Calling out Surefire: Elzetta Looks at the FL1 Standard

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Assuming their data is spot-on, Elzetta flashlights has called out the bear in the industry, Surefire. Sure, its a convenient marketing ploy, but if the data holds true, its an interesting analysis of an industry-standard specification that many consumers may not be familiar with.

in a recent blog post , Elzetta goes into detail behind the ANSI FL1 ratings and how they can be manipulated. The standard measures output at 30 seconds after activation only, allowing manufacturers to “game” their ratings by lowering output after measurement to prolong battery life.

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An example of extreme gaming of the FL1 standard not typical to any light, but possible.

In a not-so-subtle jab at Surefire’s new P3X Fury compact flashlight, Elzetta breaks down how a (very similar) light gets is stellar ratings far and above most competition. In short, they allege that the light games the FL1 rating and can only output peak lumens for a very short duration. They even go so far as to allege that the (very similar) design could be a “safety concern” due to how the light overdraws the batteries.

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How a light can game the specification. The gold line is Elzetta’s offering. The red line is the (very similar) light to the P3X

 

My experience shows this is common across multiple industries. In my “day job,” my primary competitor fully stretches various specifications to their marketing advantage, leaving customers with high expectations and disappointing results. While it does make room for my products in the market, I fight those misconceptions daily. In my opinion, gaming specs hurts any industry where it is easily pulled off.

I, for one, wish the FL1 spec was re-written to account for output over time.

As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.




Nathan S.

TFB’s resident Jarhead, Nathan now works within the Industry in Operations, Sales & Marketing. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, MSR’s, high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries in the last three years working with US DoD & foreign MoDs. You will likely find him either in an international airport or on the local range in NE Indiana.

Nathan can be reached at [email protected]


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  • KLP

    I was actually still inclined to get a P3X after I read more about this. The regulator on the P3X only allows maximum output for a short amount of time – less than five minutes – presumably due to temperature buildup and battery draw. The rated 1000 lumens is hugely overkill for most uses but is practical for offensive use and as a searchlight. The P3X doesn’t make for the best searchlight, but if you’re using it in conjunction with a handgun and strobing it per the Roger’s technique (aka the Surefire technique) then you’ll have 1000 lumens for most of its operation. The initial blast of ~1000 lumens is pretty disorienting, even in broad daylight, so even with this information I would still get the P3X, but the tactical model (single output, otherwise strobing will result in blasts of 1000 lumens alternating with little blips of 5 lumens) as I think it makes a strong case for use with a handgun.

  • Zcktomcat

    Manufacturers such as streamlight are just as guilty as surefire of that. From what I’ve seen, most of surefire’s lights will throw a beam of consistent power. Only two exceptions I’ve found so far are the p3x and the defender ultra.

  • Rich

    One way or another, I don’t feel like paying $200 for a flashlight. That’s just silly.

    • Zachary marrs

      As bad as flashlights are, knives are 10x worse

      • Aaron E

        How can you say that! I am more than confident that the 73 different types and names of steel marketed by the knife companies are as brilliant as they claim. I know this because they are demanding China to make them to superior standards.

        • David Knuth

          I’d just like to point out that the various steels (154cm, S30V, S90V, etc etc) all have very different metallurgical properties, and due to their variation in component contents and the subsequent properties, will have different functional properties.

          Any machinist can tell you that there are soft steels, hard steels, brittle steels, and so on. It’s science, and anyone who cares can look up the exact metallurgical properties, processes, and formulas on any number of steel supplier websites, as well as the original developer and where the steel is sourced.

          In the world of knives, it’s equally important to pick the materials to fit the requirements. For example, a softer steel is easy to resharpen, but if you plan to use it for cutting or against harder materials, the soft steel’s edge will develop damage more easily than a harder material. Also, some harder materials will tend to need sharpening less frequently.

          Some steels for knives are more durable, but more prone to corrosion, so if you work around saltwater or corrosive materials, then you’ll want a steel with a much higher chromium content.

          Then you have the differences in how sharp the steel will allow you to make the blade, which is why surgical steels have different properties than your standard $25 gerber’s 420 or 440a.

          As far as price, the price for the blade is commensurate with how much machining time it takes to make the thing. Softer steels can be stamped out into a knife blade, sharpened quickly, and assembled. Harder steels require actual grinding and machining work to put together, thus takes more time, effort, and ultimately investment to make. Then there’s the question about construction of the knife body and materials used, the cost of the base materials (less common/”soft” alloys require less costly production than harder steels and so on), and so on.

          Finally, in a great many number of cases, there’s the difference between “Made in the USA” and “made in China”.

          But yes, it’s all silly marketing, has nothing to do with science, metallurgy, and economic costs to produce or anything. :)

          • atm

            So sharp and rusty or less sharp and no rust. Got it.

          • David Knuth

            Err, well, not really. How easy it is to put an edge on the steel does not necessarily equate to how sharp it can be made, or how long it holds its edge.

            But, in general, one does not generally need a surgical scalpel to cut through rope, water hazards, or do most work. And if one needs an exceedingly sharp edge, then one might choose to get something made from surgical stainless or from a number of other materials which can take an extremely sharp edge, but they may find that it dulls quickly or doesn’t stand up to corrosion.

            It’s…not quite so simple as a binary problem.

      • Nathanael S.

        Permit me to make a Brian Regan ‘Refrigerator Salesman’ reference here: “This one cuts stuff and flesh for $25. This one here cuts stuff and flesh for $235.99″

  • Willie Hunt

    The ANSI flashlight standard was created to give meaning to the typically totally bogus Lumen numbers claimed by many unscrupulous flashlight manufacturers. But the standard only requires that the net radiated Lumens be measured after 30 seconds and that the runtime is a measure of when the Lumens drops to 10% of that initial Lumen value. The standard does not require that continuous use runtime graphs be published, although being an engineer myself, I would prefer this to be the case. However, even that does not tell the whole story.

    When we designed the P3X we provided a 1000 Lumens (NIST traceable Lumens using $50,000 LabSphere’s) of net output for the first minute which is plenty of time for tactical use. After the first minute the microprocessor inside the P3X slowly ramps down the power to conserve battery runtime, but also keeps the light head temperature within safe limits for bare hands. There is no magic in LED’s; most of the input power is conducted heat and that heat is transferred to the light head and body to keep the LED temperature within its operating range. If the customer wants the 1000 Lumen level back, (s)he only need to briefly cycle the tailcap switch. Cycled enough times to keep restoring the 1000 Lumen level and the microprocessor will slowly override the 1000 Lumen level to make sure the P3X does not get too hot to hold. Combined with active battery management that optimizes runtime from extreme arctic cold to blazing hot summer days and you
    see why there is so much inside a P3X.

  • nova3930

    Thus is the way of the world. Data based on any standard with set rules can be gamed. You see it all the time in cars and gase mileage. Cars are tuned to get the maximum out of the standard EPA drive cycle, which isn’t how typical people drive. That’s why we as the consumer need to be aware of how standards based data is generated and what it means for us in our useage profile.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      alot of car gas mileage claims are tested on 97-99 octane fuel (regularly available at the pump in the UK and most of the rest of the EU but standard grade unleaded is 95 over here as is)