It took me quite awhile to become a fan of weapon-mounted lighting systems. This is because the first attempts at weapons lights, to put it kindly, left a lot to be desired. The light sources were incandescent bulbs, which didn’t last long if the pistols they were mounted on were actually fired for any period of time. Additionally, there wasn’t much in the way of power output, meaning that the weapon lights of the day didn’t meet all three “I’s” of what I call the “Combat Light Triad.” An effective combat light will Illuminate your path, Identify friend or foe, and if powerful enough, Incapacitate the foe by trashing their night vision (either through sheer brightness or stroboscopic effect—if that is an available option). I doubt if early weapons lights put out much more than 30-40 lumens of illumination. Enough perhaps to identify friend or foe, but also enough to draw fire directly to your mounted light since there wasn’t enough output to effectively take out your opponent’s night vision. Early low-power LEDs were just over the horizon, but would not become effective as tactical lights until many years later.
Back then, I could not have predicted how high LED lumen outputs would soar within 20 years. The company that leads the way in weapon light quality and power, and the one that changed my view on pistol-mounted lights, is Streamlight.
I decided to test one of the newer additions to their line of Tactical Gun Mount Series lights, the TLR-1 HL. The TLR-1 HL (High Lumen) weapon light puts out a whopping 630 lumens of pure white light, more than enough to destroy an opponent’s dark-adapted vision while positively identifying them at the same time. The TLR-1 HL puts out more than twice the power of the standard TLR-1 and the same amount of light output as the TLR-2 HL, but without the built-in laser sight. While the laser sight is an excellent addition to a weapon light, it also increases the size of the lighting unit and increases the cost.
The TLR-1 HL is powered by two standard CR123 lithium batteries included in the package. They mount side by side in the aluminum case. The toggle-operating lever is ambidextrous, with strobe, momentary, and continuous switching available for selection. The strobe mode can be disabled by the user. The mounting system is designed for Picatinny rail mounts and key adaptors are included for handgun or rifle rail designs that may need them. I mounted my sample TLR-1 HL on a Century Arms Canik 55 9mm pistol. It locked in place without effort, and the combination makes an excellent home defense setup.
The beam is ideal for indoor or close-in outdoor property search. Remember that the TLR-1 HL can be mounted on rifles and a remote pressure switch is available if desired. There is a concentrated center spot but the peripheral corona fully illuminates most of an average size room. A large area of light coverage is essential on pistol-mounted lights for effective room clearing.
A high-powered weapon light such as the TLR-1 HL is an excellent addition to your home defense handgun. I realized this after searching my home interior after something went “bump” in the night. I don’t necessarily think they are needed on a civilian carry gun (where the operating mode is far more defensive than offensive). Mounting a light on your carry weapon limits your holster selection and options. For the civilian, home defense is where the weapon light really shines. The TLR-1 HL is available for $114 on Amazon.