If you aren’t a member of the law enforcement tactical community, you might not have heard of the First Light USA company and their line of angle-head tactical lights; their product line and advertising have been previously aimed at that community.

I found out about First Light products back in 2009 while working on my first book, Own the Night. At that time, there were really only two lights in their lineup: One was the Liberator, an easy-to-operate multi-function tactical light that found favor with bike patrol and K9 officers due to its utility and its ability to serve as a weapon light for guns without lights mounted. The second was the Tomahawk, an angle-head LED light with multiple functions, also designed to serve as a handheld weapon light. The weapon light function of the Liberator is possible due to a built-in hand strap, while the Tomahawk uses a finger “ring” to maintain one-hand control. Both models are still available; the Tomahawk is available in several variations.

Of the two, my favorite is the Tomahawk. I carried it via the belt clip on my MOLLE gear when I was on SWAT. It was very handy as a utility flashlight and as a weapon light for my handgun (I didn’t have a handgun with a weapon light mounted at that time, so the Tomahawk worked great).

The Tomahawk light is constructed of aerospace-grade aluminum and is powered by two CR123 Lithium batteries. While my original Tomahawk had a maximum white light lumen output of 120 lumens — top-of-the-line back in ’09 — new Tomahawks have either 425 or 700 lumens of maximum white light. The Tomahawk is fairly pricey, running between $179 to $299 (depending on the model). Even so, the Tomahawk has found a lot of favor with military and law enforcement tactical operators.

The folks at First Light wanted to get their products out to a wider range of users and offer a wider range of features and improvements at a lower price. The result? The new TORQ light, available in both civilian and law enforcement models. A lot of times, companies talk about a “new and improved product” which often isn’t. The TORQ light is a truly improved product (with a greatly reduced price).

I was enlightened on the details and thought behind the TORQ by First Light’s Rick Gardner. A former military operator with loads of experience, Rick was able to provide a great deal of insight into the design.

After I received the TORQ LE model, Rick went over the light with me via telephone. The first feature of the TORQ was apparent: It is constructed of polymer rather than aluminum. Right there is a major cost savings. The TORQ light runs off two standard AA alkaline penlight cells, and not off CR123 lithium cells — another cost savings. During development, Rick said that they decided to set the TORQ’s maximum white lumen output at 155 — a level Rick referred to as the “sweet spot.” The sweet spot means the illumination is powerful enough to cause disorientation — especially in a strobe mode — yet not so powerful that a high amount of that lumen power is being reflected back into your own eyes. That can easily happen with 700- to 1000-lumen lights. The lower 155-lumen output is also much better in terms of battery life.

The polymer case is waterproof, with batteries loaded into the larger, square base (the Tomahawk base is round). This makes the TORQ larger overall, but not unreasonably so. The TORQ easily rides in a standard pants pocket. Its larger base allows the TORQ to stand up on its own on any flat surface, as the weight of the light is evenly distributed. A spring clip holds the compartment closed, maintaining watertight integrity.

The TORQ has two clip options on its sides rather than the single belt clip of the original Tomahawk. I currently have a MOLLE adaptor that locks in the MOLLE holster (available separately). On the other side is a spring steel-ring belt clip. The TORQ can be configured with a clip on each side, or only one clip or, I suppose, no clips.

The TORQ uses a swiveling finger loop that allows you to readily adjust the light to your hand. Putting the index finger of your weak hand through the loop allows you to hold the light securely while acquiring a two-hand grip on a handgun. It’s a great solution for those who defend themselves with snub-nosed revolvers or short-barreled autos. Rick pointed out that the finger loop can become a “kick stand” for supporting the light on its side while doing things like changing a spare tire on a dark road or using it as an emergency light during power outages.

The ability of the finger loop to rotate complements the ability of the light head to rotate 320 degrees. The Tomahawk’s head is fixed. The ability to rotate the TORQ makes it great to wear on my armor when I’m working patrol. I can move the light beam into nearly any position up or down, allowing my hands to stay free to perform other tasks.

There are three operating buttons on the TORQ, similar to the controls of the Tomahawk. The TORQ light provides white-light illumination in a momentary-output mode via the large rear switch and three intensity levels of constant-on mode via the front left switch marked with one dot. Secondary LED lights are controlled through the front right switch (with two dots on it) with red, green and blue and a red/white/green safety beacon in the standard TORQ. (The LE version I tested has a red/white/blue safety beacon.) A strobing effect with the white light can be accomplished by holding the primary switch down while simultaneously pushing and holding down the front right two-dot switch.

The coolest feature — and there are many — on the TORQ is the aforementioned safety-beacon mode. By pushing and holding in the “one-dot” switch on the left for about two seconds, the light cycles through the constant-on mode into the safety-beacon mode. In this mode, the primary light cycles in an alternating strobe flashing mode while the red and green LEDs that surround the primary lamp flash in an alternating red and green pattern (the LE version flashes red and blue). If you aren’t a cop, don’t buy the LE version, as accusations of impersonating a police officer could be leveled if you use the safety-beacon mode.

This would be a great light to have along in a car if it breaks down at night. You can put it in the rear or on top of your car in the safety-beacon mode to alert traffic approaching from the rear. The TORQ could be held in the left hand toward approaching traffic if you need to walk to a gas station. If I could still jog extensively, I would clip the TORQ to a safety vest to alert oncoming traffic after dark. It is an impressive feature that, to the best of my knowledge, no other company offers. Rick Gardner informed me that FBI agents have purchased LE versions of the TORQ and clip them to their visors to use as emergency lights while en route to or at crime scenes.

The First Light TORQ is one of the best lights to hit the market, and one of the most versatile. It is also the most affordable light in the lineup with an MSRP of $99.99, putting it within reach of more people — which is what Rick Gardner said First Light wanted to do.

More info at: www.firstlight-usa.com

Update: GunBox 3­, Now Wi-Fi Enabled with Smart Phone Alerts

Not long ago, I reviewed the GunBox, an extremely innovative portable gun vault that is #1 on my hit chart. Now the folks at the GunBox have announced Version 3, which is Wi-Fi enabled and can send an alert to your smartphone if the box is moved or tampered with.

Check out more information on the GunBox 3 at: www.indiegogo.com