SureFire clones...Any Good?


September 12, 2010, 11:48 PM
I want to put a dedicated weapon light on my AR, and my ideal set-up would be a SureFire M951 mounted on the right side of my rail system, with the Malkoff LED drop-in as an option (though I prefer the light given off by incan bulbs).

On the other hand, because the light isn't a serious fighting tool for me and it isn't a critical part of my set-up, perhaps I would be better served using a clone of the M951? I may try eBay first to see if I can get a better price on an authentic M951, but otherwise, i may give clones a close look.

I found this one for rather cheap:

Does anyone have any experience with this (or any other) SureFire clone? I know there's good clones out there, I've handled the Rico clone of the M900 vertical grip light but I don't like that style of light.

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September 13, 2010, 07:25 AM
Actually, I can find plenty of the real SureFires on eBay for under $200 so that will be the route I'm taking. No point in chancing it on a clone if I can afford better.

September 13, 2010, 08:14 AM
Anything half way important requires the use of a reputable brand name.

Chicom knockoffs work well enough FOR A SHORT TIME. They WILL fail because they all suffer from poor construction of the electrical bits even if the components themselves are reasonable.

The incandescents seem to last a bit longer before they fail compared to the LED versions because the latter have circuits with more soldering which is their weak point.

If you pull one apart, and I have, the soldering appears to have been done by an 8 year old and just so they don't hurt themselves they use solder with an incredibly low melting point.

The heat generated by ordinary use melted the solder in mine and shorted out the circuit.

Keep in mind that Lithium batteries don't like to be shorted and can catch fire and explode. Check out some of the flashlight forums scary photos of what Lithium batteries can do.

September 13, 2010, 09:45 AM
Read this. (

hso worked some magic and turned a post of mine into a thread.

ETA, some of the links have changed in that thread. The point being, It seems clones are the sum of their components. Build with care.

September 13, 2010, 01:07 PM
otblue, that makes sense about the LEDs vs incan bulbs in Chinese knock-offs. Considering how much I have in my AR already, and how cheap (relatively) I can get the real deal on eBay, I will definitely be buying from the real American company.

September 13, 2010, 02:30 PM
from what I've seen, flashlights are not like optics. you do not necessarily get more light for more money. and you will get more brightness from good batteries than you will from a nicer flashlight. but I've never regretted buying quality.

September 13, 2010, 04:08 PM
That was my line of thinking as well, optics are one thing but a flash light seems like something easy to make bright and reliable.

September 13, 2010, 05:09 PM
(though I prefer the light given off by incan bulbs).I thought I did too, for about the first 10 minutes after I put a Malkoff M61L 175 lumin bulb in my old 6P.

And then it got dark and I went outside with it.


The other thing is, I was getting about 30 minutes run time with a Surefire 120 lumin P61 bulb. And no warning at all when the batterys totally died suddenly.

The Malkoff needs a new set of batterys every four months with the same amount of use as before.

And the blinding white light turns to a soft glow you can still see with before giving up completely and dying dead some time later.


September 13, 2010, 09:57 PM
Go with the Primary Arms Ultimate Weapon Light, the thing is fantastic. I have owned a surefire M951 and bought the primary arms to see what it was all about, first day i got it the surefire was listed on ebay. :) I believe it accepts the bulbs you are talking about and the surefire ones two. Also accepts larue and other mounts designed for surefire. Cant beat it.

September 14, 2010, 12:48 AM
Wow, the Praimary Arms is 380 lumens according to their website. Is that accurate? Even the Malkoff LED drop-in is 260 which still seems like a lot.

I've been issued Streamlights for work that operate at 80 and 100 lumens and they seem pretty damn bright already, I can see to 150 feet at night with them so the benefit of an LED is purely run time.

September 14, 2010, 09:58 AM
Wow, the Praimary Arms is 380 lumens according to their website. Is that accurate?

Most companies, with the notable exception of Surefire, list total lumens generated. The difference between total lumens generated and OTF (out the front) lumens can be as much as 50%, depending on several factors like reflector design, lens quality, etc.

