It’s All About How You Use It
Don’t jump to a flashlight decision before you fully consider one key consideration – versatility.
The ‘intended use’ of a flashlight can vary from a very narrow scope to quite broad. Pinning down this detail is a critical place to start before you begin searching for solutions, otherwise the huge range of options will be overwhelming and you will more likely purchase based upon price than actual need.
This is also the point to examine how much versatility is required. Think it through carefully.
You might initially think, for example, that a gun-mounted flashlight for use in a combat situation requires little or no versatility. Then consider battery types – what if you’re limited to a single battery type when supplies run low on a four-month mission? Foresight into multi-fuel options could save lives in this scenario.
It helps to understand the features and benefits of the options available so let’s look at four versatility considerations, along with performance and cost implications:
The main choice is between disposable and rechargeable. Disposable batteries – also known as primary cells, either alkaline or lithium – have excellent storage life, seven and ten years respectively. They generally offer longer run times for a given LED power, are typically lower in initial purchase price and keeping spares on hand is easier.
However, their operating costs are considerably higher than rechargeable lights and they are seldom as bright. Lithium cells have high energy density but are even more costly than alkaline.
Benefits of disposable batteries:
• Alkaline batteries store for up to seven to ten years
• Lithium batteries store for up to years
• Can offer longer run times for a given LED power
• Lower in initial purchase price
• Easier to keep spares on hand
Disadvantages of disposable batteries:
• Lifetime operating costs considerably higher than rechargeables
• Seldom as bright as rechargeables
• Lithium cells have high energy density but are costlier per hour of operation
In comparison, flashlights using nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium ion rechargeable batteries can feature extraordinarily low lifetime operating expenses and are well suited for frequent use. Depending on the model, they often store conveniently in custom charger holders.
Many high-performance lights can operate as a rechargeable system, using a protected USB rechargeable lithium ion battery pack. An example of this is the Streamlight SL-B26 battery, which features an integrated charging port and on-board safety circuit. As an
alternate power source, it offers flashlight users multi-fuel options to ensure they always have a beam when needed.
Benefits of rechargeable batteries:
• Easy to keep fully charged
• Can be stored in a charger/holder when
not in use
• Well suited for frequent use
• Can support a brighter LED
• More economical to operate over the long run
Disadvantages of rechargeable batteries:
• Initial purchase price is higher than disposable batteries
LEDs offer the flexibility to adjust a flashlight’s output and beam patterns to meet a multitude of needs. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are of a solid-state construction offering a high-intensity light which lasts up to 100,000 hours and are available in various colours including ultraviolet.
‘Chip on Board’ (COB) LEDs are made of multiple LED chips that are packaged together as one lighting module.
This is an ambidextrous switch used on sub-compact/compact weapon-mounted flashlights, which allows users to match it to their style of shooting. This versatile feature saves time and effort as users are not required to change their hand movement to precisely aim beams of light.
FLEXIBLE PROGRAM SETTINGS
Possibly the most versatile consideration, as flexible program settings mean you can modify how your flashlight works – right down to what happens when you first switch it on.
If you like most of the features of a flashlight – but not the pre-set programs – then reprogramming functionality will allow you to modify the light from the standard default option.