A buddy once said that flashlights and knives should only come in one color; blaze orange. We were surprised as he has lots of experience outside the wire. We asked him why.
He said he was tired of losing them. Second, he figured if the enemy was close enough to see the blaze strip sticking out of your pockets then you already have bigger problems.
We empathize with that and have joked over the years that we're really good at losing three things: expensive pocket knives, Zippos and women. Luckily, all three easily replaced (if not without some tears and regret). Flashlights are another issue -- they're a small EDC item that often goes MIA, whether by a lapse in caution, forgetfulness or thieving bastards.
We have no idea how much money I have spent on high-end tactical lights (torches for you scone eaters out there). Counting all our handlers, the sum must be considerable. Certainly thousands of dollars. And after many years of loosing many, many flashlights we’ve noticed a pattern. It seems we've never lost any weapon lights. Only headlamps and hand-helds. That fact is certainly curious. Perhaps a several hundred dollar flashlight is attached to a a couple thousand dollar carbine it's harder to misplace.
About six years ago we learned to stop being flashlight snobs. We bought a cheap Chinese Fenix light while deployed. We picked it for no more reason other than it was cheap, had a good burn time, and ran on a single CR123. Its intended purpose was to use as a nav light to walk to the head, the chow hall, the gym and the internet café - what we call a task light. Two deployments and six years later, the cheap little light we expected to throw in the trash or lose a long time ago still gets used daily.
We're huge fans of buying American whenever possible, and shamelessly promote American companies (particularly those of vetrepreneurs) over foreign competitors whenever given the chance. Few concessions are made, but one we will allow is cheap flashlights. Do we mount them on weapons? NO. Do we carry them on life-or-death kit? NO. Do we use them daily to supplement high-end American made lights? Hell yeah! Task lights can be sacrificed. You can beat them, throw them, loan them, give them away, lose them, find them in the back yard 8 months later and mostly they still work.
So what’s wrong with a cheap light? Some of you will have an answer for that, but ours is - nothing. Nothing at all if you use them like you should, and love them as much as you love a chemlight. If you trust your life on an eBay special, that’s up to you. If you blindly trust gear without comprehensive field testing it, that's also on you. Buy the best you can, carry a spare no matter what and use a task light for mundane things that don't involve risk to yourself or your buddies.
It's not really cheating on your Surefire, Streamlight, InForce or Gerber if the light on the side is a cheap task light. No need for guilt.
Armytec of Canada is a newer company we recently became aware of. We purchased a Partner C1 XP-G model light for about $40. Boasting 280 lumens for one hour, or 80 lumens for six hours, we couldn’t pass it up. Made out of lightweight aluminum, and powered by a single CR123 battery the 1” diameter light measures about the size of a 1:1 scale thumb. Little. Cheap. Bright. All the criteria a look for in a pseudo-taclight.
After the threes months of pocket carry and daily use, it’s still on the same knock off battery it came with. It's been used mostly for walking around at night, unloading groceries, finding key slots, checking out a basement water leak, changing a tire, a handful of camping trips, a couple road trips and one two week field op; overall the last 90 days have put some miles on the tiny little Canadian light. So far it's holding up, although it would be nice if it had a pocket clip on it.
Armytec uses parts made primarily in Europe (or so they told us), then assembles in Mapleleafland. We like it. It has served us well, and we expect it will continue to do so. In a pinch it could be thrown in a 1 inch scope ring and mounted it on a weapon or helmet, zip tied to a pack strap to navigate a wooded trail, jammed under the hood of a truck to work on the engine or just do whatever we want it to do to get a job done. With a 10 year warranty,we're not too worried about the task light failing us. After all, we're much more likely to lose it before it does.
Let us know if anyone else here has had a similar forbidden love affair with cheap flashlights.