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FNH Tactical Flashlights

Written by Kevin Davis

Formidable. That is the best word to describe the FN Viper X-11 and Striker-6 tactical lights. Formidable. From the ground up, these lights were designed to stand up to the rigors of police and military tactical operations. Think of a modern military tank and its armored design, and you are close to FN Herstal’s foray into tactical lighting tools. These two lights are the two most stoutly designed flashlights I’ve gotten my hands on in my police career, and that’s been a fair number of flashlights.

In my 25-year law enforcement career, I have seen flashlights develop from three cell D-battery plastic lights to metal flashlights such as the Kel-lite™. These metal flashlights served two purposes. First, they were hardy and could stand up to police abuse. Second, they could be used as an impact weapon. I can attest to success on both fronts. I once put my Kel-lite Baton Light (four C-batteries with a spacer) through the back window of a van and used a number of these lights on resisting suspects over the years.

Halogen bulbs were introduced that increased the candlepower (they didn’t use the term lumen back then). Rechargeable flashlights were developed and increased the candlepower to an awesome 20,000 or more. Once again the metal design was rugged and could be used as a striking tool if it was in your hand. Over the years, flashlights have gotten smaller and brighter. Whether rechargeable or lithium 3-volt battery powered, the lumen level has gone from barely 60 to above 120.

The light from these flashlights could now be used as a weapon itself to distract or disorient a suspect. Xeon bulbs abound, and long-lasting LEDs are widespread. Steel has given way to aluminum and high-impact plastic. These flashlights are very compact and very light in weight. Some manufacturers have attempted to introduce lights that can double as striking tools, but the lightweight aluminum design does not lend itself to this purpose. Enter the FN Viper and Striker flashlights.

Viper and Striker
According to Dan Primeau, the designer of these lights, they were first and foremost designed as tactical tools. Where other manufacturers have gone for thin aluminum, FN Herstal has used steel. Where other makers have gone for lightweight, FN Herstal has opted for enough mass to successfully make an impact.

Manufactured in the United States from aluminum and steel bar stock, these lights include 150 lumen Xeon (not LED) bulb powered by two 3-volt lithium batteries; 30mm center tube for attachment to long-guns via scope rings; spring steel belt clip; and dual lanyard holes.

The Viper X-11 is 6.7 inches long, weighs in at 10.3 ounces and has a traditional momentary or constant operation recessed push-button switch on the end cap. The Striker-6 is 7.3 inches long, weighs 11 ounces and has a unique push-button switch on the end cap. According to Primeau, the switch is a user-selectable “switch gear.” This can be locked out to prevent accidental activation, locked on for constant use or a spring-loaded, momentary push option. The switch gear can even be removed and rotated 180 degrees to offer a momentary-push-only option.

Unique to both lights is a 1045k case hardened steel striker ring with four “smasher” points, or horns. These points are designed to break glass or to be used as an emergency impact tool.

Differences between the lights are based on the location of the lanyard holes (a minor detail) and the switch mechanisms. (This is not to say that the parts are interchangeable because they are not). The strengths of the Viper X-11 lie in the traditional switching mechanism. The Viper’s switch is a simple, recessed push-button actuator that allows momentary use with slight pressure and constant on with more pressure. This switch is more user friendly than the Striker switch but less robust.

The Striker-6 has a truly innovative switch mechanism. The switch is the most robust design I have seen. It includes a lockout function (a quarter turn counter-clockwise) that prevents the light from being actuated accidentally while carried on a load-bearing vest, for instance. Once unlocked (a quarter turn clockwise), the push-button switch is spring loaded and easier to operate with a gloved hand due to its protruding design. To lock the switch in constant on mode requires two hands. The button must be pushed in and rotated a quarter turn clockwise.

Which switch is for you? I like the easier, simpler switch of the Viper. However, if the prevention of accidental illumination is vital for your mission (tactical personnel involved in a callout, for instance) then the more secure Striker is for you.

Torture Test
I hate to abuse equipment. So it was with reluctance that I took FN Herstal reps up on their offer to beat the heck out of these two lights. But when Rick DeMilt of FNH is quoted in the press release as saying that, “They are virtually indestructible,” I’ll take that challenge. First of all, I tossed the flashlights into the air to about 12 feet and let them drop on a concrete floor several times. Then I threw the lights as hard as I could on the same floor several times, so hard they bounced. That’s right. This was not a “drop test” where the lights were dropped from shoulder level to the floor. I actually attempted to break them.

After the lights continued to function, I used both lights as impromptu hammers nailing 2.5-inch nails through a 2x4 board. I then turned the board over and broke off the ends with the lights as well. Drat! The lights still functioned! I then began slamming the smasher points into the same 2x4 board. I dug a decent hole into the board, and both lights still functioned. I thought I detected the lights actually getting brighter, but that had to be my imagination!

I then took the 2x4 and clubbed the lights with it. (Turnabout is fair play). Still the lights continued to function. Walking by some old exercise equipment, I had a devious idea. I went over to the squat machine and set the plate pin on the 199 lb. level. I then lifted the weight stack and set the flashlight on top of the remaining plates and then dropped the weight stack repeatedly onto the body of the flashlight. Still no luck breaking the lights.

Yes, both lights are now a little scarred. To remedy their appearance, I took a black magic marker and covered up my transgressions. But beside the slight scratches, both lights still function flawlessly. A word of caution here. You probably don’t want to try this with any other make of lights you own.

Formidable. Yep, that’s the word. In a world of flimsy designs that can’t stand up to abuse dished out by even rookie cops, the FNH Striker and Viper are indeed formidable, functional flashlight designs suitable for hard core police and military operators.

Kevin R. Davis is a full-time officer with 25 years of experience. Assigned to the Training Bureau, he is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency’s SWAT team. Visit his Web site at www.advancedtacticalconcepts.com. He welcomes your comments at kd1@advancedtacticalconcepts.com.

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2008

Rating : 5.0


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