Gear Review: StreamLight ProTac 2L Flashlight

I’ve got the typical EDC thing down cold; phone, blade, wallet, keys, firearm(s). But when the movie theater shooting happened in Colorado, I realized I was missing a key item: a flashlight. I hadn’t carried one in the past because I used my phone as a light in the rare instance I needed a little illumination. But that’s just what a phone give you: a little illumination. It’s not exactly something I could use in a defensive situation. Imagining myself in the shoes of one of those moviegoers really made me see the need for a good light that I could carry everyday. So I did some research and went shopping. I looked at a lot of lights, focusing primarily on Streamlight and Surefire. Finally I landed on the StreamLight ProTac 2L and here’s why . . .

I needed the right balance of size, weight and power. I considered everything from lights the size of a Glock 19 magazine down to a tiny pen light. The ProTac 2L was just barely small and light enough for me to carry everyday while packing a big 180 lumen punch. I really wanted something that could light up a dark parking lot or a back yard if I needed it. This light handles all that with ease, reaching out to a maximum distance of 126 meters. With that much power in such a compact package, I’m pretty pleased with its rated run-time: 2.5 hours on high beam and a whopping 50 hours on low.

Made in China from aircraft aluminum, this torch is about 3/4 of an inch in diameter, just over 4.5 inches long, and weights under 3 ounces with the batteries. It’s anodized in basic black and has a removable pocket clip.

About that clip: it’s very respectably sturdy, keeping the light right where I put it all day long. I typically carry mine in my left back pocket on the far left side and have yet to find a position where the light has been pushed up and out, or even moved around in the pocket. If you’re not using (or don’t like) the clip, the body has three flat areas molded into it that will keep it from rolling off a table. It comes with a stylish nylon belt holster, too.

The ProTac uses tailswitch activation that allows for 3 modes; high, strobe and low (in that order). That low setting puts out only 10 lumens. But it’s great for putting out just a little light in a room where you’ve got a sleeping child and you’re trying to tip-toe past the little plastic booby-traps he’s planted. It would also serve as a decent lantern inside a tent.

The strobe? Well, let’s just say that setting is only for those you want to send into a light-induced seizure. It’s fast, and it’s bright…just ask my wife.

I have two issues with this light. First, cycling the modes on the tailswitch takes a light half-push of the switch. That’s not something I think I could do effectively in a defensive situation, and that makes the strobe feature really more of a cool novelty. Second, the batteries (2 CR123A lithiums) aren’t something you’re going to find on every battery rack you run across.

The battery situation is both a plus and a minus, though. Plus: they’re compact, long-lasting and provide good power, keeping the size of the light down (a high priority). Minus: they can be hard to find when they do finally run out. But I buy bulk packs of 12 on Amazon for about $23 so it’s usually not that big a deal.

Streamlight makes a shorter, lighter version of this same light, the ProTac 1L, that runs on a single battery. It comes at a price though, losing 70 lumens and 45 minutes of run-time. The increase in size with the 2L was an easy tradeoff to make to get the additional output. After 2-3 weeks, I’m really liking having this light on me every day. Its mighty handy and I’m already surprised how often I’ve pulled it from my pocket to light something up.

Specifications:

Length:                         4.68 inches
Major Diameter:     .9 inches
Barrel Diameter:    .77 inches
Weight:                        2.8 oz. with batteries
Lens:                              tempered glass, o-ring sealed
Output:                         180 lumens (high), 10 (low)
Runtime:                      2.4 hrs (high), 50 hrs (low)
Distance:                      126 meters (high), 35 (low)
Price:                             about $50 street

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * * *
It’s maybe a hair on the thick side, but perfect in length. The thickness is only a function of the battery size. Plus, let’s be honest, it just looks cool.

Durability: * * * * *
It seems durable enough. Waterproof, tempered lens, strong clip, aluminum construction. Not a whole lot to go wrong, really. I’ll let you know when I drop it, though.

Usability: * * * * *
I want to complain about activation of that damn strobe feature, but I shouldn’t. The tailswitch is the most effective way to use this light and without additional controls, the half-press of the switch to cycle through the functions is the only way it should work. I didn’t buy it for the strobe anyway, so the 2L gets 5 stars here too.

Value: * * * * *
This light will cost you roughly $60. Not cheap, but not a bad sticker price for something as compact and powerful as this. And your first set of batteries are included.

