Friday Night Lights: B.E. Meyers KIJI K1 – VCSEL Illuminator

    B.E. Meyers is known for their laser systems. Their MAWL is arguably the best small arms MFAL on the market. Will P and I both have MAWL-C1s and we are over the moon with them. Today B.E. Meyers unveiled their latest in infrared laser illumination. The KIJI K1 is a VCSEL illuminator and will offer night vision users an unparalleled infrared illuminator at an affordable price. Like previous installments of Friday Night Lights, this series is sponsored by ATN Corp, manufacturers of night vision and thermal optics like the THOR LT. As with all of our sponsored series, Friday Night Lights will continue to bring you unbiased news and reviews from a variety of companies.

    Infrared Lasers @TFB:

     IR Laser: Pointers Or Illuminators?

    When it comes to IR lasers, many people think of the pointer instead of the illuminator. They like that solid beam saber-like laser shining in the dark. So they try to get full power lasers. In most civilian roles a full power laser is overkill and too bright. Getting a civilian aiming laser is fine but most times the infrared illuminator is pathetic. So while brighter is better, a lot of those full-power lasers have dirty IR illuminators. They have weird shadows and artifacts in the beam patterns that make them less desirable. B.E. Meyers solved this problem by using VCSEL lasers to produce clean even illumination. Their MAWL uses a number of these VCSEL laser illuminators to give you close range, medium and long range illuminators as well as an IR and VIS aiming laser. While the MAWL is great, it does have a hefty price tag. Close to $3k is cause for many to have sticker shock. The other issue is sometimes you want just an IR illuminator for passive aiming or if you are shooting long range with a night vision clip-on you do not need a laser pointer. LED-based IR illumination is mostly inadequate and does not have enough candela or collimated light to throw long range.  I had reviewed two long range illuminators and until the KIJI K1 came out those were the only two options for a standalone IR illuminator. Otherwise, you were relegated to using a full power multi-function aiming laser and using only the IR illuminator, assuming you can isolate it. That is not the case anymore with the KIJI K1.

    KIJI K1 Tiny But Mighty

    The KIJI K1, pronounced KEE-G,  is a VCSEL infrared illuminator similar to what the MAWL has. However, it is a single laser illuminator in a head that is SureFire Scout Light compatible. The KIJI K1 comes with a single CR123 weapon light body and a partially shrouded tail cap. The weapon light body is compatible with all the aftermarket Scout Light mounts.

    The samples B.E. Meyers sent me were designed around the SureFire Scout Light body which does not have a shoulder. Installing the KIJI K1 on a light body like Echoarms, Reptilia Group, or SureFire handheld body does not sit down far enough to complete the electric circuit. The KIJI head hits the shoulder on the body too soon. At the time of this review, B.E. Meyers is currently working on fixing this and making the KIJI K1 compatible with other weapon light bodies and handheld bodies.

    Scout Light style body on the left. SureFire handheld body on the right with shoulder behind threads.

    There will be two versions of the KIJI K1 available. One has a 3º beam divergence while the other is 10º beam divergence. The 3º is lower powered at just 150mW while the 10º pumps out 350mW of IR laser illumination.

    While 150mW and 350mW seem very powerful for a laser, these are classified as Class 3R. They are relatively eye-safe. Do not stare into them at point-blank range but at distance, they won’t cause eye damage. What also helps is that these IR illuminators are not focusable. If they were focusable then the classification would change and they could be restricted by the FDA. But they are not so we can rejoice. They are a fixed beam divergence but they do come with beam diffusers to widen the beam further. The 3º KIJI K1 is a rather tight spot light so it comes with a 10º diffuser making it great for indoor and close-range illumination. The 10º KIJI K1 comes with a 40º diffuser. The aperture cover diffuser is simply a lens in a polymer housing held on by an O-ring.

    The KIJI has a polymer cowling that is just two halves bolted to each other. You can remove the polymer cowling or rotate it. On top and bottom of the polymer cowling, is a circular indentation. This is for storing the aperture cover diffuser when you are not using it. Just flip the cover up or down and there is a matching circular protrusion that keeps the cover in place both over the KIJI aperture and in the stowed position.

    This is what the KIJI looks like without the polymer cowling.

    Why would you want a rotating cowling? This allows you to position the aperture cover in any orientation. The illuminator is not adjustable for elevation or windage but that is not a problem since the beam is wide enough even for long-range night vision clip-ons. Even if the KIJI head is rotated at an odd angle due to an offset mount, the aperture cover and cowling can be orientated in whichever direction you want. You want the cover to flip up or down? What if you want the cover to flip to the side? Just rotate the cowling however you prefer. There is another reason to rotate the cover and that is to reveal or conceal the indicator light. Just like the MAWL, the KIJI K1 has an indicator light to let the user know it is on. The cowling has four notches at the four cardinal directions. You can rotate the cowling to reveal or conceal this indicator light.

