same package will be completely discharged in two minutes of high-drain use. In a single-cell light this isn't usually much of a problem, you'll just get crap for battery life but in a multi-cell light, this is how lithium ignites and explosions happen.

One cell is dead within some fraction of the expected lifespan, and the other cell(s) is(are) left to try and provide all the current needed through the dead cell, now a resistor, heating up as current passes through. Lithium cells all have PTC (positive temperature coefficient) protection (they get too hot and they internally disconnect, creating an open circuit rather than a short) but my test data shows that on cheap cells, these protections fail more often than they work as intended.

In the scenario above, there is a high probability of either the dead cell or the over-taxed remaining cell(s) reaching lithium's ignition point and once that happens, there is nothing you can do to stop that fire until all the lithium is burned up. If one cell goes off, it WILL ignite the others. I'm sure all here are familiar with the effects of rapidly-expanding gas in enclosed spaces.

To give an idea of the energy contained in a brand-new lithium CR123 cell: I had facilities on my ass for a while after one failure-mode test of bare cells (meaning not in a light or case of any kind) produced a black, 2' diameter blast mark on our white building's outside wall about 10' up. The cell in question had been sitting on the ground in the parking lot about 25' from the wall when it hit the flash point. Rechargeable CR123 cells are similarly unreliable in high-current devices. Maybe one day the technology will be there, but right now I personally don't trust rechargeable CR123 cells in anything that might require lots of current or be used in a 'tactical' or self-defense manner. YMMV.

Every single flashlight explosion I've seen has one thing in common: cheap batteries.