Friday, April 6, 2012

Elzetta ZFL-M60 Tactical LED Flashlight

I have been undressing this light with my eyes for a little over six months now.  I just haven't had the bread to buy it.  At $170 list, it isn't exactly the most affordable game in town.  Recently, however, I ran into a little bit of money and a problem that needed a solution.  So here's the solution... well part of it.  This is the Elzetta ZFL-M60 Tactical LED flashlight.  More specifically, this is the ZFL-M60-SS2R, which is the call number for a 2-cell body, standard bezel, Malkoff 8-degree lense, rotary cap.  Did you get all that?  In a nutshell, it is what I consider to be the more basic light, and for my kind of work, the most appropriate.  No, this one doesn't have a fancy high/low clicky with strobe option or a remote tape switch.  This one hearkens back to the days when I used a Pelican M6 Xenon tactical light on my shotgun.  If you'll excuse the digression, I still have that light and I still love it.  It takes up residence in the kitchen drawer, ready for a power outage or other emergency.  

So why no fancy features?  Why not a strobe light or a hi/lo function or a clicky switch?  I can sum it up in just one word: simplicity.  The user interface (UI) on multi-function lights are innovative, but they don't necessarily add real value to you if you have to shoot under stress.  When things to wrong, they go wrong very fast, and chances are you won't have time to think about how to activate your fancy functions.  In a worse case scenario, you may leave your light in the wrong setting in training, so when you go to use it for real, it fails you.  This wouldn't be a fault of the light, but the fault of the user.  Now, that's not to say that the user is poorly trained or he/she is an idiot, but it's more about the fact that we are all human beings and are prone to mistakes.  It's in our nature.  This is why we have to practice, train, and hone our skills often.  Shooting skills are finite skills.  As soon as you stop shooting, you start to suck.  How much you start to suck will depend on how often you train, but if you let your training fall to the wayside for even a month, you'll suck compared to the last time you went out and got in some trigger time.  For the sake of simplicity, ease of use, and the fact that a carbine-mounted light just needs to work when the shit is hitting the fan, I opted for a momentary switch with a rotary on/off function.  It's simple, durable, and when it has to work, it just works.

The LED on the M60 is a Malkoff M60 8-degree module lens.  It has a soft cut off, which makes it ideal for low light, no light situations because it doesn't cut off as sharply as other lights.  Elzetta states that it helps eliminate tunnel vision.  Okay, I'll buy that for a buck.  With my Streamlight Scorpion X, the cut off is crisp, and anything on the outside of it's wide angle beam is not lit up.  Elzetta advertises the ZFL-M60 to be a 235 lumen flashlight.  I'll buy that too because it just buries my 200 lumen Scorpion X in it's beam.  When I say it buries it, I really mean it.  Watch the attached video below and you'll see a good example of this.  

Okay, the light is rocking 235 lumens with just two batteries.  How long is the burn time at full blast?  Elzetta claims 1.5 hours of light at 235 lumens, and then another 6.5 hours of useful light after that.  For this two cell model, you get 8 hours of total run time, with a degree of intensity loss after one and a half hours.  I have to tell you, with a fresh set of batteries, this bad boy burns bright.  For close distances, like my back yard, the light is intense, and would blind anyone so unfortunate enough to find themselves on the receiving end of it.  The Elzetta is offensively bright, and could act as a non-lethal deterrent in the event you had to confront someone.

The power for this mighty little powerhouse come from CR123A batteries.  I prefer Surefire batteries as I believe they last a bit longer and make the light burn brighter.  Plus, they are readily available at my local gun shop.  Now, all the energy discharge has to go somewhere.  It gets converted into light and heat.  The light body does get pretty warm during extended use.  I had it out with the batteries it came with and I was just messing around, pointing it at stuff on my dad's property.  I did notice the bezel start to warm up during extended operation.  According to Elzetta, it's normal.  The CREE LED in the Malkoff module creates a lot of heat during use.  One advantage to that nicely shaped bezel is it acts as a heat sink to dissipate the excessive heat.  As the heat extends into the body of the light, it will get warm to the touch.  This gets the heat away from the LED module and away from the CR123A batteries, which are known for heat sensitivity.  All this is to enhance the performance and life of the light.  Honestly, for how I intend to use this sucker, I'm not seeing excessive heat as a problem unless I need to just run the light as a utility light on the end of my carbine.  

In my video, I made an error.  I said the Streamlight Scorpion X only had 180-185 lumens.  That's wrong.  Streamlight advertises 200 lumens with a runtime of 2.5 hours.  I also said the Streamlight uses a CREE LED.  This is technically correct.  However, if you study Streamlight-o-nomics, they call it a C4 LED, which is a marketing gimmick to make buyers feel special.  It is, however, very bright and the measurable light output is impressive.

I put these lights side by side for the pictures to show size differences.  As you can see, the Scorpion X is longer than the ZFL-M60.  The bezels are nearly the same width, but the Elzetta is more compact.  Both lights house two CR123 batteries and both have switches at the end.  The Streamlight is a clicky with a strobe and a hi/lo function.  While all this crap is cool to have, I never found it useful on my rifle.  I always just deferred to the momentary high beam.  Occasionally, I'd leave it on, but not often.  

Now, you can't truly and fairly compare these two because they are in totally different classes.  One is a super high quality light designed with weapons use in mind.  The other is a tactical hand held utility light that serves a variety of roles, but that didn't stop it from finding a home on the end of my old carbine.  The Elzetta came to my doorstep, shipped 2nd day air, for $142 bucks!  Hey, Amazon gave me the option for 2nd day air with free shipping, so I took it.  The Streamlight came to my door for about $60 shipped.  There is a significant price difference between the two and as such, there is a significant quality difference as well.  

The Elzetta is constructed of Mil-standard Type III hard anodized 6061-T6 aluminum.  The Streamlight is  made from thinner machined aluminum, but it features a non-slip rubber sleeve, which is replaceable.  I ripped the sleeve at the tail cap, so I ordered a few spares.  At $2 a piece, it's a must have for proper flashlight maintenance.  We've already gone over the LED module differences, so I'll skip that part.  Since the materials are the same, yet different, the weights will be different as well.  The Streamlight comes in at an advertised 5.0 ounces with that big heavy anti-roll head.  The elzetta comes in at 5.3 ounces due to the extra material used to make the body.  In the hand, the Elzetta feels lighter than the Streamlight and I think that's because Streamlight probably advertises it's weight without batteries installed.  

In the photo above, you can also see the size difference in the lenses.  The Elzetta is smaller and the bezel extends out well enough to provide protection from the occasional bump against doors, walls, trees, bad guys, you name it.  The Streamlight lens is recessed as well and this seems to provide good protection for it because there's not a scratch on the lens,  Considering I tossed this light about 15 feet in the are multiple times, chucked it across my yard, and drop tested it onto the head many times, that's saying something.  

Overall, I think the Elzetta will perform in its role as weapon light very well.  The Streamlight will not be retired.  Instead, it will actually see a lot more use as a tactical/utility flashlight on my LBE.  Both are excellent lights for what they are.  When I have my light mounting solution, I will update my blog to show the process of getting this Elzetta to really work for me.  Until then, enjoy this video review.


-James

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