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Review: Nitecore P18

The Nitecore P18 is one of Nitecore’s newest lights in their P Series (Precise Series). It is aimed at the “tactical” market and manages to shoe-horn 1800 lumens into a surprisingly compact package. It also packs a number of interesting ideas that made me jump at the chance to review it.

Overview

The P18 is just over 4″ long and weighs in at 3.7 ounces. It utilizes a CREE XHP35 HD LED to pump out up to 1800 lumens and is powered by a single 18650 rechargeable battery (included). It comes packaged with a manual, sheath, extra o-ring, and lanyard.

This light boasts a completely silent “tactical switch” and die-cast aluminum construction, both of which really piqued my interest.

Observations from Use

I consider this light to be very ambitious with a number of forward-thinking ideas and concepts. It is VERY different in construction and operation than any light I have ever used so it should come as no surprise that some of the ideas in this light really connect and some could probably be improved.

The tree line in this photo is 40 yards away. Turbo mode is activated. This photo does not do the spill beam justice but you can see the intensity and size of the hot spot even at 40 yards.

Beam – The P18’s beam is balanced with an emphasis on flood. It has a relatively wide, defined hotspot with an ever-so-slightly donut-like hole in the middle. This “hole” is slightly noticeable on a white wall but it is so slight that you do not see it outdoors. The spill portion of the beam is wide and bright. The engineers at Nitecore appear to have successfully balanced both throw and spill. I find it excellent for all-around use.

Construction – I think the die-cast aluminum body design of this light is very successful. It is a unique shape for sure but it is a shape and construction method with some strong advantages. First, it seems to handle heat very well, staying cooler on turbo mode than other lights I have with even less output. Second, the flat-ish sides allow this light to ride in the pocket VERY comfortably and easy to index which is important given the switch configuration. The overall shape and benefits of the die-cast body are some of my favorite things about this light. I was pleasantly surprised with how much of a difference it made in the overall experience with the P18 and I hope Nitecore continues to play to with this concept with future lights.

Switches – The P18 has two switches: a small round switch on the side that controls only the red LED and a larger switch that controls all of the white light options on the tail of the light. Both switches are metal so there are no rubber boots to wear out.

The tail switch is shaped roughly like a rectangle and is located directly next to the P18’s battery cap which can make pressing the switch a little awkward unless the light is oriented in your hand correctly (which is easy to do thankfully). It is what Nitecore calls a “silent tactical switch” which means it has no feedback at all – no click and no real change in resistance. This can take some getting used to since half presses are required to move through the UI (user interface) and the line between a half and full press is minimal. I would prefer that the switch offered more feedback as I think that would make the UI a little easier to deal with. As it stands, I think that one of the things holding this light back is the main switch.

User Interface – The user interface of this light is relatively easy to move through, but, as stated above, the switch can feel like it is fighting you at times. I actually like the output spacing between modes but given the complexity, I find this better suited as an outdoor light than a tactical light.

The UI offers 5 levels of white light, 3 flashing white light modes, a red light mode, and a battery charge level indication. All modes are accessed via two switches.

The side button controls the red light and allows direct access to ultralow white light.

  • Press and hold to activate the red LED.
  • Press and hold to deactivate the red LED.
  • Press and hold the side button and tail button to access ultralow mode directly.
  • Long press (3+ seconds) to view the battery level indicator flash sequence.

The rear button controls numerous white light functions.

From Off:

  • Press and hold the main button to enter Turbo mode directly (after a short delay). Release to turn light off.
  • Press and release to enter the last used output mode. The light remains on after release.
  • Half press to enter last used mode. Release to turn light off.

From On:

  • Half press to switch between output modes (including Turbo).
  • Half press and hold to access Turbo mode directly. Release to return to last used output mode.
  • Full press and hold for 1 second to enter the special modes (strobe/beacon/SOS).

As with most flashlight UIs, they look more complicated on paper than they really are. However, this is more complicated than I would like in a tactical light but the multiple modes and all-around useful beam shape make this handy as a camping/hiking light in my opinion. In fact, I really like it in that role. It is also important to point out that this UI has two important features: direct access to turbo and direct access to ultralow.

Battery – The P18 can be powered by 2x CR123A/RCR123 or 1x 18650 battery. It comes with a flat-top 3100 mAh 18650 cell. The light is limited to cells under 67mm in length. It can operate with longer protected 18650 cells but the tail cap will not fully close rendering the light susceptible to water ingress. The use of CR123A or RCR123 cells will remove access to the turbo mode (high mode replaces turbo for all direct-access functions). The cap will fully close on 2x CR123A cells.

