Sunday, August 5, 2012

So, sometimes it goes deeper than writer's block

Well, the reason for this blog in the first place was to get my brain back into gear and get my creative juices flowing once again.  However, my mind has been fighting that.

Ive got a few articles started but sitting along the way side.  I've decided to change that.  Over the course of a week or so, with the urging and prodding of my wife, I intend to complete at least two of those and get them posted.

I do really apologize to those few that were interested in what I've written and were waiting on more.

Keep your eye out and hopefully I'll have something as early as tomorrow evening.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Malkoff Follow Up - How is it in actual day to day useage.

My original Malkoff post just went live a few days ago.  However, I actually typed most of it up nearly two months ago.  In that time, I've used it a whole lot of dark nights and thought I might speak of my experience with it.

Comparison in size to a "tall" Starbucks coffee.

On the daily, I leave the modded Mag sitting on a wooden box next to the front door.  The only security lights outside at our house are the front and back porch light.  Being that we work midnights and are often letting the dog in and out, we spend a lot of time out in the darkness.

Now, I like my time in the dark but I like my ability to have control over it even more.  I'm not going to lie, I have a lot of lights as bright (but smaller) or brighter than the Malkoff.  However, I've tried to use it and consider it objectively.  In other words, how would I like it if this was my one and only go-to light and my experience with the flashaholic world was limited.

Using that as a guideline I realized that the Malkoff is quite frankly fantastic.  Being in a Maglite body, it will take a lot of abuse.  Drop it, bump it into something, etc and it will be fine.  The Malkoff unit itself is supposedly nearly bombproof though I can't claim to have tested this myself.  Being as I have to pay for all my lights myself, I'm not willing to torture test them.  The host I'm using has been around for several years so it has its share of scratches and its not exactly my personal favorite color but it does the job and best of all it was free.  I did manage to drop it rather hard on hard packed dirt and it handled that just fine.  I have no doubt that it would handle the same drop on concrete with nary a problem.  Now, I switched the plastic lens out for glass so I'd say that would possibly be the one weak point in a particularly nasty battle with gravity.

New glass lens on the left. Old scratchy plastic lens on the right.

Let me break this into two separate sections.  First will be for the lay-person with little knowledge of high end lights.  The second will be for flashaholics such as myself.

For the every day user you will notice a few things in the use of this light.  Its bright.  VERY bright.  Rated at 260 lumens out the front, it will probably be one of the brightest lights you will use.  Throw is very good.  If you are using it in the home, it will be perhaps TOO bright.  If you are using it outdoors, hiking, hunting, security, farm use, etc you will find that as long as your eyes are good, you will see quite a bit at quite a long range.  It practically sips at the batteries so you won't find yourself needing to constantly buy those expensive D cells (or Cs if you went with that option).  I'd venture to say that most people could go a few months on the same set of batteries.  If you have the extra dough to splurge on a truely good light, this is one you should very seriously consider putting together.  The small amount of work to put one together is so very worth it compared to the amount of light and run time this light offers.

For the flashaholic, you may see things differently depending upon just how spoiled you are.  Throw is good.  However, the amount of lumens actually hitting downrange may not be what you are used to with smaller and more powerful 18650 lights.  While you can indeed see quite a ways, you may not be able to see as much detail within that circle of light.

Same shot as above but with my Maelstrom size comparison.  Obviously the Maglite is larger but that's not always a bad thing.

The color temperature is definitely on the cool side.  I prefer neutrals and warms myself.  If you like cool tinted lights, you'll like this.

Weight compared to lumens is one sticky point.  My 4Sevens Maelstrom is much smaller and lighter and throws out just as much light or more.  However, runtime at that brightness level isn't even CLOSE to the Malkoff. 

Heat has been pretty much a non issue for me.  I've run it for extended period of times and its gotten "warm".  That may change as we get into warmer months but as of now, I notice the body near the head warm up fairly quickly and then seem to plateau out.  I'd say this is a good sign that the heat sinking is working.

Multiple modes.  Well, quite simply this isn't for you if you like low, high, medium, strobe, sos, etc.  This is pretty simple here.  On and off is it.  Sometimes though, simple is better.

I'd love to take some good beam shots for you all but my phone doesn't make for a good light beam camera and my DSLR batteries have all gone bad.  Perhaps I can find someone to help me out there.  That being said, I find the beam pattern very useful.  The spot is adjustable just as with an incan maglite.  The spill beam is also quite useable and if used while walking, is just about perfect to light up your path as the spot reaches out to light up in the distance.

In summary, I just can't find any flaws with this light other than my own expectations based off of experience with other high end lights.  If you are considering purchasing this light, I highly suggest you do.  If you have any questions about it, feel free to give me a shout and I'll try to help you out as best I can.

