In search of a tactical torch

This month’s column looks at flashlights. I had to convince my editor that an article on flashlights is relevant to firearms. Yeah, yeah, I know. I write the Firearms Tactics column. OK, this month, I’m testing light cannons. How’s that? (Editor’s...


There are several ways to hold a flashlight and grip a handgun. I recommend methods that maintain isometric tension with the shooting and non-shooting hand. The Harries Technique (back of wrist to back of wrist) is a good way to maintain tension. Bear in mind that almost every light technique is an assisted one-handed gun technique. I like the Marine Corps technique, which I understand was used by the U.S.M.C. Embassy Guards. This is a full grip where the fingertips of the shooting hand touch the light bezel, while the non-firing hand actuates the side switch and palms come together.

One must practice using a light on the range while opening doors, changing magazines and manipulating the switch. Believe it or not, the biggest mistake the experts see is when officers use too much light, too often. (Tip: Cut a dowel that mimics the properties of the duty light to use for training on the range.)

Magazine reload

The magazine reload sequence goes like this: Communicate your reload. One should already be behind cover. Concentrate your muzzle and eyes on the greatest threat. Tuck light under shooting armpit, light output facing greatest threat. Gun elbow bends, retracting the gun a little. Eject magazine, extract fresh one. Pointer finger of non-firing hand should be near tip of bullets in magazine. (See the June iPad edition of LET for a succinct video demo of the mag reload sequence.)

Insert a fresh magazine, withdraw light from armpit and reassume full extension of shooting position. The magazine reload drill is modified for opening doors, extracting cuffs, etc.

Streamlight duty lights

My agency issued Streamlight SL-20s. These machined aluminum bodied full sized lights really haven’t changed in dimension for at least 15 years. When Streamlight offered to send me an SL-20L for this article, I reluctantly agreed; I didn’t expect it to be a completely different light. Let me give you a hint: don’t be on the receiving end—this product has been taking its vitamins.

The Streamlight SL-20L shares the same form factor as the one I had as a rookie, except it puts out a full 350 lumens, almost too abrupt for close-up work. The trademark bright, uninterrupted center with a healthy spillbeam excels in the alley test. I found a steady illumination for almost a full city block.

Like several models of the Streamlight Stinger series, one can dim the brightest beam by holding the switch down and strobe it by clicking the switch twice. The SL-20L throws a beam that can produce a moderate amount of backscatter, reflection of light back to its source. This is not a consideration for a patrol light unless one patrols in an area that tends to be foggy. One thing that most LED lights with dimmer switches do: Should you use less than the full output of the LED light, it strobes right about the same frequency of those high-efficiency street lights. It’s unnoticeable, unless one is recording a scene by the light of the torch.

TerraLUX InfiniStar

The company TerraLUX has saved many officers a lot of money by providing simple LED conversion units for their outdated lights. Until now, TerraLUX didn’t make a tactical light of its own. This product makes quite a splash.

TerraLUX bills the 300-lumen InfiniStar CR as the last flashlight you’ll ever need. It’s the complete package, but the core of the product is the modular LED light engine. Individual components can be replaced for new innovations or performance upgrades.

I’m not sure how much upgrading this light is going to get. It uses a 3,000 mAh power stick and has a runtime of more than 2 hours. The InfiniStar throws a beam that saturates the target center with three separate parts—a focused center with soft edges, a floodlight halo and a relatively narrow spillbeam. At the range, it allows for quick target identification and a view of adjacent targets, but I like a little more spillbeam. The InfiniStar CR charges by plugging in a cord to the barrel, which is simple and makes the charger more portable.

There are a couple of things I would change about this product. First, it needs to have a tailcap switch. That’s a pretty simple thing and I expect that to be one of the modular improvements. The lanyard hole in the existing tail cap should be larger and have a little more meat surrounding it. Second, it needs to strobe and dim. Again, that’s why this flashlight was designed the way it was in the first place. Officers should eventually be able to purchase upgrades.

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