Economical Weapon Light Solutions


Okay, so everyone knows that guy.  You know the one, the guy that has no problem spending money on a good quality gun, but when it comes to accessories, he is a cheap SOB.  Well, I must shamefully admit that on occasion, that guy is me.  I have slowly grown out of that habit, but every now and then, I relapse.  Over the years, I have gone the cheap route many times where weapon mounted lights are concerned.  Most times, that has been a mistake, but on a few occasions, I have been very pleasantly surprised.
When it comes to weapon lights, there are a ton of options ranging from sub $50 for some of the Chinese made products to well over $500 for some of the top of the line Surefire lights.  As with any other weapons accessory, the first step in choosing a product really starts with an honest assessment of how you plan to use it.
Handgun Lights
Not a work day goes by at work that my handgun light does not get some use.  When I purchased my first handgun light back in 2005 or so, there were not many options readily available.  A few of the guys on my department’s SWAT had been issued the Streamlight M3 (built by Insight Technology), which is a plastic bodied, plastic activation switch incandescent light powered by two CR123 batteries.  They were light and put out an usable amount of light.  I think I paid about $180 for mine back then, but that price is from memory and could be way off.  That was by far the most money I had ever spent on a flashlight, but it quickly proved to me how much of an advantage having my light affixed to my gun could be, especially when searching homes or buildings for hiding suspects.
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Handgun lights have evolved quite a bit since that early Streamlight M3.  LED now offers brighter light at lower power consumption than incandescent versions, and they have the added benefit that the bulbs are not prone to burnout, from hot filaments breaking due to stress from shooting.  As lights have evolved, so has my choice of which to carry.  I moved from the M3 to a 1st generation Streamlight TLR-1, and have used but not owned (because I’m too cheap) several Surefire X200’s.
Edit addition:  As many readers have pointed out, the Streamlight TLR-1 is an excellent light.  I carried one on my duty handgun for upwards of 4 years, and I still have it.  My one and only gripe with the TLR-1 was that I found if I tightened the mounting screw by hand, it would eventually work itself loose, and if not caught early it would rattle on the handgun and damage the finish on the frame, so I would need to tighten it with a tool (pliers or screwdriver) to keep that from happening.  Since I purchased my TLR-1 many years ago, it has been revised with a much brighter LED bumping the output up from 80 lumens on my early version to 300 lumens in the current version, and the TLR-1s also offers the strobe feature.  Not only has the light output improved, but the price has come down, and it can be found easily on the internet for $100.  End of addition
One of my beat partners at work recently bought the new 500 lumen Surefire X300.  Like all Surefire lights, it is ruggedly constructed, well designed and functions great,  and like all Surefire products, it was not cheap.  And, to be honest, for the type of work my handgun sees, like searching the interior of buildings, 500 lumens is too bright and the reflection off light colored surfaces is blinding.  Blinding the bad guy is good, blinding me while I am searching for the bad guy, not so much.
Travis Haley discussed those very concerns in a recent video of his called “Darkness Solutions”.
I have found on rare occasions, sometimes life comes full circle, as has my choice of handgun light.  I once again find myself carrying the M3 on my handgun, although it is now sold under the makers brand “Insight”.   However, this is a new improved LED version of the M3 which offers 160 lumen output, and all the benefits previously listed.  For those of you like me, who refuse to get rid of old gun accessories, and have an old incandescent Streamlight M3 lying around, you are in luck as they offer a kit to upgrade that old light to the new 160 lumen LED version ($60+/-).   I was so impressed with the upgraded M3, I ended up buying two more brand new LED versions for other guns that were needing lights because at $110, they are a fantastic light.
Long Gun Lights
This is the realm that the “cheap SOB” in me still rears his ugly face on occasion.  My patrol rifle has had a number of different lights on it that were inexpensive options that I bought to try and save myself the expense of buying a quality Surefire long gun light.  Most of these less expensive options were only used for very short stints, before being replaced by some other less expensive option.  In the long run, I probably spent more on these cheap options combined than I would have had I just coughed up for the good light in the first place.  But oh well, live and learn, well, at least live anyway…
