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Archive | Flashlights

Tactical Handyman – Flashlight Maintenance

You already know why you should carry a quality flashlight and you have already dropped some serious coin on the best light that you could afford. So, now what? A lot of guys know how to maintain their firearms. They may even know how to maintain the knife that they carry clipped in their pocket. But how many Regular Guys know how to maintain their flashlights? That’s right, that piece of absolutely essential life saving gear that you carry so you can see in the dark needs some occasional maintenance.

The o-rings, threads, contacts, and mechanical parts all need some attention once in a while. Parts need to be cleaned and lubed to promote the best function of the light. You may want to consider doing the following procedure at least once or twice a year if you are carrying the same light everyday. If you do this maintenance regularly, you will increase the likelihood that your light will be ready when you need it.

Materials:

  • A flashlight
  • Light oil (NO WD-40!!! CLP works pretty well and you probably already have some)
  • Lithium grease (I like the dielectric bulb grease that many auto parts stores sell.)
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rag
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Replacement o-rings (as necessary)

Procedure:

  1. Disassemble your flashlight down to its major components. In most cases this will be tail cap, bezel (or head), and body.

    Click on any image to enlarge.

  2. Inspect the o-rings. There will likely be an at least 1 o-ring at each sections of male threads. Replace them if they are cut, torn, or broken. This will keep the light water resistant and pocket lint resistant.
  3. Wipe the threads and o-rings with a rag to remove most of the old lubrication. Then use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to thoroughly clean the threads and o-ring. Remember, with some lights, the threads are an electrical contact. They should be kept clean for best performance.

    Clean and lube all threads, including the female threads.

  4. Apply a light coating of grease to the threads and the o-ring. O-rings should always be greased. This will make the light more water resistant and protect the o-rings from wear and tear.
  5. Clean any electrical contacts with rubbing alcohol soaked cotton swab. This will help clean any oxidization from the contact that may hinder performance. You may also want to look into a product like Deoxit if you have a lot of oxidization on the contacts.

    Electrical contacts should be shiny.

  6. Place a drop or two of oil down into the mechanism of your tail cap and work the switch a few times. This is especially important on “clicky” style tail caps since they have more moving parts. The mechanism can often benefit from some lubrication and cleaning just like any other mechanical object. I usually just use CLP because I have plenty of it and it contains cleaners as well as lubricants. The switch (tail cap) is just about the only moving part in a flashlight. If your light is going to fail, it will happen at the switch. Do not neglect this.

    Try to get a drop of oil down into the mechanism.

Don’t forget the more obvious maintenance tasks. Replace your batteries at least once every six months, even if you don’t think you need it. This is akin to doing a tactical reload on your handgun after use and before you holster it. You want you light in the best condition possible because you don’t know what will happen next. If your still using a flashlight with an incandescent bulb, you may want to consider swapping it out once a year for the same reasons. Switching to a newer LED based light is an even better idea.

Taking care of your flashlight really isn’t rocket science. The whole procedure will probably less than 10 minutes. That is time well spent.

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Upcoming Posts on Jerking the Trigger

Tomorrow (03/24/2010) will bring the the first of the Regular Guy Sessions (RGS). The Regular Guy Sessions will be interviews with people who are part of the pursuits that you are interested in as a reader of Jerking the Trigger. The first RGS will be an interview with well known knife maker Ray Laconico.

On Friday (03/26/2010), I will roll out the latest in the Tactical Handyman series. This installment will be about maintaining an extremely important piece of gear – your flashlight!

Stay tuned to Jerking the Trigger!

Review: Princeton Tec Quad Tactical

Click for larger view.

Princeton Tec (PT) makes some of the most innovative, durable, and affordable head lamps on the market right now. They have taken this innovation and applied it to a handful of tactical products. The Quad Tactical is one of these tactical products. It is based on PT’s excellent Quad headlamp with a few tweaks for the “tactical” market. I have been using one for several months now and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Click for larger view.

