One of the things I’m fascinated about when it comes to low light is how different lights perform. And by different, I’m not just thinking about a similar design from different companies. Instead, I’m thinking about the differences between long gun lights, lights on my pistols, handhelds, and even headlamps.


During one of my teaching stints at Gunsite this fall, I decided to look at the differences and document them for you all. Earlier this year at Gunsite, I took two trips into one of the indoor simulators one evening. I set up a three-dimensional target at the back end of one room. I moved from that room through another room set up like a dining room, across a hall, and finally across another bedroom-sized space. My guesstimate is that the distance from the target to where I stood taking pictures was fifteen (15) yards.



I used a variety of lights during this – a headlamp, handheld, pistol-mounted, and long gun.


At about 4 pm, I started the first stint in the simulator. There are not any interior lights in the structure. Some openings allow ambient light from the outside to enter the structure. Sunlight from the west was entering those openings and illuminating the direction I was taking the photos.


I returned at about 6 pm for the second stint. By then, the sun had long since set, and the only visible light came from whatever light I had turned on when I took the photos. For the photographs, I used the camera on my iPhone XS Max.


All the lights had either new, out-of-the-box, or freshly charged batteries.  



Handheld Lights


Cloud Defensive’s Mission Configurable Handheld EDC light

A single rechargeable 18350 battery powers Cloud Defensive’s Mission Configurable Handheld (MCH) Everyday Carry light. The light puts out 1200 lumens and 35,000 candela. It comes in an easy-to-carry, day-in and day-out size that can accept the Thyrm pocket clip.


The second generation of Modlite’s PLH general purpose head.

Modlite’s PLHv2 is the second generation of their general-purpose light using a 18350 rechargeable battery. Performance-wise, it pushes out about 1350 lumens and approximately 54,000 candela. I use one of the older Raven Concealment Systems’ pocket clips to carry it.


The 18650 powered Mission Configurable handheld from Cloud Defensive

Cloud Defensive’s High Candela MCH runs on a rechargeable 18650 battery. This is a reach-out-there duty-type light. It also accepts the Thyrm pocket clip. This one has an 1100 lumen output with 71,000 candela.



Handgun Lights


The scaled-down pistol light from Streamlight, a TLR-7A.

Streamlight sent me this TLR-7A pistol light earlier this year. Running on a single CR123 battery, it produces 500 lumens with 5000 candela. This is a good choice if one needs a pistol light in a concealed carry role or for the defense of a smaller residence.


Surefire’s industry-standard X300U-A pistol light.

Surefire’s X300U-A is the industry standard handgun light with 1000 lumens and 11300 candela from two CR123 batteries. Since 1999, the various pistol lights on my work guns (a 6volt Classic, the Nitrolon, X200, X300, and the X300U) were all Surefire products – because of their remote switches. I would really like to Modlite and Cloud Defensive field remote switches for their handgun lights.


Long Gun


Cloud Defensive’s first long gun-centric light. The ambidextrous mount has an embedded switch.

Cloud Defensives’ Optimized Weapon Light (OWL) was the first of the rechargeable 18650 battery-powered lights I could use, and it has stayed on my patrol rifle. With an ambidextrous integral mounting system and switch, it has a 1250 lumen output with about 50,000 candela.


A shotgun-mounted HL-X from Streamlight

Streamlight’s ProTac HL-X went on the Beretta to answer questions for a shotgun-specific project. Running off a rechargeable 18650 battery, it puts out 1000 lumen and 27,100 candela.


The REIN long gun light from Cloud Defensive

Cloud Defensive has made a series of long gun lights under the REIN name. This one gets the user about 1100 lumens with 71,000 candela using a 18650 rechargeable battery. This light resides on an AR reserved for teaching.  




Black Diamond Equipment’s head lamp

I used Black Diamond’s SPOT headlamp for this. Running on two AAA batteries, it has a 300-plus lumen output. I could not find any other output data on it. I’ve mentioned headlamps before, they have their uses, but I do not think gathering enough information to make Don’t Shoot / Shoot decisions is one.


If there is an imbalance in the companies represented or the types of lights, my apologies. I used the lights I had available to me at the time I shot these photos.


Different lights produce different results. Even if a light appears bright enough, it may not give you enough workable light to make life-or-death decisions. You need to see what yours can really do.