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Let's Talk Lights For Your AR

BigKnives

New member
What are you using and why?
Let me challenge on you this: Lumens are great, Candela is the key indicator of weapon light effectiveness on a long gun.
Let's hear it in this thread, drop your comments.
 

TheButcher

New member
Modlite has the best balance of output and modularity currently available. The OKW is an absolute laser beam.
 

Realacto

New member
Modlite has the best balance of output and modularity currently available. The OKW is an absolute laser beam.
I'm definitely considering "modlite" for my SHTF AR. It's between it and the REIN....the AR to which I refer has a LPVO 1-10 optic and candelas are the key.
 

TheButcher

New member
I'm definitely considering "modlite" for my SHTF AR. It's between it and the REIN....the AR to which I refer has a LPVO 1-10 optic and candelas are the key.
OKW has the highest candela currently available. My main issue with the Cloud Defensive stuff is how huge they are. Even the Rein head is massive.
 

granetta

New member
I saw this post by guy named Jay Landoe. I am just pasting it here for the info:


I see many people asking about weaponlights, trying to wade through the many options and price points and performance metrics, often being bombarded by single sample size testimonials of overhyped underperforming options, and I felt it necessary to distill down the data to a few easily understood, readily verifiable bullet points. Keep in mind, these are data points established through my own experience and evaluation of different light options over the years in the military and as a motivated civilian defensive shooter, as well as data collected from vetted professionals with far more knowledge and experience than myself.

Before we get into the list, I think it is important to give a quick explanation of the difference between lumens and candela. Lumens is the raw output of a light source, the total amount of light that it emits. Candela is a measurement of a light's ability to focus that light into a specific space. Think of lumens like horsepower, and candela like horsepower at the wheel. It doesn't really matter how much horsepower you have if you can't get that power to the wheel efficiently. The reason candela is so important when measuring light performance is because weaponlights need to be able to concentrate their light on a target to give the shooter as much information about the target as possible while preventing the target from getting any valuable visual information of their own. A 100 watt light bulb is rated at 1800 lumens, but only around 135 candela, so you would never want one as a weaponlight because it has no focus of that light. So when you see the different candela ratings in this article, this is why they are so important.

This is going to be a bit of a read, so settle in. And if you want the nitty gritty without the minutia, skip down to "TLDR".
Here is the list:

Modlite, while a relative newcomer to the industry, has really upset the marketplace with their highly modular and mission focused configurable solutions. The OKW is currently at the top of the list as far as pure output performance is concerned, with a staggering 69,000 candela, 680 lumen output providing clear PID out to 200m+ or eye searing optical plane denial at CQB distances, while the PLHv2, rated at 1350 lumens and 55,000 candela, provides a wider spill and higher raw lumen output at the expense of candela, making it a very effective option for team members looking for wide flood to aid in clearing unfamiliar environments and for general purpose defensive carbine applications.

Modlite has more options for mission specific application than anyone else, from wide flood to light saber hotspot, warm or cool light temperature, two levels of IR output, as well as long and short bodies, all capable of being mixed and matched to fit every possible requirement, all compatible with the venerated Surefire tape switches and mounts, Unity Tactical TAPS switches, and with a growing aftermarket with companies like Valhalla Tactical, Reptilia Corp, all creating new solutions to even more configuration requirements. Modlite has also recently collaborated with Unity Tactical in creating the ModButton, an integrated user configurable mount and tape switch providing improved efficiency for maximizing light output.

That being said, they're also well into the $400-500 price range when mounting solutions, endcaps, and tapeswitches are added to the price tag, which may put them outside the budget for many shooters.
 

granetta

New member
Cloud Defensive has the OWL, or Optimized Weapon Light, which is a monolithic powerhouse that prioritizes single mission focused performance (50,000 candela of warm high contrast light from a single 18650 battery) and almost literal bombproof reliability over modularity, compact size, or compatibility with other aiming devices. The OWL is a set it and forget it unit that can take more punishment than most rifles it will be mounted to, and pushes heavy hitting light on a broad scale, but some may find its size cumbersome, and it does not play well with with some shorter configurations or IR setups. Also, like the Modlite, the OWL is a near $400 investment, which puts it at the very top echelon as far as cost is concerned. If the cost and size aren't an issue, the OWL is an easy choice for someone looking for the most durable, idiot and Marine proof option on the market.