Overall Rating: * * * * *
In case you can’t tell, I dig this thing.

comments

  1. avatar Twinkie says:

    Made in China? Moving right along…

    1. avatar Buzzy243 says:

      I’d be willing to bet that the keyboard that you typed that comment on was made in China.

      1. avatar Twinkie says:

        I don’t need my KB to work 100%, and also there is no alternative readily available to buying China. I buy quality/American as often as possible and especially on things that really matter to me. A flashlight for EDC really matters to me.

        1. avatar MD Perry says:

          What EDC flashlight do you carry that is American Made??
          Anything that can match the 2L’s size, weight and output??
          I’d love to find one.

  2. avatar jwm says:

    mini mag light with leds and readily available batteries. don’t want anything in my kit that’s not commonly available and easy to replace.

    1. avatar bontai Joe says:

      I’ve been carrying a Mini Maglite for almost 20 years, the same light. The anodizing color is about 1/4 worn off, and the lens has a few small scratches, but it works every time. Not as bright as the one you tested, but takes std, AA batteries and the beam can be focused by rotating the head (old style incandescent bulb, pre LED). And a spare bulb is stored in the base of the light. Having 20 years with this light, I don’t think I’ll be changing it for something else.

    2. avatar HSR47 says:

      I can certainly understand that, but the maglite can’t compare to the brightness of this flashlight.

      I’ve been carrying one of these every day for at least six months now, and I’ve only killed 1-2 sets of batteries in that time. I also use it ALL the time, both at work and on my own time.

  3. avatar Anon in CT says:

    “It comes with a stylish nylon belt holster, too.”

    I assume this was irony?

    1. avatar HSR47 says:

      Yeah, the belt holster it comes with is cheap junk. Sure it’s well tailored for the flashlight, but it isn’t particularly durable, and the stitching, especially on the belt loop, has a tendency to rip out.

      I used the belt holster for a week or two before it started coming apart, and then I bought a maxpedition pouch, which I’ve been using for around six months now.

  4. avatar CinSC says:

    I’ve had this light for a year and it’s been great. I think of it as a good first line of defense after dark: just hit him with the strobe and take his night vision away. The controls aren’t hard to master with a little practice.

    A little chunky in the pocket, but worth it for the power.

  5. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    That sounds like a dandy little flashlight. I highly recommend that everyone carry a light. I carry one almost everywhere and it is amazing how often it comes in handy … like in the basement of a hardware store when electricity fails. (That actually happened to me.) It gets pretty dark in the middle of a large department store as well so they are nice to have.

    Personally I carry a bright MiniMag LED flashlight. It has some advantages. First, it uses two standard Alkaline AA batteries. Those are inexpensive and available everywhere. Second, in traditional MiniMag fashion, its diameter is just barely larger than the batteries so it is small and light-weight. Third, you rotate the lens/head to turn it on which is silent. In a tactical situation silent is good. It also has a low intensity setting which can be useful. It isn’t as bright as the StreamLight Pro Tac, either but I think that is a plus. It puts out enough light to clearly distinguish objects at 40 meters which is typically the maximum range that you would engage someone in the dark with a handgun. And it doesn’t put out so much light that it would leave you essentially blind in the dark if you had to turn it off or it failed for some reason. And at half the price of the StreamLight Pro Tac, you can save some cash or get “two for the price of one”.

  6. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    Is the tailcap switch silent, and does it also function as a momentary on/off? These are useful features and even some otherwise excellent lights don’t have them.

    1. avatar CinSC says:

      It functions as a momentary on/off if partially depressed. It clicks only when fully depressed.

      1. avatar Zack Pike says:

        Correct. Can be operated silently.

        1. avatar Chris Dumm says:

          Cool; that’s what I was hoping.

  7. avatar Jon R. says:

    I’m on the market for a torch right now, but the one I get has to run on AA batteries or its a no go.

    1. avatar Buzzy243 says:

      If you don’t mind buying stuff that is made in China check out http://www.lightjunction.com

    2. avatar E.Berg says:

      I’d recommend looking at going gear’s website http://goinggear.com/ and youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/goingprepared . They have some decent reviews and its fairly easy to sort flashlight by characteristics like battery, size, max or min lumens, even the light tint. I personally am eyeing the Zebralight http://goinggear.com/zebralight-sc51w-neutral-aa-led-flashlight.html since it gives 170 ish lumens with just one AA, is nice and compact and gives a neutral to warmish color which helps it from washing out all color with a cold white beam. Only problem is its button is not on the tailcap.