September 14, 2010, 02:43 PM
LA Police Gear is clearing out some of their Surefires.
Apply coupon code LAPG for additional 5% off.
Surefire G3 LED $43
Surefire G2Z LED $43
Surefire 6p LED $47.50
Surefire 6p Defender $52
Surefire Z2 Led w/ Holster & Battery Holder $63
Scroll to bottom of closeouts and you will see them.

September 14, 2010, 03:30 PM
Do a Home Depot search for "Coast V2" and read the reviews. I have one mounted on my Ruger Mark I, using a shotgun tube extension clamp. Lights-up a big area for all the night-time critters. It's only $24.99.:D

September 14, 2010, 03:49 PM
Might try some Insight/Streamlight stuff? They seem to be the red-headed stepchild of lights, but I've never really seen/heard why.
I've just started upgrading my lights with the recent price drops of Streamlight LEDs, which seem to run quite a bit less than Surefire-bought a number at Optics Planet and off eBay.

AFA light output, I think we may be getting into a numbers game?
Just how much light do you need, and is the increase a trade-off you're willing to make at the cost of battery life?

September 15, 2010, 08:20 AM
I have a SureFire Z2 light that I am putting the P61 120-lumen lamp in to see how I like it, hopefully it will be about the same as the M951 with the P61 and then I can decide whether or not to upgrade to the Malkoff LED. I just ordered the P61 bulb assemblies so lets see how long they take to get to Guam. I really like the incan light compared to the LED Streamlights I use at work, though the LEDs are brighter than my SureFire at 80 lumens for one light (Streamlight Vantage) and 100 for the other (Survivor LED) versus the 65 lumens I'm getting out of my SureFire Z2 right now.

September 15, 2010, 10:17 AM
The P61 lamp is older technology. It has a heavy current draw while producing less light than more modern aftermarket options. Look at Lumensfactory ( incan options for more output.

September 16, 2010, 05:59 PM
Hmm, the Lumens Factory bulbs seem pretty cheap. How durable are they? They're claiming 200 lumens out of a 6v incan bulb, which is a good deal for $15. A lot cheaper than the $29 SureFire lists the P61 for (though I only paid $8.50 a piece for mine).

September 17, 2010, 02:38 PM
LF products seem to hold up nicely.

I have a 7.2v 380 lumen lamp mounted to an AR-15. I've had no issues.

September 21, 2010, 08:48 AM
Not to stray off-topic but I found an LED drop-in for the SureFire that claims 670 lumens, does anyone know if Solarforce is a reputable brand? I was looking a at the SureFire P60L drop-in but it only produces 80 lumens. 680 lumens would be interesting!

September 21, 2010, 10:52 AM
The SST-50 is a new type of led. Here is the data sheet ( from the manufacturer.

It's capable, in theory, of delivering nearly 1000 lumens when driven to max current. Many companies are integrating it into their products, including Solarforce. Solarforce as a brand makes decent clones of Surefire products.

September 23, 2010, 06:43 AM
I found this drop-in, designed for the M951/961 weapon-mounted lights:

September 25, 2010, 09:55 PM
If you are looking for top quality, Made in the USA, look here ( They use Malkoff LED's.

October 24, 2010, 11:29 PM
You need to check out CandlePowerForums. Respect for Surefire, but even more for Chinese lights. The one time you might actually be proud to buy Chinese. My username is the same over there btw.

October 25, 2010, 12:16 AM
There is more to brightness in a flashlight. Color Rendering Index is important. I've had a lot of bright LED lights in my time and you learn to hate some of them because the color spectrum makes it difficult to make out details when used in the dark. Things like distance and depth become harder to discern, especially on foliage. Shine a traditional "dingy yellow" incandescent on a tree and do the same with some of the bluish LEDs and give it a try. It sounds weird but the color spectra output on LEDs are not all the same. LED color output is bluish and any warmer hues are obtained by stuffing yellow phosphors over the LED dies to turn it more towards white. They vary by bin flux and the manufacturer data sheets will show this.

