The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Fightin’ Lights, with Bill Blowers

Today we bring you something from Bill Blowers of Tap Rack Tactical. We’ve shared some of his work before (like this video and this episode of Surefire Field Notes), and he always brings something good to the table. These words originally appeared on the Tap Rack Tactical Facebook page, and has been reprinted and lightly edited with their blessing. With that out of the way–enjoy


Over the years I have been fortunate to be in a position where I had a decent equipment budget with which to try new products.

The above picture shows some of the recent lights I am happy with, albeit for different reasons. There is no perfect light, and suffice to say that over time there have really been just two work horse manufacturers that have been dropped, thrown, used as impact weapons, and stopped forward momentum by getting slammed into door frames–that I was trying to gracefully go through.

My first big Cop Light was a Streamlight SL-20. Always reliable, outstanding as an impact weapon, and a great light for the working cop. If I went back to patrol today I would still carry that big bastard because it illuminates stuff and is also untimidating since it’s just a light. Alas, I do not have my original because I threw it at some car prowlers who were making good their escape in a car. I had it turned on when I launched it and it broke the back window of the car and ended up inside. I got to watch it drive away …

My first quality backup light was a Surefire 6P. I loved that damn light, 65 lumens and absolutely bullet proof. I would occasionally lose a bulb but they were easy to replace and it was a handy belt light. Many occasions on Graveyard where the SL-20 rechargeable gave it up and the SF 6P came out to save the day. I’d probably be dead in the streets today without that light.

So Surefire and Streamlight are what’s up. They have proven themselves time and time again. I don’t work for either company, but I do have friends in both. The quality and caliber of people working for both companies is another reason I stick with those two brands. Dudes can clown products all day long, but when you hear motherfuckers talking about the products, why they were developed, the passion for producing a quality product because they know that people’s lives depend on them, you start to appreciate shit a bit more. So, while I don’t consider myself a shill for any company, I am a loyal friend to people that have earned my respect and trust. So here is my breakdown of a bunch of lights and where they have applicability in my world. I will attempt to be fair and unbiased, if you disagree with assessment well then, you do you man.

RIFLE LIGHTS

I need reach with the rifle light because I can shoot a rifle much further than my pistol. I also need spill since my job requires fast processing of information while FISHing. Balance between the two is essential.

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Surefire M600DF
Newest light out there with 1500 lumens on the 18650 rechargeable and 1200 on 123’s. I love the versatility with the batteries and with a budget I really dig being able to use rechargeable batteries, this normally would freak me fuck out but since it can be backfilled with CR123’s, it doesn’t freak me out. Plenty of throw and spill for my task & purpose. Existing tailcaps and pressure switches work with it. Great upgrade from the M600 Scout light.

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Surefire M600U Scout Light
Awesome light, it’s been a work horse for many years with teams and the advent and of the DF does not require you to run right out and replace the M600’s. 600 Lumens in a focused beam is nothing to sneeze at, and it provides plenty of light inside. They work and they work really well. Big bonus of the SF lights is the ability to run dual pressure pads with their lights because of the detachable lead. This is the light used by my SWAT guys because of its versatility AND reputation.

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Streamlight ProTac Rail Series
Awesome lights, 1000 lumens in a great beam pattern. Very affordable and they come with a clicky cap or pressure pad tail cap. Downside is the pressure pad is hard wired, so dual lead switches are a no-go unless you want to DIY splice some shit. This is the light we selected for our patrol rifles, cost was not a factor, but the cheaper price didn’t hurt anything. We chose it beucase it is a durable, bright light and patrol does not have a necessity to run dual leads. Easy choice.

Steiner Mk3 Battle Light
I was first exposed to this light as a possible option to go with our early CQB-L lasers. 500 Lumen white light in high power, IR illuminator is 850nm and 600mW output. It’s bulky and the switching is requires thinking which I’m not good at. The white light is very diffused, its good interior but not much reach on the exterior. The IR illuminator is really good and works well in and out. Detachable lead and a fire button on it. Ultimately size and white light are detractors, however I like that it has a low output white and it would probably work well on a breaching shotgun for both White and IR hits to illuminate your own door/locks. It is an outstanding backup light for a ballistic shield that rechargeable White lights. Slow clears might take all the battery for those, so this would be great option. For teams using shields with NVG, it is a fantastic IR source on the shield.

SureFire Field Notes - Bill Blowers Nightvision 1

PISTOL LIGHTS

I need to fill rooms and have throw to MY max engagement distance. Lots of dudes wanna bitch about short throw, and then they can’t hit shit past 15 yards in daylight. Save it. In addition, the pistol light may not be my primary light. A handheld is mandatory, and my pistol light compliments that handheld. So if I can PID with the handheld at distance, I may only need enough throw from the WML to continue seeing, since PID is done. As with everything compromise and balance based on mission parameters will help guide you, but also a realistic assessment of your skill set needs to be evaluated.

Streamlight TLR/HL
Awesome pistol light, but not perfect. 800 lumens with an eternity of throw and spill. Really durable, I have kicked the shit out of several over the years and they have been really good. I like the switch on the TLR’s, easy to manipulate for me with the trigger finger as a right handed shooter. Years ago I made the decision for my trigger finger to do the switching because when I carry a shield, I’m forced to. In addition, if I was injured and had to fight SHO, I did not want to be using the trigger finger for the FIRST time in the middle of a fight with an injury. YMMV and all that shit. The switch is not the same on both sides though, the left locks constant on by going up, instead of down like the right side. Some lefties hate this, and I get it. Shield guys running pistols left and right handed, really hate it, even if they are issued two pistols. Neural pathways should remain constant as much as possible, so I have seen some shield guys run a TLR on their right hand gun, and a Surefire X light on their left hand gun. Switches always get activated going down with that setup, this allows a bit of money to be saved on the shield dude(s) equipment. I carried a 600 lumen TLR/HL for several years prior to the team hitting NVG use hard.

