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Hendon Publishing

5.11 Tactical Mid-Sized Light for Life

The new 5.11 Tactical LED light is definitely the direction police patrol is trending. First, consider the popularity and explosive growth of other lights of this size, to which the new 5.11 Tactical light will obviously be compared. Patrol-oriented flashlights long ago moved down in size from the full-sized flashlights of old. However, the lights are moving up in size from the early generation, compact LED lights.

Size aside, the first thing you notice about the 5.11 Tactical Light for Life PC3.300 mid-sized utility light is how little it weighs. The second light in the company’s Light for Life series (the first is the full-sized Light for Life UC3.400), the PC3.300 weighs just 10 ounces. On a heavy and crowded duty belt, less weight is better.

The second trend in law enforcement is the move to patrol lights with a lot more power, meaning more candelas or more lumens.

Probably by default to the available technology, 70 lumens (or so) became the minimum acceptable output for a police patrol light. That may be enough for some limited police tasks, but many times the situation calls for a lot more light, as much as three times that much! A 65- to 90-lumen light just doesn’t cut it anymore for serious police work.

The better patrol-oriented LED flashlights today either start out with a lot more light output, such as 150 to 200 lumens, or they offer different amounts of output (i.e., the first click yields less light but a longer runtime, and a second click offers more light with a shorter runtime). The 5.11 Tactical mid-sized light has adjustable light output, ranging from 70 lumens to 200 lumens.

The third trend involves the heated tactical debate of body switch versus tail switch. Of course, the right answer is to build the light with both switches. The new 5.11 Tactical mid-sized utility light has both a head-mounted and a tail cap-mounted switch, which is the way things should be.

Light for Life

Most officers are already up to speed on the technology used in this series of rechargeable lights that do not require batteries. The 5.11 Tactical Light for Life series uses capacitors to store energy instead of batteries to produce energy.

The recharge time really is 90 seconds. The capacitors can be charged 50,000 times, which figures out to 135 years. All of this was gee-whiz, head-scratching, eyebrow-raising technology when the company’s full-sized duty light, the Light for Life UC3.400, was introduced in early 2009. Now, it is taken for granted, just assumed. The lights work that well; the lights do what they say they do.

There are no batteries to replace, not even the rechargeable ones. There are no bulbs to break when you drop it. It has a one-hour runtime at 70 lumens with a half-hour runtime at 200 lumens. It has a 90-second recharge time and the ability to strobe. There is a 12-volt charging base for the patrol car, a DC charging base for the patrol car and a 120-volt AC adapter for the department. Also available is an optional orange flare wand and red/green/blue lens filters. What more could the patrol officer ask for?

Different Programming

The mid-sized Light for Life is available in three different models, each with different programming for the switch function. The most popular model is the P1. One click (at either the head or tail) gives you 70 lumens. Two rapid clicks give you a 200-lumen strobe. Press and hold and you get 200 lumens of continuous light. Again, either switch can be used for any of the functions.

P2 has “ramp” programming. One click gives you a 200-lumen light, while two quick clicks produce a 200-lumen strobe. The press-and-hold function starts the flashlight out at 70 lumens and increases in brightness up to 200 lumens as long as you hold the switch. You can release the switch when you get to whatever brightness in this range you want, and the light will stay at that brightness.

P3 uses “document” programming. This is popular in Europe where traffic officers use the light for reading in the patrol car. One click produces 70 lumens. Two quick clicks produce 20 lumens, i.e., just enough to read. A “press and hold” results in the full 200 lumens. This model does not have a strobe.

In addition to these three standard programs, with a 50-light minimum order, 5.11 Tactical will develop a custom switching program. They can make the switch do anything.

Two Caveats

First, the Light for Life should be stored in either the AC charger or DC charger when not in use. “Always store the light in charging mode on its charger when not in use,” according to the 5.11 Tactical User Guide. All capacitors slowly lose power when disconnected from a power source. The Light for Life PC3.300 will only hold its charge for a few days. So, simply do what they say and store it in either the AC or the DC charger!

Second, the Light for Life is splash-proof (water-resistant), but it is not designed to be submerged in water. Wetness from rain is fine, and it can be wet when placed in the charger, but the charger needs to be dry. Full submersion is not recommended and may void the warranty.

We have nothing but praise for this light. It is the right size, with the right light output options. It works exactly as designed. No batteries required, ever. This is an excellent patrol light.

Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2010

Rating : 10.0

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