A lot of cutting edge stuff is being done overseas on LED technology and user interface. Stateside brands like Surefire are falling way behind as far as using the newest and greatest. There are still some small US brands that offer fantastic things. HDS builds beefier lights than Surefire and they're made in Arizona. I still buy Surefire, but I rarely leave them stock. They've become hosts for my projects, much like Maglites.

October 25, 2010, 12:56 AM
I really like the Streamlight Strion Led in a VTAC light mount. Rechargable, strobe, multiple light levels. All for $70.


October 25, 2010, 11:40 AM
A lot of cutting edge stuff is being done overseas on LED technology and user interface.
Mebbe, but do you really want cutting edge stuff on a light used for SD?
I do get a kick outta seeing folks get all excited 'bout 7 light modes, turbo mode, activation that requires two hands and various gyrations, etc-to me, a light should (listed in order of importance):
1. Turn off when you want it to.
2. Turn on when you want it to.

Jest the other day I ran across some YouTube videos of fellas showing off their new lights-more than once the screen would go dark as they were going to demonstrate, followed by (more darkness) and a lot of mumbling as they tried to figure out how to activate it or get it to the mode they wanted to demonstrate.

It was pretty comical... :rolleyes:

October 25, 2010, 11:52 AM
but do you really want cutting edge stuff on a light used for SD?

basicblur, I don't see where anyone mentioned SD and cutting edge tech. Lots of us are flashlight enthusiasts who are interested in the bleeding edge of technology.

Color rendition, output, efficiency, thermal management, runtimes, etc... It's all an experiment.

October 25, 2010, 12:13 PM
basicblur, I don't see where anyone mentioned SD and cutting edge tech.
Don't know that they did as I didn't go back through all the threads, but they should. I was merely offering it as a public service announcement! :D
Sometimes (unbridled?) enthusiasm can get one into trouble.

I've seen a number of folks getting 'cutting edge' lights to keep by the bed with their gun-I got a feeling when that bump in the night comes, a number of 'em are going to be like the folks in the YouTube videos (fumblin', bumblin', mumblin') as they try to figure out 'zactly which of the 7 modes they want (or how) to access it in order to light somebody up.

But I'm a pragmatist donchaknow (jest a square peg in today's round world)! :uhoh:

October 25, 2010, 12:48 PM
No on here mentioned anything about 356 different disco modes. We did mention color rendition and efficiency. Surefire is bad at efficiency compared to other offerings out there. Their battery choice of CR123 also limited their market while other brands have aggressively taken over some of the market share by offering lights that can take readily available AA batteries.

There are some disco lights but the better designed units have fantastic fumble-kess user interfaces which expands their utilitarian role. Surefire has also started to slowly incorporate the dual or multimode UI.

Of course, Surefire didn't like losing sales and eventually caved in with their AA Outdoorsman and Saint headlamps. The market fired back with lights that could take a wide variety of batteries. This is especially important if you're on an expedition or deployed in some hole where CR123 batteries are not available. You can find AA batteries anywhere.

October 25, 2010, 01:34 PM
No on here mentioned anything about 356 different disco modes.
But you did mention cutting edge technology-I'm a' gonna haff to pass as I prefer something with a bit more of a history behind it.

Surefire is bad at efficiency
Don't look at me...I ain't defending Surefire-don't own any, but I am mulling over trying one to see what all the fuss is about.

Their battery choice of CR123 also limited their market while other brands have aggressively taken over some of the market share by offering lights that can take readily available AA batteries.
I tried a few AA battery lights-at this time I'm sticking with CR123. They're becoming more available, they're lithium (temperature/shelf life advantages) and best I can do if I want AA lithiums is a roughly a 25% higher price than I pay for CR123 lithiums.

There are two sides to every story donchknow...

October 25, 2010, 01:41 PM

I have been using Streamlight for years now and can not complain.
Here is a deal I found today.

