It was nearly one full year ago that I toured Kel-Tec’s Cocoa, FL facilities, picking up this CL-43 flashlight from their retail store on the way out. Here at TTAG we like to thoroughly test products before publishing a review, sure, but a year of using this as my go-to nightstand and EDC flashlight is just excessive. Therefore, exactly one week prior to the one-year anniversary, I give you the Kel-Tec CL-43 flashlight review . . .
You’ve probably already noticed the unique shape of this light and the unique location of its on/off button. Indeed, the button faces forwards and depresses to the rear.
The idea here was to create a hand-held flashlight meant to be used with a firearm. It’s twice as wide as it is thick, so it won’t roll, and the offset button at the front allows a wrap-around grip and activation with a squeeze rather than a push.
Integrating the CL-43 into one’s shooting grip is easy. Certainly it feels a bit odd to have that 6061 aluminum lump between some of your support hand and the frame, but in practice it isn’t particularly intrusive and is much easier to shoot with than a traditional flashlight. In fact, it’s easier to shoot with the CL-43 held in the manner seen above than to shoot single-handed in the normal, sans-flashlight manner.
For those who demand solid attachment to a firearm, believe it or not that’s possible with this light as well. Kel-Tec sells a Picatinny clamp ($22) designed to fit both the CL-43, seen mounted to a KSG above, and their more traditional CL-42.
There are three CR123 batteries included and pre-installed in there. They’re good for a run time of 3 hours and 35 minutes, which is a lot of flashlight action.
Two machine screws hold the reversible pocket clip (swap it from side-to-side) to the gasket-sealed cap and clamp the cap to the body. The CL-43 is waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes.
A gentle squeeze on the button offers momentary activation, or squeeze it until the click for constant on/off. There are no other modes to become annoyed with.
The bezel, lens, and LED unit can be unscrewed from the front of the body should they require replacement. Bezel diameter is about 15/16 in.
While the light can be gripped shoved into the web of one’s hand and using the trigger finger like a trigger finger…
I actually prefer doing it this way in normal use. It gets pulled out of my pocket with trigger finger indexed along the long side of the light, pointing at the target. The grip is really secure this way, and because my finger is pointing at the target, the fairly focused beam is on-target.
The CL-43 carries easily in a pocket. Its body is about 0.76″ thick, and because it’s about twice as wide it feels pretty flat, stable, and comfortable. More like a pocket knife than a flashlight, basically.
If your pants have a deep fifth pocket, it may even fit in there. The CL-43 weighs about 3.7 ounces.
Kel-Tec’s CL-43 puts out 420 lumens and 6,400 candela. It’s a very bright flashlight. Beam distance/throw is 160 meters (525 feet).
In a year of use I’ve had precisely zero issues with this light. It’s traveled with me all around the country and has lived in my pocket nearly every time I’ve been out and about during after-dark hours. The finish and aluminum are holding up great, and lord knows I’ve banged the pocket clip, in particular, into all sorts of things. Kel-Tec rates the CL-43 for one-meter drops onto a hard surface, though I can’t say I’ve accidently or intentionally tested that.
The CL-43 is available in seven different colors — Cerakoted, I believe — and runs $140. This ain’t cheap, but neither is the light. It’s a solidly-built, yet lightweight tactical light that’s extremely bright, carries easily, and offers unique ergos that actually work.
Specifications: Kel-Tec CL-43 Flashlight
Brightness: 420 lumens / 6,400 candela
Beam Distance: 160 meters (525 feet)
Length: ~3.875 inches
Width: ~1.55 inches
Thickness: ~0.76 inches
Weight: 3.7 ounces
Materials: 6061 aluminum, steel pocket clip and lanyard ring, checkered rubber on/off button
Manufactured In: Made In USA
Ratings (out of five stars):
Overall * * * * *
Kel-Tec is known for inexpensive, polymer-intensive firearms, but their flashlights are nothing like that. Solid and bright with no frills, the CL-43 gets the job done. It’s a quality tactical flashlight that you can rely on, and the funky layout really works.