Archive | Flashlights

Review: Streamlight TLR-7X USB

My experience with Streamlight’s TLR-7 light of lights goes back to the original version with teeny-tiny lever-style switches. In some ways, the TLR-7 line has changed a lot and in some ways it hasn’t changed much at all since then. Today, I’ll be taking a look at one of the newest entries into the line, the TLR-7X USB.


  • Multi-fuel: Uses one (1) Streamlight SL-B9 protected Li-Ion USB-C rechargeable battery pack or one (1) CR123A lithium battery
  • 500 lumens; 5,000 candela; 140m beam; runs 1.5 hours (CR123A), runs 1 hour (SL-B9)
  • 2.48 ounces (70.31 grams) – 2.64 ounces (74.84 grams) depending on battery

Observations from Use

A lot of my observations of the TLR-7 X USB will be framed by my experiences with the original TLR-7 – a light that I have used a lot and continue to use for the specific use case of carrying in Hill People Gear Kitbag where I found the small switches unlikely to activate accidentally. The original TLR-7 is a light I use often and will continue to use. On paper, the TLR-7 X USB seems similar but in use, there is almost no comparison.

Just reading the spec sheet, the original TLR-7 and TLR-7 X USB should have similar output. I can confirm that the beam shape is similar (if not identical) – a nicely balanced hotspot and spill beam with reasonable throw for an EDC-focused light. However, my new TLR-7 X USB is noticeably whiter and brighter than my original TLR-7 despite the same 500-lumen output on paper.

The new TLR-7 X USB is basically the same compact size and shape except for the longer switches (more on this later). It should fit most holsters intended for almost any iteration of the TLR-7. This is a strong positive because the economical size and Streamlight’s commitment to holster compatibility is one of the things I love about this series and Streamlight in general.

If you are familiar with the TLR-7 A that this light replaces, you will already be familiar with the switches. The original TLR-7 had switches that were almost universally hated (though as mentioned earlier, I have a use case for them). The switches introduced on the TLR-7 A and now used on the TLR-7 X and TLR-7 X USB are universally loved for good reason. They are compact but useable, perfectly shaped, and easy to operate. Switches this good are a luxury on a light this small.

Streamlight’s SL-B9 USB rechargeable battery is included with the TLR-7 X USB (the TLR-7 X is compatible with it but it does not come with one) and this battery is pretty easy to live with. The battery has a USB-C port that allows the user to recharge it without the need for a separate charger. It must be removed from the light to charge but that can be accomplished without removing the light from the host handgun. Both the TLR-7 X USB and TLR-7 X are also compatible with standard CR123A primary batteries.

Wrap Up

If you have been away from the TLR-7 line for a while, you’ll find a ton of worthwhile updates in the TLR-7 X – improved switches, improved output, and multiple battery options. If you are coming from the TLR-7 A, you’ll have to decide if the rechargeable battery options is reason enough for you to switch to the TLR-7 X.

If you have never used a TLR-7 series light, now is a great time to try. These lights are compact, bright, reliable, and easy to use.

View all the TLR-7 X USB specs and documentation:

Link to purchase: TLR-7 X USB at

Review: Streamlight Wedge XT

The Streamlight Wedge XT is the newest addition to Streamlight’s Wedge line of rechargeable EDC lights. The Wedge line is known for its knife-like form factor that makes carrying them a breeze and the Wedge XT leans even harder into that by being the most compact version to date.

Great Light, Dumb Takes

I’ve seen some weird, whiny takes on this light from other reviewers. In some ways, it is a major departure from the original Wedge which might be why some people seem to misunderstand how good this light is. It does away with the lever-style switch of the original in favor of a tail switch and it cuts the output in half… neither of which bothers me.

The tail switch is a massive upgrade in my opinion. It makes the light dead-simple to operate with basically the same UI as the venerable Micro and Macro Stream flashlights. Almost all of the modern techniques to use a flashlight with a firearm are built around a simple tail switch interface so, to my mind, this is a huge upgrade. The level style switch is what PREVENTED me from even considering the previous versions of the Wedge. The tail switch won me over.

