The edges of darkness can be a hunter’s best friend and most formidable enemy—sometimes simultaneously.
I knew the giant buck was hit hard. But was he down? As the last of the day’s light slowly faded, I shivered from both the cold and the torment of not knowing his fate.
My buddy Rich arrived a couple of hours after dark to help search. He was armed with a pricey LED flashlight; I carried a bargain-bin incandescent spotlight. We hadn’t gone 100 yards before I found myself kicking at Rich’s heels, my light quickly waning. I don’t recall the number of branches that whipped my face, but I remember the welts. We found the buck—or at least Rich did—and I vowed to never again scrimp on such a critical piece of hunting equipment.
While high-output lights have long been the domain of the military and police, they are gaining in popularity with hunters and fishermen. That’s why OL decided to take four new high-lumen (850 lumens or greater) lights into the field and down the river to test their practicality for sportsmen.
- SureFire P3X Fury
★ ★ ★ ★ / $250 / surefire.com
(OL Editor’s Choice)
Our testers argued about this new 1,000-lumen SureFire a lot— mainly about who got to use it next. The compact light combines awesome output with a solid runtime of just over two hours on the highest setting, thanks to its payload of three lithium CR123 batteries. Though small (6.8 inches and 7.2 ounces), the P3X Fury throws a far-reaching, super-bright beam with a narrow hotspot and a generous peripheral brightness zone.
Its high-strength, mil-spec aluminum body features sculpted grips for sure, quick handling (even by hands covered with carp slime), and the click-style tailcap limits the probability of accidental switch-ons. While not inexpensive, this little light packs a lot of utility for the price, and our testers unanimously agreed it was the all-around best unit in our test.
2. SureFire M6LT Guardian
★ ★ ★ ½ / $455 / surefire.com
With a steep price and expensive battery requirement (six CR123 cells), the Guardian seemed destined for harsh criticism, but this brawny light garnered very positive reviews. Certainly its ample runtime (3.3 hours per battery load) played in its favor, but the light had positive intangibles aplenty.
“It just feels really solid in hand,” said one evaluator. “It throws a great light, but its ruggedness is what really impressed me.”
We liked the simple on-off activation, but the momentary-on function—a plus for police—was identified as a minus for sportsmen. The textured aluminum body allowed for a sure grip in wet hands. At 900 lumens, the beam reached across the field and boasted a wide hotspot with limited spill—great for focused spotting at a distance.
3. Extreme Beam M1000 Fusion
★ ★ ★ / $150 / extremebeam.com
This monstrous, 850-lumen light is built like a tank and features three modes (high, low, and strobe). Our test team raved about the fully adjustable beam, which threw a clean, white light more than 150 yards across a greenfield. It worked equally well for illuminating the rapidly changing water conditions we encountered while bowfishing.
The recessed on-off switch, with additional lockout, means it won’t accidentally turn on in your backpack. With a bezel diameter of 2.4 inches, we were skeptical that it would withstand our impact test, but the light remained fully functional and the 3mm-thick lens showed no signs of damage.
The Fusion isn’t anyone’s idea of a pocket flashlight, but it’s a solid choice as a beefy camp light or after-dark game-recovery tool.
- Olympia RG850
★ ★ ★ / $90 / olympiaproducts.com
What’s not to like about a compact, rechargeable 850-lumen flashlight that costs less than $100? Well, a couple of things—but first the good stuff.
The RG850 has an excellent pocket clip and it requires just two CR123 batteries (or one rechargeable cell that you can power up via a micro-USB port in the light’s body). It tossed a beam well over the 150-yard range and lit up murky carp, too—just not for very long. Recharge-
ability is a pretty great money-saving feature, and we all liked the quality of the beam, but the limited runtime on high (about 1 hour) was a negative.
Our other complaint was with the settings: There are too many (high, low, strobe, SOS, and five additional “memory” settings), and cycling through them all was a pain.
Product Photos by Luke Nilsson
How We Test
High-output, tactical flashlights have been used to by law enforcement and military personnel around the globe for years. These same lights have their place among sportsmen as well, and the goal of this test was to help clarify your choice across a wide spectrum of prices.
Our hands-on testing began with the three-man team using the four flashlights on an all-night bowfishing trip, which proved to be an ideal way for the group to get familiar with functionality, beam quality, and ease of handling.
For our beam-quality test, the team gathered at the edge of a 200-yard-long greenfield under a new moon and aimed beams at lettered placards staked at increments of 50 to 150 yards. We read the placards with the aid of a binocular in order to judge beam distance and intensity.
For impact testing, we dropped the lights from a 15-foot-high treestand. To gauge runtimes, we loaded the flashlights with new batteries, turned them on at their highest setting, and recorded when each winked out.