Tripping The Lights Fantastic

Tripping the lights fantastic

Ever since Guffaw wrote about his flashlights, I’ve been wanting to do a side-by-side comparison of the various and sundry flashlights I have around the house.

So I did.

I don’t have any Tier-1 tactical lights in the house: I just can’t justify spending $50 or more on a AA-powered LED “tactical” light” when there’s good flashlights to be had for half (or a third) of what I’d pay for a “name” brand.

Flashlights

That’s my well-loved 4-D Cell Maglite up top, and then left to right, a Photon Micro-light II, a Fenix E01, an Insight MX3, a Coleman 3AAA LED, a AA Maglite and a Pelican AA LED light.

The testing setup is the same I used for testing the Insight light: I set up my D70 with my 24-70mm lens set at 35mm about 12 feet away from the cinder-block fence in my backyard. The exposure this time was 1 second at f5.6, ISO 400. As a comparison, that’s about 1/1000th the exposure needed for taking photos in daylight.

First up, the Photon Micro-light II.

Photon II

Then, the Fenix E01.

Fenix E01

And the Coleman 3 AAA LED.

Coleman 3AAA LED

And the Pelican AA LED.

Pelican AA

And the Insight light.

Insight MX3

And now the Maglites. First, the AA version,

Maglite AA

And now the 4 D Cell thumper.

4 D Maglite

Conclusions: 

1. That little Photon is pretty astounding. It’s TINY and at under $10, relatively cheap, yet it kicks out an amazing amount of lumens for its size.
2. Either the Pelican or the Coleman are a good choice for someone who wants the lighting capabilities of a Surefire without the Surefire price tag. I’d also add that both of those lights have AA/AAA lithium batteries in them, giving me the long shelf-life advantages of lithium with the flexibility and low-cost of alkalines if needed.
3. The day of the Maglite is over. I’ll still carry that big ol’ 4D Cell mamajama in my car because it comes in handy in other (defensive) ways, but it’s not king of the candlepower hill any more.
4. As a comparison, I took a shot illuminated with my iPhone’s Flashlight app.

iPhone App

Yeah that didn’t work…

Threats Analysis

Threats analysis

I’ve been thinking more about the comment I left in a post last week.

There are, as I see it, two kinds of violent encounters: Predatorial and Adversarial. 

The “sudden encounter” is a predator attack, be it mugger, rapist or Rottweiler. Those types of encounter require you to be on your game rightthisveryinstant and respond to the attack with enough force to end things.

The Adversarial attack is road rage or the loudmouth in bar itchin’ for a fight or the jealous spouse of a co-worker or the fight between friends that gets out of hand. Those happen on pretty well-defined patterns, and if they get out of hand, they get out of hand in predictable paths that can be countered (or better yet, de-escalated) in predictable ways. 

And as things are now, we spend a LOT of time preparing and training for the Predatorial attack: The mugger, the home invasion, the sexual assault. It’s not that these kinds of attacks aren’t real, it’s that for us law-abiding folk, they are just not that common. 

Predators tend to prey on the weak, and if you’ve taken the steps needed to secure your family at and away from home, you are not easy pickin’s no more. When such an attack happens, there’s little you can do to de-escalate the action, in fact, trying to de-escalate it will probably get you killed dead. Such an attack requires the immediate and swift application of force sufficient to end the threat. Anything less just ain’t enough.

Which leaves adversarial encounters. These differ in that we can and should control the level of force needed to end things. “A soft answer turneth away wrath” ain’t in the Bible because it sounds nice, it’s in there ’cause it works. 

Adversarial encounters can get out of hand quickly if no one choses to de-escalate. Ask any cop who’s had to arrest someone for a barfight or the murder of a friend and he’ll tell you the number one thing they’ll hear from the poor soul who’s now cuffed on the curb is “Why didn’t he just back down?”. 

I turn that around and ask “Why didn’t YOU just back down?”

Is an insult, a bad lane change or a loud remark worth twenty years of your life and the loss of your firearms freedoms? Is it worth not seeing your kids grow up or your friends? Is it worth a black mark on your record that will follow you wherever you go? 

We spend hours on the range and in the dojo preparing for the predator’s attack. How much time do we spend learning the difference between backing down and giving up? 

 

One That’s Spelled L-I-T-E

One that’s spelled L-I-T-E

It’s late at night, and you’ve been at your job for far too long, but things are wrapped up now and you FINALLY get to do what the rest of your coworkers have already done and head home for the evening. 

The sun’s gone down, and night has settled in. You navigate to your car by the glow of the street lamps, and suddenly you hear a noise. Could be a prowling cat, could be someone getting ready to jump you, so you pull out your trusty Surefire G3 to see what’s up and… 

… you realize you left the Surefire at home because it’s just too big for everyday carry.

Whoops. 

Flashlights are like firearms: It’s better to have one and not need it than need one and not have it. And just like firearms, a small but adequate light on you at all times is better (day in and day out) than a 500 lumen blaster in the car. 

I’ve carried a flashlight with me at all times for a long time now. First it was a tiny little AAA MagLIte, which was the best option at the time, and when I was a photog, I had a AA MagLite on my belt at all times, right next to the Leatherman and my cell phone. 

I used to carry a Coast LED light, but since I found out (the hard way) that they are not washing-machine safe, I’ve switched to a small but rather bright Pelican LED light. It’s not as bright as a SureFire or even my Coleman LED lights, but it’s so small and light I can carry it everywhere. A light this small is  not going to light up a person a half-mile away, but it will toss out enough light to let me identify people and threats at ranges that I can reasonably engage with my Kel-Tec P3AT or other carry pistol, and that’s all I need it to do.