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New LED Lights for Police

Written by Scott Oldham

What began several decades ago with lights that by today’s standards are of “dollar store” quality has now progressed into an arms race of companies that are competing to introduce the smallest, brightest and most reliable light on the market. As a benefit of this competition, officers now have a large number of lights available from several quality companies that are suitable for any conceivable need.

BlackHawk Night-Ops

While many companies have chosen to introduce new lights based on the proven 123A lithium batteries, BlackHawk’s Night-Ops Division has recently introduced two new rechargeable lights. The Ally PLR and Legacy XHR7 are two of the most size-efficient rechargeable lights on the market. Both lights feature a unique recharging system using lithium-ion batteries that are similar to those found in a cell phone, rather than “traditional” systems that have been on the market for years. Both lights have a rotating collar. The collar conceals a recharging socket that will accept a cell phone-style plug when exposed. Both lights come direct from the factory with both AC and DC cords included.

The Ally PLR generates 120 lumens from a 3-watt Cree LED and may be the smallest rechargeable light on the market. Used by patrol officers on street duty for several months, the unit was found to be everything that one could ask of a light of this size. Officers found that it was extremely useful during building searches and similar tasks where the light was easy to use in conjunction with a firearm—something that most rechargeable lights are not.

The Legacy XHR7 is a bigger light than the Ally PLR and produces an awesome 350 lumens using a xenon-halogen bulb package. The beam of the Legacy XHR7 is well focused and offers a well-placed bright spot with a large corona and no dark spots.

Officers who used the XHR7 found that the level of light it is capable of generating is a very valuable tool to have during suspect confrontations because the 350 lumens is simply too much for many people to “fight their way through” at close range. Many suspects who have no problem adapting to many lesser powered lights turn their heads with this many lumens, giving an officer the clear advantage.

Insight Technologies

With its M3 tactical light, Insight Technologies set the law enforcement world afire and made possible the revolution that has seen lights attached to almost every weapons system in use today. Insight Technologies is also a defense contractor for both night vision devices and laser technology. In the past several years, the company has begun to significantly explore the lighting market, not only in the form of weapon-mounted lights but also handheld tactical lighting.

First working under contract with a major corporation to produce a detachable weapon light and then later with another major corporation to produce a handheld light, Insight has a long history of producing products for the law enforcement world. In both cases, Insight used its expertise to manufacture the light and then allowed the other companies to sell the product under their names in a process known as re-branding. Insight later determined to market products under its own name and, as a result, would have total control over exactly what products were being brought to market.

Insight has gone on to improve upon the original M3 with the introduction of the X-treme series lights such as the 125-lumen M3X and the M6X, which features an aiming laser already affixed to the unit. At the 2008 SHOT Show, Insight introduced a complete line of new handheld lights using these improved LEDs as well as a new weapon-mounted light. Named after some other brightest stars in the night sky, the H1X Proxima, the H2X Arcturus and the H3X Regulus are all new handheld lights that have only recently began to hit the market in quantity.

The H1X Proxima is the smallest of the lot at 5.9 inches with a 1.3-inch head. The light, which comes equipped with a pocket clip, produces 80+ peak lumens with a runtime of 90 minutes on high with 100 hours on low. Like all such in the series, the light features a tail cap, which allows for multi-function operations, including momentary and constant on as well as a setting for both dimming and strobe functions.

The H2X Arcturus is identical in size and function to the Proxima but is rechargeable and offers 125+ peak lumens with a run time that is two hours on high and over 300 on low.

The H3X Regulus differs from the others in that it is the largest of the group and is the brightest. At over 160+ peak lumens from 9 volts, the Regulus is a fully capable duty light that fits perfectly in a back pocket or belt-mounted holder. This unit, which is 7.5 inches in length with a head that measures 1.6 inches, feels very good in the hand. The body has a large amount of knurling, which keeps the unit firmly anchored; but it is not so rough as to pose a problem for a bare hand or clothing.

Having learned much from earlier lights, the Regulus, Proxima and Arcturus have done away with the somewhat complicated and possibly more fragile rotating switch that had been used on previous lights. The lights have a digitally regulated circuit, controlled by a simple push button located correctly on the tail cap. Push for momentary; push and hold for constant on; and push rapidly twice for strobe. All operations are simple as pie. If you desire to make the light dimmer, you simply push and continue to hold until the light dims to your desired level. Another push of the button will return the light back to its full 160-lumen intensity.

Tested by law enforcement officers working patrol duties, the H3X Regulus has proven itself to be most useful. The well-focused beam easily reaches out to a good distance for all-around patrol operations. The unit throws a beam that has no dark spots like those sometimes seen in other lights, and it has a good amount of side “corona” spill that makes peripheral vision good. Easily capable of identifying targets or objects of interest at well over 50 yards while still retaining the ability to completely light the interior of a vehicle on a traffic stop, the H3X Regulus makes for a very good all-around duty light.

While the Regulus is capable of being weapon mounted, with the addition of an optional mounting system, the new XTI Procyon has been developed specifically for use on a weapon. The Procyon (pronounced PRO-SEE-ON) is the newest iteration of a quickly attachable / detachable weapon light that has come from the innovative minds at Insight Technologies. The XTI Procyon is a 6-volt LED tactical light that is housed in an all-aluminum body. The unit is roughly similar in size to the original M3 and will, in fact, fit in all holsters made for that light. It weighs just 4 ounces.