The Same

The Quad and Quad Tactical share many features. They both have self contained lamp units, meaning that they do not use a separate battery compartment – the batteries are in the same housing as the lamp. In order to keep the unit light weight and compact, they are both powered by three AAA batteries. This compact design allows them to use a single strap unlike many headlamps that have a second strap that travels front to back on top of the wearer’s head. Both lights use four 5mm LEDs to create a broad flood beam of light.

But Different

There are two main differences between the Quad and the Quad Tactical. The Quad Tactical has interchangeable color filters (red, blue, and green) and it comes on in the low setting. The regular Quad comes on in high mode.The filters are a welcome addition for me. I use the red filter constantly. Low levels of red light can be used to maintain your dark adjusted vision. I keep the filter on mine in the up position so that I run less risk of ruining my dark adjusted vision with a surprise activation of the light.

Too much red light can also affect your night vision so PT designed the Quad Tactical to turn on in low mode. This is light is “tactical” because it is discreet, not because it is bright. Many lights of this type have a low mode that is far too bright. PT could have made this one lower, bu the combination of the low mode and red filter make for a passable low mode. It would be an excellent map light or navigation light.

In Use

Using the light is simple. You access all modes from a single button that is located on top of the light. Press once for low mode. Press again within a second for medium, again for high, and again for blink (a slow strobe mode), and again for off. If you wait more than one second to press the button again the light will turn off.

Change the color filter by unlatching the faceplate and replacing with the color of your choice. The filter can be kept down and out of the way or easily pushed up to filter the light. The light uses a small detente and friction to stay in both the up and down positions very securely.

Click for larger view.

It is easy to change the batteries thanks to the tool built into the headband slider. The battery compartment is secured by a single slotted and knurled knob. Loosen the knob to allow the battery compartment to hinge open. Tighten the knob to close the battery compartment. I like to turn it to finger tight and then give it another 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn with the slider tool.

Click for larger view.

I have really come to appreciate the broad beam profile of Quad Tactical. It is probably this light’s best feature. It makes a great work light when you are setting up camp because it really illuminates a wide area. It will also light up nearly an entire USGS map, instead of just a small spot. Even with the broad beam, it still has some reach, especially when turned to high mode. Something like the PT EOS Tactical may be a better choice for lighting up the trail on a mountain bike, but for hiking I rarely use the Quad Tactical on anything other than low mode.

I am very pleased with this light.

Specs:

  • Batteries: 3x AAA batteries (lithium, alkaline, or rechargeable)
  • Output and Runtime: 45 lumens for 1 hour on high, 9 hours on medium, 24 hours on low (these runtimes are the regulated runtimes, for 50-150 hours more depending on output level when they drop out of regulation)
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces with lightweight lithium batteries, 3.5 ounces with alkaline batteries
  • Dimensions: 2.75″ x 1.75″
  • Hinged bracket allows user to direct the light
  • Waterproof to 1 meter
  • Made in the USA

Click here to see the entire PT Tactical line.

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NovaTac 120T Review

Why Carry a Light?

If you carry a gun regularly, you should also carry a light. Many shootings happen at night. You may even find yourself in a low-light situation during the day time if you are indoors. Colonel Cooper’s 4th Rule mandates that we are to be sure of our target and what is behind it before we pull the trigger. We must have a light in order to properly identify our target before we shoot.

A bright white light can also give you an advantage by disrupting your attacker’s dark adjusted vision. In some cases this may even temporarily blind your attacker (according to Surefire) – giving you needed fractions of seconds to respond swiftly and violently. Disrupting the night vision of your attacker alone is not a sufficient response to being attacked. You must be ready and willing to follow-up with overwhelming violent response.

Hopefully, we are in agreement that we should all be carrying a light (or two) along with our guns but that is the easy part. The hard part is choosing a light to carry. There are certainly no shortages of manufacturers who would be happy to supply you with a “tactical” light. Many of these manufacturers offer multiple lights. The options can seem limitless and overwhelming.

