Recently, I became interested in taking another shooting skills class at my local institute. After gauging my ability, I decided that I would sign up for the Low Light Shooting course. This meant that I needed a light. I inquired about getting a strobe but selection was quite limited and the only ones they had available at the time were quite out of my price range. Since I occassionally carried weapons that did not have rails (and the fact that standard holsters don't permit rail lights to fit), I figured that a hand held light would be the best all around option. Of these, there were quite a number on display from various makers. Some were made of cheap plastic, some were aluminum, some polymers, some even other materials. The price range seemed to run from about $25 all the way up to $180 and I believe I even saw one near $225. In talking to the sales rep, he advised me that the SureFire G2 LED was currently about the best for the money of the selections he had to offer. After looking at that and some of the others for a time, I was finaly convinced and laid out the $65.
The body of the G2 is made out of what is termed as Nitrolon polymer, intended to provide durability in a light weight package. Naturally, it's weather sealed as well. The lamp is of course an LED which by its very design is more impact resistant than a standard light. This is encased in a sealed head behind a Lexan® window. The reflector is formed and positioned to reduce the spread of the beam and provide a smooth, bright light even at 30 feet. This lamp provies 80 lumens of output on a good battery. Powered by a high energy lithium battery, the G2 is listed as being able to provide up to 12 hours of useful runtime. Operation is via a push button in the tail for momentary on. Continuous on is acheived by tightening the base until the contacts engage. If you wish to prevent accidental lighting, you simply loosen the base a little more than one full turn and the button will no longer activate the light.
Once I got this light home, of course the first thing I did was start playing around with it. This beam is indeed bright, very much so. To see just what this would look like to someone on the other end of it, I dimmed the lights and stood about 12 feet back from the full length mirror in my hallway, brought up the light next to my head and gave the push button a few quick taps. Thats the first time I think I've seen light that seemed to have physical force behind it. I was seeing spots for the next 10 minutes. The focus on this light directed probably 70% of the beam straight at my face even over the 24 foot distance it had to travel. It was indeed as bright as advertized. When it comes to providing overall ilumination, my four D cell LED Mag Light® does a better job of generally lighting up a room but thats not the purpose of this light. In the same experiment, the Mag Light doesn't come even near what the effect of the SureFire provided.
After talking to a few folks about my purchase and letting them look it over, they suggested that one disadvantage of this light was that it didn't readily support the SureFire firing position. To compensate for that, they suggested I look at purchasing, for about $10, SureFire's combat rings or I could improvise. I chose to improvise and went down to my local hardware store to pick up some good, thick O rings (and a smaller ring to use as a retainer) which you can see in the picture above. These do a fair job of permitting my fingers somewhere to grip and stay put well enough while not interfering with an ice pick grip. This improvisation cost me about $2.45.
As a side effect of the tail cap's "turn for constant on" mode, if you don't back it off far enough from that position, the entire tail cap will function as a button. This can lead to inadvertant lighting when either in hand or on the belt. However, you have to be careful to not overdo it or you'll have to put more pressure on the button to make it engage and won't be able to reliably activate the light. I found that the best position was slightly more than a quarter a turn back from constant on.
One other problem typical of high output lights is that you have to keep your hand away from the head of the light. When it's on continuous, it gets hot – really hot. In fact, you can't quite see it in the image, but there's a warning to that effect printed directly on the head of the lamp. This is not a defect of the device, merely a side effect of having a really bright light. Most lights create their illumination through either direct excitation of electrons as with an LED or a bright glow from a high resistance filament (such as your standard Edison type A light bulb.) Both of these processes give off heat as well as light, since heat and light are related. You can't touch a 60 watt light bulb when it's lit without burning yourself. By comparison, the heat generated from the G2 is quite acceptable. Since it's not meant to be run continuously for more than a few minutes at a time, I think the heat output is very reasonable.
To be of any real use, I have to be able to carry the light with me so I walked over to the Galco display and picked up one of their leather flashlight carriers for a further $25. This carrier threads onto your belt and provides a quick release snap. Without the O rings on my light, I could simply slip it down in. But with them, I have to use the snap to remove it. Thats a fair compromise, I think, and the rings also keep the light from inadvertantly sliding up and out of the carrier anyway so I look on it as a win/win. The old timers were taught to wear their light behind their magazine (and many combo carriers have them positioned that way) but the new mode of thinking suggests that while you're light is something you'll likely need often, your magazine is something you'll need only rarely so wear your light forward of your magazine to get it out of the way. After experimenting for a while, I decided to wear mine with the snap pointing towards my back because I have a stronger grasp with my fingers turned that way and it's easier for me to get the light out. Part of the reason for this is the fact that this is a pretty strong snap so I can't use merely my thumb, I must use my fingers. Of course, that almost convinces me to go with the old ways and move it around back. If I wore it pointing the other way, I think I'd want to have the light oriented with the tail up so it would be in the propper orientation for an ice pick grip when I released it.
How did it perform during simulations? Pretty well, I think. I was in a class with a group of four other students and the instructor. In practicing room clearing, I had no trouble seeing what was in front of me with this light. In fact, I managed to blind myself momentarily while trying to quickly peak around the hinges of a door I had just thrown open. Gotta work on getting that light in the right spot when I do that...
On the firing line, we did drills on lighting the target, moving, firing, moving, lighting, moving, lighting and firing, moving, and checking (among many other drills.) It didn't take long for me to notice that I had about the brightest light in the room. Many of the other lights were, of course, well used and not exactly new but the beam from them was a sickly orange and while it lit the target well enough for them to see what was going on, it was not what I would consider overpowering were I on the other side of it whereas the G2 is a powerful full spectrum light easily capable of blinding a bad guy long enough to gain advantage.
I found this light especially useful when shooting from cover and concealment. When you're trying to get your gun around that corner while keeping your body as far away from harm as you can, a bright light really helps. If your nervous, or your technique isn't quite right, especially on your weak side, the light might not go quite where you want it to. With a brighter light, the spill is more than enough for you to see what you're shooting at without having to readjust your position before you fire, and in a threat situation you can't afford to wait or you may not only lose your shot but you've just given them a good point of aim and placed yourself in serious jeopardy.
Overall, I found this light to be everything it was advertized to be. I have not tested the battery life but I have little reason to doubt it. Even if it only gives, say, 10 hours instead of 12, it's still a good long run. At $65, it's not the cheapest but far from the most expensive. I think SureFire has a fine product in the G2 LED and I'm quite happy with the purchase. If they did this good with a basic, economical light, I can't wait to see what they do with the strobe they're due to come out with at the end of the year.