When I reviewed the Nightstick TMC-550XL weapon light, I found it to be a great light. The only thing that I lamented was the lack of holster support at the time. Fortunately, that is changing as GunfightersINC has just announced that they are selling and will mold holsters for the Nightstick weapon lights.
Earlier this year, I bought a Fenix E30R in the hopes that it would work well as a lightweight, bright, compact, 18650 powered flashlight, for outdoor use. I was basically buying the form-factor as the E30R is just about as small as you can make a 18650 powered light. Unfortunately, the light hasn’t quite worked out like I hoped. It works to be sure but it could be better with some seemingly simple additions.
The E30R is a compact, USB rechargable flashlight that is powered by a single 18650 or 2 CR123A batteries. It boasts 1600 lumens pushed through a TIR optic to shape the beam.
Length: 3.9” (99mm)
Body: 0.8” (21.5mm)
Head: 1.0” (25.4mm)
Weight: 1.8 oz. (51g) excluding battery
Battery: One 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery (included) or two CR123A Lithium batteries can be used in an emergency
Included: Fenix ARB-L18-3500 rechargeable Li-ion battery, magnetic charging cable, body clip, lanyard, spare O-ring
Observations from Use
I’ve owned many Fenix lights over the years. In fact, I owned one of the first Fenix lights imported via a group buy on Candlepower forums back in the day. They have always served me well and I have come to trust and even prefer them in many cases. This is the first one that has disappointed me. It looks amazing. It is extremely bright. The form-factor is amazing. The clip is excellent. The output levels are nicely spaced. Fenix got so much right but their user interface design let them down in a big way.
The light can be turned on by a half-second long press on the switch. That means that when you need light, you push the switch and wait. That is annoying. When I push the switch, I want light right then. On top of that, the light always turns on in low mode which can be a good thing unless you want most or even all of the lumens right away. You have to long press to turn the light on and then click to cycle through each of the 5 modes. For example, accessing the Turbo setting from off requires a half-second long press followed by 4 clicks. There is no way to access Turbo or High from off and no mode memory. Either or both of those options would make this light 10 times easier to live with.
I realize that I can’t hold too much of this against the light because I read about the user interface before I bought the light and it is marketed as an EDC light (which is often code for a fiddly user interface in flashlight marketing terms). Still, I was hoping it wouldn’t be as annoying as it seemed… but it is. The user interface is just not well suited to outdoor (and obviously “tactical”) use.
With all that out of the way, I can report that this light is great in other ways. It makes use of a SST40 LED behind a lens and the beam is EXCELLENT. It’s bright, white, and well balanced in terms of throw and spill. The E30R puts all that SST40 efficiency to good use with great mode spacing. In most outdoor use cases, the 350 lumen medium setting is more than enough light and it will give you over 5 hours of runtime in that setting!
In terms of appearance and other physical attributes, the light is a joy. The copper-colored accents look great. The magnetic charging and battery charge indicator are easy to use and functional. The deep carry clip is strong and well designed. The light is easy to hold and operate in spite of its small size.
This light could have been great as it combines so many great features and attributes in such a small, 18650 powered package. If it just had some sort of output mode memory or a way to go directly to High or Turbo setting, it would be a far more useful light for outdoor use. As it is now, it feels like a light with a lot of unrealized potential. If you are looking for a light for something like EDC in an office, this might work.
PHLster has opened pre-orders for the newest addition to the ARC Enhanced WML Switch line. The TLR version is similar to the previously available X300 version in that it comes in a multi-pack with multiple switch length options for the user to choose. These are a direct, drop-in replacement for the original rocker switch.
PHLster and Sentinel Concepts are co-developing a new product, the Rail Buddy, designed to keep spare batteries for weapon mounted lights close at hand. The rail buddy will work with several battery types including the 18650s and 18350s that are driving many of today’s modern lights.
The Rail Buddy will attach via a Velcro One-Wrap strap so that it can be mounted in a variety of locations on the handguard or elsewhere. It can also be used to help with cable management for tape switches.
The battery storage compartment is currently in the prototype stage (3D printed prototype shown).
When it comes to backcountry light sources, I like redundancy but when it comes to hiking or bagging peaks, I dislike weight. Two lights are heavier than one. You can see my dilemma. Maybe you have wrestled with it too. Fortunately, I have found an ultralight, extremely useful combination of lights that keep weight to a minimum has built-in redundancy, recharges via the USB power bank I am already carrying, and won’t break the bank. In fact, this combo weighs less than most tactical flashlights.
