If you have spent much time on a shooting range working with a weapon light, chances are you know what happens to the lens of a weapon light that is used in proximity to the muzzle of a firearm. It doesn’t take long before the lens is clouded with carbon and unburnt powder. It isn’t especially difficult to clean if you know how to do it (pencil eraser works great) but it can start to severely degrade the output of your light which can have some serious situational awareness/target identification implications if you don’t deal with it… or prevent it.
When it comes to clouding a weapon light lens with carbon, my worst offenders are usually 12 o’clock mounted weapon lights on extended rails. In one case, I have a Surefire X300 mounted nearly directly over the muzzle of a 14.5″ barrel on a 13″ rail. The lens of the X300 clouds and darkens fairly quickly in this position so I channeled the Tactical Handyman and came up with a simple, easy, and dirt cheap DIY fix that keeps my light running at full output for a good long time.
What You Need
- Bicycle Tire Inner Tube
I said this was going to be simple and it really is. I could probably just show you the picture and you could figure it out more easily than I can explain it.
- Cut an approximately 4″ length of bicycle tire inner tube. 4″ will work with longer lights like the X300 but will likely be too long for lights like the INFORCE APL and Streamlight TLR-1. You can tweak the length to your liking later.
- Cut a half circle in the side of the tube starting at the center of the length of tube and curling back toward one end. Hold the tube flat while you do this. Cut starting at the crease, away from the crease, and then curl back to the crease to finish the half circle cut. The object is to end up with a full circle cutout.
- Stretch the section of tube onto your weapon light with the long end over the bezel of the light so that the rail mounting interface sticks out through the circle cutout. The tube should stretch well forward of the bezel of the light to shroud it from debris and carbon coming from the muzzle.
- Mark the top of the inner tube with the depth at which the bezel is sitting.
- Remove the inner tube from the weapon light.
- Make an angled cut from the the mark that you just made to the “front” of the tube. This angled cut will allow the shroud to protect the bezel from carbon coming from the sides and bottom while interfering with the beam profile as little as possible, if at all.
- Stretch the cover back onto the light and activate the light to check the beam. Trim the shroud as needed until you reach a ratio of protection to beam interference that you are comfortable with. Depending on the beam profile, you may be able to trim it so it doesn’t interfere at all. You will also want to trim the back end so that it doesn’t interfere with the switches.
NOTE: Take care to make sure that all of your cuts are nicely rounded. Any sharp corners will make the rubber tear as your stretch it onto the light.
The finished shroud holds up well to the beating it takes from the muzzle gasses but it won’t last forever. Inner tube is cheap enough that you can easily replace it. Every Tactical Handyman should keep bicycle tire inner tube around the work bench because you will always find new uses for it. The shroud works on my X300 without interfering with the beam at all. It may slightly impact beams of light with wider beam profiles depending on how long you make it.
I should also note that this is really only for long gun applications only. It won’t fit in most holsters that are made for handguns with weapon lights and the holster can bend and set the shroud over the lens over time causing your to draw and present a handgun with a weapon light that is occluded by the shroud. That is bad news.
I used to clean my weapon light after every range trip. Since I made my first shroud several months ago, I haven’t had to clean my light at all.