Saturday, May 19, 2012

Streamlight TLR-1s

Weapon mounted lights.  How on earth did we ever get by without them?  I remember back in 80's, when my father was a police officer, he had this ginormous Streamlight that ran on three or four D size batteries.  It probably only produced 60 lumens of light and weighed a ton in my 6 year-old hands.  Back in those days, you could use your light as a weapon of sorts because it was so big and bulky, it doubled as a club.

These days, we are lucky to have technology on our side.  With super bright LED technology, superior batteries, high tech polymers and CNC processes for turning metal into useful tools, the things we buy are smaller, more powerful, longer lasting, and just as durable, if not more so than they were just 25 years ago.

This is the Streamlight TLR-1s.  It is part of Streamlight's Tactical Gun Mount Series of flashlights currently produced.  Streamlight describes it as a rail-mounted tactical light, or strobing tactical light, which is where the "S" comes from.  It is designed to be quickly attached and detached from a weapon that incorporates a weapon light rail, like a 1913 picatinny rail or those commonly found under the frames of handguns.  The Streamlight TLR-1s comes with adapters that allow you to mount it to various pistols like Berettas, Glocks, S&W, etc; I've personally found that the GL (Glock) adapter works on the Beretta M9A1, Ruger SR9, and 1913 picatinny rail.

The body of the TLR-1s is made of 6000 series aircraft grade aluminum and is then anodized in a subdued black finish.  The name of the light, the model number, and serial number are then proudly etched onto the side in contrasting white.  The switch is a polymer ambidextrous paddle with momentary/steady on with strobe function.  The strobe is activated by quickly flipping the paddle twice (within .4 seconds), and can be used momentarily or in constant on modes.  Dimensions are as follows: Length, 3.26in; width, 1.47in; height, 1.44in (published).  The TLR-1s is not the lightest light in the game.  Weighing in at 4.18 ounces, with batteries installed (published), it is 1.86 ounces heavier than the TLR-3, and .38 ounces heavier than the Surefire X300.  By way of comparison to the X300, the TLR-1s is shorter, a little fatter, costs half as much, is still waterproof to 1 meter, and produces only 10 less lumens than the Surefire.  I think the Surefire is cool, but not so cool as to demand twice the cash for minimally extra features that don't add any real value to me.  If I was a Navy Seal, or intended to take my guns swimming on a regular basis, the 22 meter submersibility of the Surefire might be attractive to me.  Since there are no swimming pools in my bedroom night stand, the waterproof qualities of the Streamlight TLR-1s are suitable for me.  The size of the TLR-1s makes it impractical for smaller guns, but it fits the Beretta M9A1 like a glove.

The TLR-1s mounts to the rail of the handgun via Streamlight's proprietary rail grip clamp system, which allows you to click the light onto the weapon without placing it or your hands in front of the weapon's muzzle.  You simply loosen the tension screw, align the spring-loaded side of the clamp to the rail, and rotate it in for a positive lock. Then, using nothing more than your fingertips, or a dime, or a wide screwdriver on a Leatherman tool, you tighten down the tension screw, which is spring-loaded so it won't back out when firing.  Mine has been on my Beretta M9A1 through over a thousand rounds, and it has yet to shoot loose.

The LED is what Streamlight calls C4 technology, which they claim makes it 3x brighter than the competition.  This marketing gimmick seems accurate, and the intensity of the LED is impressive.  With just 2 CR123 batteries providing power for this light, the 160 lumen output of the light is both offensively bright and will illuminate an entire room just by bouncing the light off the floor.  The beam pattern is clean with an intense spot in the middle, with a clean cutoff around the edges - no inclusions or halos to speak of.  You can thank Streamlight's parabolic deep dish reflector for that.  Because of how bright the light is, you do not need to point the weapon at anything to identify it.  You simply aim the gun and light at the ground, in the low ready, and flip the paddle switch.  Your target is easily identifiable without running the risk of negligently shooting a loved one or someone who is not a threat.

We can't discuss the TLR-1s without addressing the "S" in the name.  The strobe on the TLR-1s is debilitating, to say the least.  I wasn't able to find how many strobes per minute it is because either google really isn't my friend or my search-fu sucks.  Either way, it's fast, and it's highly disorientating.  The advantage of a strobe light is that it makes it nearly impossible for the bad guy to locate you.  With the constant pulsation of light to the eyes, the brain has little time to interpret the signals before the light shuts off and then comes back on.  This makes it almost impossible to track your movements behind the light.  I tested this in the dark and it is true.  It's simple body mechanics.  While you are bathed in the intense glow of the strobe light, your brain is overloaded with information that it cannot effectively process.  It causes confusion, disorientation, frustration, and interferes with your motor processes.  On the other hand, the blinding light of the strobe doesn't interfere with you, the shooter.  If you are behind the light, you are not receiving the full intensity of its output, and can maintain control over your body and your reflexes.  Strobes are good for you - not the bad guy.

