In an earlier thread, I described two weapon light options I found to be suitable replacements for the expensive and lower powered Surefire M300A Scout Light. I love the size and weight of the M300A on a Gear Sector Scout mount (3.9 ounces total), but don’t care for the price or the mediocre 110 lumen output. Below are two more combinations that I have found to come very close in weight and bulk, yet cost less, and produce more light.
In order to keep my weapon light options small and nimble (like the M300A), I’m staying with my previous choice of using a single CR123A battery. Therefore, this first option started life as a 1xCR123A Surefire E1B flashlight body. Yes, just the flashlight body. Surefire parts are available from lots of dealers, and even on the used market. I found this E1B body on E-bay for $35. Any older Surefire E1E body would also be a good choice. The next thing I did was find a Surefire Z68 tail switch. I like this switch better (although more expensive) than the standard tail switch that comes with any E-series flashlight. The Z68 has a protective shroud around the switch to avoid accidental activation, and it also allows momentary operation by lightly pressing the switch. Like other Surefire parts, these switches are also readily available. I scored mine on E-bay for $30.
With over $60 into this light already, you might be thinking, “why not just buy a complete Surefire E1B and be done with it?” Some folks do just that. A complete E1B flashlight in a Gear Sector E-series mount makes a very small and compact weapon light package. Remember though that I want more horsepower, so instead of the Surefire option, I decided on the Malkoff VME head.
The Malkoff VME head screws directly onto any Surefire E-series light. The reason for this head is to allow the use of any Malkoff drop-in. For my specific setup however, Gene Malkoff created his M31 drop-in to run exclusively on lower voltage battery arraignments like a single CR123A. Using this combination with a Gear Sector E-series mount, this compact creation produces 230 lumens for around 45 minutes before the output drops to 150 lumens. This entire setup with mount weighs only 5.0 ounces.
I really like this setup so far. It has proven to be small, light, and powerful. It also does away with the multi-output selector switch that is used with the JetBeam RRT-0 that I reviewed in my first thread. I know some folks are adamant about the fact that weapon lights have only one output level to help keep things simple. I can see the advantages of this philosophy, and this setup certainly qualifies.
The M31 drop-in also utilizes a compression spring to make contact with the positive terminal of the battery, making it as recoil-proof as possible. If something does go wrong however, Gene’s American-made products come with an unconditional replacement guarantee.
I’m also very happy with the Gear Sector mount. Not only is it very light and simple, I love the way it hugs the side of my Daniel Defense rail. It does me no good to have a compact weapon light only to attach it way out in space. Unless of course I am trying to snag anything that comes too close! Clearly these Gear Sector mounts are designed to do just the opposite.
This option is a departure from my previous three lights because it uses two CR123A batteries. The light is the Surefire X300, and I keep coming back to it because of its unusually small size and light weight. Stacking the two batteries side-by-side as this design does effectively cuts the length almost in half from all other 2XCR123A flashlights. And the X300 weighs only 3.8 ounces. That is lighter than a comparable 2xCR123A Surefire 6P or even the plastic Surefire G2.
And while some of you may be thinking the X300 is getting up there in price, an e-mail quote request to brightflashlights.com may change your mind.
I also like the very adaptable switch on the X300. Both momentary and constant activation are available via the rocking toggle switch. The most unique feature however is the fact that momentary activation can also be had by pushing forward on the toggle switch, just like I’d do to activate the tail switch of a standard flashlight design. This forward-push activation feature makes the X300 a natural for thumb activation when attached to a rail system.
What I never cared for with the X300 design (or any other brand) was the limitation of mounting it at only the four locations on my existing rail. The 12 o’clock position is definitely out for me because I run a fixed front sight base. I find the 9 o’clock (and 3 o’clock) position bothersome also because the shadow cast from my barrel is located directly in my peripheral vision. The shadow can be distracting because I can see the shadow bouncing around whenever I’m walking or moving the weapon.
The other thing I don’t like about the 9 o’clock position is that it puts the light a bit too low for a convenient touch with my thumb. I always use a vertical grip, but I also employ the thumb-break method. With this hold, I find my thumb likes to naturally ride higher on the rail. If I were to use an X300 as a rail-mounted weapon light, ideally I would want it at the 11 o’clock position (same position as my 1xCR123A lights).
I spoke to Jason Trusty of Gear Sector mounts about this dilemma, and as luck would have it, he was hearing stories of this same dilemma from other shooters. As such, he designed a few prototypes of a Gear Sector mount that helps to solve this problem. This mount is not available for sale, but if he can generate enough interest, he’s certainly willing to produce it. As you can see below, the mount is very small, and compact. It really, really hugs the side of my rail system, and weighs only 1.4 ounces. (add 3.8 ounces for the X300). I’m sure this mount would also work beautifully for a micro RDS, but I digress.
This mount is a natural when used with an X300 (or similar). I did my testing with my old X200, but the same rules apply. As I had hoped, it solved both of my problems. Because of the higher mounting position, the barrel shadow is now down toward the floor (out of sight), and my thumb can find the toggle switch very naturally.
Even though Jason did a great job with the minimizing this mount’s profile; the X300 physically can’t sit as closely against the rail as a traditional style flashlight. At this point, I do prefer the lower profile of my 1xCR123A lights, but I can’t dismiss the several advantages of this X300 setup. In addition to my comments above, having a 2xCR123A battery configuration does provide a much longer run time. I also like the fact that the X300 is conveniently removable if I ever wanted to run it on my pistol. I certainly can’t do that with any of my 1xCR123A options.
In case you didn’t know, the X300 was independently performance tested, and produced an honest 200 lumens, about 30 lumens higher than Surefire’s rating. This certainly confirms to me that the X300 has plenty of horsepower.
At the end of this two-part evaluation, I’m slightly favoring the Malkoff VME configuration The JetBeam RRT-0 is a very close second. What concerns me the most about the VME setup is the 45 minutes high-output run time. I was really hoping for at least an hour like the RRT-0. Gene’s solution to this problem is the creation of his M31L, which offers about double the run time of the M31, but at the expense of horsepower. The M31L emits only around 125 lumens. The X300 project may still also work for me, but I’m going to run with my 1xCR123A setups for a while longer before revisiting this option.
Summary of Specifications (Both thread discussions)
Surefire M300A Scout light
Weight with Gear Sector mount: 3.9 ounces
Output: 110 lumens
Runtime: 1.3 hours (total time before falling below 50 lumens)
Approximate Cost: $335 plus mount
Surefire 3P clone (w/Solarforce drop-in)
Weight with Gear Sector mount: 5.3 ounces
Output: >200 lumens
Runtime: 1.5 hours (total time before falling below 100 lumens)
Approximate Cost with Surefire components: $50 plus mount
JetBeam RRT-0 Rapid Response Tactical light (XP-G R5 version)
Weight with Gear Sector mount: 4.5 ounces
Output: 255 lumens
Runtime: 1.0 hour @ 255 lumens (or 3.0 hours @ 150 lumens)
Approximate Cost: $100 plus mount
Surefire E1B (w/VME head and Malkoff M31 drop-in)
Weight with Gear Sector mount: 4.8 ounces
Output: 230 lumens
Runtime: 45 minutes @ 230 lumens (total time before falling to 150 lumens)
Approximate Cost: $170 plus mount
Weight with Gear Sector mount: 5.2 ounces
Output: 200 lumens
Runtime: 2.4 hours (total time before falling below 50 lumens)
Approximate Cost: $200 plus mount
Tagged for when I start building my dream 16" middy.