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.

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