DIY: Cheap Tactical Flashlight Guide
Author: Wolhound 9k
Have you ever been in a situation where you said to yourself "man, I could REALLY use a bright, compact, tactical flashlight right now...", but just couldn't justify the cost of say.. a $100 SureFire and those $4 apiece Lithium Photo batteries? If you are an Airsofter on a budget who wants something bright, compact and tactical, but without the "tactical" price tag.. then read on! Welcome to my DIY: Cheap Tactical Flashlight Guide, where I will give you the lowdown on how to make a tactical flashlight without the tactical price tag. Let's begin..
*Airsoft game (Night Ops or low-light CQB)
*Emergency car light (sucks to be stranded without a working light)
*Personal defense at night
*any 2xAA bodied light with a standard "PR-base" bulb and modifiable ribs (plastic works best)
*any replacement 9 volt (6 C/D cell) PR-base bulb (Xenon is the brightest upgrade available)
*3xCR123a Lithium batteries
*and a little patience...
AVERAGE TOTAL COST: $10-12
AVERAGE TIME TO COMPLETION: 20 mins
The Quick: For those of you who know what they're doing! no BS
The underlying concept behind this project is fairly simple. We are taking a flashlight meant to run a 3v lamp off of 2xAA batteries, and modifying it to run a 9v upgraded lamp off of 3xCR123a batteries. This requires replacing the stock bulb (standard PR-base style as found in full sized "MagLite" type flashlights) and enlarging the effective interior diameter to accommodate for our new power source, because CR123a cells are significantly fatter than AA cells. Two AA cells put out 1.5v each for a total of 3v of juice, while three CR123a cells put out 3v each for a total of 9v of juice. If you burn a 3v bulb at 9v of juice, there is a chance that the bulb may "instaflash" or burn out prematurely, thus requiring you to buy another.. and another.. and that is just a waste of $$ in most cases.
The Dirty: If you just have no idea what was said in the previous paragraph, but know that you want something bright as hell for under $15, then read on, follow these steps and nothing bad will happen, I promise.
Step 1: Begin by gathering/ordering all the necessary tools and materials required for this project. Once you have everything together and ready to go, it should take you no longer than 20 or so minutes to complete the job. Here is what you will need in gruesome detail (all pictures link to hi-res images for closer inspection if needed):
All you need here is a basic file. Large files help the job to go faster, but smaller files pick up any slack the large files leave behind. In this picture, I have taped the sharp edges of my larger file to prevent it from damaging the sides around it which I am NOT trying to remove.
Any two celled AA battery light like the ones shown here should work. But be sure that they use a standard "PR-base" bulb (the same bulb types found in full sized MagLites and most cheapo $1 lights) and that it has fileable ridges inside. The companies put these ridges in the lights to help hold the 2xAA batteries in place, but we will be needing to remove them so that the 3xCR123a batteries will fit because they are fatter. They should run you no more than $4 at your local hardware store. I would HIGHLY recommend the EverReady Contractor (model# IN251WB-S) style body over the ACE Industrial style body because the design of the EverReady Contractor is much superior than the other. The EverReady Contractor also opens at TWO ends, making your job ALOT easier than trying to work a little file down one end of a small light.
ACE Industrial style light on the left, EverReady Contractor style light on the right. Notice the "faceted" design in the EverReady Contractor reflector versus the cheaper "smooth" design in the ACE Industrial. Buy the "faceted" if you can, it will help smooth out the beam pattern ALOT.
You will be needing a replacement bulb. It can be any standard "PR-base" bulb like in the picture, and make sure it is the one for SIX C or D cells. SIX C or D cells will total 9 volts of juice at 1.5v per battery. I highly recommend the 6 cell MagLite Magnum Star Xenon bulb, because it is very bright. If you order online and in a group, you can save $$ on shipping. Here are some good online deals: Flashlight King and MagLite Sales
You will need THREE CR123a lithium photo batteries to juice this baby. This is where most people shy away from the world of compact tactical lights, but I will share a little secret with you about where to get the good stuff at a good price!
AmondoTech Titanium CR123a cells
Good stuff... my personal choice even over SureFire cells. And again, if you order online and in a group, you can save $$ on shipping.
Step 2: Unscrew the head of the flashlight and extract the stock bulb. Once you unscrew the head, there should be a smaller piece that you again unscrew to gain access to your bulb. Swap this out with your new upgraded bulb.
BStep 3:/B Using your file, proceed to file down the plastic ridges which were once meant to hold our skinny AA batteries, until there is enough room for your CR123a batteries to slide in and out without any major problems. It helps IMMENSELY if you remove the tail cap during this process... [B*special note for the EverReady Contractor users*/B: when you remove the tailcap you will also see a brass looking metal ring near the end of the light. This is used to complete the connection from the batteries to the switch and you can go ahead and pop it out gently while you are filing but don't forget to stick it back in when you finish]
a href="http://www.airsoftretreat.com/gallery/data/500/in1.JPG"img src="http://www.airsoftretreat.com/gallery/data/500/medium/in1.JPG"/a
a href="http://www.airsoftretreat.com/gallery/data/500/in2.JPG"img src="http://www.airsoftretreat.com/gallery/data/500/medium/in2.JPG"/a
BStep 4:/B Reassemble your new tactical flashlight using the three CR123a cells in place of the two AA cells. The fit will be tight, but don't worry because the spring in the tailcap will compress, allowing for the slightly longer new power source.
p align="center"AVERAGE TOTAL COST: $10-12
AVERAGE TIME TO COMPLETION: 20 min
a href="http://www.airsoftretreat.com/gallery/data/500/P902.JPG"img src="http://www.airsoftretreat.com/gallery/data/500/medium/P902.JPG"/a
Direct comparison of a SureFire 9P (on the left) and the new modded taclight (on the right). It is still weaker than a 9 volt SureFire light system, but hey for less than $12... can you really complain? 8) I would have to say from experience that this light is definitely not as bright as my 9 volt SureFire, but it is just as nice or possibly even brighter than a 6 volt SureFire 6P or G2 and for less than half the price!
ISO Speed - 100
Shutter Speed - 1/30
Aperature Value - 2.8
Model - Canon PowerShot A70 (digital)
Test results show an output curve of about 50 minutes to 50% of the starting output for our new modded taclight.
*EDIT (7/7/07)* -- based on personal experience, this project should NOT be used for extended periods of time (longer than 5-6 minutes of constant on) or else the reflector will begin to melt and deform, until the flashlight becomes inoperable. Use this tool sparingly, and with the principle of "tactical" and "emergency use only" in mind... Short bursts (about 2-3 seconds) then rest. Well, you get what you pay for, what can I say.
Enjoy the mod folks ,