Build Quality – The build appears to be very good on this light. The threads and o-ring came greased from the factory. The tail cap turns smoothly with no grittiness. The LED is well centered in a flawless reflector. There is no dust under the lens. The finish is evenly applied and attractive.

Other Observations – The pocket clip on this light is excellent. It grips the pocket well and, because of the mostly flat sides of the light, it allows the light to carry very comfortably in the pocket. It is not reversible which seems like an unfortunate oversight.

Wrap Up

Nitecore markets this light for the “tactical” market and I think that is a miss. The switch and user interface conspire to make it just a bit too complex for that market. The switch doesn’t offer enough feedback to allow the user to work within the UI effectively. However, I find this to be an excellent light for outdoor use and I applaud a UI design that offers direct access to both the brightest and dimmest white light settings.

I was surprised at what a positive functional difference the shape and unibody, die-cast construction make. I hope that Nitecore continues to innovate this unique shape and construction method.

Flashlight.Nitecore.com


Nitecore provided this light, free of charge, for review.

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New from Nitecore: NU05 LE Signal Marker

Nitecore sent us details on their newest addition to the NU series of headlamps and signal markers. The NU05 LE expands on the signaling capabilities of the original NU05 and targets the law enforcement market specifically.

The NU05 LE has 5 different modes, all of which are flashing modes: white, red, blue, green, and red/blue. All the modes can be accessed from a single button. The modes output between 2 and 20 lumens depending on the color and run for 15-18 hours on a single charge. The NU05 LE is USB rechargeable and has a charge indicator that allows the user to check battery condition in the field.

The included bracket is backed with hook material to attach to loop material on a ballistic or bump helmet. It also has hooks that can help route bungee retainers for an even more secure attachment.

Nitecore.com

Fenix HM65 Rechargeable Headlamp

Fenix just released the details on a new headlamp, the HM65 Rechargeable Headlamp, that is loaded with interesting tech and features. The most prominent feature is the use of dual emitters with one optimized for throw and one for flood light.

It boasts a 1000 lumen turbo setting along with other, longer running modes including a 130 lumen settings that run for 48 hours+ according to Fenix (actual real world runtimes can vary). See the chart below for full ANSI runtime and output ratings.

The HM65 is rechargeable via USB Type C (cable included). It comes with an 18650 battery but it can also be powered by two CR123A primary cells which is good news for those who might take this headlamp into cold environments.

The body of the HM65 is made from a magnesium alloy. Fenix claims that makes it both durable and lightweight.

The head strap design includes a top strap as is standard for single 18650 powered headlamps. It features a perforated design that I suppose would promote breathability.

The HM65 can be pre-ordered. It is not expected to be available until Tuesday, June 25th.

FenixLighting.com

PHLster ARC Enhanced WML Switches

Remember the old the days of building up the switch on your Surefire X-series weapon light with JB Weld to make it easier and more consistent to access? There is now a better way thanks to the PHLster and the new ARC Enhanced WML Switches.

These polymer switches are drop in replacements for the OEM switches found on Surefire’s X300U (A/B/V), X400U (H, RD, GN), XH30, XH35, and XLV2. Each set comes with 3 different size switches all of which are larger than the original: L, XL, and a blank XL for uses who wish to add their own texture or shaping.

You can read more about installation and pre-order at PHLster.com.

Nitecore TIP2

At just 1″ x 2.5″ x .5″, the Nitecore TIP2 may be small but it boasts a ton of features and impressive output. It is small enough to serve as a keychain light but bright enough to do real work.

It can provide up to 720 lumens of light thanks to two Cree XP-G3 S3 emitters mounted behind TIR lenses. It also has 200, 30, and 1 lumen settings. Runtimes range from 15 minutes for the turbo mode all the way to 55 hours for the 1 lumen mode and all that power is provided by a rechargable Li-ion battery.

The TIP2 features a lanyard/key attachment that is held onto 1 piece CNC machined body of the light via strong neodymium magnets allowing it to be quickly removed from the keychain or lanyard for handheld use. This also allows the light to be mounted on any ferrous surface for hands-free use.

I am just scratching the surface of the features and potential applications for this light. You can check it out at Nitecore.com.

