Looking for a new flashlight — do you have any input?

For many years I’ve carried a SureFire E2L Outdoorsman. It’s part of my every-day-carry, and in fact I use it almost every day. It’s because of that daily utility that I chose that particular model of flashlight.

However, over the past year I’ve started to have a change of heart. Many new flashlights have come to market, and over the years of carrying I’ve started to find myself wanting… a little more, a little different. And probably too much time hanging out with TXGunGeek, who is also a big flashlight geek.

What’s my beef with my E2L?

  • High-beam output. While my E2L’s high beam is pretty good, there’s better out there now. I’ve found myself in enough situations where I wished for more light.
  • Beam quality. I don’t know how to describe it, but the high beam feels… fuzzy. Maybe it’s my (aging) eyes, but compared to some other flashlights I have, there’s something about the light quality that just doesn’t provide me with the best picture. It’s certainly good enough for most things, but if I can have a little better, since again, my eyes are getting older and anything I can do to help out is A Good Thing™.
  • High first, low second. There’s no question I want dual-output because much of my every-day light needs require a low-beam. Originally I wanted the low-beam to come on first since I figured most of my needs were mundane and didn’t need to blind myself. Now I want the high beam to come on first, because I find myself in more situations where I need a lot of light right now and don’t need to waste time clicking through beam modes. I decided if I needed low beam mode, it would likely not be a “need it immediately” need and I could do something like press the flashlight into my stomach or leg to suppress throwing light, click through to low, then there we go. Besides, when you need a lot of light right now, you need it now and need to be able to just slam the light on and get the light. Yeah I tried many times to just get used to “half click, release, full click” to get as quick as I could over the low mode and locked into the high mode or doing 2 full clicks, but it’s just too error prone, too time consuming, and too loud.

So it’s not much, but it’s enough to motivate me to look for alternatives.

But on that token, some things I would prefer to not give up:

  • Clip. The clip is very useful, especially since I can hang it off the brim of my hat for hands-free use. That means the clip needs to attach near the head and point back towards the tailcap (like the E2L has). So many flashlights have the clip attach at the tail and run towards the head, which can be good for keeping the flashlight in your pocket, but isn’t very usable during use.
  • Dual mode. I need high and low beam. Strobe? Oh please… no.
  • Size. I like the E2L’s size. First, because it means 2 batteries instead of 1 thus more runtime. Second, the diameter feels good in my hands in terms of being able to hold a grip and not lose the flashlight in my hand.

And then there’s one thing I flat out do not want: strobe. This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco. I do not need nor want strobe. I do not want to waste time clicking through a mode that I don’t need, that all too often will accidentally fire because I’m trying to click through to the mode past it. If someone can tell me how strobe is actually useful, please comment. In the dark, it just screws up YOUR vision too, and again it’s too many modes to click through to get it. Enough Low Light shooting classes and strobe never comes up as useful.  But, I will admit I recently found a use for it. While taking Kiddos around the neighborhood this past Halloween for trick-or-treating, I carried a Streamlight Super Tac-X because low beam is good for close-up work (e.g. picking up dropped candy); the high beam is bright, crisp, clean, lots of throw, lots of spread, really lights things up which can be useful when walking around in the dark and well-behind a group of kids that might need some illumination in front of them (throw!). And then… yes… strobe was useful when we would cross the street. I would aim it down at the pavement and let it blink, and saw more than enough cars react to the flashing strobe (vs. other times when I’ve used a plain beam) and slow down. So yeah, THAT was useful. But for my EDC flashlight? No strobe.

There’s no question the awesomeness of Fenix Lights, especially that they have such great output, quality, and runtime on ubiquitous AA batteries, all at such a low price. The Fenix lights I presently have are great.  Because of them, SureFire and Streamlight have had to pick up their game. So lots of new and interesting stuff out there. I focused on these 3 companies. I did look at some others, but they either were no longer in business or their lights could all be eliminated from consideration because they had features I didn’t want (e.g. Blackhawk, NovaTac, Pelican).

Streamlight didn’t have anything that would fit my bill. Mostly lost out on the clip front. In fact, on the clip front alone I pretty much eliminated most every flashlight out there. *sigh* The two I found were:

Fenix LD22 (S2)

SureFire E2D LED Defender

The Fenix has a lot of win all around. Many different modes/levels of light output. Cree LED’s. A tailcap switch, but also a side button; so yes, that means there is a strobe mode but at least it’s not part of the tailcap. There’s a clip, but I’m mixed on the fact it’s removable. Sure that’s cool from a sales standpoint, because they can sell it to more people. And I kinda like that if the clip snagged on something it would just break away instead of bend (how many times have I bent my Spyderco Delica clips because of a snag?). But… that also means it can break away, which may not be what I want. I’m unsure about the clip. I think tho the bigger concern is while it’s cool it remembers the last output setting and uses that next time you turn it on, that means if the last thing I did was read a map but RIGHT NOW I need a lot of light, I won’t get it. The Fenix looks good in so many regards, but I’m not sure it will win the “tactical need” test. But it’s only like $60, so I might pick one up anyways because I could see a lot of use for this in other contexts, like camping or hunting.

The SureFire E2D. Funny how things happen. My only beef with this? The fact it looks aggressive. Of course, that’s the point of the “Defender” models, and I’m honestly not bothered by it myself. But as I wrote in my old “why I like the E2L” article I specifically avoided that light for its looks. At the time I was active in Boy Scouts and a lot of parents there did not “get it” and would freak out at the thought, and I just didn’t need the grief. As well, I flew and didn’t want to have some TSA goon take my $150 flashlight. But these days? I don’t fly. I don’t do BSA, and operate my life in a different context. Besides, I’ll still have my E2L in storage and can always pull it out and use it if context changes.