Modded (cut) reflector on left. Stock reflector on right. Little clean up would make the modded one look nicer but as is, it has no ill effects on the light's function.

Stock light with bulb and cradle removed. Right is modded with the Malkoff module in place.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Malkoff Maglite Drop-In

Alright, pretty much everyone knows what a Maglite is.  The name alone is pretty much synonymous with flashlight.  I can remember growing up and thinking that Mom and Dad's Maglite was just awesome.  It was the brightest light I had ever seen with exception of the car's headlights.  Of course, back then, there wasn't a lot of brighter lights to be had for the average every day person.

Now, I'm all grown up (sort of) and even today I find tons of people that will respond with something along the line of  "Oh, I've got a Maglite." if I say something about flashlights.  That my friends, is good marketing at its best.  Go to any Walmart or other major retailer and go to their flashlight or outdoor aisle and you will find Maglite's various models displayed very prominently.

This isn't really a bad thing.  They do have a few good lights.  Its just that they are far behind the curve in modern lighting even with their LED models.  The most famous lights they make would most likely be their multi C and D cell models.  I'd venture to guess that nearly anyone that has bumped into a law enforcement, for good or bad, has seen one or more of them still to this day carrying the big bulky C or D model.  It provides somewhat adequate light and in an emergency it can be used as a blunt object striking tool.

The body of the light itself can withstand a LOT of abuse.  However, many still carry the incandescent model.  Aside from the very low light output, compared to the many modern LED choices, the bulb is the weak point.  The filament can be broken at any time but especially if the light is on or has just been on.  While the filament is hot it takes very little impact to break it.  A good "bump" on a wall, door frame, etc can take the already low output to zero output.

The LED version is better but not great.  Why?  Because as I said before, they are way behind the curve.  The LED version of the 3 D is the one I've had personal experience with but I've done a lot of research into them.  They have no true heat sink for the LED to keep cool.  This quickly causes the light to lose output levels as heat begins to rob the LED of efficiency.  To compound this problem, the light is already hampered by the use of an older and less bright LED than what most current smaller lights are using.  So, when the light is dimmer than my 2 AA 4Sevens pocket flashlight right out of the gate, the dimming due to heat is a deal breaker for me.

So, why does anyone want a Maglite then you might ask.  My answer is simple.  I want a Maglite because with some extra dollars and a couple of minutes of personal labor (labor so easy it can hardly even be called labor) you can have a truly bright light with some serious run time.

This is where Malkoff Devices comes into play.  This is a small company.  They make actual turn-key lights that are supposedly great but my experience, and this post, is about the drop-in for the Maglites.  Go to their website and you can read about their company.  Where you now need to go if you have a Maglite is to this page.

A standard Maglite has a small ring that holds an incandescent bulb in place.  This bulb and ring will come out and an LED module will go into its place.  There are other LED replacements that claim higher lumen numbers but to my knowledge, there aren't any that are heat sinked like the Malkoff and therefore the only one that will keep its brightness consistent.
Picture from their site. Module for the 3-6  D Cell Mag.

Another nice thing about this drop-in is that it retains the Maglite's ability to be focused.  If you want a larger hotspot you can have that.  If you want a brighter hot spot with more throw, you can have that too.  You WILL notice some artifacts in the beam.  This is due to the large smooth reflector used in the factory head.  However, if you've been using an incandescent these artifacts shouldn't bother you.

The beam of this light is nice with a very throwy spot while still retaining a usable spill.  This isn't an EDC light for me.  It is however a good light to throw in the car for emergencies or to keep by the bed, or in my case the table next to the front door.

There are plenty of lights that can be purchased that are brighter.  There are plenty of lights that can be bought that are smaller.  However, I'm not aware of many lights that are this cheap, this bright, and can be run for this long.

Lets do the math real quick.  I had a Maglite body donated to me.  If you have to buy one (don't buy an LED model as the conversion will not work - the light's serial number must start with the letter D) I believe they can be had for around $20 to $25.  The Malkoff module is $69 (I bought it on special for $59).  I also chose to go with the glass lens to replace the factory plastic one.  This was $8.  Trust me, the glass lens is worth it.  If you do some research, you can get another 5% off but that one you'll have to find on your own.  Maybe the folks at Candle Power Forums can help ;-).  Shipping is a flat rate box from USPS so another $8.  So, total for a NEW light would be $110.  Mine, with donated host and applicable discounts, was $69.  Not bad for someone that knows what a good light is.  High for someone that doesn't know much about lights.