  8. avatar CarlosT says:

    CR123s are camera batteries, so check the photo department of your local Walgreens or CVS. They probably stock them. You’ll save money buying in bulk, of course, but if you ever needed to pick some up on the road, that’s where you’ll find them.

    1. avatar Will says:

      You beat me to posting that. They are indeed camera batteries and I’ve got a camera that uses them to prove it.

      1. avatar Zack Pike says:

        Ah… Wasn’t aware of that. Thanks for the tip!

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      Buy CR123’s at Battery Junction, or possibly a good mil surp or LEO supply store. Drugstores will rip you off – these batteries are available online for 99 apiece to 1.79 or so for the Surefire CR123’s, which are the best. Surefire is based out of Fountain Valley, CA.

      This isn’t a terrible light, but it pales in comparison to an Olight M20S, which puts out 340 lumens, has a range of nearly 300 yards, and offers a detachable strike bezel. If US manufacture is your thing, then a Surefire Defender puts out 200 lumens.

      Heck, you can get 150 – plus lumen “tactical” lights at CostCo for 3/$19.99.

  9. avatar Chris says:

    Using one in Afghanistan right now. Love it.

  10. avatar Alex says:

    I’ve been using a Fenix E05. Runs on one AAA, just barely bigger than the battery, and cost around $20. Got one for my dad for fathers day, he turned around and got one for me for my birthday 🙂

  11. avatar JR says:

    I have one in my EDC and I love it!

    You can buy them on Amazon for 40 bucks with free shipping.

  12. avatar Charles5 says:

    Being in the Navy, carrying a flashlight is a must for inspections and such. Also, when you lose power on a ship, things get really, really dark, what with no portholes and all. For work, I carry a flashlight on my belt, a Minimag, which has been great so far. However, I don’t usually carry any kind of tactical flashlight outside of work. I do carry a back up LED micro key chain light on my dog tag chain. That goes with me everywhere.

  13. avatar Michael Bluth says:

    I don’t understand the fixation on streamlight and surefire. Fenix and several others offer a lot of flashlight, for competitive prices. They have held up to any conditions I’ve thrown at them (or being thrown) while camping which is a good deal more abuse than EDC.

    consider this: the PD31 will do 304 lumens max and 200 hours on low in the same form factor and with the same batteries as the light reviewed here.

    1. avatar Buzzy243 says:

      +1

      I’ve been really satisfied with my Nitecore, Fenix, and even Jetbeam lights. Surefire has always seemed overpriced to me.

  14. avatar brigo50 says:

    my Surefire G2X Tactical is on its way from Utah im super pumped!!!!

  15. avatar John Arizona says:

    I have one and can definatly say that in a Dark theater or yard you will temperorly blind some one for a few seconds, I have challanged auto parts stores if your Light is brighter than mine I will purchase your’s. No one ever wins.
    John lake havasu
    Az

  16. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    I’m allergic to tailcap switches and the kind that require rotating the head. Both have resulted in dead batteries. I’ve never had a problem with the side-bulb switch like the big Maglites use, so that’s what I look for on any new flashlight.

    1. avatar brigo50 says:

      most tail cap lights with rotating caps use 123 high energy drainage batteries that have a short life span, also are often brighter by around 150 lumens at least.
      my G2 Nitrolon only lasts about an hour of constant power.

  17. avatar ajax says:

    I bought the single cell version of this light…didn’t last a week. It seems to be Streamlight’s attempt to compete with the discount Chinese brands like Fenix, Ultra-Fire, etc., and it reflects in the build quality.

    For those that want a more common battery type, they make a single and double AA version of this light, YMMV.

    If you’re going to go cheap then go real cheap, Mag-lites or cheapo Chinese lights.
    If you want quality, go 4Sevens or Surefire.

    For those married to their Mag-Lites, the new LED flashlights on the market stomp all over Mags in every single metric: Run time, brightness, beam quality, build quality, function.

  18. avatar Mindflayer says:

    “It’s maybe a hair on the thick side, but perfect in length.”

    That’s what sh- ahh never mind.