The two lights left in this are both from a company named InForce.  One is the InForce WML-HSP (pictured on the shotgun forend in the top photo), which is a Haley Strategic Partners (hence the HSP) version.  It differs from the standard WML in that the HSP is a 200 lumen version where the standard is 120 lumen.  This version also is momentary only with the button being located on the angled rear end of the housing.  It uses only one CR123 batter and it is extremely light, weighing only 3.1oz including the battery, and best of all, it is cheap!  List price at Haley Strategic’s web store is only $109!  This is currently one of my favorite long gun lights and it is currently installed on my Remington 870.  I like it so much, I will likely be buying a few more to replace some of my older recycled weapon lights.  InForce does make several other versions that include on/off & momentary activation, both white light and IR output, and it is available in black or flat dark earth.In the photo with all the various lights, there are several former lights that have since found a home in a box on a shelf, or on a seldom used rifle that lives in the safe.  The UTG forward vertical grip with integral light is a neat concept, and the light output is decent, but it is has one fatal design flaw that was discovered the moment I installed it:  it has no momentary function, strictly on or off, which in a tactical environment where light discipline is vital, that is a deal breaker.  The ATN Javelin (light with the scalloped/pointed bezel) is a decent light with, good light output although the beam is not as focused as I would prefer, a momentary only tape switch activation, but boy it is HUGE, and heavy.  The other two tape switch controlled lights are very old incandescent lights that were cheap, and for good reason.  They are not worth mentioning other than to eliminate them from the discussion.
The other InForce product sitting there currently lives on my patrol rifle, and that is the InForce APL.  While it is designed as a handgun light, my rifle is setup specifically for using handgun lights (it had an M3 LED on it prior to this light).  You can see in the photo, this light sits just forward of my fixed front sight post on a Mossie Midnight Mount (more on that mount later).  The APL is a 200 lumen LED light that uses just one CR123 battery.  It is very narrow and extremely light weight at only 2.9oz with the battery installed.  It offers on/off and momentary activation and has identical activation switches on both sides.  It has a moderately broad beam with fairly equal light dispersion throughout the beam.  So far, I have been very happy with this light, although it did take some slight modification to make it fit on the mount.  The mounting lugs for the mount itself were interfering with the lights activation paddles.  About 30 second with a fine toothed rat tale file resolved the clearance issues. The APL has served me well on numerous night time rifle deployments.  The only downside I have found with this light, which I discovered in the middle of a search while covering a canine unit, is that it has a fairly limited run time.  This was is not totally unexpected considering it is powered by a single battery.  Luckily, the storage area in the pistol grip on my rifle easily holds two spare CR123 batteries and it only took me 30 seconds to swap the battery without needing to remove the light.
So, what does the slow learning frugal gun guy recommend?  Take if from me, spend a few more bucks and buy a quality light from the onset.  For an excellent, inexpensive handgun light, the Insight M3 LED is very hard to beat at $110, especially if you are going to be holstering said handgun because that is one of the most ubiquitous lights listed for holster fitment.  I need to add the Streamlight TLR-1 here as well because it sells for about the same price, or less, is also a very solid light which actually offers brighter output than the M3, and it has the same level of holster availability as it and the M3 are near identical in size and shape.  For long gun use, I am a huge fan of the InForce WML series of lights.  With the HSP version of the WML selling for $109, they are very hard to beat.  For anyone using an AR with a fixed front sight, the Mossie Midnight Mount with your choice of handgun light is my current go-to setup and I highly recommend it.  For those not as limited by budget constraints, or by the cheap voice screaming at you from the back of your head, you cannot go wrong with anything offered by Surefire.The Mossie Midnight Mount I mentioned above was designed by Buck Mossie and is produced by Battle Comp Enterprises (BCE).  It attaches to the front leg of any standard AR-15 fixed front sight.  It is held in place by two Allen set screws and requires zero permanent modifications to the gun (a huge plus for people carrying issued guns).  I initially had concerns about the mount bending or breaking, but after talking about that concern with the folks at BCE, they assured me in all their testing, that the lights installed on the mount actually broke before any damage was done to the mount.  I have been using this mount for 18 months and it is still rock solid.  The set screws have not loosened once and I can report that it has been accidentally bashed into quite a few things during that time and is no worse for wear.     After many hours of use, I have found this location to be ideal for a rifle mounted light.  It is near the end of the barrel causing no halo, or barrel shadowing, in the light beam.  It allows me to have my support arm for fully extended which helps reduce barrel bounce or over-swing.  And finally, it is a truly ambidextrous mounting location which allows for identical activation methods no matter which shoulder I am shooting from.  The one and only downside I have found with this mount is that it puts my light very near the end of the barrel causing the lens to become clouded by carbon fouling from muzzle blast.  That said, it has not become a noticeable issue until upwards of 1000 rounds have been fired without cleaning the light’s lens.

 

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