As I mentioned previously, I received a box from Gerber Tools a few weeks back and inside were two knives and two lights. Last week in the recreational section I reported on my test of the Gerber Epic knife. This week on the tactical side I'm reporting on my test of the Gerber Onyx 60 LED flashlight. Any LED light that runs on two AA batteries starts out with some benefit of the doubt.
Now I'm not bashing lights that run on CR123 3V lithium batteries, nor the batteries themselves, but this Onyx60 LED has something in common with only one other tactical light I'm familiar with: it runs on two AA batteries. For the cost of one pair of the 3V lithiums, you can buy about two dozen AAs. And while the 3V lithiums can only be found in certain department stores, camera shops or electronics shops, the AAs can be found in every convenience store, grocery store, drug store, etc. My point is that convenient availability of the AAs far exceeds that of the 3V lithiums and the price is lower by about 75% on avarege in my experience.
So why do people in uniformed professions like the 3V lithium batteries so much? One answer is because so many truly powerful flashlights have been designed to run on them. We like our lights bright. We either need to see clearly what we're walking (sometimes running) into or we need to see clearly what we are targeting or we need to see clearly the suspect's hands, etc. Until we're doing retinal damage to the subject we're pointing the light at, there's no such things as too much light. Those 3V lithiums are efficient and long-lasting enough that they can provide a sufficient amount of run time in those bright incandescent lights that push out 120+ lumens of light.
However, while brighter is better, there is a minimum acceptable performance level. In my opinion that minimum acceptable performance level for a tactical handheld is met by the Gerber Onyx 60. The light uses two AA batteries behind a Cool White 4.5 Watt Rebel LED to produce 50 lumens of light which it projects about 125 feet. The two AAs provide about four hours of run time in a package that is 6.75" long and weighs less than three ounces.
As a second option, if you prefer a slightly smaller package and don't require as much light - for campsite or home use as examples - the Onyx 50 produces 20 lumens from one AA battery. It uses a 4.0 Watt Rebel LED and sports a 4.5 hour run time. It's less than 5" long and weighs just a tade over two ounces. That's handy in a small package.
Getting back to the Onyx 60...
The body - like almost all tactical handheld lights today - is manufactured from anodized aluminum, has a tail cap switch and comes with a lanyard (for those times you really don't want to drop and lose it). The tail-cap on / off switch is exactly that: on or off. It doesn't have a touch pressure feature. The bezel is crenelated - and I've never complained about being able to leave identifiable marks in the forehead of the guy who assaulted me and received my flashlight in his forehead as a reward. The body of the light looks like it tapers down from the bezel to the tail cap - but it doesn't. It's the same .875" width from bezel base to tail cap. The bezel is 1" in diameter by my measurements. That makes the light slimmer overall than most that have a 1" body with a 1.25" or 1.5" bezel.
What REALLY struck me was what I found when I did an online search for the light (as I type this it's not yet listed on the Gerber Tools website. I found the Onyx 60 for sale as low as $24.95! Yes, you read that right: $24.95. Not one hundred twenty-four... just twenty-four ninety-five. That's about one-third of what I've seen other comparable lights sold for and makes the AA-drive LED light a whole new game.
So I had all this good information about the light - including how little I could spend to get several for home, vehicle and camp use - but I was wondering if it would take abuse. Well, there's only one way to find that out and I always enjoy it (until I break something and have to send back the pieces with a report that explains what I did to break it). So out my front door I went to the gravel road that runs in front of my house. Onyx 60 in hand I cocked my arm back and threw the light down the length of my property line. It landed in the gravel, bounced, skidded and came to a stop. I walked over, picked it up and turned it on. It still worked. I repeated that process four more times for a total of five throws and five successful activations.
That done, I went to my concrete patio out back and dropped it ten times from as high up as I can reach (somewhere over seven feet). It still works. I noticed that the body was sealed with O-rings where the bezel and tail cap screw in, so I dropped it into a 3-gallon bucket of water, counted to ten and then pulled it out. It still worked. I did that three times with the same results each time. Nothing I've seen said that it was "water proof" so I didn't feel it needed testing beyond that for being sealed. If you drop it in a puddle you'd obviously either immediately pick it up or circumstances would be such that you'd be too busy getting out of Dodge to go back for the light.
So, what we've got with the Onyx 60 is a very cost-effective 50-lumen LED light that runs on perhaps the most common battery available today and which will take enough abuse we can depend on it. What more could we ask for?
I expect that it will soon show up on the Gerber Tools website, along with the Onyx 50, so keep your eye out. If you want it faster, just Google it online. You'll find plenty of retailers for it.