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’m a little biased when it comes to Brite-Strike. This is a company founded by police officers who make products for police officers. They use their own products in real situations. The quality of their products is self evident. Actually, it’s grossly self-evident because these guys epitomize over-engineering. My tests have concluded that these products are not going to fail, and they weren’t designed for bloggers sitting behind a desk all day. They are working products with high quality materials for an industry known for being rough on equipment. Having said that, its durable finishes rival anything I have in my gun safe.

Off duty lights: The Nextorch K3 and Brite-Strike EPLI (2xAAA)

The Nextorch K3 is a penlight-sized light that takes two AAA cells. It has a metal tail switch and a wire pocket clip, reminiscent of high-quality penlights of the past. The push-button switch will access all four modes of the light: dim, momentary, click on and strobe.

The business end fires 180 lumens through a reflector that efficiently spreads the beam output evenly. Unlike the EPLI, the beam on this one is more of a floodlight—it can light up an interior rather well, but not an alley.

The Brite-Strike EPLI (Executive Precision Lighting Instrument) is the size of a penlight and takes two AAA cells. Its soft tail switch can cycle each of the four lighting modes. It fires 160 lumens in a piercing beam, which looks brighter on the other end of an alley than the 180-lumen K3. Both have all of the attributes for an off duty light, including weather resistance, plenty of run time and shock resistance.

I’m sort of split on the two choices here. I generally prefer the abrupt beam of the EPLI. If I’m out somewhere and need to marry a handgun with a hand torch, I like to be able to cast a beam pretty far. However, the Nextorch K-3 does a great job of flooding an interior room, giving the officer a better heads-up of what’s in his periphery. If I need to light up an open area like a parking lot, I’d pick the EPLI. If I need to light something like a hallway—or know I will be predominantly indoors—it’d be the K3.

For me, it’s a toss-up: The EPLI has a brighter center, the K3 has brighter edges. The Nextorch K-3 has a metal tail switch, which has a solid springy feel. The K3 is lighter and really does feel like a pen. However, if I need to feed my flashlight to an aggressor, it would be the EPLI, hands down. You decide.

Specialty lights: all others

Brite-Strike’s Tactical Balls (RID 3) were not designed for dynamic entry, and the light from them is bright but not blinding. They’re not a replacement for flash bangs—not even close. They were designed to be tossed in by the patrol officer to create a moment of distraction and to backlight the bad guy. I would have loved to have these on patrol to toss into a room to buy a second or two. Where would I use this product? I would toss several (they come in packages of three) into a blind stairwell that allows a potential shooter several angles on my ascent or descent of that stairwell.

Streamlight Sidewinder Compact II (1xAA or 2xCR123)

This portable lighting instrument is designed to be mounted on a helmet, headband or clipped to MOLLE webbing. It comes with a strong metal clip that attaches to a helmet for hands-free use. It will clamp onto nearly any helmet style.

The Sidewinder compact II has a unique selector knob/switch that allows the user to choose one of several LEDs and intensities. It’s easy to work this instrument without looking at it. Streamlight added to the versatility of this package with a unique power cell compartment. First, the power compartment cap is tethered, so the user can change batteries on the fly without losing it. Second, it will accept AA or CR 123 batteries. Yes, different cells, different voltages, same light.

A helmet-mounted light has many uses, few of which are associated with directing a firearm. In fact, when the light is behind the gun, the rear sight becomes flooded and the gun is backlit. This light is ideal for tactical teams doing other types of missions like EOD disposal and hostage negotiation. Since it can be clipped anywhere, it can also be used for the officer not wearing the helmet working perimeter for the Critical Response team. It can be a flasher for traffic or an IR flasher marking friendlies for the eye in the sky.

HP 21 (4xD) from Coast Products

When I first looked at the HP21, which looks like someone sculpted a traditional patrol light large enough to be part of an advertising display, I thought “Are you kidding me? No one’s going to carry that.” After playing with it for a few minutes, I knew exactly where Coast Products was going with this.

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