Gear Review: Streamlight TLR-1 on a Rifle

I’m getting ready for a low light 3-gun, and part of that is figuring out some way to see what I’m shooting. There’s a penalty for those using night vision, so the obvious choice was a flashlight of some sort. Being a cheap bastard I didn’t want to drop more than $150 on the thing, so very quickly my choice became obvious: the Streamlight TLR-1. But how well does it work on a rifle?

The TLR-1 was designed specifically to be a small flashlight that a shooter can mount to an accessory rail under their handgun. Its compact form factor and built-in rail make it fit, and the unique toggle switch on the tailcap allow the shooter to activate it with his finger. But the same reasons that make the TLR-1 ideal for handguns also makes it ideal for rifles.

The “standard” weapon light for an AR-15 is usually a regular flashlight fastened somehow to the forward handguard. I’ve seen everything from precision milled aluminum mounts to copious amounts of duct tape used, but the effect is the same: you now have a heavy piece of aluminum strapped to your gun. And while it may provide a blinding bright light for you to use, it also makes your gun heavier and slower to muscle around.

Having as light a gun as possible is essential in 3-gun competitions. Light guns means less effort you need to spend on getting the thing on target and hauling it around the stage, allowing you instead to use that energy to move faster than the competition. I learned that lesson the hard way, which is why my Pretty Princess AR-15 is taking a backseat to the stripped down .300 BLK rifle these days and I’m running Limited instead of Tac Optics.

The light weight is a nice feature, but the best part about this flashlight is its compact size. Being designed to fit on a handgun means that this thing takes up as little space as possible, which is perfect when you might need to slot your barrel between an obstacle on a stage and leaves the rest of the handguard free to “Costa grip” to your heart’s content. The fact that it’s a self contained package that incorporates the rail mount and flashlight into one single item helps keep that form factor small and seems to make it much more stable.

Another benefit of the handgun based design is that the flashlight can take a heavier beating than any flashlight intended for a rifle. While handguns fire a lighter round than rifles in terms of recoil, the way in which the guns are designed means that the recoil of a handgun is much greater than that of a rifle and can seriously damage sensitive electronics. Being designed to stand up to that kind of beating means that this flashlight will have no problems on a rifle.

One thing I have reservations about is the on/off switch. This is where the handgun based design becomes a little cumbersome, as the switch was intended to be operated on either side of the trigger guard of a handgun. The switch itself is a touch small so hitting that switch in a moment of panic can be hit or miss, but in general I’m usually able to tap the switch by going underneath the handguard with my non-dominant hand. It takes some getting used to, but having used it for the last few weeks I’ve become accustomed to how to operate it.

The only real gripe I have is with the runtime. My Surefire flashlight that I take on shift with me can run all night long without needing fresh batteries, but this one runs out after about 2 and a half hours. Admittedly the batteries are easy to find in your local drugstore, but I was hoping for a slam dunk here. So if you plan on having the flashlight on for over 2 hours be sure to have some spare batteries.

In short, the TLR-1’s light weight and small size make it perfect for mounting on a rifle. Whether you’re in need of some illumination thanks to a crazy bastard’s idea of a fun 3-gun or trying to spot a home intruder with your (IMHO ill advised) self defense rifle this is something you should look at having on your rifle. Being designed for a handgun doesn’t mean that it’s not also the perfect tool for the job for a rifle.

Specifications: Streamlight TLR-1

Weight:   4.18 oz.
MSRP: 
$193 (Closer to $100 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars)

Ease of Use * * * * *
It comes with an assortment of mounting options and has a standard rail mount attached from the factory. Slides onto any accessory rail with ease.

Feel & Function * * * *
A nice bright LED lamp, small lightweight design and acceptable switch mechanism. One star off for battery life.

Overall Rating * * * *
If you’re looking for a flashlight for your rifle this is a fine choice.