Thursday, January 7, 2021

All The Lumens! Fullsize Weapon Mounted Lights

RFV Tactical makes kydex holsters that index on popular fullsize weapon mounted lights, so we thought it would be good to post our thoughts on all the different lights, and compare the light output of each one.

The most popular fullsize weapon mounted lights that are commonly used on handguns are:
Streamlight TLR-1HL
Olight PL-Pro/PL-2
Inforce WILD2
Surefire X300U-A/B

We make holsters that index on these lights specifically because the body of these lights are wider than most handgun frames.  That extra width allows the holster to come in contact primarily with the light more so than the gun's frame or slide.  A benefit to our holster design is that typical holster wear is drastically reduced or completely eliminated on most guns. The holster may touch the controls on either side of the frame on some guns, but in most cases the slide doesn't come in contact with the holster.

Commander length 1911/2011

CZ P-07 with a compensator

Glock 19 with a compensator

As far as the lights themselves go, they will all light up a dark room or alley pretty well as you can see from the photos below. The differences really come down to the ergonomics (switch placement and activation method) and the beam pattern (hot spot and spill), which are simply personal preferences for each individual user. Keep in mind that most of the observations of each light below are very subjective and are specific to our experiences with each light in an inside-the-waistband concealed carry perspective.

Surefire X300U-A/B
The Surefire X300U-A/B weapon light is the standard by which all other lights are compared.  The X300U is widely used by law enforcement and military, so it has proven itself as a durable and reliable light.  It's also the most expensive of all the fullsize lights. The downside to this light (other than it's price tag) is that it is 1/2" longer than all the other lights, which seems to be a little excessive for a compact size gun (not as much of an issue for fullsize guns or compact guns with compensators).  That extra 1/2" of length imposes a little more discomfort when carrying in the appendix position compared to the other fullsize lights.  The switch activation is not very intuitive with an ambidextrous rocker mechanism for constant on and the switches are short which makes them difficult to activate with only one hand for people with smaller hands (check out the replacement switches from PHLster to fix this). The mounting methods and fitment of the two versions of these lights are also a bit cumbersome and quirky to use. There are some tricks and modifications that you can do to get these lights to fit better on most guns, but fitment is horrible right out of the box, which is disappointing for such an expensive light.

Aesthetics: Okay - unnecessarily 1/2 inch longer than all the other fullsize lights
Ergonomics: Okay - switch activation method is not very intuitive
Fitment: Poor - both versions typically require modifications to fit most handguns
Performance: Great - brightness, hotspot, and spill are the best of all the lights
Price: $270
Surefire X300U-B
(1000 lumens)

Streamlight TLR-1 HL
The Streamlight TLR-1 HL is the second most common weapon light.  It has a similar reputation as the Surefire X300U as far as durability and reliability. It is shorter than the X300U, and is also half the price of the X300U!  The downside to the TLR-1 HL is it's activation switches. Out of all the fullsize lights, the TLR-1 switches are the least intuitive and they are also very sensitive so accidentally activating them is very common.  You can see in the photo at the beginning of this blog post that the activation switches on that TLR-1 HL have been modified in an attempt to reduce accidental activation. The swivel rocker switches have a similar activation method as the Surefire X300U, but unlike the ambidextrous switches of the X300U rotating the switches clockwise only gives you constant on and rotating the switches counter-clockwise only gives you momentary on.  Without repetitive training this can get confusing, which is not a good thing in a high stress situation. If this is the light you choose, be sure to become very familiar with the switch activation method (constant on vs momentary).

Aesthetics: Good - no real issues, but nothing spectacular
Ergonomics: Poor - switch activation method can be confusing and is very sensitive
Fitment: Great - comes with multiple mounting keys to fit a wide variety of guns
Performance: Good - brightness and spill are great, but it has a less defined hotspot
Price: $130
Streamlight TLR-1 HL
(1000 lumens)

Olight PL-Pro/PL-2
The Olight PL-Pro (rechargeable) and PL-2 (non-rechargeable) are similar in size to the Streamlight TLR-1 HL (they will actually fit into most holsters made for the TLR-1), but the activation switches are much more intuitive to use. They also have a quick disconnect mounting system that works really well, which is a great feature if you like to attach a light to your gun for night stand use or home defense and then remove it for daily concealed carry. The downside to the Olight weapon lights is that they are made in China and don't have a proven track record like Surefire and Streamlight. They also get a lot of negative/hate comments on internet forums from the Surefire "fan boys". Another thing to note is that the PL-2 has been discontinued and the PL-Pro is it's replacement, but the light output of the PL-2 is much better in our opinion. The PL-Pro's light output has a slight green/yellow tint to it which makes it appear dimmer than the PL-2 even though it's supposed to be 300 lumens brighter than the PL-2. At the time of this blog post the PL-2 is still readily available on Amazon and eBay, so we recommend picking up a PL-2 rather than a PL-Pro if you can.

NOTE: the ratings below are only for the PL-2
Aesthetics: Good - no real issues, but nothing spectacular
Ergonomics: Great - switch activation method is very intuitive and easy to use
Fitment: Great - the quick disconnect is very fast, easy, and secure
Performance: Good - brightness/spill is great, but it has a narrow hotspot
Price: $100
Olight PL-2
(1200 lumens)

Inforce WILD2
The Inforce WILD2 appears to be very well built compared to it's polymer body 400 lumen predecessor (the APL), and it looks very cool with it's octagon shape which also makes for a cool looking holster. It's activation switches are very intuitive and it has great light output, but the hotspot and spill is very narrow compared to the other fullsize lights. The mounting method of the light makes it very easy to attach the light to the frame of the gun, but a thin coin or screwdriver should be used to firmly tighten it as there is no spring washer to keep tension on the screw which turns very easily. The downside to the WILD2 is that it is fairly new to the market, so it's durability and reliability has not been proven yet. Inforce's previous handgun lights were plagued with problems and their light output was less than desirable, so it will take some time for this new light to prove itself.
Update on the WILD2... our light apparently had a battery drain issue just like the early versions of their APL weapon light. The batteries had to be replaced twice in the span of a couple of weeks with very minimal use.😩 The light was returned to Inforce under warranty (usually a 6 week turnaround), and the new light does not appear to have the same battery drain issue.

Aesthetics: Great - the light is very cool looking (very subjective, we know...)
Ergonomics: Great - switch activation method is very intuitive and easy to use
Fitment: Good - no issues found with any guns, but should be firmly tightened with a coin or tool
Performance: Okay - brightness is great, but hotspot and spill are both very narrow
Price: $180
Inforce WILD2
(1000 lumens)

Handheld Light Comparison
For comparison purposes, here is the light output from a Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA handheld light. As you can see, despite only being rated at 350 lumens, this handheld light still lights up the alley as well as all the 1000+ lumen rated weapon lights. Regardless of which weapon mounted light you use, we recommend that you ALWAYS carry a good handheld light with you.

An Alternate Perspective
While the results in this YouTube comparison by Werks Holsters don't really align with our findings (plus, they didn't compare the PL-2, only the PL-Pro), we wanted to offer a different perspective on these lights with more scientific testing involved.

Check out our website for more details and pricing on all of our products!

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