A few months ago, I ran across an article about “tactical” flashlights and weaponlights. Since I have more than a few of each, I read it with interest. I was intrigued by its description of a very powerful Streamlight Protac HL5-X unit, offering up to a claimed 3,500 lumens output.
I didn’t trust the claimed light output – I’ve seen many such claims, most of which bear no relation to reality. However, the reviews seemed to indicate that it lived up to the hype, so I took the plunge and ordered one.
It’s bigger than the average “tactical” flashlight, comparable in size (about 10 inches long) and weight to a two-D-cell Maglight. I got the version with two rechargeable 18650 batteries (which can also accept 4 CR123 batteries if desired, although light output then drops to a claimed 2,500 lumens). I found it took 4-5 hours to charge the two cells to full capacity.
By the time they were ready, it was dark, so I took it out into our back yard to test it. HOLY ****! This thing is BRIGHT! It puts out so much light that it could function as a weapon in itself. If you were facing it, I reckon you wouldn’t be able to look at or past it at all – you’d be blinded for sure. It threw light for several hundred yards, and I found I could see movement and recognize shapes at 250-300 yards – astonishing performance from a handheld flashlight. Miss D. found it so bright that it gave her a headache in strobe mode, even though not pointed at her. (I’ve been strictly instructed not to use it around her except in emergencies!) I’d say it’s more powerful than most common vehicle headlights.
Here’s a short video demonstration of the HL5-X in its three modes – full power, strobe, and low power. (I’ve set mine to permanent full-power mode, for simplicity’s sake.)
I would have said that it’s too bright to use indoors on full power, for fear of blinding oneself; but a couple of days ago, I was sorting small components (springs, roll pins, etc.) into containers, and dropped a few (to our cats’ grateful enthusiasm, as they chased them around). It was wonderful to have such a bright light on hand. Against our dark brown laminate flooring, pins and springs, no matter what color or how small, stood out like a sore thumb when illuminated by this incredibly bright beam. It made retrieving them a snap. For that purpose, it’s a superb tool to have. For house-clearing when one hears a bump in the night . . . not so much. On full power, it’s simply too bright for that, IMHO, and you risk blinding yourself from unexpected reflections. (Outside in the yard is another story. It’s likely to blind any intruder very effectively, particularly using its strobe feature.)
For everyday serious use, hand-held or rail-mounted, the lower-powered (500 lumen), more compact and more economical Streamlight 88062 ProTac 2L-X remains my go-to light. For pocket carry 24/7/365, the very-low-cost Hatori mini LED flashlight, in its one-AAA-cell or two-AAA-cells versions, gets my nod – its performance is adequate for everyday needs, and it’s so cheap that if you lose or break one, it won’t make you cry. However, when you need a lot of light to identify something or someone at long range, or highlight tiny things on a dark floor, the big HL5-X is worth its price, IMHO. I’ll probably add a second unit to carry in my vehicle, just in case.