Let There Be Light — and Lasers

By |2020-09-10T10:56:04-07:00September 10th, 2020|

Keeping up with the latest technology is a lesson I learned long ago. Back in the Nixon era, I hung out with a pretty good group of buds at college. At a party the girlfriend of one of the guys brought along a friend, a stunningly beautiful young woman just starting a career as a schoolteacher. While the other guys fought in the backyard to see who would ask her out, I managed to contain my crippling shyness enough to spring my pickup line — “You come here often?” When she agreed to a date, my so-called buds said it was proof miracles do occur.

In addition to being shy, poor, inarticulate and a green farm boy I owned nothing but a couple of guns, a beat-up ’56 Meteor and a student loan. Many of my buds had good jobs and fancy cars. Some even had suits and ties. No, really.

As Christmas approached I was still in the running, until she canceled a Friday movie date. She had to compile and rank all her student’s assignments, mid-term and final exams. This was before computers, before electronic calculators were commonplace, so we’re talking long hours with a sharp pencil. And this, dear reader, was the magic moment when keeping up with technology paid off.

I was one of the select few who actually owned an electronic pocket calculator, a wonder of the day. It cost me $80, nearly a week’s wages, and was about equivalent to what you can get today in a box of cereal. So presto, two days of tiresome work was done in a couple of hours. Other guys might be able to offer fancy dinners and flowers but I gave her technology — and two days of freedom!

There are a lot of great lights available out there. From left: SureFire 6P LED, SureFire Fury, Streamlight ProTac with integral bracket to fit 1913-style rails, Streamlight Polytac HD and Brightstrike RHIGHT-MHLS.

Still Keeping Up

It seems the pace of technological innovation is moving faster than we can grasp. When I was a kid, a flashlight was made of thin aluminum, took two D-cells, put out a dim yellow light and broke if you dropped it. It was kept in the junk drawer until there was a power failure, at which time it wouldn’t work.

But flashlights have been evolving rapidly for at least the last three decades. Take the iconic SureFire 6P, introduced circa 1988. A marvel of its day, the original 6P had an incandescent light that ran hot, had a one-hour battery life, and put out about 65 lumens. Around 2008 the 6P LED was introduced. It was tougher, less likely to be damaged if dropped, ran cooler, tripled (or more) battery life, and put out about 80 lumens. I have one, and still use it.

Streamlight’s Dualie Waypoint is versatile, powerful, reliable and moderately priced, running on four inexpensive C-cells. It has both forward and downward-facing beams, in spot or floodlight modes — handy!

Sharp Focus

Just because I got off the train doesn’t mean the train stopped. LEDs have gotten better and better. The current SureFire 6PX Pro puts out 600 lumens at full power and has an optional 15-lumen low power setting. Battery life is 1.5 hours on high, 52 hours on low — and the light costs not much more than it did in 1990.

My Streamlight Polytac HP is one of my favorite lights. It’s water- and impact-resistant, with high (275 lumens), low (14 lumens) and strobe settings. Even though it’s only about four years old, I see on the Streamlight website the current version is even better, with high (600), medium (260), low (35) and strobe settings, and can be programmed to quickly access your preferred functions. The technology thing again, eh?

What I knew about lasers was from the movie scene in which Goldfinger was about to use one to cut James Bond in half. A laser then was about the size of an anti-aircraft gun. Back then we would never have believed a day would come when lasers were readily available devices.

So, I’ve been very impressed with the Streamlight TLR series, and the current TLR-8 is amazing. How they get white light output of 500 lumens from a tiny unit 2″ long and weighing less than 3 oz. is beyond me. Plus, a laser aiming device in your choice of red or green; options of light alone/laser alone/both light and laser; and all in a tough, durable and recoil-resistant package. Goldfinger would have been jealous.

If your current light or laser is a few years old, you should check into what’s available now. You may just need to upgrade your technology fix.

For more info: http://www.streamlight.com/, Ph: (800) 523-7488; http://www.surefire.com/, (800) 828-8809