Something to take into account when considering this purchase.  Incandescent lights eat up batteries.  D cell batteries are NOT cheap.  I couldn't tell you the run time of a stock Maglite but I know its nowhere near the Malkoff enhanced version.  A 3 D cell model will run at full brightness for 6 hours.  Rated at 260 lumens compared to the incan's 45 lumens.  That incan also hits 50% (approx 23 lumen) at one hour and 5 minutes. From there, the incan will drop with a slope in brighness until roughly the 11 hour mark where it will be fully dead.  The Malkoff will, as mentioned above, run at 260 lumens for a couple of minutes.  It will then get warm and drop to approximately 240 to 250 lumens (not my personal testing but what I've gathered through research) where it will hold steady for nearly 6 hours.  It will then drop out of regulation and begin falling at a slope until dead at 24 hours.

Suddenly the price difference doesn't seem so bad.  Use a light a LOT and want to see even more long term savings?  Spend the money on a decent set of rechargeable D cells (Tenergy and Titanium are two good brands) and good charger (Titanium makes a good one, Powerex makes the best one) and you will have replaced the need to purchase all of those D cell alkaline batteries.  If you live in a rural setting, do any long term outdoor activities, are a farmer, etc then this would be the way to go.

So, what is required to do this?  Pretty simple really.   You will need a dremel tool or something similar with a small cutting wheel.  You can buy a pre-cut reflector from Malkoff but its really just too easy to cut your own down to fit the module.  Take the head off of the light.  If you have the glass lens, remove the bezel by unscrewing it.  Simply drop the plastic lens out, and without touching the front or back surfaces, into the bezel.

While you have the bezel off, take the reflector out.  Be careful not to touch the reflective surface.  Use a dremel tool to cut all but just a few millimeters of the reflector's "stem" off.  This makes room for the module as the Malkoff doesn't have space around the LED like the incandescent bulb does.  If you are like me, you'll have some plastic dust blown up into the shiny side of the reflector.  I fixed this by simply pouring some rubbing alcohol down through it to wash the particles away.  This kept me from having any spots after it dried and also dried quicker than water would have.  Trying to wipe them out would be a bad idea as it would scratch horribly.  Drop the reflector back into the head and screw the bezel back down.

Once that is done, you need to remove the bulb and its retainer ring.  Simply grab the ring with your fingers and unscrew it.  As you take it out, the bulb will come with it.  Drop the module in its place.  You will then have to push down around the LED with your fingers.  Don't touch the LED dome.  Push until it drops roughly 1/4 inch down from the rim of the body tube.  There is a small screw beside the dome.  Screw this down and it will drive a "wedge" sideways.  This will hold the module in as well as make a lot of contact area  to conduct heat away and into the body of the light.

Screw the head back on and you are done.

Now, get outside once the sun goes down and play with the focus until you find the hot spot that works for you.  I have mine adjusted as far out as I can go without having the old Maglite "hole" in the middle of the beam.  This gives me a little less throw but gives me a lot of light down range.  If there is no ambiant light to hinder your night vision, you will likely find this focus to be very usable out to about 60 or 70 yards.  If you tighten it up as much as you can, the spot is going to be very usable out to around 90 or 100.  That being said, the beam will still be going strong out to 150 to 200 yards depending upon your vision.

Any way you cut it that's a lot of light to have on hand.  Something to consider especially if you live in an area prone to storm damage or even just power outages.

If I left anything out that you want to know about this set up, give me a shout.  I'll try to answer any questions you may have.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Purpose of EDC... my view anyway.

I had originally meant to make my first actual post be about the Malkoff 3 D Maglite Drop-in but I realized that I have a lot of editing and clean up to do on that article before I post it.  Plus, I need a few more pictures.  So, I thought I'd discuss my outlook on EDC.  Many of the items I'll briefly list in this post, I'll discuss in more detail in future articles.

Go to the EDC forum and read over a handful of posts and you'll quickly realize that there are as many different takes to EDC as there are people on that board.  That is just ONE board.

For me, my interest in EDC just kind of evolved over several years.  I went from carrying a pocket knife to carrying a cellphone and a pocket knife.  Then over time I added a flashlight to the aforementioned.  From there I began carrying a handgun.  Today, my EDC may change from day to day depending on the weather, time of year, and where I'm going.  However, there are constants.  I ALWAYS have my handgun, my wallet, a pocket knife, and a flashlight, regardless of what time of day it is.

In addition to those four items I'll often have my Maxpedition brand pocket organizer.  I'll do a post specifically about it but as a basic rule I have at any given time these items within it.  A small Molskine notebook, alcohol based hand sanitizer, a secondary flashlight (4Sevens 2AA Tactical), a red pen, a black pen, and a Gerber multi-tool.  I can add or change out items before leaving the house as needed.  The organizer generally resides in my cargo pocket.

