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SureFire’s AR-15 Light System

Written by Don Munson

The patrol rifle is becoming commonplace in police vehicles. The advantages over the shotgun include better accuracy, a longer range, less recoil, rapid reloading, more ammo capacity, more controlled penetration than a slug, and fewer projectiles to account for than buckshot. The list goes on, but the argument has been won in so many police and sheriff’s departments, rural and urban, large, small and college that no further defense needs to be made. Dozens of credible AR-15 pattern rifles exist.

Weapon lights are also becoming commonplace. While the AR-15 hasn’t changed much in the past few decades, weapon lights have changed dramatically in the past few years. The LED revolution has made extremely powerful, long-lasting, durable and compact lights available for all patrol and tactical uses. In fact, the limited availability of duty holsters compatible with handguns has slowed an otherwise rapid adoption of pistol lights. That situation is finally being resolved.

Tactically, the light really needs to be mounted to the handgun, for day shift and night shift officers alike. Many light-compatible holsters are now available for most duty-oriented pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch, Beretta, Colt, Kimber, Springfield and others. Accessory rails are either molded or machined into the frame or are readily available for easy installation.

This weapon light has also hit the patrol rifle. When our SWAT team was formed six years ago, the SureFire Millennium Weaponlight™ was widely acknowledged as the ultimate light for the AR-15 rifle in police use. And that is what we got.

The Millennium is a big, shock-isolated light with modular and interchangeable bezel, lamp, tail cap and switch components. It is available in 6-volt, 9-volt and 12-volt versions. In terms of light output, and based on 1 hour of run time, the Millennium is available in 65-lumen, 125-lumen and 200-lumens versions. Optional, ultra-high output light assemblies are available for the Millennium that almost double the lumen rating based on a 20-minute run time.

The Millennium series of rifle lights uses a xenon / halogen bulb. The addition of inert xenon gas with some inert halogen gas in the lamp reduces tungsten boil-off from the filament. This, in turn, reduces darkening of the glass bulb, lengthens the filament life and permits increased lamp temperatures, which increases light output. These inert gasses work better than the argon and krypton used in less expensive lights. The Millennium remains an outstanding light, especially for tactical operations. However, for patrol use, LED technology has given us a similar capability in a much smaller package.

SureFire Recommends
 

SureFire has long been an industry leader in flashlight technology. For decades, it has been producing quality flashlights, weapon-mounted lights and lasers. So, we asked SureFire representatives the question on many officers’ minds. What one rail, light and switch system do you recommend for a patrol-oriented AR-15? Lots of combinations of credible components exist, but we wanted them to recommend just one. Here is the answer.

Of all the light options, SureFire recommends its X300 LED Weaponlight™ for a number of reasons. The new lens projects the beam much farther than the previous generations. The X300 has the newest in LED technology, so it both surpasses the 100-lumen mark and has a longer run time. It is the choice for both CQB and long-range patrol applications. The X300 is the lightest, most compact, least expensive and most versatile weapon light the company makes. The compact, 6-volt X300 LED has almost the same maximum light output as the big, 9-volt Millennium and almost twice that of the 6-volt Millennium.

110 Lumens
 

Maximum output of the X300’s CREE® LED is rated at 110 lumens. It produces tactical light, i.e., a minimum of 60 lumens for 2.4 hours. A level of 60 lumens is considered to be the threshold for a tactical light. Based on 1 hour of run time, to allow a comparison to the Millennium series, the X300 is rated at 100 lumens.

The X300 takes the SureFire X-Series to a new level with higher output, more run time and a lower price. Using a state-of-the-art, ultra-bright CREE LED, the X300 is more than five times brighter than a two D-cell flashlight. Based on solid-state technology and consuming one-tenth of the power of an incandescent bulb, the LED has no filament to break or burn out. Recoil is the enemy of the filament in incandescent xenon / halogen bulbs. Filaments are prone to break, especially when hot. The solution has been to shock isolate the bulbs, which comes at the expense of compactness and weight.

The X300 features a new special computer-engineered focusing lens with total internal refection (TIR) focusing that is designed to provide a tightly focused central beam and an enhanced peripheral corona. The special lens allows the X300 to project a tightly focused beam at greater distances for threat identification than comparably sized lights while at the same time producing a wider corona to accommodate peripheral vision.

The bezel window of the X300 is constructed of tempered Pyrex glass. The use of toughened glass allows the light to be projected farther than other lens options. And, the lens has an anti-reflective coating to maximize light transmission. The tail cap has a rubber gasket that helps keep the X300 waterproof down to 22 meters, according to SureFire. The housing of the X300 is constructed of aerospace aluminum with a MIL-SPEC Type III hard-anodized finish.

Power for the X300 is provided by two standard 3-volt 123A lithium batteries, which are included. The X300 features digital current regulation to maintain a consistent light output throughout the useable life of the batteries. Unregulated lights are subject to a steady decline in light intensity from the moment of activation. The use of low-quality batteries can cause light damage and in some instances has caused lights to combust from overheating.

