HRT Tactical's AWLS - in a right-hand configuration
Suppose you have a shoulder-fired weapon – shotgun or rifle – as part of your work tools or home defense inventory. In that case, you need to have a way to locate, identify, and evaluate or eliminate potential threats (keeping Rule #2 in mind). Handheld lights should be the norm before bringing a handgun into play, but using them with long guns can be difficult.
For a few decades, lumens have been the industry standard for measuring the capability of a light. Unfortunately, lumens are the amount of light generated at a given point.
Within the last several years, candela has become equally as common as a measurement. It is the strength of the emitted light in a specific direction.
Twenty-five yards from the AWLS to the target.
What are the differences? We are trying to use these lights to replace the sun and daytime lighting. My way of explaining it is this: lumens sort of equals spill, letting me illuminate a room and see what I need to. Candela, on the other hand, equates to throw. Those candela numbers let me see down a long driveway at night. Or across a field and into a tree line.
100 yards from the light to the blue t-shirt wearing Mr Target silhouette.
Generally, we see higher lumen numbers (1000+) with lower candela or mid-range lumens (550-700) with high candela (60,000+).
There are many well-known manufacturers of defensive (or offensive) lights, whether handheld or weapon-mounted. A newer company in this arena is HRT Tactical. I was familiar with them from their load carriage gear. Last month, I saw an announcement of a weapon-mounted light – the Advanced Weapon Light System – and reached out to them. After sending them a deposit for the light, they sent one to me.
How the AWLS can be configured for the left-hand side of a long gun.
The first thing that stood out was the ambidextrous nature of their AWLS. The body has the Magpul-designed MLOK mounting interface. Both ends of the body are threaded with synthetic rings to seal it. I can attach the head and cap at either end of the body, which allows me to configure the light for either side of the long gun. I mounted it at about 2 o’clock on my shotgun’s Magpul forearm.
Even with a 2 o’clock mount (or 10), you will get some shadowing depending on how far forward or back you mount the light.
The 6-volt LED light head’s output is 1,700 lumens (raw) and 90,000 candela (raw as well) per the manufacturer. The light’s color temperature, not heat, is 5500k, meaning it has a cooler, whiter output.
The second most interesting part of this design is the tail cap. It has a traditional push in to turn-on and turn-off feature. What about for momentary? One can push the tail cap in any direction for temporary activation; they call it the Omni-Directional Activator. Once you release that pressure, the light goes off. I was concerned about the tail cap being activated inside a case; however, a quarter-turn will lock the tail cap and prevent accidental activation.
The primary power source is a rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion battery with a runtime of 103 minutes. The one supplied with the AWLS comes with a micro-USB port and USB charging cord. HRT Tactical says the light will run with a pair of CR-123 batteries.
After returning from the range and one of the nighttime tests, I recharged the battery. After returning it to full capacity, I put the battery back in the AWLS and turned it on. When I turned it off, the light had been on for 96 minutes with no readily discernible decrease in output. HRT Tactical gives the AWLS a listed run time of 103 minutes. Is that close enough? Yes, knowing that they could test multiple combinations of lights and batteries while I am limited to one.
A couple of times during those 96 minutes, I grabbed the light’s head and body. Both were always warm to the touch; neither was overly hot. The AWLS has an automatic internal thermal management tool to address heat dissipation.
The AWLS on the left and a competitors’ 18650 powered light on the right. 30 yards from the lights to a 3D target.
But what about how it performs? I took it out for two different nighttime identify and illuminate sessions. While at Gunsite, I worked with a three-dimensional target at 30 yards with AWLS and two other 18650 powered lights from different manufacturers.
Over the weekend, I took a Mr. Target 3D silhouette, and the AWLS mounted on a Beretta 1301 shotgun up to the range I use. At twilight and after dark, I worked the light on that target from 100, 50, and 25 yards.
HRT Tactical has a 18350 battery-powered version that, size-wise, is on par with any of the other lights running off of that size battery.
So, would I use the AWLS for work or home defense? Absolutely! It provided noticeably better illumination than one name brand and was at least on par with two competitors’ products.