In searching for the appropriate equipment when building Janus, I, of course, had to address the topic of illumination. While I am a gadget-y kind of person, and enjoy all manner of toys and gizmos, I try to keep the number of things I hang off firearms to a bare minimum – if nothing else, I am a twiggy weakling, and can only support so much weight for so long. However, in the terms of home-defense firearms, while I am uncertain about slings, I am absolutely, 100% certain that those types of weapons should have some manner of flashlight attached to them.
For around a year now, I have been carrying a Surefire 6P Defender, and have had very good experiences with both the flashlight and the customer service at Surefire. As far as I am concerned, both the company and their products are outstanding, and should be a serious contender for any weapon-mounted, belt-mounted, or you-want-it-to-survive-for-ever flashlight shopping.
Unfortunately, they are also a bit expensive, and, as this particular post will delve into more deeply, have made some strange design decisions.
Make no doubt, I like my 6PD, and I fully planned on purchasing something else Surefire made to mount on Janus – specifically, one of their G2Ls – basically, a cheaper version of what I have now. The difference is that the G2L has no crenellated bezel (of dubious usefuless, regardless), a rubber body (as opposed to the metal one of the 6P line), an LED emitter standard (as opposed to the LED emitter I had to install in my 6PD, though you can get them with LEDs standard now), and the real deal-breaker – a twist-activation tailcap, as opposed to the click tailcap my 6PD has.
I actually almost pushed the “order” button on the G2L, and then noticed something about the tailcap, and headed over to Surefire’s webpage. Sure enough, the G2L has a “Tailcap switch: press for momentary-on, twist for constant-on”. Bugger. That simply is not going to work when attached to a shotgun forearm. For that matter, my old Inova X5 had that design feature, and I positively hated it (though a newer model of the X5 seems to have gone to a push-button-only endcap) – twisting the tailcap to keep the light on always seemed awkward, and was doubly so when your other hand was full. In fact, doing some more poking around Surefire’s webpage, I found that nothing in the sub-$100 range I was hoping for had the push-button-only tailcap, requiring a jump up to $105 for the 6PDL. $5 is $5, and I probably should not have quibbled that much, but I figured that I could surely do better. Or, at least, I could do better for a flashlight that I was going to carry, rather than Janus – weaponlights are not cheap, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, and the 6PDL I already had, with its metal body and LED emitter, would certainly do in a pinch.
Then I remembered that SayUncle did some weblogging on Olight flashlights a little while ago, and I started researching them.
And, for flashlight researching, there are two places to go: CandlePower Forums and Light-Reviews.com. Both of them can lead you a little far out into the weeds if you are not careful, but too much information is better than too little.
After extensively poking around those two webpages, Olight’s two webpages, and a helpful chart from Battery Junction, I came to the conclusion that the T20-M model would suit my carry purposes.
From those two aforementioned sites, the definitive reviews are here and here, and are chock-full of all the necessary information, data, and specifications you could ever want. After using the nifty “Compare” tool at Light-Reviews.com (and finding out why my 6PD has the problem of diminishing output over time – no battery regulation), I was pretty well sold on the Olight – it uses batteries I already have (and it uses them better), it comes with a holster, it is absurdly bright (220 lumens compared to 80 lumens of the 6PDL), it has multiple modes and illumination levels (compared to the one mode and one illumination level of the 6PDL), and it costs a quarter less than my Surefire alternative. My only concerns were durability, customer service, and support.
Well, the flashglight got here last week, and I have worn it ever since.
The Good: This thing is bright… amazingly bright… bright enough it left spots in my eyes for about 10 minutes afterwards… I can shine it across my apartment in the dead of night, and it lights up the entire place. The Olight flashlights use a combination smooth and “orange peel” reflector lens, which results in a very bright spot in the middle of a relatively wide diffusion, and I have to say it works pretty darned well. Even on the lowest setting, the flashlight was more than powerful enough for me to clearly see my door and the space between, when I was standing in my bedroom about thirty feet distant. The middle setting is kind of useless, in my mind, but there if you want it. The strobe setting is on full power, and as annoying/disorienting as you might think, and the “SOS” setting actually does spell out SOS in morse code, though the pause between sequences is shorter than the pauses between letters (either way, I think it will get the point across).
