In the ever evolving world of hand-held and weapon-mounted flashlights the competition keeps driving lights to higher and greater performance. When the LED-driven lights were engineered to produce enough light to be "tactical" things got better. LEDs are harder to break (and we're good at breaking things). When versatile functionality was designed in through digital switching or programmable tailcaps, things improved again. LONG gone are the days of simply turning your flashlight on and off. This week I'm reporting on the tests I've performed on the HX120 and the WX150 from Insight Tech Gear.
Let's start out with the HX120.
First off, any light that is comfortable in my hand and uses only one CR123 3V lithium battery is starting out strong in my book - BUT it must provide acceptable levels of light. I mean, almost any manufacturer can design and build a light that uses one battery and provides light. Heck, they could probably make an LED-driven light that provides 10 lumens for decades if they wanted to using just one battery. The challenge is getting decent levels of light using only one battery for any appreciable length of time. According to the published material, the HX120 produces 120 lumens of light for 90 minutes from that one battery.
I consider 60-65 lumens of light the minimum acceptable for any kind of "tactical" work and I prefer a bit more. 120 lumens of light is significant. At conversational distances, 120 lumens of light is enough to temporarily blind a person and certainly will make people close their eyes or turn their heads if you shine it in their eyes (the "bullseye" for any light). With that performance feature verified, I continued to examine the light.
Manufactured from hard-coat anodized aluminum (like almost all the rest of the handheld tactical lights in the world) the HX120 came with an adjustable clip-lanyard (not attached) and a removable pocket clip installed. Given the small size (only 4.5" long) and light weight (less than half a pound with the battery) my intention was to test it out on the range one day when I was running qualifications. That way I'd be able to use it administratively AND to engage targets after sunset. I attached the lanyard so that, during the admin time, I could hang it from my neck (I have enough stuff in my pockets).
Prior to going to the range I experimented with the various functions built in. Just playing with it and discovering new functions was fun. All of the functionality is controlled by the digital circuitry in the tailcap. Through that digital circuitry, if you manipulate the tailcap correctly you can get:
- momentary on: just push the tailcap button. When you release, the light goes out.
- constant on: double tap the tailcap button. Push once to turn the light off.
- strobe: double tap the tailcap button but hold it for about a 1/2 second on second tap OR, if it's already in constant on just double tap the tailcap button. Push once to turn light off.
- dimming mode: from the constant on mode, push and hold the tailcap button. Light levels down to 10% (12 lumens) are available. Release and push once to go back to full power. Double tap to go to strobe mode. Push once to turn the light off.
- S.O.S. mode: with the light in constant on, quickly push the button four times. If you push the button too slow it will simply turn the light on and off. You have to be quick. Four quick pushes from constant on and the light begins flashing a Morse Code S.O.S. (three short blinks, three longer blinks, three short blinks). Push once to turn the light off.
The HX120 has a built in energy saving feature that turns the light off after 20 minutes. At 19 minutes the light strobes twice to notify the user that the 20 minute mark is approaching. After the 19-minute two-blink warning, just push the button once to keep the light on, resetting it for another 20 minute cycle.
The 4.5" length makes it perfect size in my off-hand. During low-light firing it was easy enough to manipulate the light in my left hand while engaging targets with my weapon in my strong (right) hand. (Testing was done with the shown Kahr CW4543 .45ACP pistol) Identifying and engaging targets to at least the 15 yard line wasn't a problem. 120 lumens of light is plenty for such distances. Clearly seeing fine details from the 25 yard line was a bit more difficult for me, but that could be subjective. Others may have no issue from 25 yards or even further. The light's "throw" was easily farther than 50 yards.
This is one I have to give "two thumbs up". It's performance and versatility are impressive, especially given its overall size and the fact that it only uses one battery.
Let's move on now to the WX150.
Before I get into this let me reiterate my opinion about something (and this is just my opinion; many experienced and educated operators disagree with me): I don't believe you need a light mounted on your handgun unless you are a K9 handler or are on a Special Operations team. Over and over again in low light force-on-force training encounters we've seen that lights are bullet magnets in low-light environments. Bad guys will shoot at what they see. If all they can see is the light, they'll shoot at it. If it's centered roughly in front of your face, that means the incoming rounds are coming at your head. That said...
The test weapon was my Springfield Armory 1911 with an after-market rail attached. Installation only took a few moments. The WX150 came with the universal rail bar installed. A picatinny rail bar is also provided in the kit. Shown is the light mounted on the pistol.
Different from the HX120, the WX150 delivers 150 lumens of light from two CR123 3V batteries. If someone could do it, I'd prefer that the entire light body be narrower (it still bulges out on either side of the pistol), using only one battery and I'd be perfectly happy with 120 lumens. I know more is better, but maintaining the overall slim profile of the weapon has some benefits too.
Although brighter, the WX150 sacrifices (understandably and logically) some of the functionality of the HX120. Through the ambidextrous independent switches that can be operated with either hand you can have momentary on, constant on or strobe operation. Activing the momentary on or constant on is easy. Push down on the end of either lever and you get momentary on. Push either end up and you get constant on. A double tap and hold down on either end will give you strobe mode (as long as you hold the lever down), or a quick push down followed by a flick up will give you continuous strobe mode (until you push the lever back down).
The WX150 is also manufactured from hard anodized aluminum and seem pretty rugged. It took all the abuse I was willing to put my pistol through and kept on functioning. Reported run time on a set of batteries is 125 minutes - that's more than two hours of continuous use. When you consider how long it takes to add up all the momentary use into two hours of continuous use you can realize that 125 minutes of continuous use can be weeks, if not months, of use. Finally, according to the published material, weapons fitted with this light will fit in holsters normally designed to fit pistols with the Insight Tech Gear M3 - a fairly well known and popular weapon light.
So, two thumbs up for this one as well. If I'm going to put a light on my 1911, this one would serve well.
As always, search around for prices. Google is your friend and can save you some $$ when you decide to purchase either (or both) of these lights. For more information check out Insight Tech Gear on line.