    MAWLin’ On A Budget

    As mentioned earlier, the MAWL-C1 is a bit pricey at close to $3k for a civilian-rated laser. However, its illuminator rivals that of most full-power lasers. As you can see below, the MAWL-C1 has a 67 mW infrared illuminator on long-range mode.

    Photo by B.E. Meyers

    Well, the KIJI is a better performing IR illuminator than the MAWL. Especially the 3º KIJI K1. Put it on a gun with a simple IR laser like this Steiner OTAL-C and you can activate them both simultaneously with a Mod Button dual lead. One button activates both the KIJI and the laser.

    KIJI K1 mounted on HK 416

    The only minor issue with this setup is that sometimes the KIJI hesitates and then turns on. However, that is a characteristic of the Mod Button dual lead and not the KIJI K1.

    KIJI K1 Beam Saber

    The KIJI illuminator has four power levels and it can be programmed to access any of these four power levels in 32 different modes.

    The KIJI illuminator ships programmed in mode 26. When you turn it on, it will start off at the first power lever 5mW. If you tap the switch but don’t click you can cycle through the second, third and fourth power levels. In this mode, the power levels do not cycle back. Once you turn off the KIJI, it will start back at the lowest power level. They do this so you can spend some time determining which power level is best for your needs. I have my 3º set to mode 11. That way it turns on high first and I double tap to go to the lowest power level in case it is too bright for my needs.

    In order to program the KIJI, you tap the switch 6 times and hold the button down. Do not click it on. The indicator light will switch from red to blue. Once the blue light is blinking it will indicate the current mode it is set on. Look at the chart above. The indicator light will use a series of dashes and dots somewhat like Morse code only simpler. The indicator light will show a short blink (dot) or long blink (dash). A dot is a 1 while a dash is a 5. Since my KIJI 3º is set to mode 11, the indicator light will blink 2x dashes and a single dot. 5+5+1 =11. It is a bit convoluted but you can truly set the KIJI to your personal preference and once you do so you can leave it and forget about it. If you ever want to reset the KIJI you can press the button 8 times instead of 6. It will go back to mode 26 and you can program it from there.

    Here are some pictures taken with my full spectrum Sony A7S of the KIJI K1.

    3º at full power 150mW

    K1 10º at full power 350mW

    Here is the KIJI K1 3º versus my MAWL-X1 Refurb (reprogrammed to C1). You can see the 2º divergence of the MAWL illuminator on the left versus the large 3º divergence beam of the KIJI on the right.

    Here are the same illuminators at 500 yards. The top of that bush is 200 yards but the small white speck is a utility shed of some kind that is over 500 yards away.

    Final Thoughts

    The K1 illuminator will retail for $699. It will come with a single CR123 Scout Light compatible body and shrouded tail cap. While some may think this is a lot for an infrared flashlight, this is not a simple flashlight. This is an infrared illuminator that is better than what is in the MAWL aiming laser. It is compatible with Scout Light accessories and is a fraction of the cost of a MAWL. Other standalone infrared illuminators are either underpowered for less money or cost more for less performance. The Steiner SPIR retails for more and is good to about 500 yards plus it is really big. The Luna Optics illuminator is cheaper but the quality is questionable and combine that with the fact that it is a 750nM laser which is really close to the visible spectrum.

    The KIJI K1 is hard to beat. We put it on our tricked-out spotting scopes and were able to see targets and details 800 yards away. Now, which one should you get? I love the 3º. It is a bit wider than the MAWL’s 2º illuminator but that is perfectly suited for a low profile lightweight illuminator for my long-range gun for use with a clip-on. If I wanted to swap the head onto a carbine and couple it with a standalone IR laser, I have in a sense a budget version of a MAWL. It won’t have the capabilities as a MAWKL but the performance will be similar. Tight long-range illuminator for surgical application of light and if I need to widen the illumination it is quick and easy to use the diffuser aperture cover. I found the 10º diffuser to be perfect for close-range use.

    Now, this brings us to the K1-10º. I will be honest, I did not find it to be that useful for me. Starting at 10º and even at full power, it is all flood and no throw. I had hoped the raw power could push the photons further out but alas that was not the case for how far I wanted it to illuminate. Then when you add the 40º diffuser, the whole beam just lights up a wide area but not past 50 yards. I suppose if you need to cast a lot of light over a wide area in a short distance it would be useful but that is not something I need in an IR illuminator. I could see the 10º being used as a helmet-mounted light combined with a Thrym Variarc so you can point it upwards for umbrella lighting indoors. Your needs may differ then mine. Hopefully the video posted earlier gives you a better idea of its capabilities and you can make your own mind to buy what you need.

    Either way, I am glad B.E. Meyers is offering affordable IR illuminators that can outperform most if not all laser systems on the market for small arms.

    TFB’s Friday Night Lights series is brought to you by ATN

    Nicholas C

    Steadicam Gun Operator
    Night Vision & Thermal Aficionado
    Flashlight/Laser Enthusiast
    USPSA competitor

    Any questions please email him at [email protected]