Black Rhino Concealment Adds Nightstick TCM-550XL Support

I recently posted a review of the Nightstick TCM-550XL weapon light. In the review, I talked about how this compact light has tremendous potential for the EDC market but I lamented a lack of holster support. That is a major hurdle for any new weapon light to overcome.

Fortunately, holster availability is already improving thanks to Black Rhino Concealment. Their TCS-L Holster is now available for the TCM-550XL. The TCS-L is a convertible holster that can be configured for IWB or OWB carry.

BlackRhinoConcealment.com

Review: Nightstick TCM-550XL Weapon Light

The Nightstick TCM-550XL is relatively new to the weapon light market but it is from a maker that has been making first responder lights for a long time. Let’s dive right into the review to see how it stacks up.

Overview

The TCM-550XL is a compact weapon light from Nightstick, a division of Bayco Products. It is about 2.5″ long, just over 1″ wide, and just over 1″ tall – a size that allows it to sit well inside the footprint of a typical double stack handgun like a Glock.

It boasts 550 lumen output and uses a collimating lens to produce a beam with a relatively wide hotspot. The runtime for this single CR123A light is published as 2.5 hours.

The main body of the TCM-550XL is machined from 6061 aluminum with a polymer back plate. It weighs in at 2.5 ounces. Other highlights include a paddle style switch and lock out bezel.

Observations from Use

I typically shy away from direct product comparisons in these reviews but in this case it feels unavoidable. The TCM-550XL is similar in size, shape, and execution of at least two features (the lockout bezel and rail clamp) to the Streamlight TLR-7. However, I feel that the TCM-550XL actually has a major advantage over the TLR-7 in that its paddle style switch is MUCH easier to operate and it is brighter with better tint than my TLR-7.

Speaking of the switch, it offers constant/momentary operation. The user interface should feel familiar as it has become somewhat standard across many tactical lights – quick press for constant, long press for momentary. This is a system that works fairly well with just a bit of practice.

This brings us to my first criticism of this light. It turns on instantly but there is a delay in turning off, almost as if the light is deciding whether it should stay on or turn off based on your input. It is just a moment (not even a second) but it is noticeable when running drills. Apart from that delay, the switch is actually very impressive. This is a very compact light but the well designed switch operates as easily as a full size light.

The lockout bezel works well though the detent that indicates the light is locked out can be a little difficult to feel on my example. It is still a thoughtful feature and there are markings on the bezel to indicate where the lockout exists.

The beam profile is very good. It has a wide hotspot with plenty of spill. The TCM-550XL balances throw and spill very well for a compact light. Those 550 lumens do a good job is filling a room with light or extending the range at which you can ID a target outdoors.

I am very impressed with this light. It has standout ergonomics among compact lights, a compact footprint, and good output for a single CR123A light. It has a lot of potential but it shares the same stumbling block to that potential as any new weapon light – lack of holster support. This light has what it takes to be a great CCW light but as of right now, it will be hard to find a holster for it. Safariland has this light listed in their holster finder but all of the compatible holsters are more suited for duty carry, not CCW.

Wrap Up

The TCM-550XL has the size, weight, output, and ergonomics that I look for in compact weapon light. The switch in particular stands out among a lot of compact weapon lights. It ticks all the boxes but until there is holster support, it will be hard for it to reach its full potential.

Nightstick.com

Review: Streamlight Microstream USB

I’ll spoil this review right up front. I really, really like my Streamlight Microstream USB.

Overview

The Microstream USB is an extremely compact LED light. It features a tail switch, a two way pocket clip (that is removable and replaceable), and two output settings (250 lumens for 1.5 hours and 50 lumens for 3.5 hours). This light is USB rechargable via a USB-C cord (included). It is less than 4″ long, barely wider than a AAA battery, and weighs a little more than 1 ounce.

The Microstream USB is available in a number of anodized colors but I recommend the FDE version because it is the only one that gives you the high output mode on the first click. The other colors (Black, Blue, Red) activate the 50 lumen mode on the first click.

Observations from Use

I normally prefer single output lights for EDC but the Microstream USB gets a pass. Streamlight designed it so that you could only access the 50 lumen low mode with a very fast double click. You can execute typical low light techniques without ever dropping into the 50 lumen mode. The user interface is dead simple and well designed.

The power to weight ratio on this light is incredible. It is so small and so lightweight that you will never leave it at home. It still has large light features like 250 lumen output and a tail switch in spite of that small size.

I typically carry a USB backup battery both at the office and on the trail. That makes it easy to keep this light up and running no matter where I am.