The combo consists of two very compact and lightweight lights: the Streamlight Microstream USB which we have already reviewed and the utterly incredible Nitecore NU25. Both of these lights together weigh in at 3 ounces and the pair will set you back only about $65.
Before I get into why these lights work so well together, I’ll share a few thoughts on the Nitecore NU25 – a lightning review of sorts. This headlamp is a darling of the ultralight community and it is easy to see why. It has well balanced beam shape and plenty of output along with long-running low modes. The separate high-CRI flood beam is great for reading maps in true color and the red output is actually well-executed enough to be useful for tasks like finding your beanie in a cold tent without overwhelming your dark adjusted vision. It even has an easy to deal with lock-out function which is great for a light that will spend most of its time bumping around in your pack. It’s an incredibly functional headlamp that weighs in at just 1 ounce and costs only $35. That is, frankly, incredible.
The Streamlight Microstream and Nitecore NU25 are even better together. I use them in two situations that cover 80% of my backcountry use case. They are my go-to lights when I am NOT PLANNING on being out past dark but want to carry lights just in case and they are ideal for warm weather overnighters/multinight trips. They could be pressed into cold weather but I would prefer lights than can take lithium primary batteries for this (see this article). I have found several reasons why they work so well together:
Common Rechargeable Functionality – They are both rechargeable via micro USB. I always carry an Anker Power Bank (see the previous review) so it is easy to keep both lights up and running. When one is charging, I can use the other. No muss, no fuss.
Extreme Redundancy – These aren’t just redundant because they are both potential light sources. They take redundancy to another level due to the fact that the Microstream can stand in as a headlamp thanks to its two-way clip that allows it to be clipped to a hat brim. They can also leverage the same power source.
Extra Functionality – The NU25 is especially useful for backcountry use. It has red output for use in dark conditions where you don’t want to wreck dark adjusted vision. It has a high color rendition output for use in reading maps after dark. It can even be powered directly from your power bank which is great if you want to use it as a tent light!
Lightweight and Compact – Both lights are also extremely lightweight and compact. Lightweight is obviously nice when your pack is already full of 40 pounds of other lightweight gear. However, compactness is an often overlooked but desirable attribute in electronics. I can fit both of these lights AND the power bank in the same pocket of my shell to keep them warm in case conditions get cold above tree line. Emergency lights aren’t useful if the cold has drained their batteries.
It would be hard to find two lights that cover more bases, provide more redundancy, are more affordable, and better quality than these. They are a worthy addition to any kit.
Where to Buy
I have never been able to find either of these lights in a brick and mortar store. However, some of you may be able to find the Streamlight without much trouble. I just purchased mine on Amazon:
Do you have a gear or concept recommendation that fits the On Foot, Off Grid series? Do you have strategies for dealing with cold weather? Tell us about it in the comments below or drop us a line on the Contact page.
The above URLs may be affiliate links.
The NU05 MI is Nitecore’s newest entry in their NU series. This indicator beacon can output visible green or IR light in four different modes: IR blinking, green blinking, IR constant, and green constant. All of the modes may be accessed via the power button. Run times are as long as 20 hours and it is USB rechargeable.
Like other NU05 versions, the NU05 MI can be attached to 1″ webbing via an integral clip. It also comes with a bracket that attaches to a helmet via hook and loop and provides additional retention for helmets with bungee straps.
Olight has launched their newest light, the Seeker 2 Pro. I own a predessor to this light, the Olight R50 Seeker Pro LE. It is one of my most used lights thanks to its broad, bright beam and ready availability from the charger. It sits charging on my kitchen counter where it is always ready. The new Seeker Pro 2 looks to be even better in terms of size, weight, available output modes, and more.
Powered by a single 21700 (5000 mAh) customized lithium rechargeable battery, the Seeker 2 delivers a maximum output of 3,000 lumens. Using three highly efficient OSRAM LEDs paired with a TIR optic lens help to provide a perfect medium and close-range illumination experience. The Seeker 2 features a large side switch, located near the head of the light, for comfortable thumb operation. The indicator built into the center of the switch clearly displays the remaining battery power with a green, orange or red color. The contoured grooves on the surface of the aluminum alloy body is designed to provide a comfortable non-slip grip. Compatible with most USB power sources, the magnetic charging cable is convenient to use, making the Seeker 2 a perfect illumination tool to be used at home, outdoors, or on duty.
- Paired with three highly efficient cool white LEDs, delivering a maximum output of 3,000 lumens and a beam distance of 220 meters.
- The contoured grooves on the surface of the aluminum alloy body is designed to provide a comfortable non-slip grip.
- Visual display indicator located on the center of the switch clearly displays the battery level in real time.
