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SureFire Tactical Lights

Comparing your old D-cell, three-battery police flashlight to a modern SureFire light is like comparing a soccer mom’s minivan to a Corvette. There is no comparison. Like the high-performance sports car, SureFire® lights are designed from the ground up with performance in mind.

In my law enforcement career, I’ve seen amazing developments in police equipment. When I started, portable radios were about the size of a box of cereal, or so it seemed. Handguns had things called cylinders and held only six bullets. And flashlights were plastic or thin aluminum and contained three D-cell batteries. If you jiggled the flashlight and held it at the right angle, it was better than nothing. Since those days, I became determined to not let poor equipment dictate my very survival.

Over the next 25 years of my law enforcement career, I have owned many flashlights. From D-cell lights to C-cell lights to rechargeables to 3-volt lithium lights, I have always made sure that when things get dark or I go in harm’s way, I have at least one good flashlight on my person.

When SureFire® asked what lights I would like to evaluate, I was stumped. After all, I had a number of SureFire® lights, what new lights could I possibly test? I carry a 9AN Commander rechargeable in uniform. On SWAT call-outs I carried a Z9 with a lanyard. While working the indoor range as a firearm instructor, I carry G2Z with lanyard and red beam filter around my neck.

In my current plainclothes training assignment I carry an A2 Aviator. Off-duty I carry the same Digital Plus Series A2 or an Executive series E1E Executive Elite in my fanny pack. So what possible new product could SureFire® have come up with that I didn’t currently have in my inventory? The answer is quite a few actually. I therefore asked to test several of the new small flashlights and a new Picatinny rail system light for an M-4 carbine. All of these systems have put new spins on older SureFire® designs.

Defender® and Outdoorsman® Series

The Defender® series were designed to be used as a makeshift impact weapon as well with scalloped aluminum extensions fore and aft. These extensions which SureFire® calls Strike Bezels™ allow the light to be used to deliver either forward thrusts or backhand strikes should the need arise. The E2D model tested is 4.85 inches long, weighs in at 3.2 ounces, uses two 123A lithium batteries, and provides 60 lumens of light. This light has ridden comfortably in my vest, jacket and coat pocket for some time now. This is the perfect sized light for plainclothes officers. The light fits in the hand just right to employ the Strike Bezel™ design should the need arise.

The Outdoorsman lights tested the E2L and E1L both contain LED (Light Emitting Diode) lamp assemblies. The E2L is the larger of the two lights in this line tested. This light is 5.25 inches, weighs 3.5 ounces, uses the same two 123A lithium batteries, kicks out 30 lumens of light, but will give six hours of lights (the literature states three hours of high output, then three hours of useful output). Once again this light is perfect for plainclothes officers or to be used in a back-up roll for uniform or tactical personnel.

The mini E1L comes in a small package (4 inches long and 2.6 ounces) but delivers high performance. Containing only one 123A lithium battery this light provides two hours of peak light at 25 lumens and then two more hours of useful light. Four hours of light from a package not much bigger than a women’s lipstick tube—that’s quite a deal.

SureFire® LED lamps produce less lumens in the same size lights as incandescent lamps but battery life is significantly extended and the light will gradually fade, not just stop like the incandescent lights when the batteries run out of juice.

LED lamps can last thousands of hours versus incandescent lamps. The LEDs that SureFire® uses are of the highest quality and emit near-ultraviolet blue light; this causes the instruments to give off a blue tint versus white (white light, according to SureFire’s catalog, is composed of all the visible spectrum combined).

All three of the lights tested have the new clip on tail cap switch versus the momentary button on my other lights. This is a welcome development as it allows you to leave the light on one handed versus having to turn the base assembly with two hands. These lights come with clips attached to facilitate carry and there are a plethora of extras you can purchase such as lanyards, red filters and holsters.

There is an old Navy SEAL adage, “Two equals one and one equals none.” This means that in the worst time your equipment can be lost or fail and redundancy in equipment is vital. All of the lights tested were small enough to be carried as backup lights in uniform or carried in a load bearing vest or on a belt by tactical personnel.

Millennium Universal System WeaponLight and the Picatinny Rail System

When I was first selected for SWAT, it was the notion of the then commander that only he and another supervisor should carry long guns. The fact that an MP-5 or M-4 is so much more accurate in the special weapons function and that these two supervisors were seldom up front where such weapons were needed, didn’t make a difference. At some point this supervisor became enamored with lasers. He had each of the team’s subguns outfitted with lasers.

Now these early versions of laser seldom held their zero and were broken more than they worked. Also, if several team members had long guns with lasers on, it became confusing whose red dot was whose. Ultimately, these lasers did not aid the shooter at all in low light because they did not illuminate the target. A red dot is fine but if you can’t locate and identify the target as a threat, what good does it do?

It took a lot of work and a new commander to take training and equipment to professional standards. These strides in training and equipment included removing each laser and replacing it with a SureFire forearm. Each long gun now has a light affixed and extensive training in low light conditions, which helped prepare our operators for its mission. While running force on force drills in low light, operators could work behind short burst “walls of white light” to maneuver and deliver accurate fire. These 3-to 4-second bursts are the key in using any lighting system.

Installing the Millennium WeaponLight and Picatinny rail system took all of 20 minutes to install on a Colt M-4 with most of the time spent removing the standard forearm. The Picatinny rail forearm secures with a set screw to prevent it and the equipment mounted on it, from inadvertently loosening and falling off.

Since I place my support hand at the rear of the forearm near the mag well, I mounted the M95 light system on the right at the 3 o’clock position. The touch pad for the light was attached via hook and loop to the right side of the receiver above the mag well where my fingers naturally wrap. The M95 produces 65 lumens and uses two lithium batteries.

The new M95 design has the new XM tailcap switch assembly which has plug-in momentary tape switch as well as a constant on/off switch button. The M95 attaches to the Picatinny rail via two large thumb screws. I found the light to work as designed without adding any appreciable weight. Another well-thought-out SureFire® design.

Do I like SureFire® products? You bet. The ultimate endorsement from me would be that I’ve spent my own hard earned money on many of their fine products and have never been let down or found myself in the dark. SureFire® listens to their clients and implements designs based on input from users.

From caves in Afghanistan to building entries in Iraq and domestically to what ever subdued lighting situation law enforcement finds itself, SureFire® leads the way and indeed lights your way, helping you to navigate, locate, identify and neutralize any threats.

It is indeed so much more than a simple flashlight. So park the van and get behind the wheel of a SureFire® sports car. It is made to perform.

Kevin R. Davis is a full-time law enforcement officer assigned to the training bureau. A veteran of 23 years in law enforcement, he spent 13 years as an operator on his agency’s SWAT team, and is a former team leader and lead instructor. Visit his Web site at He welcomes your comments at

Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2006

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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