Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stinger LED

Stinger LED
Nearly 5 years ago, when I started work in the generator business, I was in need of a good medium sized handheld flashlight to do my job.  I'm in the emergency power generation business, so oftentimes I am dispatched to job sites where there is no electricity available.  Since all power outages seem to happen at night, in the rain or snow, when it is windy outside, and essentially very miserable, the need for a good work light is paramount.  I can't do my job without a light.

I remember the brand name Streamlight from far back as I can remember.  Dad was a cop back in the 80's and he always carried a big Streamlight, held to his duty belt by a large ring.  Remember those days?  So when I first stepped foot on the Snap-On truck at my (then) new employer, I found myself face to face with a Streamlight Stinger.  This light featured a Xenon bulb that cranked out 90 lumens.  Seems dim by today's standards, but for almost 4 years, it got the job done, and it did it well.  I opted for a piggyback charger to accommodate a spare battery.

Piggyback Charger
Up until last year, I was completely satisfied with the Stinger.  It was rugged, impervious to weather, solvents, gasses, and it could take a beating.  The anodizing, after four years, had chipped off and wore down in places, giving this light a ton of character.  Though it tended to roll when placed on a flat surface, I gripped it with confidence in my hand.  I had opted for the red anodizing color because I wanted to be different.  It's not a tactical light... well not for me anyway.  With everyone carrying pseudo tactical lights around these days, I wanted something that would stand out a little more, turn a few heads, and proclaim proudly that this is a tool for the work I do.  Sadly, I lost that Stinger.  I retraced my footsteps for a week trying to find it, but I fear I left it sitting on the skid of a generator somewhere, lost forever.  I needed a replacement and fast.

Once again, I turned to my Snap-On dealer.  Though his prices are high, the payment plan is convenient and I could get a new light without having to put down any cash; I just had to make my weekly $50 payment that I normally did.  As a digression, I'm paid up, so I'm not saddled with a $200 a month payment... for now.  No longer carrying the Xenon Stinger, he offered me a newer version: the Stinger LED.  I had my options.  I could opt for the Stinger LED, which is essentially my old Stinger with a C4 LED head, or I could get the Stinger LED DS, which also included a tail-cap for thumb activation.  My dealer had to order the DS, if I wanted it, and I didn't really need the tail clicker switch.  He had a LED light on the truck, with the standard button near the head.  This is the setup I'm used to, so I opted for that.  Luckily for me, it was also anodized in a beautiful red color.

Instead of vomiting out specifications, I'll simply link you to Stinger's website here: Stinger LED

What I'd like to do is offer up my experience with carrying and using this flashlight for most of 2011.  First off, the stock photo I chose shows a hexagon anti-roll head.  That's not how mine came.  Mine came with a slightly larger head than my old Xenon Stinger and it is round.  What Streamlight did provide is a rubber slip-on hexagon piece that fits over the bezel.  This offers a bit of protection for the end of the light, which gets banged around in my back pocket as well as on equipment.  It also keeps the light from rolling around.  I put the piece on immediately after taking the light out of the box and have never looked back.

The light is somewhat heavy.  Weighing in a just over 12 ounces at almost 8 1/2" inches long, it isn't exactly compact.  However, when carried around in my left back pocket (where I normally keep it until needed), I hardly notice it.  Once, I actually walked back to my work van to get it off the charger, only to find it not there.  After wondering where it went, I remembered it was sitting right where I left it.  So, the weight really isn't an issue in the real world.  I wouldn't take this flashlight hiking with me though.  I'd take my Maglite XL200 or my 4Sevens Quark Mini123.

Speaking of chargers, I was happy to learn that the Stinger LED fits in the same piggyback charger, and uses the same battery sticks that my old Stinger used.  This is important because batteries are expensive and the piggyback certainly wasn't cheap.  While on the subject of the piggyback charger, it does just what it sounds like it does.  In the photo above, you can see the space for the light to click into.  You also see a spot for a spare battery.  It charges both the light and the spare battery simultaneously.  I also have the 12vdc cigarette lighter plug on mine, so I can charge it on the go.  It's a fast charger, so it only takes a couple hours to fully charge the batteries.  I also have a standard charger that the light came with, which uses a 120vac plug in adapter, and that is mounted to the wall in my garage, should I decide to charge the light overnight instead of draining my van's battery.  I'm glad I spent the extra coin on the piggyback.  There have been times when I've really needed that functionality, and it augmented my effectiveness as a technician when the situation was critical!

Streamlight Stinger LED in red
Streamlight claims their Stinger LED to throw 180 lumens of light.  I can't speak to the validity of this claim, but I can tell you that it is brighter than any flashlight anyone else brings to the table!  The first thing normally said when I shed light on any situation is "That's a bright light!"  As for how long the light lasts, I can't speak to actual run times because honestly, I don't put a stopwatch on my flashlight.  Additionally, much of the light work is momentary illumination or for just 30 seconds at a time during inspections or what have you.  There are times when I position the light to illuminate my work space.  That is where I notice the actual run time.  If  the battery is freshly charged, I can normally get about 1 1/2 to 2 hours of continuous run time at full brightness.  I don't mess around with lower brightness levels because 1 click on is easy and efficient.  During those weeks where I'm mostly illuminating for a few seconds or less than a minute, the light will usually last a week or so before I need to change it out.  The flashlight is regulated.  It goes on at full brightness and doesn't dim until the battery is completely discharged.  That is one of the two complaints I had about my old Xenon Stinger.  It didn't seem to be as well regulated and I didn't realize just how dim the light was until I popped in a fresh battery.  The Stinger LED definitely does a great job of keeping that critical light very bright all the way up until the very end.  When life safety power generation is at stake, this is a very important factor.  The throw on this flashlight is great.  It has a good hot spot in the middle with a gradual light dispersal around the edges.

The on/off rubber sealed clicker is positive.  With an average switch cycling of 20-30 times a day, 5 days a week (and the occasional weekend use) for nearly a year, I'd say it is a good design.  The rubber on mine still looks practically new.  What else can I say except that the click on is a solid "CLICK!"  For quick, momentary illumination, one needs only to press the button partially.  The only thing I don't like is that it is so easy to get into strobe light mode with the switch.  Two clicks and you are there.  There have been a few times I've startled myself because instead of just turning the light on, I managed to strobe.  Aside from that, however, it is a good design.  If you are a police officer, the ease of getting the flashlight to strobe may be advantageous to you.  But for my work, strobe is not necessary.  There are times when strobe is great.  The Streamlight TLR-1s, mounted to my Beretta M9A1, has a strobe function, and I train myself to use it for the simple reason that if I needed to, I could easily disorientate someone with it.

For my needs, the Streamlight Stinger LED is at the high end of value for your dollar.  By that I mean it is expensive.  In many markets, it goes for +$100.  It's not an inexpensive light by any stretch.  Normally, I have a hard time parting with triple digit amounts of dollars for a stick that throws light, but there are times when it is necessary to throw money at a lighting dilemma.  In my case, lives may depend on my ability to get a broken down generator back up and running at 3am when the weather is dismal at best.  This is an example of a situation where spending some money on a good light is a necessary evil.  This is a tool that has paid itself off over and over again by giving me an extra edge by helping me to better do my job.  You can't put a price on that kind of value.

-James

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