It was all the way back in October of 2004 when I wrote my first review of a new and revolutionary flashlight that had just come onto the market: The Gladius from BLACKHAWK! Night-Ops. The light was the result of the combined efforts of BLACKHAWK! and Strategos International - the premier training organization for low-light operations. About a year later I had to do an update because those involved weren't sitting on their laurels but where constantly striving to improve the product - plus, I'd done more testing. Now, here I find myself again: the now named Gladius Maximis is better than ever - and more improvements are coming!
Shown to the right, the Gladius Miximis is an evolution of the Gladius which was an evolution of... nothing. It was new and totally unique into the market when it was introduced. The original Gladius was the result of engineers trying to figure out how to give operators what they wanted rather than telling the operators what they could have.
The three most notable and prominent features of the original Gladius were its light output from an LED lamp (85 lumens), it's four-position tailcap that allowed for versatility of function, and the fact that it was waterproof and divable. Now let's consider those items...
The LED lamp pushing 85 lumens was quite impressive at that time. However the new Gladius Maximis is pushing 120 lumens from the same light, same batteries, etc for the same run time: 90 minutes at full power.
The four position tailcap controls the digital circuitry and how you manipulate your light. There is a lockout position so you don't have accidental discharges (ADs) because that much light fired off at the wrong time might give away your position or blind you - both unintentionally to be sure and neither having a positive impact on your operation. The next position allows for you to turn the light on and off as well as dim it up or down. That way you don't have to use 120 lumens to write tickets or read a map - you can dim it down and you can program it to come on at that lower level of light if you want. The next position is the strobe position. The use of strobing light has proven effective in disorienting suspects and opponents as well as helping to conceal your position and movement when you're searching. The fourth position is touch pressure only.
Now, let me make a few observations that are the same today as they were when I first made them:
From October 2004:
First I guess we should get the physical characteristic information out of the way. The Night-Ops prototype light (multiple patents pending) that I have is 6.2" long with a 1" in diameter main body and a bezel that is 1.25" across. For the sake of comparison with something you know, it's just a shade longer than the SureFire 6P. That's a good size for a personal hand-held combat light. What really determines the usefulness of a combat light though are light output, durability and functionality.
Perhaps in the future Night-Ops will find a way to leave the strobe activated under certain circumstances so that it could be used as a personnel marker with or without an infrared filter. It is important to note here that this tool is not meant to replace other force sector options: it is meant to give the officer / soldier a window of opportunity that he then has to leverage to his benefit by selecting the appropriate force option.
The body of the illumination tool was specifically designed to insure a couple things: 1) you can put it down and not have it roll, and 2) you can hold it in a variety of "flashlight technique" positions (two of many are shown). Crafted into the body is a knurled section that effectively has four prongs. Those prongs prevent the light from rolling on slanted surfaces and allow the light to be held in that plunger position we sometimes see on the range. Me? I've had just enough low-light operations force-on-force training to keep my illumination tool away from my body until after I've identified my target and am ready to engage. Flashlights of any kind are bullet magnets in a dark environment. The bad guy shoots at what he can see. I see no reason to line my light up directly in front of my chin to help him shoot me.
I should mention that since the body of the Night-Ops light is 1" in diameter, it fits perfectly into any 1" mounting ring system to put it on a weapon. At that point, without having to change any amount of switches etc. you can just change your illumination tool and upgrade your operational capabilities. Not bad, eh?
From September 2005:
LEDs are fantastic in that they are damned near impossible to break and the power systems can be tweaked to get much longer run times out of a set of batteries. Heat control and power management become the challenges.
Testing on humans in strobe mode has shown that the pulsing of the light can cause dizziness, imbalance, nausea, and a sense of pending impact. That all sounds like good stuff (to me) for the bad guy to be experiencing if I'm a good guy holding the light. Additionally, if you're using the light for searching, it is imperative that you create chaos for whoever might be trying to monitor your progress. Rhythm and duration are dangerous if they become steady and predictable. Therefore, changing the angle of the beam and flashing it sporadically is your best tool. Doing both while the light is in Strobe mode makes it all the more chaotic, adding to your advantage. What I recommend to any cop using this light is this: when you deploy it against a subject, deploy it Constant On, but as soon as the light is on, switch the tailcap to Strobe. Then if you have to ramp up, just push and hold the button to expose him/her to the strobe. It is VERY effective.
The Gladius is the first flashlight that I know of with a push-button activation that is waterproof and rated for diving. Why? Because if your flashlight is pressure activated, it tends to come on at about fifteen feet. At that depth you are at 1.5 atmospheres of pressure (approximately) and the pressue is just enough to push that button. To overcome that, the Gladius has a self-equalizing tailcap. Yes, it lets water in, and how it manages to protect the electronics and connections if VERY proprietary information. But, being me, I didn't believe it until I took it diving. On the last diving trip I took with my wife to Lake Rawlings, I managed to get my Gladius down to 74 feet. It never came on during the descent, even though I had it in the Momentary position. At depth I played with it quite a bit and found that everything worked just like it did in the open air. The local fish, though, tended to turn and swim away quickly when the strobe was pointed in their direction.
On the BLACKHAWK! website the Gladius Maximis has an MSRP of $249.99. After a quick Google search of Gladius Maximis I found them for as low as $154. Obviously, you should do some shopping around if you want one. Some people consider $154 a lot to pay for a light, but I submit to you this thought: If you bought multiple lights to accomplish every option in function that you get in a Gladius Maximis by itself, how much would you spend? The Maximis has it all in a single package. It's worth it.