Image via FenixLighting.com.
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Today’s tactical flashlights complement a personal defense handgun quite nicely. In fact if you carry a gun, you should definitely carry a good flashlight. Seeing and being sure of what you’re shooting at is part of responsible armed self-defense.

Thirty years ago, cutting edge flashlights were SureFire 6p units that put out a whopping 60 lumens of light. Today’s lights of similar size crank out 1000 lumens or more, making them more effective and useful in far more applications.

My affinity for flashlights started in my youth. Call it fear of the dark from childhood or love of signaling the space station from the ground as an adult, I love a good light. While I no longer experience darkness anxiety, I still experience giddiness over good lighting products.

In my world, flashlights get used many times a day. Whether it’s finding something in a dark place or using the light to read something without reading glasses, a good flashlight is indispensable.

And then there’s the role they play in the use-of-force continuum.

For almost ten years, EagleTac (now EagTac) lights rode in my pocket. Reasonably priced (to me), the lights give good value and performance. However in my experience, with hard daily wear, multiple units of three different models all began to fail after a few months or so.

Yes, they have a lifetime warranty…if you ship them to Taiwan (or is it China?) for repairs. I did that once, paying significant shipping costs to do so. Instead of getting back a shiny new product, they replaced some of the guts and they still weren’t 100%. Color me underwhelmed and unimpressed.

Down to my last couple of mostly-functioning EagleTacs, I decided to find replacements. In talking with a fellow flashlight fanatic and firearm trainer Jason Shimmin of Peoria, he turned me onto the Olight Warrior X Pro. My initial impressions were very positive. Then additional pre-purchase research also led me to the Fenix TK16.

In the end, each made it into my hands for about $100 delivered.

Olight Warrior X Pro. Courtesy Olight

Yes, a C-note for a lighting tool is real money. On the other hand, these are real lights, not the alkaline battery-powered toys found in big box hardware stores.

First up, both lights use a relatively new (to me) 21700 size lithium rechargeable battery. The bigger cell provides a lot of current to generate a lot of light, and they’ll run quite a while on a charge. Don’t be surprised to see this 21700 cell become the new norm in high-performance lights.

The other thing they share: scalloped bezels for DNA core-sampling of bad guys’ tissue when necessary. These are both smoother and more rounded than I’m used to, but sharper bezels (like those on EagleTacs) wear holes in your pants. Also, as we’re comparing/contrasting the two, Mr. Fenix has a smaller body and is a smidgen lighter in weight than the Olight.

Here are the pros and cons of each of the lights after carrying them in opposing rear pockets for a couple of weeks.

Olight

A soft touch of the tail switch gives 300 lumens and a harder press gets you 2250 lumens for a couple of minutes before it rolls back to about 1000 to avoid overheating. It’s super easy to recharge with the proprietary Olight magnetic cap. I love that. It also vibrates momentarily upon activation when the battery falls to 30% capacity. Love, part II.

Criticisms: It’s a bit on the large side and heavy for a pocket light…to put it charitably. I’m used to carrying fairly big flashlights, but not everyone wants this much bulk clipped in their pocket, especially if you wear jeans. (Ahem, is that a flashlight in your pocket?) Ladies are not going to want to put this monster in their purses, either.

Another gripe: the beam is also a great deal tighter than I prefer.

But here’s the biggest complaint, one that borders on a deal-killer for tactical use. If you don’t hold your momentary press long enough (about a second) you may enter into the “hard” stay-on mode that requires a second press to extinguish the light.

When this failure to turn off happens, no matter what you’re trying to do, the Olight harshly resets your OODA loop. That would be no bueno in a gun fight, both from the distraction angle and how lights can become bullet magnets.

Fenix TK16. Via FenixLighting.com

Fenix TK16

The first thing everyone notices is how the TK16 has two buttons on its tail cap, one large and one small one. The small one gives instant access to a 3100 lumen strobe. That’s a “WHOA!” moment the first time you fire it up, especially indoors. It can disorient some aggressors and can allegedly even cause seizures in some people. I love having that option instantly available.

Image via FenixLighting.com

The much larger button, with a light press serves a momentary activation switch. When conditions require a LOT of light, there are up to 3100 lumens inside just waiting for you to set them free. A harder press gets you into a “hard” on/off mode. When the light is in hard on mode, the smaller switch lets you select from five brightness levels. Or hold the small button down and it will shift into strobe mode.