Batteries are the standard CR123s I already had on-hand for my Surefire, and fit without any problems or rattling. The o-rings at either end of the flashlight appear to adequately seal off the battery compartment and other internals, though I confess to not having drowned the new toy yet.
It comes with a holster that holds the flashlight quite snugly, and has a belt loop sufficiently large for just about any belt known to mankind (along with a wrist lanyard, two replacement o-rings, and a glow-in-the-dark rubber tailcap button cover).
The tailcap has a positive “clicky” feel and sound to it, with gently pushing it momentarily activating the light, and pushing it all the way to the “click” point turning the light on entirely. Brightness/mode changes are accomplished by loosening the head of the flashlight slightly, and then tightening it back down, with the sequence being low -> mid -> high -> strobe -> SOS -> low. The flashlight remembers what setting it was on when you turned it off, and I just leave it on high.
The ergonomics on the body are outstanding, and, I think, better than my Surefire’s. Overall, the entire flashlight is narrower, but it has enough changes in diameter and texturing to provide a positive, firm grip on it, whether you are holding it overhand, or in that “cigar” grip I have never quite gotten a hang of (it has a smallish ring near the base that works perfectly for that purpose). Branding is limited to a single, small face and very small print around the rim of the tailcap, and there is a pocket clip add-on if you are so inclined. The material seems quite durable, and the anodized finish is smooth, but not slippery, and looks like it should hold up well.
The Bad: The tailcap and the head of the flashlight both have bevelling on them, to allow the flashlight to sit flat on a surface and not roll. Unfortunately, when both ends are screwed down tight, the bevelling does not match up ever-so-slightly, resulting in a potentially unbalanced light. Either one end or the other should have the bevelling, or the two should match up better than they do (requiring more care in threading either the ends, or the battery tube).
Speaking of threading, be careful when you take either end off the tube – when you start threading them back on, it is very easy to cross-thread and cause potential problems.
The flashlight uses CR123 batteries, which was not a concern for me, since I already have more than a few, but they are more expensive and harder to find than your standard AAs and AAAs. Of course, they also (typically) yield flashlights with higher outputs and longer lifes, but it is a trade-off.
The holster beltloop allows for some movement on the belt, both side to side and up and down – this can be beneficial when sitting down, but it can also result in the flashlight wandering. Also, the holster is half comprised of elastic, which will only shorten its lifespan and potentially be unsightly in the future.
Instructions are limited to what can be printed on the back of the box, and there was no warranty mentioned on said box, or warranty card included in it. Their world webpage indicates a year warranty, but that is about it.
While the flashlight ships with a glow-in-the-dark rubber tailcap button cover, installing it is… well, a puzzle. The internal workings of the tailcap do not seem like they were intended to be taken out, and the rubber cover is definitely not externally removable. This prompted my first email to customer support, which leads us to the last downside.
Predictably, customer support is… lacking. The first Olight email address I tried ([email protected]) did not even respond, bounce, or do much of anything. The second Olight-affiliated address I contacted ([email protected]) directed me to get in touch with Battery Junction ([email protected]), so I dropped them a line. A five-email conversation later, and they have provided me support for a different flashlight, and now instructions that make no sense, and do not seem physically possible with the way this flashlight is constructed. Not very encouraging, that.
The Verdict: For me, the Olight T20-M is a keeper, with reservations. Surefires are undeniably more expensive, especially when you compare raw statistics and numbers, but the additional customer service and product quality is sometimes worth it.
(I was lazy and did not take pictures of the Olight, simply because there are a plethora available here, here, here, and here. If you want comparison shots of the Olight and the Surefire, I might be able to work that out.)
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