October 25, 2010, 07:30 PM
I guess cutting edge technology is a misnomer and a misleading term. What I should have said is that it's existing technology, but finally applied to LED lighting purposes.

Lithium AA's, such as the Energizer E2's aren't really more expensive unless you're using the 99 cent CR123 batteries as comparison. It works out to about $15/8 pack or about $2ea which is similar to the US-made Surefire CR123's for $2ea. There are a few threads on CPF that show the cheaper Chinese-made lithiums failing catastrophically. However it's hard to tell just how common this problem is. I'm sure all batteries of all brands have instances of catastrphic failure and ironically enough, the best-performing li-ions right now for hardcore flashlight users are the AW brand made in China.

One other positive aspect of the AA train is the suitability of using good Ni-MH rechargables. They pay off fairly quickly for an EDC light and it's essentially guilt-free lumens for higher powered lights that can gobble up. The Sanyo Eneloops lose maybe 10-20% of their charge over a 1-3 year period now if left unused (depends on the generation Eneloop you buy). That's a lot better than the old Ni-MH which go dead after a month.

Either way, I suppose it's a good thing that the flashlight world continues to move forward on all fronts. The Surefire clones make good host bodies for the huge aftermarket available to Surefire and Surefire clone bodies.

October 25, 2010, 08:18 PM
Have you checked out Surefire's new G2X? 200 lumens at a regulated 2hrs, 5.2", 2xCR123s. $55 for single mode, $65 for dual mode.

October 25, 2010, 08:39 PM
I've actually been hankering the incandescent A2 Aviator so I can try an onion ring, do the nav LED sandpaper mod, and drop in Fivemega's Strion bulb kit for it so I get better output without a hit in battery life, plus end up with cheaper bulbs to replace. I really wish Surefire continued to develop their regulated incandescent technology but the Aviator was pretty much the first and last.

I actually like the fact they're starting to branch out and incorporate more technology on their newest line of stuff. I'd like the M3LT and the E2DL as well, but one at a time I suppose.

October 25, 2010, 09:37 PM
Actually, the one Surefire that has peaked my interest a bit is the Z2-S LED (
'Course, It would be for experimental/educational purposes-it may not be better than my current bed gun light, but at least it's twice the price! :banghead:

BTW-anybody know of anyone selling Surefires at less than MSRP?
I assume Surefire is requiring dealers to sell at MSRP based on the lack of competitive pricing I can find on the 'Net.

I just dunno if I can talk myself into spending MSRP on the Z2-S.

October 25, 2010, 10:43 PM
If I recall, there might be a person or two on CPF that sells for less than MAP (minimum advertised pricing) but that can jeopardize your dealer status. If you're a member, there is a known thread with all the forum-participating vendors with coupon codes for forum members, usually something like 5-10% off or free shipping. Surefire indeed does require MAP to be a dealer. Most of the Surefire dealers have to find alternative ways to make the purchase more worthwhile to the buyer, such as throwing in a box or three of free batteries (depending on the value of the light). If you're lucky, you can find the free battery deal with a coupon code.

The only other solution is to buy them second-hand on the forums.

I have carried the Surefire C2 for a while and I think the Z2 would be an interesting try. It's basically the same concept, but without a pocket clip. I've had some hesitations with the C2 when carrying in my pocket because the rubber donuts tend to catch the pocket, making it difficult to retrieve. As a nightstand light, the Z2-S looks nice since there is no worry about indexing it to avoid the pocket clip if you're using the Surefire/Rogers grip.

November 3, 2010, 10:36 PM
Well I couldn't stand it any longer-I just had to buy a Surefire to see what all the fuss was about.
Actually, I bought 2! :banghead:

I got the Z2-S LED CombatLight/w Strobe ( and E2D LED Defender ( (managed to scrounge up a too small discount on 'em).
They're brighter than any of my Streamlights, but it's close. The Defender really throws a tight/long beam, and the CombatLight is slightly brighter than my Streamlight Nightfighter (, but it does have a bigger circle of peripheral light.
The CombatLight is a non-regulated light, while the Defender is regulated (one of the few Surefire's that is?).