Criticisms: Again, it’s a little on the large side, but it’s smaller than the Olight. And it has some heft. Another criticism: In a small room with light colored walls in the dark, you’re liable to blind yourself with light splashing back if you’re not judicious in applying that strobe.

In everyday carry use, if you press the wrong button by mistake (you can tell the difference by feel due to the different sizes of the buttons), like in a dark restaurant trying to read the menu, you’ll become the center of attention. In this scenario there is a bright spot (pun intended): your temporary blindness will preclude noticing the annoyed looks from your neighbors. Also, one almost needs two hands to switch brightness modes, but it’s workable.

The bottom line: I know a hundred bucks for a flashlight represents big-time money for most of us. If you have the coin and you don’t mind a larger-bodied flashlight, you likely won’t be disappointed with the TK16. You might even be dazzled with it. Literally. It has earned its spot as my primary carry light now.

As for the Olight: It’s relegated to backup status for the time being.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve got numerous olights. I’m a fan. That being said carry what works best for you. EDC it’s a baton as the warrior is large but definitely goes in the hunting pack. The Javalot went on my Ruger SFAR and I think is a more direct beam than the warrior with a whiter light. It’s made for a WML but the way it comes off could be carried easily.

    • I was one of the first to buy a classic Surefire 6P exactly thirty years ago, in 1992. Its Xenon bulb truly was a huge upgrade from the then-common Maglight setup. I still have that 6P today, and have used it from time to time. When something is solid and works, it continues to work.

      I now have several Olights, and my main go-to has five lumen levels, with an “emergency” mode of a whopping 3200 that the flashlight’s Cree bulb will maintain for two minutes before automatically dropping back to under 2000.

      A couple of my buddies have the Fenix and love them.

      • “I still have that 6P today, and have used it from time to time.”

        I have 3. Lots of upgrades available. I don’t think I will ever go back to Xenon bulb lights again, the beam quality is far too ‘lumpy’ for my tastes these days.

        Yeah, there are LED upgrades for the Maglights, but compared to the superior beams on the modern 1-inch lights like the Surefires and equivalents, I seriously doubt I will ever buy another Maglight…

        • My 6P has the original round body, not like the modern hexagonal “anti-roll” shape of today’s lights. A simple end-cap push button to give a single level of lumens. Clean, simple, elegant.

          I once got an LED bulb upgrade many years ago for my then-fave Maglight, but once the Cree technology came out, the Mag was retired. I’ll always like my 6P, perhaps for the same reason a classic truck owner hangs on to his trusty ride over the decades. Some things just stay with you. I never thought of the possibility for upgrades…I’ll check it out. If I can upgrade the bulb and get a better output, I’ll definitely be using my “buddy” more.

        • Look up a 16650 LiPo rechargeable battery, there are ‘smart’ ones out there, to stop accidental over-discharge that can kill the battery.

          3.7v LiPo, same diameter as the little CR123A 3v batteries, but exactly twice the height. Exact drop-in.

          Drop-in LED modules available, some simple on-off, others multi-brightness, by different companies, eBay has cheapies for about 8 bucks. Much more expensive ones can be had, as well.

          Stainless or titanium pocket clips are out there, recommended. Tailcap switches, some mechanical on-off only, others click on-off can be found.

          The P6 just *screams* for upgrades, it has near-bulletproof construction…

  2. I have three Astrolux/Manker lights. One in aluminum, the other two in SS. 1400 lumens from either an 18650 or a 18350, both tubes included with each, all have 93 CRI (color rendering index) LEDs which produce an amazing daylight color temperature. The aluminum one lives in my pack on a QR picatiny rail in the short and light 18350 configuration, and a long config SS one has lived in my pocket constantly for six or seven years of hard use. They are all practically indestructible, very dim to very bright, nice even spill, momentary tail-cap activated, and I cannot find a reason to replace them. I paid about $40 for each one. Battery changes about once a month for my EDC.

  3. Back in the day when, TTAG’s last article of the day was about someone’s EDC, I was routinely ridiculed when I pointed out the EDC didn’t have a serious light. Or, any light at all. Whatever happened to that column? I recall it being popular.

