Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Review: Cree T6 upgrade for Surefire 6P and 6Z flashlights
(A quick explanation: I've often mentioned in these pages goods, services and items that I've found useful or worthwhile. That's sometimes led to questions from readers, asking for more information or where they can find the products concerned. Accordingly, I've decided that on an irregular basis, I'll write review articles here concerning products and services that have either greatly impressed or greatly annoyed me. I hope you'll find them useful. I will never accept compensation or free product[s] for writing these reviews, even if they're offered, so as to remain impartial. This is the first article in the series, which you can follow by searching for the label 'Product Reviews'.)
Back in the 1990's I bought two Surefire flashlights for use during weapons training. One was the Surefire 6P, the first so-called 'high-output' flashlight designed for (and instantly a hit with) law enforcement and first responders. (It's still available in a slightly refined form.) The other was the Surefire 6Z CombatLight (now out of production). It was roughly the same size as the 6P and used the same bulb and reflector, but in a reshaped body better suited to weapon techniques. Both are shown below, the current-production version of the 6P on top and the 6Z beneath (the first image is from Amazon.com, the second courtesy of FlashlightGuide).
These lights were revolutionary when they were first introduced. They were relatively expensive compared to conventional flashlights, but offered light output previously unknown in such small devices. They could produce about 65 lumens for up to an hour using two lithium CR123A batteries. I remember how amazed I was to see how bright they were . . . but of course, my amazement didn't last long. Both were soon superseded by bigger, more powerful models, and when the LED revolution came along their battery life, driving incandescent bulbs, soon appeared anemic beside the current-sipping, more modern technology.
I retired my 6P and 6Z several years ago to a box containing other 'backup' flashlights. A few days ago I was going through some gear and found them again. I smiled with nostalgia as I handled them, remembering how revolutionary they'd seemed when I bought them; but then I was struck with a thought. They've been succeeded by LED models. Were LED upgrade heads available for them? A quick online search revealed dozens of possibilities, most appearing to use a LED module from Cree. There were many customer horror stories about long delays in shipping from China, units not fitting, and failures shortly after installation. However, there were also a lot of very satisfied purchasers, so clearly one's choice of vendor would be critical.
I spent a while going through customer reviews and checking feedback before I decided to buy two of this conversion unit.
It's offered on Amazon's Prime service, so two-day free delivery was guaranteed (despite horror stories about other vendors shipping similar products by slow mail from China). Its balance of reviews was generally positive, despite some poor feedback. Best of all, at only $9.99 each, two of them wouldn't break the bank. It was advertised as delivering '1,000 lumens', but I knew that would require far more battery power than the relatively small 6P or 6Z flashlights could supply. I reckoned I might get a couple of hundred lumens out of it if I was lucky.
The units arrived today. I had to remove the springs at their base, as expected from prior customer comments, but that was a very simple procedure. They dropped right into place with no fitting problems at all, and have completely transformed my old flashlights. They used to produce 65 lumens with their original incandescent bulbs, but now I'd say they're at least three to four times as bright. If their runtime has also been doubled, as many user reviews promise, that'll raise their performance to the level of the current-production Surefire 6PX Tactical model (which costs almost six times as much as these LED heads). I think this must be the best value-for-money upgrade I've seen in a long time. I've said as much in my product review on Amazon.com.
If you have an old Surefire 6P or 6Z unit, or any flashlight of similar size and performance, and want to bring it right up to date, I highly recommend this upgrade. You'll be amazed at the improvement in performance.