Bottom line...
1. They are physically nicer than the Streamlights-the Defender maybe a bit too aggressively styled for civilians?
2. Worth the difference in price? Probably not for civilians.
3. The Streamlights might be preferable for civilians? My PT-2L Streamlight ( (very roughly an equivalent for the Defender?) is much less aggressively styled and thus quite a bit smaller. As such, the PT-2L is on my belt at all times-it's probably 'bout 1/2 the size of the Defender after in its pouch.
4. Power regulation might be nice on the CombatLight, but I don't know that it's critical as it's role is for use with a handgun (probably will stay with my bed gun)-don't plan on using it for an all-purpose light.
5. The Defender is one heckuva torch! (the brightest light I have).

November 4, 2010, 12:18 AM
Surefire is considered a benchmark standard and is a commonly used product to make comparisons. It all depends on what you want to do with your light and how deep your pockets go. The price difference for top notch stuff is probably worth it to people besides MIL/LEO who depend on their gear like SAR, spelunkers, rock climbing, etc., or folks who want to buy peace of mind.

They're going to be machined a lot nicer than most commercially-available flashlights and while doesn't necessarily justify the cost given the production volume, people will pay for the nice knurling and design. Streamlight doesn't really make anything in the same price range but Streamlight products are well-proven in the field so I wouldn't hesitate on them myself. They just don't look as fancy. I own the TLR-1 light myself and it's lived happily on my 870. Generally the only products that surpass Surefire are small companies that turn out premium/luxury lights, which is a very small market.

I don't think Surefire does direct drive for any of their LED lights. Most LEDs today run at 3.x volts and current limited and most of Surefire's line runs at 6V+. Direct drive LEDs are not nearly as common, especially with potential of battery mishaps. There are a lot of different topologies to use, such as buck/boost or pulse width modulation and how they are implemented can affect their output over time and the efficiency. What I believe you might be thinking of is the Surefire A2 Aviator, which was a incandescent model with LED secondary mode. The incandescent bulb was voltage-regulated so it didn't go dim like a stock Maglite.

November 4, 2010, 06:50 AM
The incandescent bulb was voltage-regulated so it didn't go dim like a stock Maglite.
When I was referring to regulated, I was speaking mostly of the Streamlight styled feature which allows about 2 hours of run time before dropping to a 'safe/emergency' mode at much lower output-you'll have plenty of warning when it's time to change the batteries-they shouldn't just 'go dead' on you all of a sudden, which I've heard some folks complain 'bout with some lights.

I bought me a fancy battery load tester, and iff'n you can believe it, the CR123's in my Streamlight Nightfighter are down to 'bout 10%, but it still puts out a nice bit of light. I probably got 'bout 2 hours of high output before it reverted to its emergency mode-I'm leaving 'em in there just to see how long they will continue to drive the light-they've been plugging along for quite a while. Steamlight has data sheets on their lights with graphs of time vs. output-Surefire seems to be awfully stingy on such info-heck, I had to e-mail 'em for a PDF owner manual for each light-they did e-mail 'em back to me, but I couldn't find owner manuals on their site.

Mebbe we weren't on the same page AFA light regulation when I was talking to the Surefire rep over the phone, but their literature states the Defender is regulated, the CombatLight (by omission) is not-I called to verify the CombatLight was not regulated and was told it was not.

They may have been speaking of voltage regulation-I was speaking more of time/output management, which is pretty much voltage regulation over time.

Didn't make much difference, as I had already decided to take a chance on 'em to see what all the fuss was about.

Like you, I have a number of Streamlight/Insight weapon lights/lasers, as I managed to scrounge 'em up at big discounts, which is impossible to do with Surefire's MAP pricing.

Hot brass
November 10, 2010, 01:52 AM
I like surefire and Fenix

November 10, 2010, 01:34 PM

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