In a related article I covered some of the challenges with carrying pistol-mounted reflex sights by focusing on holster options – particularly when also using a mounted flashlight. In this article I will focus on the flashlight itself.
I’ll start by pointing out that flashlights for personal protection are extremely effective and valuable. If your personal preference is to carry a pistol and a separate flashlight, that is perfectly fine. If you don’t like the extra weight of a mounted light on your pistol, if you don’t want to spend the money on a custom holster, or if your weapon doesn’t have a rail, you really don’t have a choice but to carry a separate light. But for those who can, there are some great options available. For those who have not used a pistol-mounted reflex sight, or who are still getting used to them (i.e. quickly finding the dot and getting it on target) – there are serious benefits to using a concentrated flashlight beam to acquire your target quickly. Of course, at longer distances the light becomes less effective so you don’t want to be too reliant on it.
To compliment my reflex sight, my go-to light is the Streamlight TLR-1 HL. Here is why:
There are great options by various brands ranging from $100 to over $800 for models that combine lights and lasers, while others offering only lights max out around $300. If you’re using a reflex sight, a laser is unnecessary and will be a pretty useless option, so don’t waste your money on it. If you know how to shoot, a quality flashlight is much quicker and more effective for acquiring your target.
When looking at the ideal combination of cost, lumens, and quality, I gravitated to the Streamlight TLR-1 HL (high lumen) for my Sig P320 RX (Compact).
There are great options from other brands from $100 up to $300, but at $130 for 800 lumens and brand quality the TLR-1 HL gets my vote for best overall value.
The TLR-1 HL includes four rail keys which allow it to be attached to various firearms, and it also comes with spare screws and nuts. The light also comes with two Streamlight CR123A batteries. LED modes include ambidextrous controls for constant, momentary, and strobe selections.
Here are the factory listed features:
- C4® LED technology, impervious to shock with a 50,000-hour lifetime
- 800 lumens; 15,000 candela peak beam intensity; 245m beam; runs 1.75 hours
- Engineered optic produces a concentrated beam with optimum peripheral illumination
- Powered by two 3-volt CR123 lithium batteries with 10-year storage life
- Rail grip clamp system securely attaches/detaches quickly and safely with no tools and without putting your hands in front of the muzzle
- Mounts directly to handguns with Glock-style rails and to all MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny) rails.
- Includes keys for Glock-style, Picatinny, Beretta 90two, S&W 99 and S&W TSW
- Machined aluminum sealed construction with black anodized finish
- Ambidextrous momentary/steady on/off switch
- User programmable strobe can be enabled/disabled
- Fits existing light bearing holsters
- 3.39” (8.61 cm); 4.18 oz. (118.6 grams)
- Operating temperature: -40°F to +120°F
- IPX7 waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes
- Lithium Battery Notice under TECH DOCS
- Remote switches are available as optional accessories and must be used in conjunction with 69130 or 69161 remote door switch. All switches and door switch are sold separately. Reference TLR Accessories Brochure in DOCS/INFO tab for more information.
- Long Gun Kit available (#69262). Kit includes TLR-1 HL with thumb screw, “safe off” door switch, remote pressure switch and mounting clips, and two 3V CR123A lithium batteries.
- Available in black, Flat Dark Earth or Flat Dark Earth Brown
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Assembled in USA
When reviewing this light, I was immediately impressed by how light the TLR-1 HL felt (4.18 oz. with batteries). It added no noticeable weight to the Sig P320 RX Compact.
Initial setup for installation of batteries, switching out keys, and mounting to the rail were incredibly easy thanks to a well-written set of instructions.
The 800-lumen beam was crisp and clear in the various lighting conditions I tested in (outdoor/nighttime, indoor/daytime, and indoor/nighttime).
While I wasn’t able to test the 1-meter waterproof limit at 30-minutes, I was able to test in 1-foot of water for a little over 60-minutes. After wiping the excess water off and re-attaching to the pistol, the flashlight continued working as it had before.
Again, the cost. Getting 800 lumens with the level of quality compared to other brands and models in a similar price range makes this one pretty hard to beat.
Okay, there is only one.
The on/off switch, while functional and practical, seems like it wouldn’t be too hard to break if it got caught up on a holster, clothes, or some other type of obstruction. Instead of a button, it is a lever made of polymer material, which rotates from a centered pivot-point. This allows ambidextrous selection of the momentary on, steady on/off, and strobe options.
It doesn’t feel cheap, and in fact it feels like it has the right amount of flexibility, but there is something about the switch that makes me want to be careful with it. If I wanted to I could have tried to break it, but why would I want to do that to my favorite light, right? This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but I couldn’t look past it.
I was excited to get my hands on the TLR-1 because I had personally never used a Streamlight product before, and I was not let down when I opened the box. It is a beautiful product that feels as durable and was as aesthetically pleasing as any light (mounted or not) I’ve used in the Marine Corps or for personal defense.
At the gun range, not only did it function as well as I expected it to but it actually complimented my Sig Sauer Romeo1 reflex sight (fixed sights as well) and allowed me to put rounds accurately down range with virtually no effort. It truly made it a point and shoot weapon – largely due to the fact that the concentrated beam left no question about where I was aiming.
As far as holster compatibility and functionality, with my BlackPoint Tactical Leather Wing Light-Mounted holster it performed flawlessly when drawing and holstering. The addition of the light had no negative impact on concealability, comfort, or accuracy.
A Marine’s tips for carrying pistols with reflex sights (Part 3: Gun Belts)