“The light that shines twice as bright burns half as long,” Dr. Eldon Tyrell tells doomed (but still deadly) android Roy Batty in Blade Runner. This rule may hold true in the fractured universe of Philip K. Dick, but does it govern the world of tactical flashlights? Blasting out 650 advertised lumens from two standard lithium batteries, the PowerTac Warrior puts this dictum to the test . . .
‘Way back in January, I picked up a pair of PowerTac LED flashlights for testing at the SHOT Show. That was months ago, and I feel a little guilty that it’s taken me so long to wring them out and write them up. Some of that was my fault (so many guns to test, so little time) and some of it wasn’t, so let’s get to it.
The Warrior is a pretty big flashlight: six inches long and seven ounces loaded. The heavily knurled barrel is one inch in diameter (to fit standard weapon light mounts) and the bezel is 1.5 inches wide. The chromed bezel and anodized tailcap are both crenelated for use as striking weapons or window breakers. They’re not so sharp as to rip through your pocket lining, but if you jab somebody in the melon with it you’ll core out a jumbo-sized DNA sample from their forehead. Ouch.
I used its spring steel pocket clip to carry it around Las Vegas for a few days. This taught me that it’s a little too big for trouser-pocket carry, but it fits handily in cargo pockets or most jacket pockets. It will add more than a half-pound to your carbine, but its amazing brightness would be extremely useful for nighttime pest or hog hunting.
The on-off switch is on the tailcap, and it’s recessed slightly so the light can stand upright on its tail. The Cree XM-L LED emitter has five functions, but the tailcap on/off switch doesn’t go in for any of the funny business: it just turns the light on and off. (The Rabbi should approve.) It clicks audibly when fully depressed, but I like that a partial press turns it into a silent momentary on/off switch.
Switching between the five modes, ‘Firefly’, ‘Low’, ‘Bright’, ‘Insanely Bright’, and ‘Seizure Strobe’ (I made some of those up) is done using the strobe/selector switch. This is a smaller button on the side of the tailcap, right under your index finger when the on/off switch is under your thumb. These two buttons are well-positioned for one-handed control of all the light’s functions.
When the light is on, the strobe/selector cycles through the five power settings in order, and it remembers its setting when turned off. When powered off, the strobe/selector button functions as a silent momentary trigger for the ‘Seizure Strobe’: a rapid 650 lumen strobe that will rock your retinas like a rave-partyer’s rucksack full of extasy-flavored Disco Biscuits. If you shine it at a bright surface at close range, your dark-adapted vision will be gone for weeks. Okay, I exaggerate. A little.
In addition to a lanyard and an extra set of O-rings, most Warrior kits come with a sturdy Kydex belt holster. It’s adjustable for snugness and cant, and covers the tailcap switch to prevent accidental activation.
Confession: I have no technical means of testing how many lumens any flashlight produces. I’m something of a flashlight junkie, however, and the Warrior is by far the brightest flashlight I’ve ever handled. Side-by-side at full power, it profoundly outshines a 280-lumen Ulzio R-1 rechargeable LED light, and absolutely blows away a 120-lumen Coast Tactical LED.
This slightly off-center photo shows the Warrior’s huge, dazzling hotspot and even more enormous splash area. The 280-lumen Ulzio beam is tightly focused in the middle, with a slightly dimmer hotspot and very little splash illumination. The 120-lumen Coast Tactical is on the right, with an ever smaller (and dimmer) hotspot, but a useful splash area.
Mounted to a weapon, the Warrior’s brilliant hotspot will illuminate and clearly identify your targets out to 75-100 yards, and probably blind them at closer ranges. For indoor use, you’ll want to set this phaser on ‘Stun’ (medium brightness) so you don’t dazzle yourself with the reflection from nearby light-colored surfaces.
Was Dr. Eldon Tyrell right about the Warrior? I ran it to exhaustion with a set of new Energizer CR123 batteries to find out. I had to do it in ten-minute segments, because it gets pretty warm after five minutes. After fifteen minutes it was almost too hot to pick up. I haven’t noticed this with other flashlights which barely pump out half the light the Warrior does. I dropped out of the electrical engineering program in college (too much math) but I seem to recall that you can’t turn that many electrons into photons without producing a lot of heat in the process.
It took me a while to test, but a fresh set of CR123s powered the Warrior for a bit over 60 minutes of extreme brightness. After that first hour or so the brightness dims slightly, and the light stops heating itself up as much. It keeps shining at this level (still really bright) for another 25 minutes, the automatically switches to a dimmer setting as the battery fades away.
All in all, I’d say that PowerTac’s claim of 78 minutes at full power is essentially correct, although the brightness takes a small hit after the first hour.