    • I liked that series, too. When I posted an inquiry to the TTAG overlords requesting that it be resumed, the reply was that there wasn’t enough content to keep going.

      I’d like to see it resurrected, perhaps on a weekly basis. Hmm…I might even submit to Dan on my own behalf to be included, if anyone else here wants to join in.

    • I would be thrilled to see EDC come back and would help contribute content if that’s what is needed. Some of the memes are fun but….EDC trumps those.

    • well, there’s certainly enough content to keep a weekend caption this photo going. that was a sure bet over one hundred comments proposition. but you guys had to head straight to the gutter. jk, not sure why they don’t do one a month.

  4. I heard of Fenix flashlights from a friend, one late night outside working I was faced with angry dogs, spiders bigger than your hand, and random other bush rustling. After that particular night of work I immediately went straight to Fenix and bought a flashlight, it was about $75. Best money I ever spent. The more compact models do heat up significantly on highest settings just be aware but an amazing EDC and working light.

  5. My tactical flashlight is a kerosene lantern, brings about a whole new meaning to “Light em up” when you whack the bad guy with it.

    • That was easy to build yourself from hobbyist parts, for a lot less money. I had a 3-cell Maglite that was 8000 lumens,,, but only for about 3 minutes. Batteries were discharged, and it was too hot to hold. Much, much brighter than what Wicked sells/sold. Would light up about two acres at once. Quite the conversation starter at parties.

      Parts available on CandlePowerForums Marketplace.

  6. “Thirty years ago, cutting edge flashlights were SureFire 6p units that put out a whopping 60 lumens of light.”

    *Substantial* upgrades are available to bring the beloved 6P into the 21st century. Durable pocket clips, nasty strike bezels, bright drop-in LED modules, etc.

    Strych9 turned me on to Fenix a few years back, and it’s now my bedside light. The price has doubled since then, unfortunately… 🙁

  7. I look at Fenix (based in Shenzhen, China and presumably manufactured there), then I look at Olight (who appears to be next door neighbors with Fenix). then I compare to Streamlight and Surefire. Surefire is designed and manufactured in the United States. Streamlight is USA-based and they have some Manufacturing in the US (and every light I own from them myself is manufactured in the US).

    there’s a damn good reason that a large majority of my flashlights are Streamlights. they may not be the cheapest but I have one that I carried for 11 years into working structure fires yet it was not rated for it and when the switch on the back finally started to fail streamlight replaced it under warranty. at work I have two helmet mounted stream lights and I carry a third right angle light attached to my chest. when I say I trust my life to them I literally mean it. I’ve decided that buying American and buying once and crying once has been a very good tactic. I have a handful of various Chinesium lights but when it’s anything more than casually putting a light on something I always reach for a Streamlight and I’ve never been disappointed.

    Ya’ll can keep these two lights, I’m not paying $100 for a throwdown.

  8. Surefire is the only torch I’d bet my life on and that just barely. I own a bunch of different lights and owned a bunch more. Have had many failure from things like parasitic draw to intermittent failure due to a light coating of dielectric grease on the tail cap threads to prevent galling. Had so many problems that I didnt trust one light to get me out of the deep woods after deer hunting that I carry two lights. A lot of the high lumen lights will throttle down due to overheating or voltage drop and usually at the wrong time and usually very quickly after activation. The small pocket lights usually require a twist to activate and thats not ideal. A true tactical light only has one lumen output and can be activated by the push of one button. You pays your money and takes your chances.

  9. OLights should never be used on any weapon.

    straight up garbage.

    I made that mistake once. Never again. I’ll spend the money for a surefire on a serious build, and streamlight for the rest. Both a 100x better.

  10. I’ve got two Streamlight TLR-1 lights, one failed, and 10 Olights. 4 are weapons mounted (2 pistol and 2 rifle), the others are handheld of various sized for different purposes. I’m absolutely thrilled with all of them but my main “go to” is the Olight Seeker 3, I liked it so much I bought one for my wife and another for my son.

  11. If one wants to breathe new life into their Surefire 6P, go to Malkoff Devices for one of their drop in LED upgrades. It’s something you can bet your life on and it will turn your Surefire 6P into one of your favorite tools. Their performance is outstanding!

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