Often times I'll also have with me, or in my car, a 5.11 brand back pack.  More specifically a COVRT 18.  This pack's contents change often but for the past couple of months its stayed the same.  In no particular order, I keep my Zebralight headlamps (2), a medium sized notebook, various pens (fountain, rollerball, and ballpoint), my netbook computer, skullcandy headphones, small keychain size AAA flashlight, spare batteries of various sizes, clorox wipes (wipe a "clean" table down at any restaurant one time, look at the white wipe, and realize why I do this), a small selection of first aid supplies, a pair of super sharp Fiskar's scissors in a plastic sheath, a butane jet lighter, wine bottle opener, and a large battery pack charger that is good for 10 to 12 charges of my Android smartphone.  There are a few odds and ends I left out but they aren't overly important.

Now, many look at this list of items and say "wow".  Just on flashlights alone I get questioned often.  However, I can't think of how many times I've been with someone that needed a flashlight and they not have one anywhere near them.  Even during the day.  I was at the car dealer the other day and they needed a light in the service bay and didn't have one they had access to.  I simply pulled mine out of my pocket and the woman was just taken aback that I had one on me.

On the subject of flashlights I'll paraphrase a quote I've read many times on various boards.  If the weatherman says there is a 50% chance of rain, most of us will take a jacket or umbrella.  Well folks, there is a 100% chance of dark EVERY DAY.

As for the other stuff, do I require it?  Of course not.  However, I can't tell you how many times each one of the items in my EDC gear comes in handy or even necessary.

My outlook on EDC is very different from many and very similar to others.  Everyone that practices EDC looks at it differently.  Many believe you should carry more.  Many believe the load out should be less.  As for the items within, well that is always up for discussion and debate among the EDC peoples.  In the end, its what works for those that carry that gets carried by those people.

That after all is the point of this blog.  To tell you what I personally keep on or around me and why.  Then for you to figure out if one of those items is something that will help you out in your daily life.

That said, I sign off for the night.  I'm hoping to make at least one, maybe two posts a week until I'm all out of ideas of what to write about.  The Malkoff article should hit the net on Wednesday or Thursday.

If you have anything to add or ask, feel free to post as a comment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I can remember being obsessed with flashlights even when I was a kid.  There was just something about having “power” over the darkness of night that was appealing to me.  Particularly since I lived in a very rural area with no neighbors and often without so much as a security light on a pole near by.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed time in the dark as much as or maybe even more than many.  I suppose it was just the concept of being able to break the inkiness with the flick or press of a switch that fed my interest.

Back then though, life was tough on a flashaholic.  A term I didn’t even become aware existed until just a few years ago when I stumbled upon Candlepower Forums and realized that my “obsession” was not only shared by many others but in some cases, to a degree that absolutely dwarfed mine.  Back “in the day” there just wasn’t a lot out there to pack a punch.  Ignorance is bliss though I suppose. Back then I thought that my “Streamlight” flashlight, that also converted to a headlamp (a very uncomfortable one I might add), was great and my parent’s MagLite was just the absolute bee’s knees.  Oh what little did I know.  

Sometime circa 2005 I decided I needed a good light for work and found myself browsing through the world of modern “tactical” lights.  I finally settled on an Inova LED flashlight that came with a recharging cradle and with that it was like taking the first hit of meth.  I can’t say I know exactly what a meth addiction is like but I can’t imagine its any stronger than a flashaholics addiction to lights and the never-ending battle to find either the brightest light possible in the smallest package they can squeeze it into or simply the most blindingly bright light possible period, size and weight be damned.

Since that fateful day, I say as I chew my nails and scratch at my unkempt hair as I browse the “new items” or “just in” pages of my favorite crac... I mean flashlight suppliers, I have purchased a truly ridiculous number of flashlights.  There in is my point about addiction.  I can admit that no sane man needs as many lights as I have.  I just can’t do anything to stop myself.

I continue to find lights that are super small but throw a fantastic amount of light, brighter and smaller than what I currently carry.  Sometimes its a light that has a lumen output higher than anything I have in my possession and I have to go try to figure out how to get it.  Sometimes I sell older, less impressive lights.  Sometimes I pinch pennies or set aside my day of holiday pay. Sometimes I try to trade family members I’m not overly close to. (I'm sure they will enjoy their stay in Bangkok.

Coincidentally, the world of flashlights bled over into my interest in firearms and then later into the world of every day carry or EDC.  With several blogs and forums dedicated to these three subjects its interesting to note that nearly all of them in some way bleed over into the others.

All the above having been said, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to get my creativity going again and decided that over the next few months I would try to do reviews or articles on some of the various items that I do indeed EDC as well as some of the items I keep around the house “just in case”.  Its really more for me than anyone else but I hope that some one reads at least one of the posts and gains something from it in some way.

So, with that, I’ll close this post and see about getting started on my first review.  A look into a popular refit to the venerable old MagLite that turns it back into an actual usable and reliable light.  Stay tuned.