(Note: I am well aware that the TLR-2 has an underslung laser and the WML does not. I will do my best to notate where the existence of that laser affects the comparison, and the laser itself was not used in any of the performance/run-down tests. Unfortunately, I did not have a TLR-1, so I had to make do with what I had.)
As a recent negligent discharge adequately illustrates, one of the most important aspects of a home-defense firearm or setup is the ability to identify your target before you actually engage it; you do not want to be shooting in the dark only to realize that you unintentionally perforated a member of your family, believing them to be home-invaders. While there are multiple arguments to be made about the efficacy/appropriateness of simply turning your room’s lights on (specifically, you know your house and can navigate it in the dark; your assailant does not, and may not be able to), the truth is that your home-invader could simply cut your house’s power before entering it. I know our emergency shut-off breaker is on the outside of our house, in an unlocked cabinet in case firemen have to get to it. What about yours?
In short, you should probably have a flashlight as part of your home-defense rig. But are you going to carry it or not? If you plan on using a pistol to defend your home, you have that choice, but if you are planning on using a long arm – be it a pistol or rifle – you should probably find a way to attach it to the firearm in question; after all, you are going to need both hands to effectively use the gun.
That is where the Inforce WML and Streamlight TLR-2 come in – flashlights that are designed to mount onto whatever Picatinny rail you might have on your rifle/shotgun. But what really sets them apart is how you turn them on.
To begin with, though, we are going to do a specification comparison, just so everyone is on the same page. Numbers from the manufacturers will be in parenthesis if they differ from what I measure – everything else is information I measured – and any time the laser module on the TLR-2 might affect the measurement, there will be an asterisk (*) by the number.
WML: 4.175” with safety lever down, 4.015” with lever up. (4.1”)
TLR-2: 3.390” with rocker switch installed. (3.26”)
WML: 1.588” with attachment lever in installed position. (1” bezel)
TLR-2: 1.440” (1.47”)
TLR-2: 1.825”* (Note: TLR-1 is 1.44” in height.)
Weight* with Battery/Batteries Installed
WML: 3 ounces
TLR-2: 4.625 ounces* (Note: TLR-1 weighs 4.18 ounces.)
1 CR123 battery: 0.5 ounces
WML: 1 CR123 3V lithium battery
TLR-2: 2 CR123
The following I could not test, since the light sensor on my phone does not have the granularity necessary to be useful, so these numbers are straight from the manufacturers:
WML: 125 lumens
TLR-2: 160 lumens
Now this is where we get to have fun. Both companies, of course, have advertised runtimes for their lights, and that is all well and good, but what does it mean in the field? For this experiment, I set up the lights at an equal distance (about 12.5’) from a wall with a dresser on it; every 15 minutes I came back and took a picture of the output of each individual light, plus a comparison of the two side-by-side when they were first turned on. The camera was on the same settings for all pictures – f/10, 5 second exposure, 18mm focal length, 100ISO – and no post-processing was done on the images.
Streamlight TLR-2 (without laser on):
Now, here are the company’s claimed numbers:
WML: 2 hours (on high setting; 10 hours on low)
TLR-2: 2.5 hours (no high/low settings; TLR-1 has same runtime)
Now, as you can see, I got about 1.5 hours of full-output life out of the WML; however, in fairness, I was using Tenergy CR123A batteries (because I am cheap), which is not one of the brands Inforce recommends. On the other hand, I got about 2 hours of full-output life out of the TLR-2, and then it started to taper off some.
Here are a few oddities not shown in that test, though… First, the WML does have a “high” and a “low” setting, with the relative outputs looking like this:
I did not test how long the low will run, but 7.5 hours on the batteries I used seems like a good guestimate.
Second, I accidentally left the TLR-2 on overnight, and its out put the following morning, about seven hours after the last photograph above, looked like the image to the right. In other words, the flashlight will continue working long past its reported expectancy, but I doubt I would consider it “useful”.
The WML appears to have the necessary circuitry to run its LED emitter at full-blast until the battery simply cannot support it any more, then it drops to “low”, then it shuts off. The TLR-2 seems to simply run the LED on whatever output the battery can provide until the battery dies.
Third, here they are side-by-side, at full power, WML on the right, TLR-2 on the left:
You can clearly see how the WML has a much larger splash and a much blue-er light, while the TLR-2 has a larger overall illumination circle and arguably puts out more lumens. Honestly, I could not see a discernable difference between the lighting the two flashlights provided. This is probably due to the “warmer” light of the TLR typically being observed as “dimmer” than equivalent-output “cool” lights.
