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.