- Includes a high efficient portable magnetic charger with a faster 1A current charging speed.
- The provided 1.5mm lanyard is not only convenient and comfortable for use, but can last for a very long time.
These lights are on sale at introductory prices for as much as 40% off right now. The base model comes with a small magnetic charger but I highly recommend upgrading to one of the packages that come with a mountable “L” bracket charger. The ability to mount this light where it will be readily accessible really maximizes its usefulness.
You can check out the sale, technical specs, and all the available options at:
Foursevens has launched the first new lights in the Quark MKIII series since their acquisition by Prometheus Lights on Kickstarter. The 500 lumen Quark QK2A and 700 lumen QK16L take 2x AA and 1x 16650 batteries respectively.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Industry-leading LED: The MKIII features the newest Nichia 319A with 5000K color temperature and 80+ CRI. It’s meant to strike the perfect balance between crisp white beam quality and maximum output.
- Configurable interface: No one can agree on the best program setup so we offer 6 convenient program presets (configurations). Choose your favorite, at any time. The configurable user interface that is being standardized across the entire Foursevens line. No matter what light you pick up, you’ll know exactly how to use it.
- Burst mode: Using a very fast double press, burst mode (100%) output is directly accessible from any previous level, and reverts to the last saved mode. Experts agree that most flashlights are used at lower level outputs, but sometimes you need to dial it up. We’ve got you covered on both counts.
- More beef: For when gravity strikes, and it always does. The diameter of the entire light is *very* slightly larger to improve mechanical reliability and impact resistance because durability + reliability = longevity. Built for life.
- The best pocket clips on the market period: Pocket clips are my jam because I obsess about every detail, because every detail matters. Our new clip is made from thicker material, providing easier pocketing and improved grip. Most of the “grip” on a flashlight comes from the pocket clip, not the surface finish.
- Tailstand cap (if you know, you know.): All Quarks ship with the traditional forward (momentary) clicky switch that stands proud of the tail. For those who prefer a recessed button and a light that can tailstand, we also include the all new snap-on Quark Tailstand Cap.
- Hybrid Memory: A blend of memory and no-memory, the hybrid configuration saves the last mode used, but reverts to the first mode in the sequence when shifting out of a saved mode.
- Solid Copper (Direct Thermal) MCPCB: The LED is mounted to a solid copper PCB to provide superior thermal performance and maximum output — a first for the Quark.
You can dive deep into specs, backer rewards, and the history of the Quark line of lights on Kickstarter.
Valhalla Tactical’s Baldr System is a series of modular weapon light bodies and mounting plates with VERY broad compatibility across many of the current best weapon lights on the market.
They offer Baldr light bodies that can mate with Surefire M600 and M300 heads, Nitecore P10GT heads, and Streamlight HL-X heads. The light bodies accept either a single, protected 18350 in the case of heads that would normally be run on 6V (two cells) or a single CR123A for lights like the M300 that normally runs on a single CR123A. The advantage to these battery configurations is that the light bodies can be made extremely compact and be made to sit very near the rail while still using a battery capable of providing full output and usable runtime. All of the light bodies are designed to accept Surefire E-series/Scout series tailcaps.
There are a variety of mounts available based on the specific needs and any potential clearances that the end-user may need to accommodate. Each mount has built-in adjustability so the user can fine-tune the fit to their setup. Valhalla Tactical describes the mount options:
- Type-0: Puts the light body closest to your rail. In most cases you must place your light head in FRONT of the rail for it to clear. Good solution when rail space is limited and barrel protrudes reasonably ahead of your rail. Not optimal if muzzle is also at the end of rail – may cause interference especially with suppressor use.
- Type-1: Provides a ~10° tilt so that smaller LED heads (Surefire Scout, Nitecore P10, etc) can recess behind the end of rail. Good for ensuring unfeathered access for suppressor mounting / dismounting.
- Type-2: Same with Type-1 except provides ~15° tilt for slightly bigger LED heads such as Modlite.
- Type-4: Same with Type-1 except provides ~30° of tilt for more extreme configurations, for example recessing Streamlite HL-X heads or using Scouts with PEQ-15.
The Baldr System components are in production and available for preorder now.
PHLster released their ARC Enhanced WML Switches for the Surefire X300U series lights earlier this summer. The enhanced switches are a direct, drop-in replacement for the original switches and they provide a slight extension that makes the light easier to operate. Now they are teasing the next product in the ARC line, Enhanced WML Switches for the Streamlight TLR-1 series of lights. The TLR-1 switches are expected to be released sometime this summer.