Why two-stage lights make sense for cops
|By Ralph Mroz |
The Police Officers Safety Association
Reprinted Courtesy of American COP Magazine
* There is a difference in features and quality among lights;
* Those differences will be important to you in proportion to how far from “normal patrol” or “normal investigations” your job is; and
* There is so much competition these days in the kinds of lights that most of us need most of the time that you won’t be at a severe disadvantage with almost any light from a quality manufacturer.
High-quality lights are becoming, like knives and to an extent even guns, common and inexpensive. (OK, so guns aren’t all that cheap.) In other words, if you stick to the major quality manufacturers, you’ll wind up with somewhere between a perfectly serviceable light and an exceptional piece of engineering.
(Actually, Surefire introduced two-stage lights several years ago, but these were more for recreational activities than law enforcement, and in any case, they now have several two-stage models, some very serviceable for police officers. Of course, other manufacturers are bringing similar models to market, too.)
Remember, these super-bright lights were designed as subject control tools as much as anything else; they were designed to put out uncomfortable levels of light! Today, 100 lumens isn’t an uncommon amount of light to carry on your belt. That’s definitely too much light to reflect back into your own eyes, or to do routine tasks with!
I know: there are many that will say that having redundant lights is better than having a dual-function light in a single package (the one is none, two is one argument), so let me address the subject of back-up lights now. Yes, I believe in them. My back-up light is in my kit, and it’s a more powerful light than my belt-worn light…because, not being carried on my person I have no size constraints for it.
It’s not on my person like my second gun is because: 1) I already have too much stuff to carry, and; 2) Unlike a soldier in hostile territory, any emergency or tactical use I have to make of my primary light is very likely (albeit not certainly) to be of pretty short duration.
If my light was really close to losing power, I’d already know about it from the light output itself — and have fixed it with the spare batteries in my kit, which I also carry. Yes, my light could break, and that could be bad, but high-quality lights are pretty reliable. Besides, see #1 just above. It’s a trade-off, like all equipment decisions are. It’s my trade-off, anyway. Here’s five two-stage lights that you may want to consider.
Surefire L2 Lumamax
Surefire A2 Aviator
Blackhawk Duo PXL-6
Surefre introduced this model a while ago and it’s still a good choice. With its two-stage, momentary-on only tail-cap switch, you can choose either 3 or 50 lumens from its LED lamp, with a partial or full depression. Constant-on for either level is accomplished by twisting the tail-cap. The A2 is also a “slimline” model, but it’s close to the original 6P’s length, at 5.6-inches. With its pocket clip, this is a good plain-clothes two-stage light. For a duty belt, though, I’d opt for the slightly longer but twice as bright L2. This new light from Blackhawk put out either 65 lumens from it’s incandescent lamp, or 9 lumens from an LED lamp. At 5.12-inches in length and with about a 1-inch body, it’s pretty much standard size for a 2 CR123 battery light. The tail-cap switch is a two-stage, momentary-on only design—which is perfect for police work. Constant-on for either level is accomplished by twisting the tail-cap. It’s comfort in the hand is notable. Another ideal LE two-stage light.
Blackhawk Ally PL-3x This 5-inch long, 7/8-inch body diameter light was designed for outdoorsmen rather than law enforcement, as evidenced by its two-stage, constant-on only tail-cap switch. The first click turns the light constant-on to 100 lumens of output, a second click of the switch dims the light to 15 lumens of output from the LED lamp. I mention this light here for those odd LE jobs that don’t require a momentary-on (that is, a tactical) capability.
Streamlight Night Com This unit has a selectable dial near the head that allows you to select its light output, which is controlled by the tail-cap two-stage momentary-on/constant-on switch. You can select 72 lumens of white light from an incandescent bulb, 8 lumens from 2 LEDs, or indicator-level light (around a lumen) from a third LED. The LEDs are available in either red or green. This unit is 5.5-inches long and about 1-inch in diameter. If you prefer red or green for your low-level light, this unit makes sense. Its one weakness however, from an LE perspective, is the inadvertent constant-on possibility of the tail-cap switch under stress.
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