Surefire maintains the lion's share of the weaponlight market, bolstered heavily by their extensive military contracts and pedigree. Surefire lights have a long held reputation for reliability and performance that have driven the professional grade lighting market for decades. The M600u is the mainstay of Surefire's line, with a 600 lumen and 1000 lumen model pushing 16,500 and 22,000 candela, respectively. Surefire's newest addition, the M600DF, is rated at 1500 lumens, but is relatively inefficient with that output, with a candela rating of between 12,000 and 16,000 depending on who you ask. It also has suffered a number of reliability issues in relation to the "dual fuel" functionality, similar to the issues suffered by the Streamlight HLX lights discussed below.

Unfortunately, most of the Surefire line has essentially been eclipsed by other options in the market, both in output and price point. That being said, notwithstanding the issues of the DF model, Surefire scout lights are still a highly reliable option that will last for years. Where Surefire continues to reign supreme is in the dual output, or "vampire" lights, and in the pistol light market. The X300u is the gold standard of pistol lights, very reliable, with heavy hitting output and the ability to be used as a rifle light if necessary. There are other less expensive options, but the x300u is the light all other pistol lights are measured against. The M300v/M600v IR/white light scouts literally have no real competition, as modlite has no vampire style option and has stated it is doubtful they would ever make one. There is certainly a tradeoff in a vampire head, the output of the white light is relatively anemic compared to the heavy hitting white light options on the market, and the IR output is also not going to compare with a dedicated IR head like a modlite 850/940, but the Vampire head fills a specific role and fills it very well. It effectively augments the IR illumination of an IR LAM device, while providing sufficient white light for administrative or emergency applications just by twisting the head. There currently isn't any other option like it on the market, and that is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Arisaka has been a relative sleeper in the industry, quietly putting out quality lights with solid performance using the highly regarded Malkoff heads for unparalleled reliability, but with what some would have considered anemic output when incorrectly evaluated solely on lumen counts. The E2ST 600 has been pushing 20,000 candela from its 550 lumen head, since long before anyone else knew candela was important. Even in the Glory Days of the Surefire M600, the Arisaka was outthrowing the 600 and 1000 lumen models at a lower cost ($180 vs $250+ for a Surefire) Recently, however, Arisaka has updated their 600 series line with the dramatically improved E2HT head, pushing 35,000 candela (up from the original 20,000) from 500 lumens with a 16650 or 2 cr123 batteries, out of a fully potted ultra durable Malkoff head without changing the price. It is still $180 and is now completely outstripping the entire Surefire white light lineup by a wide margin. In March of 2020, Malkoff released the new XT and XTD heads, both designed to jump right into the thick of the candela wars. The E2XT is rated at 55,000 candela with 500 lumens, and can be powered by either 2 CR123 primary cells or a single 16650 rechargeable battery, with full output runtimes of 15-20 minites and 45-60 minutes, respectively. The E2XTD is rated at a massive 70,000 candela with 650 lumens, but can not be powered by 123 batteries. With a 16650 battery it provides 10-15 minutes of full power output, followed by gradual output reduction for an additional 10-15 minutes. This is a more mission focused head for operations where high output is a priority over battery life. With these reliable, high output options at very competitive price points, Arisaka is currently the best value on the market for balancing duty level performance and budget, full stop.

Streamlight has a number of budget offerings with surprisingly solid raw output, notably the HLX, which pushes a very respectable 27,600 candela from its 1000 lumen head, and can typically be found as a complete kit with rail mount and tapeswitch for under $150. However, with that budget price comes a compromise, as they suffer from several reliability issues related to the tapeswitch and the design of the internal contact springs. Recoil flicker and premature tapeswitch failure are the most common issues, but some have also suffered from parasitic battery drain. These can be mitigated with an Arisaka tailcap adapter to allow the use of Surefire endcaps and tapeswitches, and is a worthwhile upgrade if you have one, but be aware that it is not a guaranteed 100% fix, and that intermittent failures are still possible. As long as you keep the potential reliability issues in mind and take the proper precautions, the HLX can be a serviceable budget option for a home defense application, but would not be an advisable choice for a duty weapon.

