Flashlight Review: Brownells BVL-530 “Versatile Light”

VL with box

Many of us have done business with Brownells through the years. When they notified TFB of their new flashlight, it seemed only natural to give it a look.

The light should look familiar to those of you who are familiar with the classic old Surefire C2 – the body of the BVL530 is similar in appearance.

VL ProfileThe specifications from the Brownells web site (and the included owner’s manual):

“Emitter: CREE XM-L2, v6. Runtimes: (approx). High (530 lumens) 2.5 Hours. Low (175 Lumens) 9 Hours. Ultra-Low (13 Lumens) 150 Hours. Strobe (530 Lumens) 7 Hours. Battery Source: CR123x2 or 18650×1 Li-ion rechargable (not included).”

Although Brownells does not specific country of origin, I believe (based on the name stamped inside the head) that it is most likely China.

VL XenoledIf this is the company that manufactured it, I have positive prior experiences that give me comfort  that Brownells chose well when choosing a manufacturer for a light that will carry the Brownells name.

The light comes packaged in a simple cardboard box with a snugly fitting foam insert.  Included with the light are instructions and 2 lanyards…no batteries are included.

VL with box

VL LanyardsActivation is simple.  The light resets to the high level whenever it is off for more than a few seconds.  To change levels, simply ‘half press’ the button (do not ‘click’ it fully to the locked on position) to cycle through high, medium, low and strobe.  When you are at the level you desire, fully press the button and it will click/lock on.   The half press is useful for momentary light activation.  The button is recessed allowing for tail standing.

VL tail capAs mentioned, 2 lanyards are included and there is a solid lanyard ring just forward of the tail cap.  If you do not want to use a lanyard, this ring is easily removed when the tail cap is removed.

VL parts

A grip ring just forward of the tail cap and under the (removable) pocket clip.  I find the grip ring to be easy to grasp and it helps make the light comfortable to hold.

VL Grip Ring

A nice touch is a glow ring installed just under the lens in the bezel.  Brownells touts this as a “Blackout” or “Stranded” light to be used at home or in the car.  My experience is that the glow ring can ease in locating the light in the event of a blackout.

VL strike bezel

Construction and machining look good – better than most Chinese manufactured lights that I have seen.

VL Body Machining

VL ProfileBrownells rates the 3 output levels as 530, 175 and 13 lumen with run times of 2.5, 9 and 150 hours.  While I did not test run times, I did test the output in my integrating sphere and the results were 443, 157 and 10…close enough.  Most of us can’t see any real difference in output unless it is at least 50% higher/lower.  The light was used for my early morning dog walk and it was PLENTY bright on medium – useful on low – and bright enough to really get ‘out there’ on high.  I am not a big fan of strobe, but if you need it / use it the strobe on this light is very bright, rapid and disorienting.  The tint of the XML2 (v6) emitter doesn’t show any of the sickly green color that early XML emitters had – it seems to be a nice off white tint, and the shape of the beam is useful with good spill and throw.

VL BeamThe light uses either 2 CR123 batteries or 1 rechargeable 18650.  I used an a18650 with my test light – use of 2 rechargeable 3.7V batteries was not mentioned, so you should probably avoid such batteries.

The good news?  The light is only $79.99 on Brownells web site.  Since Brownells offers a “100% Satisfaction Guarantee” on everything they sell, I would not hesitate to pick up one of these lights.  Bright, well made and inexpensive with the Brownells guarantee.  What’s not to like?




Dan M

Love firearms and flashlights – and they go well together. I’ve been admiring and writing about quality flashlights for about 5 years…built my own integrating sphere….done a few mods. Proof positive that a 56 year old can still love toys!


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  • Lance

    Forget the Flashlight just show more Colt Python! LOL

  • xyrth

    Way too expensive for a flashlight. You can buy 20 CREE based units for this, just minus the fancy name. Brownells is horrible on repair parts, so if it breaks you’d be better off buying a new one. I’d stay away.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Never heard that before. I’ve always had good luck with Brownells no matter what I needed.

      • xyrth

        Actually — I’m completely wrong, Thanks for calling me out on this. It is a Bushnell product I’m having issues with. My mistake, confused my B companies. I’ve never called Brownells, but have heard excellent things.

