Crimson Trace is known for having some of the finest laser sights on the planet. I have been using the company’s laser sights on my duty and off-duty handguns and rifles for more than 20 years now. Crimson Trace took a concept which many people thought was just a gimmick and turned it into a practical and effective self-defense/combat tool.

While Crimson Trace is no stranger to white-light technology — featuring it on many laser-sighting systems — the CWL-300 is the only hand-held tactical/utility light currently in its lineup. I hope the company doesn’t limit its tactical hand-held lights to just this one model.

Although the CWL-300 is listed as a tactical light, it is, in my opinion, a tactical/utility light. It’s powered by a single CR123A battery — not because of its lumen output but because of its overall length. Working a tactical light in a true defensive setting requires a long enough handle to provide a hand-grip area that allows for closed-fist operation. Single-cell lights aren’t long enough, so they end up fulfilling the mission as utility lights with a tactical design, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These shorter lights are best operated from a syringe-type grip. While tactical knives and lights end up doing mostly utility work, both can end up being used for hardcore tasks on an emergency basis. The CWL-300 is up for either one.

CWL-300 Specifications

Switching/Control System: Instant Activation™: Tap-On, Tap-Off
Light Output: 200-peak-lumen LED white light / 50 peak lumens on low-power setting
Battery Life: 2 hours at 200 peak lumens / 8 hours at 50 peak lumens
Construction: Machined aluminum housing
Durability: Waterproof to 1 meter / impact-resistant to 1 meter
Operating Modes: High Beam / Low Beam / Momentary / Constant
Length: 3.6 inches
Weight: 1.82 ounces (with batteries)
Other Features: Adjustable pocket clip
MSRP: $69.99

The maximum light output is 200 lumens. In an age of 1,000- to 3,500-lumen hand-held tactical lights, a 200-lumen output doesn’t seem very powerful, but it is certainly more than enough for any reasonable task one could ask of it. When my book Own the Night was published in 2009, the maximum output of hand-held tactical LED lights was 120 lumens. The high-powered handhelds of the day used Xenon incandescent bulbs. The three-cell Surefire X-300 Combat Light (which I still have) was considered a major powerhouse back then with a 225-lumen output. I remember amazing my fellow deputies with it at the range during night shoots. If 225 lumens provided sufficient lighting power for a combat light in 2009, then 200 lumens should certainly be sufficient for a modern tactical/utility light.

Day-to-Day Use

The CWL-300’s switching system is simple and straightforward. Frankly, some modern lights have too many cycling options. The CWL-300 has two modes: high and low, with tap-on/tap-off activation combined with a constant-on. To activate the light, apply momentary pressure on the bright red tail-cap switch. This activates the light in 200-lumen mode. The beam projects in a rounded spot with a diffused outer corona. Pushing the switch all the way down locks the beam on. From the off mode, a double-tap of momentary pressure activates the light in the 50-lumen mode. I found that with the light in the 200-lumen momentary mode, it takes about one second of released pressure to avoid inadvertently putting the light in the 50-lumen mode instead of reactivating the 200-lumen mode. This cycle is quick enough to allow the CWL-300 to perform well enough for emergency room-clearing.

The CWL-300 is an outstanding example of an everyday carry (EDC) light. I’ve carried it for several months in my front trouser pocket. Its compact size has kept it from becoming uncomfortable while keeping it instantly available. As my eyes succumb to aging, I noted another wonderful thing that happens is reduced night-vision capability. Having an EDC light readily available becomes increasingly important.

Great Pricing

For $69.99, the CWL-300 is a great price for a reliable piece of equipment offered by a well-known manufacturer. If the price alone isn’t bargain enough, the CWL-300 is part of the Crimson Trace “Free Batteries for Life” program. Hopefully, a two-cell will follow the CWL-300. A two-cell version would make a fine full-service tactical light.


Crimson Trace:

About Scott W. Wagner

After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.