Streamlight introduced the TLR-4™G at the 2014 SHOT Show. Like the prior TLR-4™ models, the new light and laser unit is designed for compact handguns. However, the TLR-4G features a green laser instead of the traditional red beam. I don’t consider myself to be an expert on weapon-mounted lights or lasers, so this review is intended to provide a layperson’s “consumer-level” perspective. Feel free to dispense knowledge in the comment section. Nonetheless, we all draw on our experiences, and so I will relay a true story that will bring home the point of why I believe flashlights are mandatory for home defense . . .
“How a flashlight kept me from getting shot.”
To set the stage, I was 16 years old and there was a girl in my neighborhood who was my age. I had known her for years, but she had become… well… different. As in more curvy. And all of a sudden she was more – interesting. So we talked for a while, and both sensed some chemistry. Or maybe it was just lust. To borrow military terminology, I managed to arrange a “link-up operation” for 0100 hours at a backyard tree fort. I executed a flawless “movement to contact” and conducted successful “actions at the objective.” So all I had left to do to complete the mission was to exfil back into my house…at 4 am.
Of course, on that night Sgt. Murphy paid a visit and pissed all over my plan. My dad’s home office was right next to the garage entrance, and it just so happened that he had chosen that particular night to have insomnia. So he is in his office reading a book at that ungodly hour when he heard some noise in the garage, i.e. me. He quickly set up an ambush for the “intruder.”
As I open the door from the garage and stepped into the laundry room, out jumps this big dude with a flashlight and a gun. Scared the living crap out me… not to mention being temporarily blinded by the flashlight. It took me a second to figure out it was my dad – but I recognized his voice. Of course, I had scared the crap out of him as well… up until the moment he had a beamed that flashlight on me and figured out that the “intruder” was just me. Then “scared” turned into “pissed.”
Fortunately he didn’t shoot me. In fact, I somehow managed to BS my way out of that one and never even got in trouble. But there were a couple of lessons learned. First, don’t sneak into anybody’s house at night – even your own. Second, always keep a flashlight next to your home defense gun(s) so you can positively ID your target. If you don’t, you might end up accidentally shooting your son.
Which brings us to the Streamlight TLR-4G compact light/laser combo. This lightweight 3.0 ounce unit is designed for compact pistols, but works – in varying degrees – in combination with just about any pistol, rifle, or shotgun that’s equipped with picatinny rails. Streamlight also manufactures a variety of accessories, such as remote switches and filters to help customize the light to the operator’s mission-specific needs.
The TLR-4G comes with six plastic mounting adaptors called “rail keys.” These adapters allow you to get a custom fit to adjust to various guns. Chick here to see which guns are supported.
The photos above show the TLR-4G fixed to a Walther PPQ M2, which seemed to fit really well. I tried mounting it to a friend’s GLOCK 23, but it seemed to be too far forward for my liking. None of the six keys worked on my Steyr M9A1, but I suspect that I could modify one of with a file to make it work. YMMV.
Operator controls are simple and intuitive. The TLR-4G features a small metal toggle switch that allows the operator to select between laser-only operation, light-only operation, and light-and-laser operation. There is also a larger 3-position paddle that allows the operator to select constant-on, momentary-on, and off. Overall, I give high ratings to the design of the operator controls, with one lingering concern. Based on my experience as a military officer, I question whether toggle switches would be up to the abuse doled out by grunts. For civilian and law enforcement use, though, I think it’s fine.
The white light is rated at 115 lumens (5,200 candela), which is fairly standard for these types of lights. When it comes to brightness, one might think that more is better. Having remembered how blinded I was by my dad’s flashlight, I certainly assumed that more is better. However, after training with Simunitions and running drills in “kill houses,” I have since come to the conclusion that extremely bright flashlights can be a problem because they emit so much light that they can tip off your opponent. Some of the ultra-bright 600+ lumen flashlights may result in light bouncing off two or three walls, so the light gets around corners, etc. In any event, the TLR-4G is bright enough to blind an opponent, but not so bright that you light up the whole neighborhood.
The unit operates on a single CR2 lithium battery. According to the manufacturer, the unit will run the light and laser simultaneously at full power for 75 minutes, and will then rapidly decline in intensity over the next 15 minutes. If the operator only uses the laser, the battery should last for four hours. Based on my testing, the laser will do more or less as the manufacturer says: the unit will start to gradually dim as the battery reaches the end of its charge, so it gives you a bit of a warning before it shuts down.
To change the battery, you simply unload the weapon, then unscrew the front head, remove the CR2 battery and drop in a new one. This process can be accomplished in mere seconds.
OK, let’s talk about the laser. One thing you need to know up front: I am red-green colorblind. So for this review, I made an effort to get other people’s opinion on issues related to the color and intensity of the laser.
Second thing you need to know: the green laser on the TLR-4G is absolutely useless in bright sunlight. Some of my non-colorblind gunwriter friends confirmed this assessment. I remember being at Media Day at SHOT Show 2014 and being really impressed with another laser that I could actually see on the target at roughly 15 yards in bright sunlight. This unit is not as bright as that one, so if daytime functionality is important to you, then spend the extra bucks on a brighter laser. Having said that, I’m not convinced that a laser is necessary in bright sunlight, since iron sights or red dot sights will be faster to acquire. I thought that a laser might help in testing the accuracy of pistols, and might help diagnose training/trigger deficiencies, but I can’t think of other reasons to use a laser under daylight conditions.
