Basics of Modern Flashlight Types|
Article- July 2012 By LXFlashlights.com
Explosion Proof and Tactical LED Flashlight
Modern flashlights have advanced a great deal over the last decade. While it used to be your choices were limited to either a typical household flashlight, or a bigger flashlight, choices have expanded greatly and size is no longer the main determining factor in output or usefulness. Although flashlights are now available in just about every size and configuration imaginable, from compact LED flashlights to large units fitted with high intensity discharge bulbs and output into the thousands of lumens, choosing the right light for your needs can be more complicated as a result. The average homeowner for instance wants a flashlight they can depend on, but hardly needs the 1,000 lumen output of a high end and expensive HID unit. Workers in the field on the other hand appreciate long run times, extreme reliability and durability, and so may find a high output LED flashlight more appropriate for their needs. Making sense of all the available offerings can seem at first like a daunting task, however, with a basic understanding of flashlights and the various types now available, choosing one that best meets your own requirements is actually fairly simple.
Everyday Utility Flashlight:
The everyday utility flashlight is the one most commonly found in homeowner toolboxes and under kitchen sinks for decades. These are the flashlights that most remember as being the one that always seems to have dead batteries and a finicky bulb that likes to flicker and go out in the middle of trying to fix a leaking pipe in the dark. Despite their poor reliability these flashlights have been popular primarily because they are cheap and there were few reasonable alternatives. Constructed of plastic and fitted with a cheap incandescent bulb, these flashlights have flimsy plastic switches and plastic lenses as well and as a result can rarely be expected to survive more than a few months of regular use if that. The lumen output of these flashlights is poor enough to dismiss rating them and their bulbs’ average lifespan can be measured in a matter of less than 75 hours if that. These flashlights have little value beyond their cheapness and serve as an adequate tackle box or shelf flashlight that you won’t worry too much about damaging or losing.
Heavy Duty Flashlights:
Heavy duty flashlights are typically a step up from the traditional utility flashlight and offer a better measure of durability and usefulness. Often labeled simply as “Heavy Duty” or ”commercial”, these flashlights feature thicker plastic bodies, higher grade lens materials, and typically can withstand rough handling and use better than a utility flashlight. Despite their heavier construction however, these flashlights are still prone to being easily damage and failure from things like dropping or impacts. The bulbs in heavy duty flashlights are normally a better grade with high output halogen or krypton bulbs being common. Power is normally provided by two D-cell batteries, and a 17 lumen output and lamp life of 50-100 hours is common. Switches for these lights are typically the sliding contact type, the same as or similar to those found on common utility flashlights.
Industrial & Work Flashlights:
Industrial or work flashlights offer significant increases in durability and overall performance over common heavy duty flashlights. Industrial grade flashlights are intended for frequent and everyday use and as a result are constructed of heavy plastic or nylon composites to increase the amount of abuse and wear they can withstand. Industrial flashlights are often water resistant but not fully waterproof and are sometimes encased in a rubber coating or sheathe that aids in improving grip and durability. The switches on these flashlights are often rubber encased pushed button design to improve reliability and prevent dirt and moisture from contaminating the inner workings. Bulbs are usually high output Xenon or Krypton types which offer lumen outputs of around 17 for Krypton bulbs and 20-30 lumens for Xenon types. The flashlights also typically are powered by 2 D-cell batteries, but the higher output of their bulbs usually means somewhat shorter run times in a fresh set of batteries. These lights are often quite bright initially, but experience a quick decline in brightness after about an hour of operation.
Tactical flashlights encompass an entire field unto themselves and can consist of a variety of bulb types and housing designs. Some common traits do loosely keep them within some resemblance of each other, including a switch that can be operated with one finger while holding the light in conjunction with a firearm, heavy lens rings and bottom caps designed to withstand the shock of blunt force impacts, and very high output lamp assemblies designed to allow using the light to not only illuminate an area, but blind or confuse a potential assailant as well. Obviously, these units are intended for professional use such as military or law enforcement applications, however, their extreme power and durability has made them quite popular with hunters, utilities professionals security services as well. Many of the other characteristics common to tactical flashlights are heavy duty aluminum construction, fully sealed and waterproof housings, impact resistant Lexan or shatterproof glass lenses, and very high output LED or HID lamps. These tactical flashlights can also often have various power levels to allow battery conservation when full power is not needed, and emergency features such as strobe lights or blinkers built in. HID and LED bulbs are the lamps of choice for tactical flashlights due to their very high output, excellent efficiency, and very good resistance to damage from shocks and impacts. Some tactical flashlights also make use of high output Xenon bulbs, but these are typically lower powered units and are losing favor among professionals. Tactical flashlights typically are powered by 3 or more alkaline batteries ranging from AA sizes all the way up to D-cells. Many versions incorporate rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries for the ultimate in longevity and reliability as these batteries allow the flashlight to be stored in a charger at all times and thus are always ready for use.
A quick rundown on lamp types and output is also in order here to help round out the basics of these flashlights. Lumen output and battery life are heavily dependent upon lamp type and wattage, so keep this in mind when selecting a flashlight.
Xenon bulbs: 20 - 40 Lumens
Halogen bulbs: 25 - 150 Lumens
HID bulbs: 200 - 3000 lumens
LED: 100 – 1000+ Lumens
LED lamps offer the greatest overall benefits in high lumen output and increased battery life. LED tactical flashlights often produce between 100 and 1000 lumens and can have a run time of anywhere between 5 and 400 hours on a single set of batteries or a full charge. Although HID units produce the highest maximum light output, they require additional ballasts, run very hot, take at least 10 seconds to reach full power, and use more power than LED lamps. For the best compromise between performance, durability, reliability and battery life, LED equipped tactical lights are by far the best choice.