Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gear Review: Surefire E2D & E1D Defender Flashlights

When I run out the door at night I alway grab a light. Whether to a store, a walk around the block, or out for the evening, an electric torch rides in my left pocket, a knife always in my right. And both are always of the highest quality.

Two torches that have the most pocket time are a pair of Surefires, one the dual cell E2D, and the single cell E1D. Both lights are the latest generation, and both are ones where I carried the prior generation as well. There are many similarities between the lights, both good and bad, but there are some significant differences as well. The things these two lights have in common beyond their maker include extreme brightness, two light intensity levels with the brightest firing first and the lowest fixed at five lumens, tail click switches, crenulated bezels, dual-direction pocket clips, use CR123 lithium batteries, are made of aircraft aluminium, glass lenses, latest LED technology, O-ring sealed housings, and astronomically high MSRPs.

The differences include the number of CR123 cells used, the sharpness of the bezel crenulations, the size of the pocket clip, the runtimes (close, however), the max brightness, the weight, and of course the length (but not by as much as you would think).

One For The Road
The single battery E1D is still a handful at four-and-a-quarter inches long, or more than three times the length of a CR123 battery. The E1D has a twin brother who instead of sporting an aggressive exterior actually had deliberately subdued features designed to slide in and out of pockets without snagging. It is called the Surefire EB1 Backup.

The E1D’s 300 lumen output is more than enough for big tasks, but the true measure of a survival light is how low it can go and five lumens is an excellent choice. Carrying the light in a pants pocket is noticeable. Not because of the weight but because the bezel shares the same diameter as a quarter. The type of tail-cap switch is an option on the E1D. I chose the traditional two-click with shroud, however even with the shroud the light is still unstable when standing on its tail. But then again it was never designed for such uses. While the shroud does protect from unintentional lighting, there is still ample room to deploy the switch with almost any bump or corner that is smaller than the shroud. The harsh form of the E1D easily slides in and out of clothing with very little chance of snagging. Four potential lanyard holes cover the tail switch shroud, and the pocket clip prefers a lens-down fairly deep carry.

The E1D weighs about three ounces with battery which doesn't add much swing weight to the fight, but if the flashlight weighed much more, you wouldn't carry it. So light is good for a light.

Make Mine A Double
The E2D Ultra Defender is a full 123 battery longer than the E1D and just under two times brighter at 500 lumens compared to 300. The bodies of both Defenders are textured with a rougher but still comfortable gripping surface. Much better than most other lights that offer little more than a teflon-slick surface that is dangerous under the best of conditions.

At 5.6 inches long, the Surefire E2D fits wonderfully in the hand with both primary and secondary striking surfaces peaking out from your fist. The the shape of the light housing fits great in the hand with increased diameters at both ends keeping it centered. At a hair over an inch thick at its widest diameter, the E2D is strongly grippable by even small hands.

One of the defensive aspects of these lights include their ability to behave as a club, and a sharp one at that. It’s a mild force multiplier at best, but a multiplier it is with six sharp scalloped crenulations ready to dig into flesh. Although the smooth surface won’t likely capture much skin DNA, the blood that will be drawn can certainly provide evidence should it be needed.

The E2D should provide a little over two hours of maximum lighting beginning at 500 lumens and tapering down over time. Or with a second button click within a second will give you almost three solid days of five lumens of output. Of course all runtimes assume starting the burn with fresh quality batteries. The Surefire E2D with two onboard Surefire batteries weighs only 4.2 ounces.

Photons from a Phirehose
Don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of massive amounts of lumens. Nothing is a cool as lighting up the side of a mountain with something that easily fits into your pocket. Or illuminating the trail at night out a few hundred yards. But turning on a 500 lumen light in a dark place is like a flashbang going off without the noise. Anything within five feet of the light is too bright to look at, and if you were hoping to read a map or find your keys, good luck. Most indoor lighting chores are close up and require no more than a dozen lumens, often much less than that. Surefire offers a five lumen low gear which is plenty for personal tasks and affords enough light to walk briskly over uneven terrain. But don’t take off running with five lumens or you will quickly outrun your stopping distance.

Spilling Light
Firing off hundreds of lumens might sound like a good idea, but the contrast difference between an fully illuminated surface, areas within the light’s spill, and those regions still in shadows is so great that your eye cannot adjust fast enough to see anything but a brilliant dot surrounded by utter blackness. About the only way to use a 500 lumen light inside a car is to cover the lens with your fingers allowing only a few photons to sneak out. But that won’t work well or for long. With each movement, the light intensity changes, usually towards the too much light side, and the horsepower of such lights generates enough hot aluminium to burn your hands. Finally, if your other hand is busy, you cannot turn the light off without opening the floodgate for a few seconds. Although your car’s interior won’t quite be visible to the astronauts on the International Space Station, it will show up from miles away.

This Ain’t Burger King
Many high-end flashlights have a user interface that allows more than one choice of brightness level along with a few other outputs including strobe, SOS signal, and moonlight level. But with half a dozen brightness choices comes complexity and unpredictableness. The idea for many choices is a good one...on paper. But in real life, the multitude of choices in a defensive light can be worse than an empty mag or unfamiliar safety. In the case of the Surefires, the two choices, all or just a little, are plenty. And “all”l must always be the first option when pushing the switch.

So in a nutshell, the Surefire Defender Flashlights are excellent at providing blinding light, long low-level runtime, and a sharp circle of crenulations to add some spice if things go all hand-to-hand on you.

Having carried and extensively used Surefire flashlights for decades, and the E2D series for years, I am confident that it is one of the very best choices out there for the situations it was designed for. It is at the top of my Bug Out list, and I travel with it without hesitation. My only concern with the Surefire Defender Flashlight that some uber-efficient TSA agent will consider it a banned item and keep it for himself. To avoid this violation of my constitutional rights, I often wrap a ring of electricians tape around the business-end neutering the look of the bezel’s crenulations. I’ve also been known to black out the name of items like this with tape in order to prevent easy identification by thieves, and to keep the security-curious from wondering why a flashlight is called a “Defender.”

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