To be clear, I don’t mean to imply that this laser is not bright. At night, the Streamlight TLR-4G’s beam will be visible on targets located more than 700 yards away. It makes my 10-year old Crimson Trace red laser on my Beretta 92F seem like a toy. I also compared it to my buddy’s Crimson Trace LG-412 Laserguard for the Ruger LC9, and again, the TLR-4G seems to be much brighter.
In the two photos below, you can see (roughly) how the green Streamlight TLR-4G laser compares against the red Crimson Trace LG-301 Lasergrips under daytime overcast conditions. I say “roughly” because photography of light will never create an exact representation of what your eye will see. Nonetheless, these photos are a fairly accurate representation, consistent with my recollections. In the first photo, the laser is aimed at a car door. In the second photo, camouflage clothing was the target surface. In either case, the green laser far exceeded the red laser in terms of brightness and ease of recognition.
All of my friends who tried the TLR-4G’s green laser stated that it seemed to be easier to acquire than a traditional red laser. In part, this is because the spot that gets “painted” on the target appears to be wider than a traditional red laser.
However, the green beam was also visible under most low-light conditions, which some may seem as a downside. Obviously, how visible a beam is depends on a number of factors, including the amount of particulate matter (dust, smoke, etc) in the air, whether light is shining on the beam, and the effect on air molecules called Rayleigh scattering.
The photo below shows how the beam is visible in low light conditions, esp. when a point light source exists in the distance. Truth be told, it is not that bright (or thick) in real life (the camera exposure somewhat exaggerates the brightness). It was, however, clearly visible to the naked eye under these light conditions.
The other consideration for the use of this laser — and most rail-mounted beams — is the fact that the laser is located well below the bore axis, which somewhat complicates things. Shooters familiar with using and AR-15’s iron sights at close range will be able to relate to this issue. Let’s say you sight in the laser so that intersects with the bullet strike at 15 yards. If you are shooting at a target located less than 15 yards away, the bullet strike will be a little high. In fact, if you are looking down the pistol’s iron sights at a target at, say, 10 yards, you won’t see the laser because it is hitting the target below the sight line (and therefore is hidden by the pistol itself). Conversely, the bullet will strike low on targets located more than 15 yards away. In most cases, this is not a big deal, so long as you are not expecting pinpoint accuracy at all distances.
I found the Streamlight TLR-4G to be a fairly rugged unit capable of a decent amount of abuse. I confirmed that it’s water resistant, as it wasn’t effected by being placed in my fish tank for ½ hour. Once wet, however, the laser did not work until the unit dried out; apparently the water acted like a lens and broke up the beam so it wouldn’t focus.
In conclusion, I have been testing this light/laser combo for around six months, and would have no reservations recommending this product. The only critical issue will be making sure that there is a key that will work with your weapon system.
SPECIFICATIONS: (Information provided by Manufacturer):
- 510-530nm direct drive green laser
- 5200 candela peak beam intensity; 115 lumens
- Green laser provides high visibility long-range targeting
- Operating temperatures of -20°F to +120°F
- Ambidextrous momentary/steady On-Off switch
- Three position mode selector switch for Laser only, LED illumination only or both Laser and LED:
- LED only mode runs 1.75 hours
- LED and Laser mode runs 1.25 hours
- Laser only mode runs 4 hours
- Textured parabolic reflector produces a concentrated beam with optimum peripheral illumination; optimized electronics provide regulated intensity
- Key kit included for mounting to a variety of weapons (H&K USP models do not include key kit)
- Rail clamp designed to rapidly attach/detach from side of weapon. One handed Snap-On and tighten interface keeps hands away from muzzle when attaching/detaching
- Windage and elevation adjustment screw mounted in brass bushing for dependable zero retention of laser
- Impact-resistant Engineering polymer construction with durable anodized aluminum facecap
- Borofloat high-temperature glass lens
- IPX4 water-resistant
- Serialized for positive identification
- Compact – weighs 2.81 oz. (79.7g) with included battery; 2.73″ (6.93 cm)
- Uses one 3V CR2 lithium battery (included)
- Models also available for H&K USP Compact frame and H&K USP Full Size frame
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Assembled in USA
Ratings (out of five stars):
Brightness (Flashlight) * * *
There are brighter lights on the market. But this one is bright enough to get the job done, and this may be one of the few situations where bigger is not better.
Brightness (Laser) * * *
A green laser definitely increases daytime visibility, but this laser is just about useless in bright sunlight.
Ergonomics * * * * *
Streamlight kept the controls simple and right where you want them. Anything more would be too busy and too confusing for use under stressful conditions.
Mounting * * * *
The Streamlight mounting clamp and screw is pretty slick. The six provided rail keys work with a wide variety of rail interfaces.
Ruggedness * * * *
I haven’t torture tested the unit, but six months of frequent use on numerous camping and mushroom-hunting trips gives me confidence in this kit. It also survived a water emersion test and a “deep-freeze” test. I have some lingering concerns about the longevity of the laser’s toggle switch if it were subjected to military conditions, but I think it’s fine for civilian and police use.
Overall * * * *
Worth the price (about $215 street price). I will buy more of these.