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          Oh ok I gotcha now. Easy enough to mix B companies. Kudos for speaking out on the ID error. Thanks!

  • El Duderino

    $80? Looks almost identical to the “3 for $20″ pack of made-in-China lights I picked up at Costco. Only real difference is those run on 3xAAA.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      That’s an uninformed comment. What you may not know is Dan is a bona fide expert in just about anything that projects a beam of light. From my standpoint Brownells has a reputation for selling quality products and this would be another of them.
      For simplicities sake there are several levels of production in China. You have those products that compare to the cheap blister packs you refer to then there are medium/upper level level products which this light would fall into and then you have the high end companies that make very high quality products. Just because it comes from China doesn’t necessarily mean cheap junk.
      Don’t get me wrong I don’t like the idea that we need to buy from China rather than making our own but right now that’s just the way it is like it or not.

      • ontheleftcoast

        No fooling. I bought one of those 3 packs; one light failed within a few day. I had given one of the working ones to my girlfriend to use to go to her car after work. I couldn’t just return the bad one to Costco, which insisted that I return all 3 and get a new 3 pack.

        I decided to eat it since my girlfriend was happy with the one she had. The battery life was kind of pathetic, too.

      • El Duderino

        Well wouldn’t be the first time I made an uninformed comment. I just have not seen much reason to go for the middle of the pack with lights. Get a $180+ Made in the USA one that you know you can 100% depend on, and get cheapies to stick in the glovebox, for power outages, etc.

        I am aware the “made in China” label doesn’t always mean poor quality. Although I haven’t messed with one, Shotgun News is in love with Hi-Lux scopes. You seem to be making the argument that these lights are sort of the “Hi-Lux” of flashlights, no?

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          I’ve used the Leatherwood ART scope and I could compare it with that one.

  • Dan M

    For this caliber of flashlight, $80 is fairly inexpensive. Like that Python? Heck, you can get a stainless Taurus 357 for about ¼ what that Colt is worth…. ;-) By the way, (not to derail the discussion) my Dad bought that Python over 35 (I was 21) years ago because I wanted it and couldn’t afford it. He gave it to me when a few years ago… and (gulp), we’ve never fired it. It’s mint. Back to the flashlight, this is actually quite a value…but it all depends on what anyone wants/needs/is willing to spend for.

  • Mystick

    18650…. excellent.

  • Mandy

    Looks cool. Is there a film on your macro lens? Seems a little fuzzy.

    • Dan M

      Nah – didn’t use my macro. Shame on me. Wasn’t quite in focus. Apologies.

  • Cymond

    I can’t help it, I feel compelled to recommend Four Sevens whenever flashlights are discussed. I have been very pleased with every one I’ve owned. I love the Quark series, but haven’t tried the Maelstroms yet. The Quarks have many output levels, and 2 different user interfaces (Pro vs Tactical).

    • Dan M

      I’ve owned (and own) many a 4/7 light and they are good, middle of the road lights. This one would probably fall into the same general category. I believe Quarks/4/7 lights are designed by David Chow in Atlanta and manufactured to his specs in China (I could be wrong.) They make good stuff. If you like their stuff you’d like this light.

  • MattInTheCouv

    Thank god they used a more modern emitter. So many flashlights are still using the C4 emitter, and it makes me sad. Brownells should do a rail-mounted pistol light next. If they use the xm-l (or ideally the xm-l2) they can get runtimes significantly higher than are offered by the current crop from streamlight/surefire/insight, while maintaining the same lumen rating. or higher lumens with the same runtime… whichever they want.

    I would never buy this light, though, as i absolutely HATE complicated ‘mode’ selection routines. my most favorite lights are still my Blackhawk Gladius/Insight Typhoon lights. All of them have upgraded emitters, and the mode selection is great.

    • Dan M

      Agreed on the emitter. However, I did a poor job of explaining the mode switching. It’s pretty simple. I KNOW that if it’s been off and I turn it on, it will come on in high. What I would like is a ‘mode memory’ where the light would come on in the last used mode. IMHO, it’s pretty simple – hi/med/lo/strobe. But again, it’s a matter of personal preference. For really rough duty – LEO or military – I believe that your Gladius or a Surefire would be a better choice.