Like the handheld lights, the Procyon is capable of momentary and constant-on functions using a switch that is reminiscent of the earlier Insight SSL-1. The switch has two levers, which are independent from each other and are capable of redundant operation. One push down for momentary on and two quick pushes down for strobe. Push up and the light is constantly on. As with the handheld lights, operation is simple, intuitive and sure. The XTI Procyon produces more than 125 peak lumens for 90 minutes of runtime and is waterproof to 15 feet.

Officers who tested this unit found that it compared well with other lights on the market. The unit, which again is almost identical in size to the original M3, was tested on several pistols including a Glock 19, SIG P200TB and SIG’s newest P250. There were no functioning problems with any of the weapons, and the unit performed to expectations.

The learning curve for officers for this weapons light was essentially nil. The unit worked well with all holsters that were tried, including Safariland’s excellent ALS line. The Safariland ALS lineup as represented by the model 6304 is the top of the line security holster for use with a tactical light. The holster is quick, secure and is easily one of the most rugged designs on the market. For officers who carry a pistol-mounted tactical light, this holster is the ultimate incarnation of what is needed for patrol or tactical operations.
 
Pelican Products

Pelican Products, which made a name for itself producing high-quality cases for rifles and other mission-critical gear, seemingly came out of nowhere several years ago to produce what has become the issue light of the Los Angeles Police Department. Pelican has recently introduced a follow-up to the excellent LAPD issue Model 7060 known as the Model 8060.

With the introduction of the new model 8060, Pelican is responding to requests from some officers who have requested a duty light that is somewhat larger than the Model 7060 and has controls placed in a similar fashion as the older “duty style” lights such as the MagLight and Streamlight SL20. The new 8060 is about 12 inches long and weighs 23.2 ounces. It produces 190 lumens with a runtime of almost six hours.

One of the things that officers who have tested this light liked most was the fact that its size and control placement are very similar to those they have used for years. The light can be “tucked” under an arm so that field contacts, tickets and other routine administrative chores can be easily handled.

Using a new generation LED, the Pelican 8060 offers an extremely well-focused beam and a bigger light throw than other similar lights. While it has only recently been released, the officers who have tested this light have been most impressed with the function and the overall quality of the unit.

SureFire

SureFire is one of the largest and most innovative producers of tactical lighting products in the world. In 2008, SureFire continued its innovative ways with the introduction of several new designs that are sure to find wide appeal, as well as improvements to several previously existing products.

Perhaps the most significant new “law enforcement” light is the E1B Backup light. Tactical experts have long been preaching the theory of “two is one, one is none” in important mission-critical emergency equipment. Lighting is part of that all-important lifesaving gear that can not be taken for granted. No matter what your primary light is, no matter who made it, like everything else touched by human hands, it is capable of failing and will—at some point—do exactly that.

Everything wears out, and everything requires maintenance. There are no exceptions. The absolute certainty of eventual failure of mechanical devices is why those in high-risk occupations should be carrying two of anything upon which their life may depend.

The Backup is designed to be exactly that. It is small, unobtrusive and meant to be a light that a uniform officer can clip to a pocket and forget until it is needed. The unit is so small that detectives and administrative personnel will find it perfect to carry, as well. With a pocket clip that will allow either bezel up or down carry, the E1B Backup is a very well thought out product that should be part of every police officer’s daily equipment kit.

The E1B with advanced LED technology allows it to produce 80 lumens on one 3-volt 123A lithium battery. There are several other lights such as the E1L and E2L Outdoorsman lights that have also benefited from this technology, which has become widely available in the past 24 months.

In addition to new LED lights such as the Cree and Seoul series of lighting diode, there are now programming chips that allow for a light to have dual output settings. With the Outdoorsman series, the light will generate the lowest setting on the first push of the switch with the higher output being generated when the switch is pushed the second time.

This is the reverse of the E1B which is set to the highest output—80 lumens—on the first activation with the lowest output—5 lumens—on the second push of the switch.

While the Outdoorsman series is primarily directed at the civilian market, the lights are quite useful in several law enforcement settings such as administrative functions. Or it could be a second utility light for night-shift officers who may not need a blinding white light for some tasks but need to have that capability instantly when needed.

In addition to the smaller E-series LED lights, SureFire has also introduced a follow-up to its wildly successful G-series of inexpensive lights.

The G-series lights all use a polymer body, and the LED versions of this series use a metal head for improved heat dissipation. For 2008, SureFire has introduced the new G3. Like other lights in the series, it is rugged in the extreme. What sets the G3 apart, however, is that this light is capable of producing 80 lumens of light on 9 volts. The unit will produce tactical level lighting (defined as 60+ lumens) for over 5.5 hours and will continue to produce useful lighting for over nine continuous hours. In real-world use by law enforcement officers, this may literally mean several months on one set of batteries.

Realizing that the G3 is sure to be a hugely popular light that might be carried on an officer’s belt, SureFire has begun to produce the G3 LED Holster Kit. This kit contains the light and a polymer holster that will hold the light in a bezel-down configuration, which is adaptable for different sizes of belts. The unit also has a built-in spare battery carrier that holds three additional 123A lithium batteries.

At no time in history have there been so many fine examples of illumination tools that officers can depend upon to carry them through the darkness, whether that occurs during the night or inside of an abandoned building. There is simply no reason every officer cannot have a light of some type on his person at all time. In fact, there is no reason that an officer should not have several such lights. Remember, “two is one, one is none.”

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.gov.

Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2008

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