May 27, 2011

Another flashlight

I have a weak spot for flashlights. Can't help it. I think it may be genetic, on the Y chromosome. I've got a few Surefire G2Ls kicking around, several Maglites in various flavors, lots of the cheap LED lights, a Streamlight Survivor on my fire gear, a couple older Pelican lights stuffed into things...

Cheap lights are great for knock-around work or loaning out, or walking the dog. Good lights get used for more serious work - hunting, bedside table, and so forth. I like the G2Ls - they're bright, batteries last forever, and they're durable. They are not, however, inexpensive - at $60-65 each, it's not unreasonable but also not chump change.

The biggest downfall of most LED lights - in my opinion - is the desire to build too many whiz-bang features in, instead of just making a light that works. High/low beam? Sure. That's useful, particularly when "high" means "sear your retinas out and leave a silhouette on the wall behind you" and "low" is "enough light to check the animals/walk the dog and not completely destroy my night vision". I don't need an SOS blinker, a party strobe, six more brightness levels, and half-click or fast-click switches to get between modes. I want on, off, and *maybe* high/low.

Surefire does this well. MagLite has done this well. Leatherman does it pretty well.

I noticed a new light on the rack at BBHIS last night - the MagLite XL50. $30. Runs on three AAA batteries. Has high/low/flash modes. 104 lumens on high with an 8-hour run-time. (For comparison, the G2L boasts 120 lumens and a 2-hour run-time. )

I'm not completely sold on the aluminum construction; I tend to be a little rough on my lights and I'm not sure how this one would hold up to a drop from the roof or similar. I know the polymer G2 can handle it just fine.

Initial feel of the light is good - it's big enough to hang on to but not unwieldy. The front bezel could probably use a drop of purple loctite to keep it tight - it seems to have a penchant for loosening up. The tailcap switch is recessed, so accidental turn-ons shouldn't be a problem at all. The longitudinal ribs milled in it help with the grip a little bit, but it's not as positive as the checkerboard pattern molded into the Surefires. If it's wet or cold, I wouldn't expect to have a good grip on this thing.

Back to the switch - MagLite uses a "fast click" to change modes. The initial "on" is to "high". Two fast clicks take it to "low", and three is a "strobe". It seems to be pretty sensitive to how fast you click it - not a great feature, IMHO. I'd much prefer a half-click to change modes.

Beam quality seems to be good - no obvious hot spots, good throw. Is it a replacement for the G2Ls? Not quite - it just doesn't feel quite as durable to me. As a murse/kitchen drawer/glovebox light, it should be excellent though - and mine is now residing in my Maxpedition bag, replacing the AA MagLite that had been in there.

For $30, I'll give it two thumbs up. (Available at BBHIS, numerous online retailers, and probably most anywhere else you'd find MagLite products.)

Maglite XL50

(Pictured with the ESEE Izula knife and a Bic lighter for scale.)


elmo iscariot said...

The biggest downfall of most LED lights - in my opinion - is the desire to build too many whiz-bang features in, instead of just making a light that works...I want on, off, and *maybe* high/low.

This. My ideal LED light would have a pocket clip, a tailcap switch with momentary and constant modes, and use a short twist of the tailcap to click between retina-searing and working levels.

Far, far too many lights have manuals that include some variant of "Press the tail switch halfway down five times in a row for a rapid strobe. Press it six times for a slightly more rapid strobe..."

Jay G said...


"a" not "e".

Never mind.

(Good review BTW)

Old NFO said...

Good review, thanks!

Chris said...

I'm in complete agreement. I keep looking at all these modes on the new lights and wondering why? Too much crap.