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2005 SHOT Show LED Flashlight Review

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Distributed in the US by Mango International, Freeplay products are designed to be used by people with limited or intermittent access to electric power.

Freeplay's new Sherpa XrayOf interest here is the new Sherpa X-Ray LED, a flashlight which can be recharged either by plugging the included 6V AC adapter into a power outlet, or by hand-cranking the sturdy handle. The light source is seven white LEDs powered by a non-removable 3.6V Ni-MH battery pack.

Sherpa CrankThe crank turns and works in either direction, and a built-in charge level indicator lets you know if you're turning the crank at the right speed.

Charged by electrical outlet, it takes 24 hours to reach full capacity. Charged by hand, full capacity can be reached in 40 minutes of continuous cranking. From full capacity, runtime is around 20 hours on low beam, or 3 ˝ hours on high beam. With an empty battery, thirty seconds of cranking gives you about 20 minutes of light on the lower power setting.

Sherpa Side ViewSherpa Top ViewSherpa X-Ray LED is squarish in shape and measures approximately 55mm in height, 160mm in length, and 60mm in width. It's a hefty 370g, making it somewhat of a chore to tote. But it appears to be very sturdy and well-made, and it's cool to see the inner workings through the transparent case.

Sherpa X-Ray LED has a suggested list price of $50, and will be available in April 2005.


Gerber was showing five new LED lights: TX3.0, Tritac, and Recon handheld lights, and Triode and Meridian headlamps.

Gerber ReconRecon is a small (90mm long, 20mm diameter, with a bezel diameter of 26mm), low-intensity personal flashlight. The light source is a single white LED powered by one AA alkaline battery. The bezel can be rotated allowing the user to choose one of four filters: clear, red, green, or blue. When the red filter is selected, it is obvious by feel, allowing it to be selected in the dark before activating the light. The light has a pocket clip and is activated by a rear push button. It will retail at $30.

Gerber TritacTritac features three bright LEDs which are simply recessed rather than placed behind a lens. It is powered by two AA batteries. It measures 147mm in length, with a body diameter of 20 mm and a bezel of 25mm. The rear switch allows the user to toggle between constant on or signal flash mode, and the tail cap can be backed off to lock out against accidental activation. Retail price will be around $45.

Gerber TX3.0 Tactical lightThe TX3.0 Tactical light employs a three watt LED powered by three AA alkaline batteries, with an output of 51 lumens and an advertised runtime of 17 hours. The rear button allows both momentary-on and positive-on, and the tailcap can be backed off slightly to prevent accidental activation. Overall length is 193mm and the product weighs 221g. The aluminum body is smooth to the touch, and flat areas on the head and tailcap help prevent rolling. Retail price will be around $80.

Gerber TriodeTriode, a lightweight headband light, features three white LEDs with two brightness modes. The switch is set on top of the light, and is a three-position toggle. If you want to use the lower power setting, you have to step down to it from high intensity. Triode can be removed from the headband and carried as a handheld, or clipped on a ball cap or vest. Retail price approximately $30.s

Gerber MeridianMeridian, another headband light, features three LEDs – one bright white Luxeon, and less-powerful red and green LEDs. The white LED, with a 30-lumen output, is on a separate switch from the color LEDs. The switch for the color LEDs allows the user to choose to have only the green on, only the red on, the red light blinking, or both colored LEDs off. The entire thing is powered by three AA batteries in a rear battery pack. The battery pack cover is a flexible rubber gasket which peels away with a light touch. Priced around $63.


From GreatLite this year is the Great Swivel series of flashlights. The series includes both LED and incandescent lights, but we looked only at the LED lights. The water-resistant bodies are made of heavy duty aluminum.

Mini SwivelThe four LED Mini Great Swivel light takes three AA batteries. Like its larger cousins, the Mini Great Swivel features a head that can be rotated downward to angle the light where you want it. A flat tailcap allows the light to be balanced on end. Mini Great Swivel measures 180mm in length and 20mm in diameter, with a 25mm bezel. It retails at $15.

In the Heavy Duty Aluminum LED flashlight series, GreatLite has added two products: a three-AA battery light which uses four LEDs, and a smaller two-AA battery light which uses one high-intensity LED and a magnifying lens.

3 AA flashlightThe three-AA light comes with a red, blue, or black aluminum body. It measures 200mm in length, 20mm in body diameter, and 25mm at the bezel. It retails at $15.

2 AA flashlightThe smaller light measures 165mm in length, with a body diameter of 20mm and a 25mm bezel. As mentioned above, the light source is a single high-intensity white LED powered by two AA alkaline batteries. The magnifier lens provides a beam with a fairly tight focus. Retail price is $12.

Handheld FlashlightSold in the Keychain & Pocket LED series, the Multi-Staged LED flashlight features three LED bulbs and an incandescent krypton bulb. The midbody switch cycles through the various light options. The light is powered by three AAA alkaline batteries. It measures 140mm in length, 30mm diameter at its widest body point, and has a bezel width of 44mm. Retail price is $15.

HDS Systems

EDC Ultimate, a tactical light from HDS Systems, definitely walked away with the prize for the most feature-laden LED light we saw at the show. The basic light is available in three configurations: a 42-lumen version, a 60-lumen version, and a 60-lumen version with a precisely-defined, guaranteed tint. Prices are $160, $195, and $245 respectively.

For that, you receive a light which has 20 levels of brightness. There are four programmable preset levels, and the light can be stepped through the other levels to choose the level suited to the task at hand. The tailcap button can be programmed for constant-on only, momentary-on only, or both, and can also be programmed so that it cannot be accidentally activated by being bumped. Actually, most features can be programmed. If there's something you think a flashlight should be able to do, odds are you can step through a menu to make this flashlight do it.

