Photo credit: Frank Borelli
Photo credit: Frank Borelli
Photo credit: Frank Borelli
I am a person who truly believes that versatility in our gear matters. I LIKE .357 Magnum revolvers because you can shoot more than JUST .357 Magnum ammo out of them. When you find yourself in a situation where all you have is .38 Special ammo and a .357 Magnum revolver, you're still okay. The same concept applies to other items. Today I'm taking a look at an LED-driven flashlight that offers the best versatility for power supply that I've found yet: The Gerber Option 60. It'll take CR-123, AA or AAA batteries. How can you beat that?
A few years back, after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast states pretty hard, I did some security work in New Orleans. Everybody and their brother had cool lights that required CR-123 3V lithium batteries. The challenge? Supplies in that area were limited and getting new supplies of such items in wasn't easy. I remember having a conversation with a Chief of Police after the fact and he expressed his wonderment that no manufacturer was producing an LED-driven light that used AA batteries. It was almost as if the battery companies pushed for lights that ran on CR-123 3Vs.
The actual challenge was getting the necessary power storage and steady supply from the batteries required to drive the LED lamps for any useful period of time. The AA batteries - given the LED technology at the time - just didn't have the necessary push or longevity to make the light useful. A couple of years ago though, companies began producing LED-driven lights using AA batteries. The LED technology had evolved to the point where that could be done. The first ones only pushed 30 lumens of light or so, but it was still better than having a dead empty metal stick in your hand.
Awhile back I reviewed the Gerber Onyx 60 - which is an LED-driven flashlight that runs on two AA batteries. What is so great about that? Well, using New Orleans after Katrina as the example of an emergency situation, AA batteries were easy to come by and CHEAP. At the Wal-Mart a pair of CR-123s might cost you $10 or more. At virtually any convenience store, gas station, etc you can pick up a dozen AAs for the same amount of money. Still, if your flashlight requires a specific type of battery and that type isn't available you have the equivalent of an empty .357 with no ammo: a chunk of metal in your hand that performs no useful function. So, how do we get true versatility in a flashlight? Enter the Gerber Option 60.
The Gerber Option 60 will run on any of three types of batteries:
- one CR-123 3V lithium
- two AA batteries
- two AAA batteries
How versatile is that? Dig through the junk drawer in your kitchen and see what you have available. AA, AAA or 3Vs... the Gerber Option 60 will use them.
Now, I have to admit: when I first got this light for testing I looked at the packaging and had two thoughts at the same time. The first thought was, Wow; how cool is this? and the second thought was, Yeah, right. Well, after learning about it and testing it, I'm sticking with, Wow; how cool is this?
Before I move forward I have to point out a mistake that some of you might run into that has now been corrected by Gerber. On the original packaging for the Option 60 the direction / graphic image on the back showed the batteries being put into the light positive-end first - toward the lamp assembly. That is incorrect. I tried that when I first unpacked the light and it didn't work. I tried it with all three battery types and it didn't work. So I sat with the the light in my hands for a minute or so, the tailcap off and in my other hand, looking back and forth and down into the body of the light. Finally I figured out that there was nothing for the negative-end of the batteries to contact putting them in the way the directions showed. So I put them in the other way and it worked. When I contacted the representative at Gerber and brought that up he investigated and got back to me with an answer. Yes, the original packaging had that mistake but it's since been corrected. Dealers are selling through their supply of the first run and all new materials are corrected. I call this to your attention so that if you have or get an Option 60 that has that mistake on the packaging you'll know the deal.
The light's design is optimized for use with two AA batteries. With those two AAs it will produce 65 lumens of light for approximately 2.5 hours of run time. With two AAAs it will produce 60 lumens of light for about one hour. With a single CR-123 3V battery it will produce 50 lumens for about three hours.
Now, I consider 60-65 lumens the minimum acceptable for "tactical" work - which includes any use for searching, target identification (at handgun distances), etc. Obviously the AAs pushing 65 lumens for 2.5 hours is the best configuration and performance. For "tactical" work my next choice would be the AAA batteries producing 60 lumens even though it's only for an hour. However, if your use of the light is general utility, then by all means, drop in that CR-123 3V battery and enjoy three hours of 50 lumens. How does that work out for cost per hour of operation?
Around my area CR-123s are sold in pairs for between $11-$13 depending on where you get them. AAs go for about $9 per dozen (I look for them on sale). At $9 per dozen, the AAs are about $0.75 each. The CR-123s are about $5.50 using the lowest sale price I've found. (All of this math goes out the window if you buy your CR-123s online at the usual price of about $20-24 per box of 20). So, one $5.50 3V battery gives you three hours of light. Two $0.75 AAs ($1.50 of batteries) gives you 2.5 hours. $3 of AAs would give you 5 hours. $4.50 of AAs would give you 7.5 hours. I'm sticking with the AAs as my first power option.
A quick Google search revealed some online dealers that have the Gerber Option 60 in stock and being sold for under $40. That's pretty darn good. I encourage you to check out this and other Gerber lights online.
I tip my hat to Gerber for having engineered this.