By far the brightest pocketable flashlights these days are powered by a pair of 3-volt lithium batteries (the kind used in cameras — 123A). Smaller than your hand they throw out four times more light than huge D-cell monsters. Lithium beacons were pioneered by the law enforcement and military supplier Surefire. They are issued in delux $200 plus anodized versions.
Now catering to the rest of us, SureFire puts the same innards into this cheap(er) indestructible plastic version — the G2 Nitrolon for $34. Like the other SureFires, its xenon bulb is so blindingly bright that it’s hot to the touch after a few minutes. It WILL temporarily blind someone closeup in the dark. These torches are the opposite of nifty LED lights which supply a cool light that keeps going forever. Instead these bright xenon lights exhale the sun while inhaling lithium batteries at shocking rate; a pair of lithiums will last only one hour uninterrupted.
Keeping this spotlight going in constant use means finding a bulk source of lithiums. SureFire sells a dozen generic lithium batteries for $15, a marked bargain compared to drugstore prices ($4/each).
You can dial up the intensity of the G2 even further by substituting a more intense bulb (P61); that doubles the lumens to quasar level of 120 lumens, but it reduces the run time for the batteries to only 20 minutes! You can also get a SureFire model that takes 3 lithium batteries for yet more photons, but this longer stick edges away from being pocketable.
You want cool and long, go with an LED. You want super bright, go with the G2.
There is one exception, a hybrid, if you are willing to pay for it. SureFire now offers the ultimate light: a lithium-powered chip-controlled LED light. Very bright, very long-lived (40 hours per pair of batteries) and extremely expensive; see below.
For my more occasional use, the G2 is more than adequate.
For the price, I don’t think you can get a better flashlight than the SureFire G2 Nitrolon. I once guided the Canadian Coast Guard into our disabled boat with this light. They couldn’t believe how far away they saw the beam. The lithium batteries will last years just sitting there (I have one in the brief case and one in the night stand). SureFire’s entire product line is tops, if a little law enforcement/military heavy. But hey, if the guys who go into harm’s way bet their lives on it, I got no problem throwing it into my backpack.
– Jimmy Hill
SureFire G2 Nitrolon
SureFire’s U2 Digital Ultra
SureFire’s latest tactical flashlight, the U2 Digital Ultra, packs a blinding 80 lumens from the 5-watt LED. Unique circuitry and a selector ring allow the user to dial between six different levels of bright white light. Carved from aerospace-grade aluminum and anodized matte black, the U2 Digital Ultra is the ultimate flashlight, with a suggested retail price of $270. One LED diode outlasts dozens of tungsten or xenon bulbs; efficiently producing more light and less heat; insuring this next generation of flashlights will last longer when you need them.
SureFire U2 Ultra
Box of 12 SureFire 123A Lithium Batteries