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Honest Review: Streamlight HL-X Weaponlights

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First released in 2017 , it’s arguably one of the most popular weaponlights sold. A combination of price, durability, capability, and value are what puts the Streamlight Protac HL-X in contention for best weapon-light.

What is it?

The specific version reviewed: Streamlight 88071 Protac Rail Mount HL-X Long Gun Light.

  • Programable LED flashlight
  • 1000 Lumens High or 60 lumens low
  • Strobe capability
  • “Scout Mount” or Picatinny rail compatible
  • Multi-fuel capable
  • Comes as a kit

Duty Rated

The Streamlight Protac series is machined from a durable, anodized aluminum construction with impact-resistant tempered glass lens. With the included tailcap the HL-X can be submerged and used underwater up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. If you decide to use the included pressure switch instead of the tailcap, you should not submerge the light under water, but you should be cool in a torrential downpour rain. At the bezel (the largest part) the light has a diameter of 1-3/16 inch. With the direct mount and the proper clearance, the light body can be mounted as close as a 1/4 inch from the weapon. The length of the light is under 6 inches and weighs under 6.5 oz, so it won’t be a boat anchor on the end of the firearm.

What does it bring to the table over its main competitors?

Flight Oden Mini: The HL-X has a removable battery and the capability for multiple power options. Simply remove the tail cap, and you can switch batteries. If the Oden runs out of power, it is useless until it is recharged.

Surefire Scout: The Protac series comes as a full kit with tape switches and mounts. (With the Surefire Scout lights, you will have to purchase the tape switch separately.) The Protac series also wins when it comes to price. The Surefire Tape switch alone costs more than the HL-X as a full kit.

Mount Up

I mentioned the Streamlight HL-X comes as a kit for multiple ways of mounting the HL-X to a firearm. Out of the box Streamlight installed a removable Picatinny rail mount to the body. This is a great way of attaching to most firearms especially if you already have a rail in the proper position. When I was mounting my latest HL-X to my SBR CZ Bren 2 with an 8 inch barrel, my problem was the factory forearm is short, and has no rails. Sure I could have added a small Picatinny rail section to the sides and mounted it right up. But my goal was to have a tight, clean look.

The addition of rail pus mount pushed the light away from the rifle over a half inch. Instead of the rail I opted to go with the more direct “Scout Mount” to M-Lok route, this tucks the light close to the weapon. Unfortunately the included 45-degree mount would not work with the Bren, although it would have worked with an AR15 forearm. I instead had to use the Magpul M-lok offset light mount which worked with the Bren’s forearm. Additionally, there is an aftermarket forearm for the Bren rifles that allows a direct screw to the forearm option for “Scout Mount” lights, which mount the light body about a ¼ inch away from the weapon—talk about unobtrusive!

Let there be light!

Since the light is mounted inline and as close as possible to the barrel, the light almost acts like a boresight. Streamlight offers a version of the Protac series with an integrated laser, and with the direct mount the laser and bore would damn near be the same. On mine since the light is directly in line and close with the barrel the center hot spot perfectly corresponded with my eye view though my Aimpoint RDS red dot. It could be completely dark, and anything within 50 yards was perfectly lit up through the red dot as if it were daylight. T

The color of the HL-X is a clean crisp white light, with no yellow tint but not so blue as to be obnoxious. The light beam has a center section that slowly gets larger the further the distance, with a nice wide spill area. The center hot spot is enough that at 50 yards it will cover both driver and passenger sides of a sedan in blinding light. The light has an advertised beam distance of 447 meters. (I don’t think my naked eyes are good enough to identify targets that far, but it’s nice to know I have the capability.)

Multi-fuel

When I purchased my latest Protac HL-X, I had a choice between two options: One priced at $131.15 that came with two CR-123 batteries, and the other for 133.43 that came with the Streamlight SL-B26 USB-rechargeable battery. Both options were full kits with all the mounts and tape switch, the only difference was the included battery. For just a couple bucks more I chose to get the included rechargeable battery, especially since I have plenty of CR-123 batteries already. It is important to note that either version could use either battery.

Runtime:

SL-B26 Rechargeable – 1000 Lumens 1.75hrs & 60 Lumens 24hrs

CR123 – 1000 Lumens 1.25hrs & 60 Lumens 21hrs

The only thing that I don’t like about the SL-B26 rechargeable battery is that it uses a stupid USB A Micro connection. USB-A is slow and the micro connection is tiny and only fits one direction. Come on—2001 wants its connector back, why not use the superior USB-C? I could use the same chargers as my phone and even in the dark it will fit either direction.

Light Switch

Either of the HL-X’s light switches can be programmed for the user’s choice of high/strobe, high only, or high/low functions. On the tail cap button you can light press for momentary light, or to choose strobe/low by double tap light pressing. Or a full deep click press for constant. On the tape switch you have two buttons momentary and constant with the same double tap for strobe or low light. Included in the HL-X kit is a two-piece rubber Picatinny tape switch mount.

In all honesty, I was not going to use it at first, and was going to get a high-speed, super-expensive tape switch mount from Cloud Defense. Putting the tape mount on was a pain, since the mount is a hard rubber, the ends just wanted to bend under instead of slipping over the rail. And since it was a two-piece unit, the pieces wanted to move out of alignment. Learn from my mistakes; here is how to do it.

First, install the front section without the tape switch inserted. Then use the tape switch to measure how far back the back mount needs to be. Install the mount without the switch installed. Now with both sections on the gun place the tape switch, it will go and slip in. Once installed, the tape switch is solidly in place and it is not going to move unless I tear at it.

Plus a cool feature is that the Streamlight mounts have a channel for the wire tucking it out of the way. In all honesty I am actually super pleased with the setup even though it took a half hour to figure out. The tail cap for the tape switch can rotate independently from the wire section. You can remove the tail cap without twisting the wire, (sweet!), and Streamlight earned some brownie points with me.

Streamlight is a top-tier name brand when it comes to illumination tools for a good reason. I own dozens of Streamlight products, from a tiny keychain light (my wife’s favorite flashlight) all the way up to handheld and weaponlights in different forms. I love that the company puts out great honest products that you can expect to perform. If you need a “hell and back” weaponlight that can handle some submersion without costing you half a month’s mortgage, Streamlight is a fantastic choice.

 

James the “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself!

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