TLDR:

  • Modlite=unmatched modularity and output, solutions for every possible application, Surefire peripheral compatibility, but with a steep price tag.
  • OKW=680 lumens, 69,000 candela
  • PLH=1500 lumens, 29,000 candela
  • PLHv2=1350 lumens, 55,000 candela
  • Price=$250-$500 depending on configuration
  • CD OWL: singular mission focused brick shitter powerhouse with set it and forget it monolithic construction at the expense of reduced compatibility with certain mission specific configurations.
  • 1250 lumens, 50,000 candela
  • Price=$300-400 depending on sale prices/secondary market
  • Surefire: Long standing top of the market, with a decades long track record of performance in military, LE, and civilian use all over the world, but currently outclassed in performance and value by several other options on the market. Still the gold standard for pistol lights, and the only option for dual output IR/White light.
  • M600= 600 lumens w/16,500 candela; 1000 lumens w/22,000 candela
  • M600DF=1500 Lumens, 16,000 candela. $250-$600
  • Arisaka: grossly underrated high output scout light using tried and proven Malkoff heads. After spending years in Surefire's shadow, they have come out swinging with a true SF killer for 100 bucks less than anything in SF's lineup.
  • Scout 600 E2HT=500 lumens, 35,000 candela, runtime 60-70 minutes from a 16650
  • E2XT head=500 lumens, 55,000 candela, runtime 45-60 minutes
  • E2XTD head=650 lumens, 70,000 candela, full output runtime 10-15 minutes with an additional 10-15 minutes of reduced output. Price=$180-$300
  • Streamlight: budget friendly option with solid performance that suffers from budget option reliability woes and dual fuel design issues.
  • Protac HLX=1000 lumens, 27,600 candela. Price=$100-$250
 

granetta

New member
There are some other outliers in the market such as Steiner with their Mk4/Mk5 weapon lights, but I have only a short experience with the Mk4 and none with the Mk 5, so other than my initial impression of the Mk4 as being solid but anemic, with a lackluster proprietary tape switch, I can't really give much in the way of recommendation for or against.

You'll notice that Olight and Inforce are both conspicuously absent from this list. That is because both have demonstrated substantially lower reliability rates in rifle mounted applications (and pistol mounted for that matter). Inforce's WML and APL model lines are both polymer constructed lights with very clever ergonomics, but with poor output levels and a tendency to for the bezel to fail under thermal cycling and break off, or for the thumb button to fail.

Olight has focused primarily on EDC handheld lights for years, where their offerings do function adequately well. Their pistol lights, however, have been designed with an emphasis more on cost cutting and gimmicky "features" like magnetic plug in rechargeability and QD lever mounting over reliable function and effective output. They've recently released the Odin, which they claim to be "the brightest weaponlight on the market" due to its 2000 lumen peak output rating, but conveniently neglect to mention that the Odin is only rated for 22,000 candela, and that peak output is only available for approximately 60 seconds before the cheap, fragile driver circuit throttles down output substantially to protect against thermal damage. The Odin is not compatible with any commercially available battery on the market, requiring you to purchase proprietary Olight 21700 batteries, and uses a proprietary tapeswitch that eliminates the ability to integrate with any of the popular dual switch options on the market for IR/NOD integration. They do not currently have any offerings that warrant consideration for a rifle that one intends to trust with their life and the lives of their loved ones.

I hope this provides a baseline for those looking for weaponlight options for their defensive setups. Keep in mind these are only my opinions and experiences, as well as data I have collected from other shooters and instructors, applied specifically to a civilian defensive firearm application. Duty rifle applications, with considerations of departmental restrictions/budgetary constraints/training protocols will certainly be a factor for the LE/.mil side of the equation.

AR15 Lights.PNG
 

VagaBond

New member
PowerTac 980 lumens. Low, med, hi, hi-hi, strobe. Std Pic mount. EZ to store 123’s. It had a momentary on/off switch which it changed to a dual pressure or always on/off. Best part? It’s survived years of FA fire.
 

9mm

New member
Modlite is my go to. Have Three OKW’s in my spare parts bin. Have to buy em when you can find em in stock. Same with their modbutton
 

SemiAutomatic

New member
Temperature is another important metric. A super cool blue light can wash out colors, cause eye fatigue, distort depth perception and tends to disperse in suspended particulates.

The OWL is an excellent warm temperature light that really maximises color definition, reduces eye fatigue, cuts through fog, allows for easy depth perception, is easier for coping with astigmatism...

The price also includes the end cap, mount and switch.
 

Supervet

New member
I got the streamlight hlx when it was brand new 3 years ago. The tape switch died immediately. They replaced it and the problem never came back thank goodness.
 
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