This has a downside: the user's manual runs to 13 pages, and users definitely need every page of the instructions to get full value from the light. While you don't need instructions to simply turn the light on or off, and it is simple to select a brightness setting for one-time use, other features take a little more work. To change a programmed setting, for instance, the user clicks the button 10 times to enter a menu, clicks a few more times to select the specific feature, and then presses to set or clear the feature. (The user's manual carefully defines the difference between a "press" and a "click.") If you make an error, the light will flash angrily to let you know you got it wrong. This may not be the ideal light for a technophobe.

In an emergency, the EDC Ultimate can be set to a simple strobe/flash, or to the universally recognized SOS signal. The documentation is careful to note that while the SOS signal timing conforms to the requirements of 46CFR161.013-7, the light is not a Coast Guard approved emergency signal.

The body is made of aircraft grade aluminum with a MilSpec Type III hard anodized finish. It is waterproof to two meters. It measures 25mm in diameter, 82mm in length, and weighs 82g including batteries. A pocket clip is included with the purchase and a lanyard ring may be added. Buyers can choose either a glass or polycarbonate lens – glass for improved clarity and scratch resistance, polycarbonate for better drop protection.

Sold with a single 123A lithium battery, the EDC Ultimate can be configured to accept a wide variety of battery types with the purchase of different battery packs. The light is fully regulated for constant brightness. When battery power begins to fall off, the light blinks and then steps down to a lower level of brightness to extend battery life. Runtime is a scant 20 minutes on the maximum power setting, but on the factory-preset “Primary” setting (10 lumens) it can be expected to last around 10 hours.


Head-Lite G2 ball capHead-Lite was showing off the new G2 ball cap with an embedded LED light. The caps come in a wide variety of colors (black, cream, khaki, navy, olive, and royal), and have a Velcro size adjustment at the back. As sold directly from Head-Lite, the only logo is discreetly embroidered on the rear strap, however, Head-Lite's marketing strategy includes sales to companies who may want to put their own advertising on the front panels.

The cap is well-made, comfortable, and weighs as little as a ball cap should; at most, the LED light adds 20g to the weight. Batteries may be changed by flipping back the padded cloth cover panel to access the rear of the light. Opening the battery case requires a pointed tool such as the tip of a ballpoint pen.

The light is activated by a simple push click and is powered by two CR2032 lithium button batteries. The beam is tightly focused, producing a spot about 21cm wide at arm's distance, with very little side scatter. The literature does not give a lumen rating, but does note that the batteries may be expected to last for 70 hours of continuous runtime. Retail price is $22.


Though Longbow Gear may be a familiar name to flashlight aficionados, this was their first showing at the SHOT Show and so their products merit a mention here.

Modular designLongbow lights are unusual because of their extraordinarily flexible modular design, which enables the user to easily reconfigure, extend or upgrade the light with a variety of options.

Longbow flashlights are available in two colors (black and olive drab) and three sizes (Micra, Mini, and Eco). The consumer can choose either a push-click tailcap, or a twist-on tailcap. Both tailcap types feature a lanyard opening and all lights come with a wrist lanyard. An optional “Beam Booster Kit,” provides a larger reflective surface. The lights can also be equipped with what Longbow calls a “Supplementary Defense Option,” which is a sharply scalloped surface surrounding the lens end of the light, enabling the flashlight to be more effective as a small impact weapon.

Longbow's smooth beam patternThe flashlight bodies are of anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum and are resistant to corrosion and abrasion. Individual modules are well sealed – so much so that the lights can be completely disassembled into component parts and rinsed off under running water.

According to the Productivity & Standards Board of Singapore, the Micra and Mini lights are waterproof (to 250 feet), shock proof (drop tested at 20 meters), and crush proof (the Micra can withstand up to 49KN, and the Mini can withstand up to 76KN).

At the SHOT Show, Longbow's R&D Manager Leo Wong was touting the extreme durability of the Longbow lights. While he was talking, he suddenly lifted the Micra light he was holding up over his head and spiked it onto the show floor as hard as he could. As promised, the light was unaffected by this treatment (though we can't say the same for your reviewer's heart rate).

So now for the tech specs.

MicraThe Longbow Micra, smallest in the series, measures 25mm in diameter at its maximum. Its overall length is 83mm with a twist tailcap, or 93mm with a push-click tailcap. It weighs approximately 60g without batteries. Powered by one CR123A lithium battery, its nominal output is 20.7 lumens. With constant-current regulation, it will provide approximately 1.5 hours of runtime at full illumination. Micra prices range from $88 to $105, depending upon options chosen.

MiniThe Longbow Mini measures 25mm in diameter. Its overall length is 116mm with a twist tailcap or 126mm with a push-click tailcap. It weighs approximately 90g without batteries. It is powered by two CR123A lithium batteries, provides 20.7 lumens of output, and has an approximate runtime of 3 hours at maximum brightness. Mini prices range from $101 to $117, depending upon which options are chosen.

EcoThe Longbow Eco measures 25mm in diameter, and has an overall length of 149mm with a twist tailcap or 159mm with a push-click tailcap. It is powered by two AA alkaline batteries, and weighs approximately 130g without batteries. Like the other lights in the series, its output is a nominal 20.7 lumens. Eco prices range from $98 to $121, depending upon options chosen.

The Micra and Eco models are available only with constant-current regulation, while such regulation is available as an option on the Mini. Constant-current regulation allows the LED to run longer at max brightness, but sacrifices the long “tail” of dim light typical of LED lighting.

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Contributing Editor: Kathy Jackson
Email: Kathy Jackson
Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
First Published: February 11, 2005
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