Are your pants glowing or are you happy to see me?
Damn it, I pocket-poked my tactical flashlight … a couple more minutes, and I would have burned my pants. Those of you who EDC know what I am talking about. Your tacticool flashlight with the million-lumen output accidentally gets turned on for who knows how long.
Yes, it could eventually burn you, but the biggest hurt is that battery drainage. Every accidental time you turn your light on you are that much closer to a discharged battery. The whole point of everyday carry means having certain equipment accessible to you at all times—including a good flashlight. But every time we turn that light on, the battery is a-draining. CR123s are expensive, and when I throw them in the trash, I hear the cha-ching money sound and not in a good way. I know professionals who can go through a set of those batteries in one night, and that can get expensive. So we have to have a flashlight, and we have to have batteries. Finally, someone at Surefire asked the big question: Why not make them rechargeable?
Rechargeable batteries have been around for a while, but rechargeable CR123s are somewhat newer. The problem was the quality of these rechargeable CR123s, which was all over the map. In fact, there were so many quality control variables that makers like Surefire would not officially support the use of rechargeable batteries in their flashlights … until now, that is, with their own branded second-generation rechargeable CR123 battery.
The Surefire rechargeable CR123 battery is specifically made to power high-drain devices like tactical flashlights. They have the proper voltage to give your flashlight its full light output, and are properly sized so they will not damage your contacts. As a bonus they contain no hazardous heavy metals, meaning they are better for the environment. (Did you hear that? Greta sighed in relief.)
The batteries are available as a two pack, and as charger kit. The two pack will run you $16; the charger kit is $32. While about twice the price of single use batteries, they are still one heck of a value since they can potentially be recharged hundreds of times! On Amazon they sell a 24 box of Surefire brand one time use CR123 batteries for 39.99, the math is not perfect, but let’s just round numbers and say that would be 160 of your hard-earned dollars.
Wow sign me up and take my money! Yes, in the long run you will save money, but let’s talk about the trade-offs. Rechargeable CR123 batteries lack the total capacity power of their single-use brethren. This means that while you get the full power at any one time, the overall time is reduced. So your flashlight will not be noticeably dimmer, but if you had a run time of 1 hour before, you’re most likely to now get a runtime of 40-50 minutes. It really depends on the flashlight; on some models my run time dropped to about half, where others gave me runtimes at nearly 75%. To overcome, this just purchase multiple sets of rechargeable batteries and change them often after use.
Now we get to the next problem. After hundreds of recharge cycles the batteries lose capacity to about 80%, which will also affect your total run time. We have all experienced it with other electronics like phones—eventually the run time diminishes and it gets annoying having to recharge the batteries ALL the time. Warning: Do not use rechargeable cells in incandescent flashlights, because the initial voltage flux can cause the bulb to burn out. These are strictly for LED flashlights.
Let’s unbox! In the starter charging kit, you get a small charger, USB cable and two rechargeable batteries. The charger has a USB micro port on it, and the included cable plugs into a standard old school USB A plug on the other end. The charger itself has some light indicators that are important, letting you know the status of the batteries. When you see the light blinking, you are charging. The light will turn solid when full and you will get a fast blink if the charger detects a battery fault. Pretty simple, and you always know where you are at. Surefire one-time-use cells have a red cover over the battery, and you do not want to put these in the charger, since they can catch fire. Surefire rechargeables feature a white cover for the battery so you can distinguish them from one-time-use models.
To make sure I have a fresh set of batteries when needed, I like to use the Surefire SC-1 Spares Executive Carrier. (Ohhh what a tacticool way of saying battery holder!) In all honesty the carrier is cool, and I have several stashed in places like my vehicles and backpacks. The SC-1 holds six CR123-sized batteries and can even hold a spare bulb. This is an easy way to always have fresh batteries on hand. My pro tip, when you switch out rechargeable batteries, I keep the fresh ones positive (nipple side up), dead ones nipple-down. Even if it is dark, you can tell by feel which is which. Note that if you use a carrier you will want a carrier specifically for the rechargeable batteries, since you do not want to mix rechargeable with one time use cells in the same device. Surefire specifically tells you not to cross the streams!
I have lived with these rechargeable Surefire batteries for a couple months. Having the ability to recharge vs. just wasting money throwing them away, means I now use my flashlights all the time. I whip it out now for any excuse, and amaze others with my tiny unit blinding them in awesomeness. (It’s not the size of the boat, it’s how you use the paddles effectively.)
Those of us in the EDC community take for granted tools at our disposal to make our life easier. But joking aside I now use my light all the time, and people that are not familiar with tactical type lights are always amazed at just how useful a bright-ass light is. Take the opportunity and show them the light, metaphorically and literally.