The output being cut in half is also not an issue for me. 500 lumens for 2 hours is a lot of light for a long time. As lights get smaller, manufacturers tend to dial the output back. It’s a tale as old as time. It’s expected. I actually find 500 lumens for 2 hours, instead of the typical 1 hour for most lights on high, to be impressive.

I think a lot of complaining about this light comes from a different perspective. If you are a flashlight nerd first (I use that term lovingly), I can understand mourning the loss of your pet fidgety switch and lamenting less lumens. If you want a functional light to carry alongside other defensive tools, you likely won’t care.

I should also mention that the Wedge XT is USB-C compatible. I think that is also a major upgrade. Micro-USB, with its fragile connectors, needs to go away at this point. Streamlight has been moving basically all of their rechargeable to USB-C and that is a welcome change.

The Shape of Things to Come

When I first took on the Wedge XT for review I thought it would just be like the Streamlight Macrostream and in terms of output and UI, it is similar. I was completely taken off guard by how much the shape of this light would play into its usefulness.

The flat(ish) shape makes it ride in the pocket more like the very slim Streamlight Microstream. It disappears in the pocket. It is light that you can carry when you don’t think you can carry a light.

That same flat(ish) shape makes it easy to pack in something like a pouch. I run, walk, and hike multiple times a week with something like a Hill People Gear Kit Bag or some kind of fanny pack. This shape is IDEAL for these pouches where items in the pouch often end up layered on top of each other. A barrel-shaped light, in these pouches, can use up a lot of space and really push into other items.

I also like the subtle “hook” shape with knife-like jumping that Streamlight incorporated into the tail of the light. It is very easy to take the light out from wherever it is stored thanks to this.

General Observations and Potential Improvements

The Wedge XT has a very floody beam. There is a hotspot but it is wide and tapers gradually to a bright spill beam. Streamlight claims 87 meters of throw and, in my testing, that is optimistic. It might brute force its way there but this is not a portable spotlight. The beam shape is ideal for most people’s EDC tasks.

The switch used on the Wedge XT is good but could be better. On one hand, it is easy to use and requires a long travel to activate which I like. I also like the subtle tactile feedback it gives when it hits the point that the light activates. However, I wish that it was pressure-sensitive, where a partial press would activate the light momentarily, like the switch on the Microstream.

Finally, the clip is great in that it is very secure and shaped well so it doesn’t catch on stuff. It is affixed to the light in a bezel-down carry configuration which I normally prefer. However, a light like this would be great if it could be clipped to your ball cap. Either a two-way clip or a bezel-up option would have been great.

Wrap Up

Don’t let the flashlight nerd lamentations scare you away from this light. The Wedge XT is the RIGHT direction for the Wedge line. It is an excellent light and a triumph of design. The shape of this light serves a purpose and the new functional changes make this a legitimately good EDC light.

This light is easy to use, easy to carry, offers a very useful beam shape with plenty of output for plenty of time, and wraps it all up into a very tidy package. It’s in my pocket right now.

Streamlight Wedge XT on

Review: Nitecore TM12K

Pretty much any flashlight can be useful and some are more useful than others. Nitecore makes its fair share of those more useful lights but their Tiny Monster series, the TM12K specifically, reminds us that flashlights can be useful AND FUN… like giggle-inducing, retina-burning, show-it-off-to-your-friends fun.


The TM12K is one of the brighter lights in Nitecore’s Tiny Monster series. This USB-C rechargeable Li-ion light boasts up to 12,000 lumens of floody output from its 6 Cree XHP50 LEDs. It has 4 levels of output in addition to it’s Turbo mode (a total of 5). The 4th level is user programmable which is a task that is made very easy by the included OLED display!

The light has an internal 21700 battery with 4800 mAh capacity for some very impressive runtimes. It can charge at 18W in just 1.5 hours from empty.

You can see details outputs and runtimes in the image below.