The light is recharged by sliding the bezel up to reveal the USB-C port and a small charge indicating LED (red for charging, green for charged). This sliding collar is o-ring sealed and it seams to do a good job given that my light has been through the wash with no ill effects. Still, this is the source of my major criticism of the light. I wish that this was sliding collar was threaded so that it had to be screwed down over the o-ring. This would make it even less likely to have water ingress. As it stands now, the user will have to keep a sharp eye on the o-ring to ensure that it is in good shape.

Wrap Up

This light is a tiny power house. I have larger lights with more output that I can can carry but this light is so small, lightweight, useful, and cheap to operate that I often carry it as a backup or even my primary light. It’s affordable too (less than $30)!

Have I said that I really, really like this light?

I had trouble finding the FDE anodized version when I bought mine last year. Now they are much easier to find. I purchased mine at Amazon who happened to be one the only places that had them in stock at the time: Streamlight Microstream USB on Amazon

Cloud Defensive – Cloud Optimized Rail

Cloud Defensive’s new COR (Cloud Optimized Rail) is designed from the ground up with light and laser integration in mind. The COR mates closely with the Cloud Defensive OWL giving a nearly integral feel. The CORv2 features a recessed channel in the middle of the top rail that is optimal for remote switches like the Surefire SR-07 and DS-07.

The COR series of rail also feature M-LOK compatibility, integrated QD sling sockets, and makes use of BCM’s barrel attachment system. You can see the full line and learn more at CloudDefensive.com.

Review: Streamlight TLR-7

Streamlight’s TLR-7 is their first entry into the compact, EDC weapon light market that has come about recently. Most of the lights in this space are giving up something in terms of output, runtime, and ergonomics to their full size counterparts. The best lights try to balance all of these factors. How well does the TLR-7 balance all of these considerations? Let’s dig in.

Specs:

  • Weight: 2.41 ounces
  • Length: 2.1″
  • Width: 1.2″
  • Output: 500 lumens
  • Runtime: 1.5 hours
  • Battery: 1x CR123A

Observations from Use

I will say up front that I really like this light with one caveat. Unfortunately, that caveat may be a big one for some shooters.The TLR-7 is the right kind of compact. It is built around a single CR123A battery and closely matches the width of many popular modern handguns. It isn’t just easy to carry. It’s very comfortable to carry. By matching the width of most handguns, Streamlight has made a light that can actually make your handgun MORE comfortable to carry. The holsters for this light, with something like a Glock, are often very flat and slab-like which seems to reduce hot spots… for me at least.

The output (500 lumens) and runtime (1.5 hours) are great and Streamlight nailed the beam shape. Some compact weapon lights have beams that are obviously very slanted toward illuminating objects at close range. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Streamlight has developed a very balanced beam pattern for the TLR-7 that offers a broad and bright hotspot with a generous spill beam. It is a great compromise between an “across the room” beam and an “across the parking garage” beam.

The TLR-7’s mounting system is solid, low profile, and adaptable. It comes with a variety of cross bars to accommodate just about any handgun. The locking disk can be turned with a flat blade screwdriver or an improvised item like a coin.

I especially like the lockout bezel feature on the TLR-7. Most light makers just tell you to back the bezel off the light in order to prevent accidental activation during storage or transport. Streamlight actually installed a tactile detent on the TLR-7 so you can feel when you hit the lock out point and the bezel is then less likely to back itself off any further during transport.

And now for the caveat… Streamlight designed this light to be compact and as you might expect, it’s activation paddles are also compact. Unfortunately, some users will find them too compact and difficult to reach. I lock the support hand wrist which places my thumb forward and high. Reaching the paddles and pushing them forward is not difficult for me with my medium sized hands… but it definitely isn’t as easy as a full sized weapon light. If your hands are smaller or your grip places your thumb further back on the grip, you may have difficulty operating this light.

I strongly recommend getting your hands on one these lights before you buy to ensure that it will work for you. If it does, I think you will be really pleased with it. I have just over 1200 rounds through my G19 with this light mounted with about 450 of those while actively testing the light. The light is working like second-nature to me with minimal adjustment to my grip but it is easy to for me to see how this might not ever work for some people.

Wrap Up

The TLR-7 offers a LOT of performance for a compact weapon light. The output and beam shape are excellent. The lock out feature is well executed and clever. If your grip and hand size will accommodate this light, I think it is a fine choice.

Streamlight.com

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