Finally, both emitter heads peaked out at about 115° Fahrenheit during this run-down test, according to my infrared thermometer. The body of the WML stayed about 90° throughout, and the body of the TLR-2 reached about 105°. I will say that the WML “felt” less hot due to its polymer construction, especially back on the body; if you brushed your hand against the TLR-2 after it had been on for a while, though, you would notice.
So what about other features/details?
- Constant and momentary high/low/strobe (Press-and-hold for momentary, one press for high, two presses in two seconds for low, two quick presses for strobe)
- Strobe disable
- Light lock-out with manual lever
- Light lock-out by unscrewing head
- Tool-less installation on Picatinny rails
- Waterproof to 66 feet (IPX8+ equivalence) (Note: I did not test this)
- Ergonomic, ambidextrous activation switch
- Tool-less installation
- Two colors (black and desert sand)
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Assembled in USA
- Constant and momentary activation (Rotate switch counter-clockwise for momentary, clockwise for constant)
- Aluminum construction
- Multi-rail compatibility (Glock, Picatinny, S&W / TSW/99, and Beretta 90two rails)
- IPX4 rated (“Protected against splashing water”)
- Ambidextrous activation switch
- Mountable on long guns and pistols
- Available remote switch (requires battery door switch)
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Assembled in USA
So with all of the specifications and comparisons thrown out there and explained, which one would I buy if I was deciding between the two? The Inforce WML, for three reasons.
First, while the TLR series of flashlights advertises “tool-less installation”, I rather disagree with them – their mounting cross-screw may have teeth around the edges and those two little nubbins sticking up from the head, but I will be buggered if I can get a good enough grip on either to positively clamp the light onto my weapons. Sure, all you need is a screwdriver or coin to get the final lock on, and who does not carry one of those, but that is not exactly “tool-less”, is it?
On the other hand, the WML is designed to expose as much of the screw head as they can without making it easy for a random bump to loosen it up, and they did not even put a flathead or Philips-head notch in it; there was no need.
Second, the WML is cheaper. Right now, you are probably looking at this page like I just announced I grew a third eye, considering that the $130 for the WML is greater than the $110 for the TLR-1, but hold that thought. In order to get the same level of convenience for operating the TLR on a long gun as you already have on the WML, you not only need the light module, but also the remote switch ($30) but also the new battery door for the remote switch to plug into ($40)… and $180 is definitely greater than $130.
But do you need all that stuff? Well…
Third, the WML is designed to be ergonomically used on a long-gun straight out of the box, while the TLR is not. With a long enough railfarm, you can mount the TLR in front of a VFG or something similar, and operate it with your index finger, but if you have short rails, or want to keep everything compact… well, see for yourself:
You can see how, if I was using the TLR in a “momentary” mode, things might get a bit uncomfortable if I were to need to pull the trigger; on the other hand, the WML (on the right) would let my thumb slide right off if the recoil was bad enough, without trying to put two big divots in it.
Sure, you can get the remote switch and go that route (I have, for the TLR setup on one of my rifles), but, again, we are talking an additional cost, and I have to wonder if the thumb actuation switch gives you better control over the light than a grip activation switch would – you will naturally tighten your grip when you fire, but does your thumb automatically do anything?
But this is all my opinion; I am not an operator who has been in operations, nor do I ever plan to. Everything I say here has been based solely off my own experience and what I have worked out as being best for me. Personally, if I had it to do all over again, I would go with the WML; your situation may indicate the TLR is better-suited. If nothing else, no WML rig has a laser yet, while the TLR-2 does… but no TLR has an infrared option either, and the WML does (I did not get a WML with this option; I have no night vision equipment). So what are your requirements?
Finally, here is some gratuitous flashlight porn to close out the post.
(Note: All pictures were taken by me, using a kickass lens I recently purchased from Oleg Volk, and I am still getting used to it. In short, I apologize for any shoddy quality.)
(Obligatory Piss-Off to the FTC: I purchased the TLR-2 used in this review with my own money. The WML was provided to me by Inforce for the purposes of testing and evaluating it; I informed the Vice President of the company I spoke to that I would be comparing it against a TLR series, and that I would write an honest post – which I have – as to which one I thought was better. I have maintained my integrity in every review post I have ever written; would that we could say the same about you and your jobs.)