Observations from Use

The TM12K feels like a light aimed at flashlight enthusiasts like much of the Tiny Monster line. I think that is where a lot of the fun (and the price) comes in. Most lights don’t need an eye-searing 12,000-lumen wall-of-light output mode that makes the flashlight body so screaming hot that the light has its own LED display with a visible countdown timer and temperature monitoring to prevent the light from melting itself down into an aluminum puddle… but that’s fun.

OLED displays and 12,000 lumens available at the touch of a dedicated button are fun… but Nitecore also managed to make this light very useful. When you aren’t using the turbo mode to turn night into day, that OLED display gives useful information like which level you are on currently, voltage, temperature, battery level, and even estimated remaining runtime! The latter two information points are extremely useful and makes me wish every light had an OLED display.

I have found the levels/modes on the TM12K to be very practical. Level 1 is an ultralow 6 lumens that runs for more than 200 hours and is great for power outages. Level 2 and 3 offer 100 and 300 lumens for respectable runtimes and I use these levels a lot when using the TM12K as a sort of work light which it excels at. For instance, level 3 was all the light I needed to change the sheer bolt on a snow plow in the dark breezeway of a barn recently. Level 4 is programmable from 400 to 2000 lumens in 100-lumen steps but it defaults to 1000. Programming this level is very easy and fast thanks to the two-button interface and display.

The form-factor of this light is somewhat unique. It has a very good pocket clip that actually works but, realistically, you won’t carry it in your pocket. It is boxy but not uncomfortable to hold and some thoughtful machining provides plenty of grip. I love the shape of this light for how I use it. I can set it down or tail-stand it to aim light anywhere without fear of it rolling away. This is very useful for a light that I mostly use as a work light or during power outages.

There are a few things I might change if I had my druthers. The lens, over the 6 LEDs and their reflectors, is understandably large. It might be nice to see a more protective aluminum bezel to protect that large lens. Also, this light features two lockout modes which are necessary considering this will be carried in a bag most of the time. The lockouts are so necessary that it would have been nice to have them directly accessible via a physical switch. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a more water-resistant cover for the charging port but I have used this light in damp, snowy conditions without issue.

Wrap Up

The Nitecore TM12K reminds me that useful gear can be fun too. It’s an excellent, floody light with long runtimes that make it suitable for power outages and illuminating work areas. However, it also has “12,000 LUMENS!!”, literally engraved on the side so you know it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This light feels a little like a showcase for what Nitecore can do.

TM12K Product Info:

The TM12K can be purchased at Nitecore Store or Amazon

Review: Nitecore NU33

I have a long history with the NU series of headlamps from Nitecore. I have used a number of them, carry one daily in the winter, and have written about them on these pages before. When I was given the chance to check out one of the newer lights in the series, the NU33, I jumped at the chance.

Nitecore’s NU series of lights are all defined by a number of features and design elements. They feature integral USB rechargeable batteries. The lights are generally compact and lightweight while also featuring multiple outputs and, often, multiple types of outputs like white, high CRI, red, etc. They also tend to feature well-thought-out user interfaces. The NU33 checks all these boxes.


The NU33 weighs in at just 3.38 ounces on my scale. This weight includes its aluminum outer construction and integral 2000 mAh lithium battery. It is USB-C rechargeable which is a VERY welcomed change over previous headlamps in the NU series with Micro USB charging. It features three different lighting options: a central white LED, auxiliary high CRI white flood light, and red LED light. Outputs and runtimes are included in the image below.

Observations from Use

I’m not going to share charts, graphs, and pictures of light spots on white walls. Those things can be valuable but I don’t think they will tell the story of just how practical this light is. This light is not flashy in terms of lumen stats but it is exceedingly useful. The care that Nitecore put into making this light easy to live with is impressive.

NU33 (top) shown with the modern classic NU25

First of all, check out those runtimes. Nitecore was somewhat conservative with outputs in favor of runtime. As someone who uses a headlamp daily in the winter, I appreciate that. The main white light, in low mode, will provide 60 regulated lumens for a staggering 37 hours dwindling to about 38 hours according to the runtime graphs provided in the manual. To put that in perspective, it wasn’t that long ago that most headlamps topped out at 60 lumens and we were thrilled with that. It is very useful amount of light for a very long time.