Run time for the Streamlight TLR-1s is 2.5 hours, with solid state current regulation for consistent levels of illumination.  This information comes from the fact sheet that Streamlight provides.  What all this does for you is give you optimum brightness over the life of the batteries.  2.5 hours may not seem like much to you now, but let's understand that you won't be constantly illuminating with the weapon mounted light.  You will be momentarily taking snapshots of your surroundings; more on that later.  Getting back to the burn time, you will notice a significant drop in light output all at once when the batteries go beyond their usefulness as a power source.  I have two other Streamlight flashlights in my coffers: the Scorpion X and the Stinger LED, both previously reviewed here.  Each of those lights also utilize current regulation to maintain maximum brightness until the power cells are discharged.  The TLR-1s is no different.  For the home defense user, the effective light output will last you a long time.  I'm on my second set of batteries and I've had this light for a year and a half.  That's not too bad when you consider that the first year or so has seen me shoot with the light on steady for the sake of testing it.  I wanted to ensure I could trust my life with it, after all.  Either way, for tactical use, the run time is sufficient.  If you carry the light with your weapon for either duty, or in your combat load-out, it may be a good idea to keep an extra set of batteries on hand simply because you don't want to be caught without them.  My personal load-out platform consists of three separate flashlights (handgun, rifle, & utility) that all use the same batteries.  When it comes to the life saving potential of a good light, you can never have too many.

Tactics

I knew this day would come.  It's time for me to talk tactics with the weapon-mounted light.  There is a big misnomer about the use of lights mounted to the bottom of a handgun, shotgun, or rifle. All too often I hear the same worn out argument that the bad guy will shoot at the light.  I guess that's true if you leave the light on, giving your position away, and standing still.  Tac lights are not to be used to light your way.  They are used to illuminate targets and identify threats, nothing more.  One never turns on the light, and stays put.  If you activate the light, you'd better be moving or are prepared to move.  Otherwise, you give your position away and once someone has the drop on you, you're cooked.  Another thing to understand that is you are using a light to help navigate at night, in the house, or wherever, you need to illuminate at random, pointing the gun in different directions, moving opposite to the direction you illuminate.  I know it seems counter-intuitive, but practice moving around at night in your backyard.  Pick a line and practice momentary illumination with moving in directions that would not seem logical to a bad guy.  And for god's sake, don't count seconds between illumination cycles.  Once a guy figures out you're being consistent, they will simply wait with their muzzle pointed in right spot, and click-bang once you illuminate again.  For movement around the home, you will only illuminate a room at a time, for less than a second before you move one.  How you clear your house is up to you and your layout, but I suggest practicing in total darkness to find out the most efficient way to illuminate the sight lines with as few illuminations as possible.  I also recommend leaving some low power lights in the house on at all times, like oven lights, dimmable hallway sconces, night lights, etc.  They will help you navigate your already familiar setting without ruining your night vision.  If you have small children, like I do, it will help you to avoid trip hazards like your daughter's barbie doll, your son's firetruck, or the dreaded Lego block under your foot - ouch!

Another misnomer is to hold a hand held light away from your body while illuminating.  Okay, fine, but remember that one hand on a weapon is not the most efficient way to shoot.  For maximum recoil control, aiming, follow through, both hands should be on the weapon at all times, except when doing admin stuff like checking doors, ensuring your family's safety, or perhaps picking up your kids and taking them to a safe room in the house.  If you are injured, or your reaction side hand is unavailable, the weapon-mounted light is still usable.  Being able to operate unencumbered by a handheld standalone light is worth the effort to get a light onto a gun.  The notion that a bad guy is less apt to hit you with your light 1 foot away from your head is absurd.  When faced with a powerful light, the bad guy will be disorientated at least, blinded at the most.  If they have a gun, they are likely to spray and pray, hoping one of their errant shots finds its way into your belly.  If they are hopped up on drugs or alcohol, they may not react to light like you and I would.  They may be either extremely light sensitive or desensitized to it.  Either way, when things go wrong, it won't matter if the light is 1 foot from your face, or 1 inch.  Your number 1 priority after identifying the threat is to get rid of it.  You won't have time to do fancy flashlight work when the shit hits the fan.  For me, my priority is on weapon control and followup.  Holding a flashlight out, away from my body, takes away from weapon control and increases the potential for me to miss, giving the bad guy the critical moments he or she needs to make a move on me.  Chances are, if I hit that light, and I see a weapon in their hands, the trigger is going to be pressed before they have time to react.  Why?  The advantage of being in control of the light gives me the opportunity to be in control of the situation.  Own the light, own the fight!

-James

3 comments:

  1. what happened to the OH-MEGA project?

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  2. It's still there. It just got delayed because we are trying to relocate out of state and all the money we have is either being dumped into savings or going to do some preventive maintenance to our vehicles so they won't crap out on us when we drive 850 miles. It'll get back on track once we are settled into a new house and my new job is secure.

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  3. oh! ok! im really looking forward to see what ur build is gonna look like...

    good luck with everything!

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