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Surefire X300U
Workhorse again with most guys digging this light for serious work. 600 lumens with a tight beam and plenty of spill for in the house. Rugged as hell, the cross bolt system on the B gets some bad tongue, but I’ve never had a problem so I can’t speak to that. Finger tight, add a quarter turn. With all the Surefire lights, switching is constant down, momentary push forward on both sides of the light. This feature is great for teaching new WML users, consistency Free Style, SHO and WHO. Awesome light. I used one for about a year and then TLR/HL came out and I changed over, the switching and the light pattern on the TLR/HL was better for me.

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Streamlight TLR/VIR
The latest version is actually pretty good, the IR LED is in the head now and the switch between White/IR is on the spine. It is recessed in the body so it won’t be accidentally flipped. 300 lumens White and a decent IR pattern, 1000mW/sr. Which is dicey because that sounds better than the X300V’s 120mw, but this is fancy reporting. I used this as a pistol light for a bit until I saw the Surefire X300V IR. Not even close, so the TLR/VIR got dumped for the X300V on my pistol. It’s still a great option for a breaching shotgun, the Mode switch is easy to activate and change between White/IR. It is also great as a helmet light for the same reason. Same switch as other TLR models. I have spoken to Streamlight reps about their IR game, and if they can bump that shit up AND do a HL brightness on the white side, look out.

Surefire X300V
350 lumens white and 120mw on the IR. This is my PRIMARY pistol light for work, and at only 350 lumens it’s shocking that I can see anything. The beam is a focused 350 so the reality is it is more than enough in a house. Do I wish it was closer to 600, of course but I have been putting in work with no issues for about 3 years. This light stays on my gun for my commute to and from work as well.

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Surefire X400U-GN
This is the only choice for a White light and Laser combo. 600 Lumens of white light and a very visible green laser. Mode options are set with a switch on the bottom; white – white/laser – laser only and off. This is the current light/laser that I am recommending for shield dudes. The laser holds zero very well and it is certainly bright enough. The mode switch can be bumped under recoil off a shield, so I put a strip of 100MPH take over it to hold it in place.

DBAL-PL
Steiners push on a pistol light is pretty damn good. It boasts a 500 lumen white light, but the light is really diffused. Its great in a house and dies quickly outside. The laser is very visible. The bonus of the Steiner over the X400, is that it is white/visible and IR Illuminator/Laser in one unit. I actually love the switch activation, instead of a typical rocker style switch, they use pressure pads. Really easy to activate. Down side is that the right side switch controls all of the visible stuff and the left side switch controls IR stuff. Not good for a one handed shield dude or SHO/WHO unless you happen to be in the right conditions. I have heard that they newer version will allow the use to program the switches to their needs. If/When that comes about I will definitely take another look at it because the IR Illuminator on this thing is REALLY good, and having everything in one light is nice. Holster support is limited.

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Surefire XH-35
1000 lumens of white light, the Max Vision Beam (MVB) is absolutely incredible inside of a house. The MVB naturally loses the throw of the X300U, but it is still plenty out to 25 yards. The mode select at the bottom of the light has some benefits. I hate strobe and will never use that. The ability to drop from 1000 to 300 lumens has some benefits. For breaching, 300 is plenty to illuminate the door, flip the switch back to 1000 for clearing. If my team did not have RMR, 300 would be good for pistol transitions where I have to look under/over nods for irons. Monocular NVG’s leaves one eye adapted to night vision, blasting 1000 lumens could be detrimental, where 300 would be sufficient. Last is that potentially slow clearing with 300 in a large structure may keep teams from being compromised from way down the hallway where 1000 might be sufficient to spill under closed doors. Regardless, options are always nice. If you don’t like it, set the switches to what you want and leave it alone. This light is for use with the Masterfire holster, this light and that holster allows you to use any pistol and suppressor combo. So if you switch guns a lot or want to carry suppressed, this may be the ticket. I also like the Masterfire for shield dudes since I can set it to turn on the light/laser on the draw and then it turns it off on the re-holster. It is not a duty holster for a single patrol officer, it may have a place in a team setting. [Read more about the XH35 here]

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Surefire XC1B
This is my first look at the micro lights, I don’t know shit about the others since I haven’t touched them. This light is nothing to sneeze at in my opinion, coupled with a good handheld I can absolutely push enough light to engage after PID with my handheld. The compact size is nice, I can absolutely conceal a much bigger light, but do I need to? For what it is, a small single battery WML, its pretty dam solid. I initially thought I would hate the switch but it is fairly intuitive and did not take a ton of reps to get efficient with it. Hold it down, it’s momentary. If you kinda tap it, it’s constant. Hard to explain but it does work and is easy to manipulate.

LOOSE ROUNDS

One man’s opinion on a variety of choices out there. With the X300V, I am definitely sacrificing white output to gain IR brilliance. Well worth it to ME and for I need the light to do. The fact of the matter is that none of these lights suck. They all have positives and negatives, and some of those are entirely subjective based user preferences. I would not hesitate to serve a warrant tomorrow morning with ANY of the lights listed, because if nothing else they are all robust and reliable.
-Bill Blowers

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