Switch Options
 

The X300 light alone uses a modular switching system with several switching options. The X300 comes with an ambidextrous toggle switch that has both momentary and constant-on activation. For constant-on operation, press the switch up or down. For momentary activation, press the switch forward.

The availability of the XT-series Rail Mount Tape Switch makes the X300 fully functional on long guns. The XT-07 remote switch replaces the tail cap of the X300. This switch is a waterproof unit that includes a system disable feature; a constant, click on/off push-button switch; and a plug-in, momentary-on remote tape switch. The push-button switch and pressure-activated tape switch operate independently, providing switch redundancy. The pressure pad cable length is 7 inches, which fits most rifles or carbines.

The XT-series Rail Mount Tape Switch plugs into the tail cap switch on one end and snaps onto a Picatinny rail on the other. Don’t let the term “tape” mislead you. It does not attach to the rail by means of two-sided tape. Instead, the rubberized body spreads apart and hooks around machined notches in the Picatinny rail.

Rail Mount

On handguns, the X300 is designed to fit the two dominant rail systems, the MIL-STD-M1913 (Picatinny) rail and the Universal Standard rail, i.e., GLOCK®. The X300 will also fit any firearm with a Picatinny rail. The X300 mounts on the weapon using either a lever latch (standard) or Rail Lock®, which is included. The Rail Lock differs from the lever latch in that it has a bar that slides into the Universal or Picatinny slot instead of pivoting into with spring pressure. It’s a very solid mount, but it sacrifices the quick detach and quick installation of the lever latch.

The X300 ships with the Universal lever latch in place, which will fit most handgun rails. The operator will have to reconfigure the X300 to use the lever latch on Picatinny rails or to install the Rail Lock. Reconfiguration is easy, requiring only a 5/64” Allen wrench, which is included. The X300 includes Universal and Picatinny rail interfaces for both the lever latch and Rail Lock, identified with a “P” for Picatinny and a “U” for Universal.

Being a typical policeman, I tried it with the stock universal latch on the SureFire forearm rail. It went onto the rail and latch securely. The problem was getting it off. After 5 minutes and a lot of frustration, I was able to remove it. Afterwards, the light still latched securely to my Glock handgun rails with no apparent signs of damage.

M73 Rail

The M73 rail is designed for the M4 pattern rifles. The M72 rail fits the AR-15 pattern rifles with the full-length forend, while the M81 rail fits the AR-15 pattern rifles with the mid-length forend, and the M83 rail fits the AK-47-style rifles. SureFire also offers a forearm rail system for the MP5 submachine gun as well as Mossberg and Remington shotguns.

Made of aerospace-grade aluminum the MIL-SPEC anodized forearms are tough, help dissipate heat and securely fasten to the weapons in question. Our forearm replaced the M4 mid-sized factory forearm. The instructions were more than sufficient. Once we had the factory forearm off, the two-piece SureFire forearm installed in minutes.

With two Allen screws on the front of the forearm, we were able to securely attach the forearm to the weapon. The setscrews push the two halves in opposite directions locking them in place. The forearm comes with rubber rail covers for the unused rail portions, which helps protect the user’s hands from the rough edges of the rails.

X300 and M73
 

On Duty With the X300 mounted on the right-hand side of the rifle, a careless operator could turn the off the toggle power switch inadvertently. Also in this position, a strong grip across the body of the light would cause the latch that locked the tail cap in place to disengage. The forearm kept the batteries from breaking contact or falling out, which meant the light was still operable. The latch was just not aggressive enough to hold with any type of substantial force applied to the end of the optional pressure switch tail cap. In this condition, the light was no longer waterproof because the rubber seal had been visibly broken.

Also with the X300 mounted on the right-hand side, it caused a noticeable shadow on the left-hand side of the weapon while in use. The X300 was mounted on the bottom of the forearm, alleviating the shadow on each side. Mounted in this position, it was less likely to turn the power switch off by accident and easier to turn it back on if you did. Also this made the shadow of the barrel much less noticeable because it was on the ceiling now.

The X300 is both compact and light compared to most rifle lights. It measures just 1.4 inches high by 1.4 inches wide by 3.5 inches long with the standard switch. The X300 uses a 1.1-inch diameter bezel. The total weight of the X300 with batteries is only 3.7 ounces.

The X300 LED WeaponLight has an MSRP of $225, the M73 rail for the M4 is $199 and the XT-07 switch is $120. The M-series rails for other rifles vary from $206 to $249.

The X300 offers a bright LED weapon-mounted light at an affordable price with a great run time of over 2 hours. Though the MSRP is slightly higher than some its competitors, the light was significantly brighter. By combining the X300 with the quality and diversity of a SureFire forearm rail system, you get a customizeable lighting system for almost any operator.

Don Munson is a deputy sheriff with the Benton County, IN Sheriff’s Department, and he is point man with his multi-agency response team. He can be reached at donmunson@sbcglobal.net.

Published in Tactical Response, May/Jun 2008

Rating : 5.0


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