So yes, presently I’m leaning towards the E2D. I even emailed Comp-Tac to see if their flashlight holster for the E2L works for the E2D.

What’s your input?

13-Nov-2012 Update: Comp-Tac replied:

From what I can tell the e2d and e2l have the same bezel diameter. However, the e2d has that crenellated bezel, which adds to the length a small amount.
I would feel comfortable in saying that it would work.

So I figure if I go with the E2D, I’ll get it, try it, and hope for the best. If I do have to buy a new pouch, I reckon the existing one would work well enough until the new pouch arrived.

 

13 thoughts on “Looking for a new flashlight — do you have any input?

  1. being a programmer, you ought to appreciate a (very) programmable light that, as a bonus, is virtually indestructible and can be customized when you order. it is compact enough to be carried everywhere. since i work nights, i live and die by a good flashlight and, out of dozens and dozens i’ve owned over the years, this one is the one that has been my constant companion for several years now–my longest run ever

    actually, i have two of them, one customized towards tactical use and the other more utilitarian. if the costs of cr123 batteries is counter to your tastes, invest in a couple of rechargeable cells and a charger which you can get for about $20-30. i haven’t spent a penny on batteries in three years and i only have to recharge about every 6 months although i haven’t had to run my light for excessive periods of time. the guy who runs this site (henry) is the machinist who makes these, i believe, and he’s great to work with.

    yes, the price might take your breath away at first if you’re used to buying a surefire from cheaperthandirt or academy sports, but if you don’t lose it you’ll amortize the cost over the years of ownership.

    /guy

    • Well, it fails on the clip front. It has one, but on the wrong side. But other than that, I do think it’s a pretty cool setup here. Website is long so I’ll come back and read it another time.

      Thanx!

      • unless they’ve changed the design, i can mount my clip so that the light will ride lens up or lens down. i prefer lens down myself. also, there is a huge following for this light on one of the major flashlight/edc forums although i don’t have a link to that off the top of my head. /guy

  2. I’ve been a huge fan of the E2B for the last 3+ years. Compact, high/low settings, no strobe, compact, durable, and good battery life. It’s worth the price.

  3. The Fenix LD22 is pretty long. Would it fit clipped onto the brim of a hat?

    Looks like a nice light but that would be too big for me to carry regularly.

    • That I don’t know and couldn’t say until I got it. Even if it fit, how would it balance? That is one thing about clipping the E2L is that it’s a little front heavy so it’s a little awkward but it works. I wouldn’t want to work with it all day, but it’s fine for my occasional need.

      Again, I think I might just buy it anyways, even if it doesn’t become my EDC flashlight it sure seems like a nice and useful one that I’ll find a place for.

  4. well, you cost me serious money with this question! after i sent the link, i finally got time to go back and see what’s new since i got my current light from here. just incremental changes except that now 200 lumens is now offered where my current light is only 120 lumens which was the max at the time i ordered it 3 years ago.

    so since this light has been my constant companion and has held up so well, i decided to place an order for one of the new 200 lumen models and will use my existing 120 lumen light as a backup somewhere or in a weapon carry container or maybe just tuck it in with my h&k .357sig compact in the nightstand table so it’ll be instantly available.

    so i ended up ordering a new edc ‘executive programmed’ 200 lumen light (they come in 3 preset programming modes which determine which button presses yield which amount of light or strobe, but any of the lights are completely custom programmable to suit your taste once you get them–hds even supplies a very handy pocket card with programming instructions) with the tactical ring (i’m currently using a thick ‘o’ ring) since i’m getting the flush tail button model. if you get the tactical tail button, an ‘o’ ring to help hold the light is not quite as necessary, but it helps tremendously with the flush button.

    i notice they now have a ‘rotary’ model, but i don’t much care for ‘twistys’. this one does have a button, but so far there’s no way to mount a belt clip, which is a deal breaker for me. for those who like belt holsters instead of clips, i notice they do offer those instead.

    i also ordered a couple of ‘o’ ring sets, 2 of the rechargeable lithiums, and the nano charger. seems like a lot of money–well over $250 with shipping, but i feel from my experience that this is a flashlight you can bet your life on and since i’ve had my current one for 3 years, i know if the new one is the same quality it could last many more years than that.

    take a look at the ‘abuse’ tale on the main page:

    http://hdssystems.com/?id=Home

    on the flashlight forum there are many more tales of these lights surviving much much worse abuse than the one detailed here. and here’s that link i couldn’t remember the other day for the flashlight forum:

    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/forumdisplay.php?45-LED-Flashlights

    there are several threads there entirely devoted to the hds system lights.

    /guy

  5. I can’t wait to see what you settle on. My EDC Surefire E2E is getting a little long in the tooth.

    I’ve had good luck with 1 AA 4sevens Quark for backpacking, and I’d been eyeing the QTL model* as an EDC replacement. Sadly, only the smaller, single battery 4sevens lights have the clip attached the “right” way. But their “tactical” UI allows you to program the light to behave exactly the same way every time you push the button. (Watching others in the low light class really made me appreciate a simple, consistent UI.)

    * http://www.foursevens.com/product_info.php?products_id=3205

  6. Pingback: My new EDC Flashlight – SureFire E2D « Stuff From Hsoi

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