Brighter is better

I’m back talking about flashlights. This time it’s backup, off-duty and specialty lights. Once again, I have to work hard to justify talking about flashlights in a Firearms Tactics column. I was going to be facetious about this, but I learned a...


I like the idea that this penlight was actually designed to be put in the mouth, where it’s easy to direct light. However, it should not be employed this way with a firearm, as it will backlight the gun.

The Streamlight Night Com UV (2xCR123) has the form factor and brightness of a C4 backup light, but the reflector has six UV LEDs (365 and 390 nm) surrounding that reflector. It can be used for simple non-destructive examination at the patrol level.

Got a plan B?

Some of the best backup lights are actually brighter than primary lights. Since CR 123 cells have become relatively less expensive, the backup lights listed later have become a reliable way to ensure officers will never be without a torch.

There are some compelling reasons why we should be more selective while choosing a backup light. I prefer to shoot with a short lightweight torch, rather than a full sized light. If my gun is out, it’s easier to maneuver with a smaller torch, especially if it can be put on the belt when the cuffs come out.

Many of us have adopted tethering tools like rings or loops on the light body. I use an adjustable shock cord tether from which the light can dangle when opening doors. I can flip it silently in my palm and resume ops.

Another technique that supports using smaller lights is that of syringe style gun techniques. Shooters often put specialized rings or O rings around their lights to allow for a gripping surface between two fingers. Full sized lights don’t work here, but 2xCR123 cell lights do.

CR 123 cells are relatively safe, but certain practices will make them even safer. First, buy cells recommended by the torch manufacturer. Second, if it’s a multi cell light, buy them and replace them in pairs. Third, if you turn them on for a while and the light gets warm, vent them and let the cells cool outside of the light.

Most CR 123 cells have a tremendous shelf life, often 5 to 10 years. If one is keeping the backup light in the deployment bag for a call up, it’ll work. If you aren’t keeping a CR 123 light in your deployment kit, you’re wrong.

SOG Dark Energy SOG DE-02 (2xCR123)

The Dark Energy is a two-cell tail switch light with a momentary switch that allows the user to change modes (low power and strobe) by simply pressing the switch after it is clicked all the way on. Officers will like this switch because a light touch gives a momentary light at maximum brightness. This one allows for excellent light discipline.

When I tested the Dark Energy, I found that it tended to stay cooler than similar products when left on for extended periods. Since the Dark Energy fires a full 247 lumens and is several grams lighter than just about every two-cell lights on the market, this is one of the better backup products. Most users will like the aggressive spiral patterned machined gripping surface on the flashlight head.

SOG uses a polished reflector that fires a very hot center and moderate light in the periphery. It cuts into fog well, but the beam is abrupt when reflected back from a light colored wall. For a stippled reflector with a similar focus, try the Brite Strike.

Brite Strike BD-180-MH (1xCR123)

Brite Strike has a lot of different law enforcement lighting products. However if they ever decide to build just one backup light, the BD-180-MH should be the one. If it’s an off-duty light, it’s the EPLI. Both are lightweight, bright and fit in the palm or the pocket. Foremost, the BD-180-MH has a unique recess for the momentary tail switch, which protects the mechanism while allowing any type of technique, including pressing the switch on the palm.

The body of this light is a little sturdier than most and it has a solid heft without the weight. This product can fall under both backup and off duty categories.

Brite Strike BD-198-HLS (2xCR123)

This is the big brother to the BD-180-MH, and it includes a multi tailcap switch that dims and strobes. This particular model has a great feel in the hand; as soon as I began playing with it I attached an adjustable shock cord to wrap around my finger for magazine changes. The model number will give you an idea of how bright it is; the deep reflector concentrates this brightness. I don’t like that one must the press the switch all the way before the light goes on. But the BD-198-MH (Momentary/Hi) is the exact same light with a different tailcap switch, the one I prefer. Oh yeah—remote pressure switches are available for those who like to mount them on carbines.

  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to Officer.com. To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.