One of those manufacturers that would be happy to sell you a light is NovaTac. The brand is somewhat new but the people behind it are not new to the tactical light scene. They have used their experience and innovation to bring several lights to market. The one that we will focus on for this review is the 12oT.

NovaTac 120T

The NovaTac 120T is built from the ground up to be a compact tactical light. The specifications, construction materials, and ergonomics leave no question about that. This light is purpose-built.

Specs:

  • 3 Brightness levels (120 lumens, 10 lumens, .3 lumens)
  • Easily accessible disorienting strobe
  • Extended tail cap button and grip ring (allows use of multiple flashlight and handgun control techniques)
  • Momentary or click-on functionality
  • Pocket clip
  • Automatically compensates for weakening battery
  • Runs on a single CR123A battery
  • Waterproof to 66 feet
  • 3.3″ long, 1″ in diameter, 3.1 oz

Materials:

  • Aluminum body
  • Steel bezel ring
  • HAIII hard anodized finish
  • Polycarbonate lens with anti-reflective coatings
  • Steel pocket clip

Runtime:

  • High: 30 Minutes
  • Medium: 14 Hours
  • Low: 240 Hours

More information can be found on the 120T spec sheet(PDF).

How Does it Work?

On paper it sounds somewhat complicated but in use it is actually very simple. The 120T has only one button. The user can access all functions from this button by using a series of clicks and/or presses. It helps if you understand the difference between clicks and presses. The user clicks by quickly depressing and releasing the button – like you would click a mouse button. The user presses by depressing and holding the button.

  1. Momentary – Press the button. The light will stay on high until you release the button. This is very natural and lends itself very well to short bursts of light while moving and “slicing the pie”.
  2. Constant or Click-on – Click the button. The light will stay on high until you click the button again.
  3. Medium – Starting from any high mode, click the button twice quickly. The light will stay on medium until you click the button again.
  4. Low – Starting from high or medium mode, click the button three times quickly. The light will stay on low until you click the button again. Any clicks from this mode will put the light back in high mode.
  5. Strobe – Press the button from any constant mode or click-press from off.

Notice that the light always comes on in high mode. This is good news. It means that no matter how you turn on the light, you will immediately have 120 retina searing lumens on tap. This feature is important in a tactical light versus a general use light that may come on in a more battery conservative low mode. The designers of the 120T correctly assume that tactical users would need the most light available at the very instant they turn on the light.

The medium and low modes make this light useful for general use as well. You probably won’t be holding an attacker at gunpoint every time you fire up your flashlight. You may just be trying to find a key or walking the dog. The medium and low modes are well-chosen and very useful. I especially appreciate that the low mode is truly low. It can be used without destroying your dark adjusted vision. The vast majority of lights miss the mark here because they are too busy chasing the biggest lumen numbers to actually make a useful light.

The light carries very well in a pocket using the included pocket clip. The light rides very deep in the pocket and seems very secure. The checkering on the body of the light is somewhat aggressive and may fray your pockets over time. It does, however, make for a very secure grip. A lanyard can be attached to the pocket clip.

The shape of the light lends itself to several handgun/light combination holds. Many people are familiar with the FBI flashlight technique, Harries technique, and the Surefire/Rogers technique.  NovaTac promotes the Thorpe Technique which is specific to their lights. There is a thick o-ring provided with the 120T to aid in acquiring this grip. It is quite simple to use and indexes the light well. I suggest that you practice this technique before using it as you would any new technique.

Worth a Look

I am quite pleased with this light. I believe it offers an excellent set of features to law enforcement, military, and civilian users alike. If you are in the market for a feature rich but still easy to use light, be sure to check out the NovaTac line of lights.

More Information

Gear Geek’s Review of the 120T

Back Door Programming the 120T

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