I didn’t test the Warrior’s battery life at its lower power settings. PowerTac advertises that it will run for 2.5 hours at Medium brightness (which at a claimed 350 lumens is still brighter and longer than most tactical lights on the market), 13 hours at Low, and 60 hours at its dimly glowing ‘Firefly’ setting.
Some Warrior kits come with a Li-ion 18650 battery and charger, and these can save you beaucoups of dollars if you use your flashlight a lot. Our tester worked fine with a 18650 cell that I pulled from the Ulzio R-1, but the runtime will be shorter because of its smaller battery capacity (2000 mAh, vs. 2600-2800 mAh for disposable CR123 batteries). With CR123 batteries running at least $2 each, I won’t mind the slight inconvenience.
The Warrior has a badass appearance, and it’s not just false advertising. Every thread and switch is O-ring sealed for water protection and it’s described as waterproof, although PowerTac advised me that it’s not intended for extended immersion. Mine didn’t seem to mind: I left it running at the bottom of the full kitchen sink for about ten minutes during the battery test, and didn’t have to worry about it overheating. (Insert ‘heat sink’ pun here; I’m fresh out)
I also froze the Warrior until it became one with the contents of my automatic icemaker. I didn’t try to freeze it solid (no flashlight will work when the batteries are frozen) but I wanted to see how it would perform in snow or cold weather. It works fine. And yes, that’s frost on it.
It doesn’t seem to mind being repeatedly dropped onto concrete from 3-4 feet. It got some scratches because concrete is harder than aluminum, but it didn’t dent and nothing broke. The threaded bezel shook itself slightly loose after a dozen or so drops, but easily re-tightened.
The first Warrior sample I picked up in January stopped functioning after about a day of intermittent use. I never learned what the problem was, but it was promptly replaced by PowerTac, and I’ve been testing this replacement light since January. All PowerTac lights come with a ‘No Hassle’ lifetime warranty in any case.
The PowerTac Warrior is about the same size as many other big tactical lights, but it’s in a class by itself when it comes to brightness. Battery life is predictably short at maximum power, but the 2.5 hour runtime at medium power is better than average for its 300-lumen brightness. Even that ‘medium’ setting is still brighter than almost any Surefire or Streamlight of comparable size or cost.
My use and abuse has shown it to be solid, rugged and unbelievably bright, and it earns a Recommended rating.
Price: $125-165 actual, depending on accessories.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!
Bonus Mini-Review: PowerTac Cadet LED Flashlight
The 300-lumen Cadet is the Warrior’s baby brother. This tiny $69 flashlight is just a little bigger than your thumb and weighs only 2.7 ounces loaded. It’s exceptionally bright for its small size, completely waterproof (even for extended immersion) and rugged as all get-out. It’s powered by a single CR123 battery, and it’s been my EDC companion since January. I absolutely love it.
It has an on-off tailcap switch and five power settings. The crenelated bezel switches it to a strobe whenever it’s loosened, and then cycles it to the next power setting in order (‘Moonlight’, low, medium, high and strobe) when re-tightened. This user interface isn’t the best I’ve ever seen since it requires two hands, and there are many times when you don’t want a 300-lumen strobe even for a few seconds. Still, it keeps the light mechanically simple, and this makes it waterproof for extended immersion.
I noticed that the ‘low’ power setting is actually a dim but extremely rapid strobe which produces a beautiful scintillating effect at night in a snowstorm. Not that you’ll use it much for that particular purpose.
The front bezel is 1″ in diameter, much wider than the body itself. This makes it compatible with most standard weapon mounts, and PowerTac sells a $16 remote pressure switch that replaces the tailcap.
The Cadet has a pocket clip for bezel-up carry, and it clips to the bill of a baseball cap perfectly for hands-free chores. Don’t leave it on at full power for extended periods, because it doesn’t have much of a heat sink and it gets hot to the touch in five minutes.
I didn’t test the Cadet for battery life, although I’d note that it’s been running the same CR123 battery since late January. According to PowerTac (who proved pretty truthful about the Warrior’s battery life) it will run for one hour at max brightness, 130 minutes at medium brightness, and ten hours on low. It will run all night for a week and a half at the lowest ‘Moonlight’ setting.
PowerTac’s president emailed me with a correction/update I’m glad to pass along: my sample Cadet was an older design, and the new design has been upgraded with a momentary on/off tailcap switch. Presumably this switch is silent (I’ve yet to see a clicky momentary switch on any flashlight outside of Costco) and if so this perfectly addresses my only criticism about the Cadet.
The Cadet is Strongly Recommended for its tiny size, ruggedness, brightness and reasonable price. I loved the older model, and I like the newer model even more.