Not all military or paramilitary gear – tactical, rescue, sporting or otherwise – is practical in all scenarios. But every now and then, we come across a piece of equipment that is so good (for lack of a better word) and yet so simple, we have to wonder why all of the other manufacturers of similar gear are not incorporating the same design features into their own products at the same cost.
Case in point, Magnalight’s EXP-LED-F4W (we’ll just call it the F4W), perhaps the most-superbly designed flashlight I’ve ever owned, certainly the best all-weather, weapons-mountable, waterproof, explosion-proof, reasonably priced (just under 40 bucks) hard-plastic flashlight I’ve ever tested. Fact is, during a rigorous series of tests conducted by the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team and me – weapons-and-gear tests which you will see more of in the weeks to come – we could not get the F4W to lose its light or even begin to dim after 36 continuous hours on three AA Duracell batteries.
Magnalight claims the 90-lumens F4W is good for at least 100 hours on the same batteries, and the bulb (or lamp) life is 30,000 hours. We won’t argue.
Testing began on one of the hottest, most-humid days – temps above 102 degrees Fahrenheit (with the heat index between 107 and 110) in South Carolina. The team decided to take the F4W on one or two of our multi-mile conditioning humps (“hikes” for those of you who have not had the privilege of enjoying any of the scenic excursions into backcountry places on-or-near military reservations with names like Camp Pendleton and Bridgeport, California; Fort Bragg, N.C., or Eglin AFB, Florida).
We switched on the light – which, despite the bright sun, was able to shine its beam on dark-painted road signs – strapped it to the top of my pack, and struck out on a short, two-hour hump that carried us past some of the prettiest lakes and piney woods in central S.C.
I say “past” the lakes and woods, because – for the sake of testing – the team stayed on shade-less dirt and asphalt roads, ensuring that the black 7.1 inch long, two-inch-wide, seven-ounce light was constantly exposed to direct sunlight.
To test the F4W’s resistance to explosion, I untied it from my pack, held it like an old German potato-masher grenade, and threw it (light still on) as far as I could. And I have a pretty good throwing arm. Funny, though, I later learned “explosion proof” means the light is “designed to produce very little heat and no spark,” according to Rob Bresnahan of Kemp, Texas-based Larson Electronics–Magnalight.com. “When used around flammable vapors, explosive dusts or other incendiary materials, it will not cause an explosion.”
At any rate, we now know the F4W is also extreme-shock proof because the flashlight landed in the middle of a clay road, digging about a one-inch crater in the road where it struck, bounced a time or two, then landed on hard-packed earth. Dirt and clay were embedded in the butt-end, but the light was still on and bright as ever.
In fact, we never switched the light off for 36 straight hours, humping with it in extreme heat, knocking it around, and throwing it.
Then we began phase two – submerging the light in cold water and placing it in a freezer (temps between zero and five degrees Fahrenheit) wherein the water froze around the light.
Thirty hours in the deep freeze – the light still shining bright as ever – we took it on another extreme-heat hump, followed by nighttime use in deep woods.
This light won’t quit.
Moreover, the F4W is designed (so that it can be mounted on any weapon with a Picatinny rail) with a relatively flat, ridged barrel that expands at the butt end and the lamp end, making it easy to hold without slipping away if hands are burned, frostbitten, or otherwise injured.
The light is also easy to manipulate in the various tactical gunfight-with-a-flashlight positions.
Other simple-design features: The flat center of the barrel makes it easy to position on a rock or tree limb without it rolling away. The expanded ends and flat-ridged barrel make it easy to tie to a tree or a tent post, making it a good, hands-free lantern.
Unlike metal-based flashlights, the F4W is made of super tough nylon (a very hard but durable plastic) that is easy enough on the teeth that on those rare occasions when you need to see what’s directly in front of you but you need both hands to pull yourself through a tight hatch or up-and-over an obstacle, you can temporarily put the light in your mouth and keep working.
The F4W also floats, but with lamp-end pointing skyward, which is perfect for rescue operations. And according to Magnalight, “At 100 feet, this explosion proof flashlight produces a tight round beam that is approximately nine feet in diameter” and “still delivers a strong beam to 250 feet.”
The only downside is its lack of red-lens capability.
With infrared, thermal, and night-vision technologies, “there just has not been a demand for red lens capability like there once was,” says Bresnahan.
Who’s using the F4W aside from the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team and me?
The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, as well as the FBI and other federal, state, and local agencies.
Magnalight lights have also been used in several Hollywood productions, including “I am Legend” and the “G.I. Joe” movie, as well as HBO’s True Blood and the new Green Lantern movie.
Want one? Visit http://magnalight.com.