  19. avatar TJ says:

    If you look at the Surefire LX2 LumaMax compared to the Streamlight Protac 2L, the Streamlight blows it out of the water. Starting with cost, Surefire at $210 and the Streamlight around $60. They use the same battery source, the Streamlight lacks about 20 lumens, unnoticeable in everyday operation. They are built of the same materials, well Streamlight discloses its construction as 6000 aircraft aluminum, surefire does not offer a construction platform on its website. They both have “indestructible” lenses, which I am sure are comparable. Surefire claims a “waterproof” construction but doesn’t offer specifics as Streamlight does. Who knows what Surefire “waterproof” means. I’m not convinced that the Surefire is worth three and a half times more than the Streamlight at this point.

  20. avatar Woody says:

    The upgraded version of the streamlight protac 2l now has 260 lumens and includes a ten-tap programmable option
    Check out streamlight website for new model – I just received a new model in mail and love brightness and size

  21. avatar DP.Science says:

    Reading this review back, almost a year ago, convinced me to go out and pick up this light. It’s been my constant companion since and has helped me out countless times at work and around the house.

    Just this morning I was having trouble finding it when I remembered that I had it in another pair of pants — a pair which the girlfriend had washed and dried the night before. I pulled the light out of the pocket, clicked the switch and the ProTac did its thing. I really liked this light before, but after it going through that unscathed I’m even more impressed.

  22. avatar Richard says:

    I run the same light as in my EDC/home defense system. It’s lightweight, tough, has a long battery life, bright as you need it to be, and I love the TenTap w/ the strobe feature! Can’t ask for much more from a light.

    1. I had an edc like yours. But my brand was fenix and it was really awesome experience

  23. avatar Joseph says:

    Hey guys, is this page still alive? I just picked up the new 260 lumen version and I have to say it is very very nice. $60 at academy. Very lightweight. I saw a reply earlier comparing this to the surefire lx2 lumamax. I have both. Yes, on paper this thing is superb. I can tell you that if you were to pick up and play with both at the same time, it would be easy to tell which is the “expensive” torch. The protac is extremely light, while the surefire is extremely overbuilt. As for fenix and nitecore, I personally have played with them, but not owned em. I just can’t deal with the cheesy modes like “turbo” or “ultra high” and the complicated UI’s. Not to mention that the 800 lumen output that they advertise by only lasts for 20 minutes.

  24. Thanks for the review, I know it is a little old but I was just researching different streamlight flashlights and I came across your article. As all of the streamlight lights this one is really well built and good buy.

  25. avatar Bob R says:

    Check e-bay, you can find them there sometimes for $30 +/-. It’s a shame the thing is from China!! Come-on USA, start making high quality stuff again!!!

  26. avatar Eli says:

    I’ve had mine for over a year now and it’s still going strong. It’s well built and has been dependable. I also have a Fenix TK15, but with it’s 1 inch diameter and 5 inch or so body it’s not always practical to carry.
    My ProTac 2L can be carried no matter what I’m wearing. It’s been a great light and I’d recommend it to anyone!!

  27. avatar Neumann says:

    I am not a flashlight expert and I haven’t used this product for long, but from what I can tell it is great. It is very small but not too small to hold properly if you have medium sized hands with long fingers like I do. It is also very lightweight. The light is very bright and I shone it in my eyes to test the blindness factor, so I think it would be good for self-defense. The pocket clip is also very strong. I bought this flashlight along with the Olight M10 Maverick. They are both fantastic and similar in quality, but I decided to go with the Olight because it was a bit bigger, a tiny bit heavier, and somewhat brighter. The only other difference I think worth mentioning is that the Streamlight does not have a memory mode, but it always starts on full brightness so it’s ready for self-defense. See the photos for comparison. In the brightness side-by-side pics, the Streamlight is on the left, and the Olight on the right.

  28. Nice review. Shared on facebook 🙂
    Actually, i have used this flashlight and agree with your article comment.
    High lumen only 260 but 3 hours run and 5,600 candela peak beam intensity just amazing.
    Rubber push-button and tail switch very helpful for me as well.

  29. I’ve had dig for over a year now it’s as yet going solid. It’s well manufactured and has been tried and true. I likewise have a Fenix TK15, yet with it’s 1 inch measurement and 5 inch or so body it’s not generally down to earth to convey.

    My ProTac 2L can be conveyed regardless of what I’m wearing. It’s been an awesome light and I’d prescribe it to anybody!!

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