In the past couple of weeks I've been steadily testing the collection of knives and lights I received from Gerber. This week's review of the Expert-M LED Light is the last of those reviews. Specifically designed for military use, the light is also (obviously) equally suited for law enforcement and other public safety personnel. Reportedly producing over 100 lumens of light for more than an hour, the Expert-M (for Military) is a handy sized package that performed well through the testing. Let me tell you about it.
Measuring right at 5.5" long and with a body manufactured out of aircraft grade type III aluminum (aren't they all?), the Expert-M's published material says it produces over 100 lumens of light for more than an hour. It runs on two CR123 3V lithium batteries and a set came with the light, so my first test was to see how long it would run on them.
The tailcap switch on the Expert-M allows for two functions:
- Touch pressure activation: you push the button and the light stays on as long as you hold the button, and
- Hard on activation by turning the tailcap clockwise all the way in.
If you turn the tailcap far enough counter-clockwise you reaach a point where pushing the button won't turn the light on anymore - a safety disconnect if you will.
So, with a stopwatch handy I turn the light on by turning the tailcap all the way in, set it down and started the stopwatch. I checked on it every ten minutes or so and didn't notice any appreciable dimming until about 77 minutes had been counted off on the stopwatch. The light was toasty warm by then but still working. Across the span of the next 20 minutes it got even dimmer but still stayed lit until it seemed to "bottom out" and hold a low level of light - I'd estimate about 10 lumens (just guessing) for several hours. As far as I was concerned, it had lived up to the claim of over 100 lumens for more than an hour.
With a fresh set of batteries installed I started by typcial abuse tests. With the tailcap spun in so that the light stayed on I took it out to the gravel road that runs in front of my house and gave it a few tosses. Each throw netted between fifty and seventy feet in the air for the light before landing in the gravel and tumbling / bouncing to a stop. Ten throws didn't break the LED lamp (they're hard to break), nor did it shatter the lens. The LED lamp, I should mention, is reflector focused and doesn't have a crisp "cone" like you see on some lights. The focus spot is nice and bright and defined but as the light fades away from the "hot spot" it just sort of blends away... without that defined circle where it just stops. This is not a criticism; this fade of light is simply a side effect of their reflector design.
The published material I had at hand also said that the light is water proof to a depth of three meters (about ten feet). I wasn't going to take it into a pool to test it, so instead I filled a bucket with water and dropped the light in. I left it for a half hour and came back. Taking it out and shaking it off, I dried it and disassembled it. I could find no signs of moisture anywhere inside the body. The tailcap has a double O-ring seal and I'd love to tell you what seals the bezel, but I couldn't get the head off the light. I didn't get out pliers and a wrench, but in my hands I didn't have the strength to disassemble the lamp end.
The steel clip is removable and good for deep-pocket carry. The published material I have says it's also good for clipping the light onto MOLLE webbing and, sure - you can do that. It's a strong snug clip but I'd not trust JUST the clip to hold the light onto MOLLE or any other webbing. Instead, I'd put the light into the black nylon hook-n-loop sheath it comes with and use the provided MALICE clip to attach the sheath to your MOLLE gear.
Now, as I surfed the web looking for more info (the stuff that manufacturers don't tell you) I found these lights priced from as low as $116.95 to as high as $135.99. For a 100+ lumen LED driven light that's a very reasonable price range. I still wish someone could make a light this powerful that ran on AA batteries - even if it takes six of them and you have to load them into a holder or something before putting them into the light, but until such time... the Gerber Expert-M is more than acceptable as a handheld tactical light.
Check out this and other Gerber Lights on the Gerber Tools website linked in below.