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New Streamlight Weapon Lights

Written by Tactical Response Staff

New for 2013, Streamlight introduced two significant weapon lights. One is the TLR-2® HL™ with a stunning 630 lumens of white light. The other is the TLR-2® G with a radically different green laser. Each is geared toward a different kind of tactical operation. Both weapon lights provide a white light and laser illuminator and strobe function.

In Streamlight-speak, the TLR-1 device is strictly a white light. It is available in 300 lumen (standard), 630 lumen HL (High Lumen) and 300 lumen plus strobe. The TLR-2 series adds a laser to the white light. Again, it is available in 300 lumen (standard) and 300 lumen plus strobe and now in 630 lumen HL and 200 lumen plus green laser. The new TLR-2 HL (High Lumen) and TLR-2 G (Green laser) are the talk of the tactical community.

 

TLR-2 HL (High Lumen)

Not too long ago, 70 lumens was considered by some as enough “tactical” light from a flashlight or weapon light. Of course, that was definitely not enough. It was just what was available. Lights in the 120 to 160-lumen range were OK, but still not enough. Then the 200-lumen barrier was broken. A 200-lumen output should be considered the minimum for police work of any kind. Of course, more light is always better, but 200 lumens is probably enough for a police handheld or weapon-mounted light.

LED technology is rapidly advancing. The breakthrough to 600 lumens happened right on the heels of the 200-lumen achievement. The HL (High Lumen) lights from Streamlight now generate 630 lumens. And it is a legit 630 lumens based on industry-accepted ANSI/NEMA FL1-2009 Standard. This is an extremely useful amount of light with a constant-on runtime of 1.25 hours. Definitely consider the HL series of lights!

The TLR-2 HL has the traditional red color laser sight-pointer-illuminator integrated into the weapon light. The red laser light has a 45-hour runtime. The TLR-2 HL uses two CR123A batteries.

The TLR-2 HL also has a strobe function. Some operators find this useful, while others do not. On the TLR-2 HL, the strobe is there if you want to use it. Ignore it if you don’t. It is an advantage to have that capability, i.e., there are no drawbacks to having it available on the light. In fact, the strobe is user programmable. It can be enabled or disabled. Enabled, two quick flicks of the paddle actuates the strobe.

The TLR-2 HL comes with a variety of “keys” to allow it to mount to virtually any handgun, rifle or shotgun with a rail. The thumbwheel tightening screw works fine with just finger pressure tightening. A coin will tighten it further if needed. No one really questions the durability of today’s weapon lights with aluminum bodies and shock-resistant lenses. The TLR-2HL operates from minus 40 deg F to 120 deg F and is IPX4 water resistant.

Windage and elevation adjustments for the lower sight are easy to access in the base of the unit. The ambidextrous up-down paddle controls were easy to reach—one way for constant-on and the other way for momentary.

The TLR-2 HL has a tiny, silver toggle switch at the rear of the unit. Mounted on the weapon, the toggle switch is right in front of the trigger guard. This switch controls the laser-only (left), light only (middle), and light plus laser (right) settings. At first, the tiny toggle appeared both fragile and in the position to be broken or accidentally lumped to another setting. After time both on the range and in patrol, neither was the case. We set it to the light plus laser position. Two months and 500 rounds of activity, it was still set on the light plus laser mode.

The 600-plus lumens amount of light is so important for police work, if you have one of the under 200 lumen weapon lights, upgrade to the TLR-2 HL (or the TLR-1 HL) right now. The TRL-2 HL has an MSRP of $523.

 

TLR-2 G (Green Laser)

The green lasers are definitely the trend in weapon lights. The green laser is clearly easier to see under a wider variety of conditions than the red laser. The rods and cones on our retinas are more sensitive to light in the green wavelength. Green has a wavelength of 530 nm while red has a wavelength of 650 nm. Green appears brighter than red for the exact same power output because the human eye “sees” green easier. How much brighter is green than red? It is debatable, and beware of outrageous claims, but green is five to six times brighter than red, all else equal.

You can learn all about wavelengths of light and how the rods and cones in the human eye react to different colors under light and dark conditions. Or you can simply try a green laser for three seconds in a lit room and a dim room. Green light seems “brighter” and easier to see, period.

The build of the TRL-2 G is very different from the other TRL light-laser sights. With the TRL-2 G, the laser is emitted from a port next to the LED emitter, and behind the flashlight lens. Nearly all other white light–laser sights use a stand-alone laser stacked below the LED white light. The TLR-2 G design makes for a more compact overall light. Or more precisely, allows about the same overall physical size as the standard TRL-2 to be used to house the processors to generate the green laser. 

For all the visual advantages of the green laser, there are a couple of technology tradeoffs. First, green lasers are more sensitive to high and low ambient temperatures than red lasers. The temperature range differences are not huge, and technology advances are working to close the gap between green and red.

The green laser devices from Streamlight operate between 32 degrees F and 104 degrees F. This compares to minus 40 degrees F and 120 degrees F for the red laser. Patrol officers and tactical operators are, of course, likely to push the lower temp limit of a green laser. Lots of patrol occurs at temps below 32 degrees F. The upper limit is less frequently a problem but 100 degrees F-plus days are reached every year in more than a dozen states.

Runtime is the other technology challenge. The green laser on the TLR-2 G has a nine-hour runtime, compared to the red laser on the TLR-2HL with a 45-hour runtime. The 200-lumen white light on the TLR-2 G has a runtime of 1.5 hours, compared to 1.25 hours for the 650-lumen white light on the TLR-2 HL. On the other hand, the TRL-2 G only uses one battery compared to most laser-lights that use two batteries.

Why is a green laser so temperature sensitive and why does it use up battery power so quickly? The reason is the complicated and involved process to even produce a green laser. You have to start with a very powerful infrared laser and photo-electronically convert this invisible laser light to visible green. That takes a lot of power, which is a process not needed with a red laser. And it also takes a bit of room to do it. That explains why the TRL-2 HL and TRL-2 G are about the same physical size…but the HL packs two batteries, while there is only enough room for one battery on the G version.

The twin challenges of temperature and battery life beg the question: If you want a weapon sight with a laser option, should it be a green laser? Yes. The green laser is that good.

To wring out the TRL-2 G, we mounted it on a S&W M&P and shot it on a police-pistol combat course. With the sun over our back, illuminating the target and making a worst case for the green laser, we easily shot a “possible” score using only the green laser as a sight. You can see the green laser even in sunlight, bright conditions that totally wash out a red laser. 

If you want a weapon light mostly for the white light, the TLR-2 HL is one of the best lights available. Both a laser and strobe are there if needed, and 650 lumens is bright enough to peel paint.

If you want a weapon light mostly for the laser pointer-sight-illuminator, the TLR-2 G is one of the best lights available. The 200-lumen white light works for patrol and the strobe is there if needed. Keeping in mind the restricted ambient operating temps and the reduced battery life, the green laser has a clear tactical advantage over the red laser. The TRL-2 G has an MSRP of $550.


Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2013

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