Those lumens are made even more useful by the design of the lens/diffuser that Nitecore uses. It provides a perfectly smooth hotspot that throws well while illuminating a large area. Cleverly, the entire face of the light acts like a diffuser so that you have a light cast over a very wide area as well. This means that even with the light angled high to look as far ahead as possible, there is still light being cast at your feet. I have never seen another headlamp pull off this combination of hotspot for distance and diffused light for area lighting so well.

All light modes are accessible via a simple two button interface.

The auxiliary light modes, high CRI and red, are both useful. That usefulness is maximized by the fact that they are both directly accessible when the light is off meaning there is no need to cycle through the brighter modes, which is a truly great feature of a great UI.

The high CRI light is a feature that I grew to love on my NU25. It’s floody, with no hotspot, very easy on dark-adjusted eyes, and it renders colors faithfully which is handy for tasks like map reading. Best of all, it comes on at a nice, easy-on-the-eyes 6 lumens but can be bumped up to 50 lumens. I can tell you from experience that the low mode is more than enough to walk a dark trail or navigate a dark room and you can do this for 147 hours!

The red light could stand to be a little dimmer to be truly useful but it is available directly from “off” which is great. The red LED also offers a flashing mode which could be useful for those who intend to use this for early morning runs where you might be using this headlamp to be visible to drivers more than to see where you are going.

Switching back to discussing the main white light, the spacing on the 60, 200, and 700 lumen modes is excellent with each offering a large step up in brightness and also balancing run times. The 200 lumen setting is perfect for most uses with a generous 9 hour runtime. The 700 lumen mode has enough punch to really look a long way up the trail while still offering 4 hours of runtime which is noteworthy in a world where most lights offer a high output mode that runs for only about an hour. This sort of well-balanced separation between modes is easy to get wrong but Nitecore nailed it.

The front portion of the NU33’s case is made from anodized aluminum. This is nice for both durability and conducting heat away from the light. The body of the light is fairly compact considering the size of the battery that it houses which makes this light easy to carry and easy to wear. I also think Nitecore has improved the bracket design versus previous lights in the NU series like the NU20 and NU25 which have somewhat fragile brackets.

Previous offerings in the NU series of lights had battery meters but they weren’t as easy to use as the improved meter found on the NU33. Now, instead of having to count dim flashes, the battery level displays on a simple four level LED readout. It is far more foolproof.

Easy to activate and read battery level indicator

I am gushing so far but there are improvements that could be made. For instance, many of the NU series headlamps have a clever silicone rubber bead applied to the inside of the head strap. This prevents sweat from dripping down and helps the strap really lock in place. This feature is curiously missing from the NU33 and I miss it. In addition to my gripes with the red light being too bright, I find it annoying that the light flashes brightly when locking the buttons to prevent accidental activation though I do appreciate that Nitecore provides an option to lock the switches to prevent accidental activation in a pocket or pack.

Wrap Up

I was already a fan of the NU series of headlamps and this NU33 has solidified my love of these lights. It takes everything that was great with the previous NU series lights and makes improvements to the UI, charging interface, and construction. It also offers excellent, useful modes that are well-spaced and easily accessible. Best of all, it goes hard on useful outputs with useful runtimes rather than chasing impressive lumen claims to print on the box.

This is a truly excellent headlamp that retails under $50!

Learn more at

Purchase at or Amazon

USB-C charging is much more robust than Micro-USB

Midwest Industries AK-01 – Easy Way to Add a Light to Traditional AK

The upcoming AK-01 mount, from Midwest Industries, is an easy way to mount a light or other accessories on an AK with no modifications. The AK-01 clamps to the barrel to provide pic rail on both sides of the AK and does not block access to the cleaning rod. If you want to maintain a somewhat traditional AK look or if you just want to add a light to a basic AK, this looks like a simple way to do it.

Stay tuned to the Midwest Industries website for more details on pricing and release date.

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