Last week I reviewed the new FourSevens Quark Smart QS2A-X and found it to be perhaps the ideal self defense flashlight for the average person. Now I said “average person”, not “training junkie” or “tactical hobbyist” — one of the reasons I put it that way is because it uses ubiquitous AA batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable, which are a cheap and readily available power source. The AA-powered Quark Smart is cheap to run, which means it’s more likely to be carried and used by someone who’s not dedicated to the expense of using a lithium-powered light on a regular basis.
When I sat down with David Chow, the owner of FourSevens, at the recent NRA Annual Meetings (NRAAM) in Louisville the first thing he said to me was “now I know you don’t like lithium lights…” I had to stop him mid-sentence and correct a misconception: I personally love lithium-powered lights, and in fact own a large number of them; it’s just that I try to find solutions for people who aren’t enthusiasts and who don’t hang around places where they sell plate carriers and tactical Kydex.
He laughed and agreed with me, then asked if I’d like to review the lithium version of the Quark Smart alongside the AA version I recently purchased. I said I would, as long as he’d let me review his new Preon P2 as well. This is a review of both lights, courtesy of FourSevens.*
Quark Smart QS2L-X
You can read last week’s review of the AA-powered Quark Smart for the features and operational details; in this review I’m going to focus on what makes this model different than the QS2A-X.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: this thing is bright. As in really, REALLY bright! The QS2L-X model uses two 123-sized lithium cells for power. Lithium batteries have higher voltage and lower internal resistance than alkalines and can deliver far more current, which translates to more light from the LED; in fact, a LOT more light.
How much more? Recall that the AA-powered Quark Smart puts out 350 lumens at maximum; the lithium version, in contrast, puts out a whopping 950 lumens! I have several flashlights which will do that but they’re substantially larger than the Quark. I’ve never had a cylindrical, pocketable light that was this bright. (One warning: that output level the head heats up very quickly!)
In fact it’s bright enough that it’s actually a bit too bright even for my taste, at least indoors (say, for a home defense tool; if you turn this thing on “high” after waking up in the middle of the night, don’t point it at a white wall!) It does have a medium setting of 350 lumens, which puts it at the same output as the alkaline version but with double the runtime. I’d really like this model to have a setting in between, say around 700 lumens Outside, however, such as in a dark parking lot when it’s raining those 950 lumens make this flashlight come into its own. It really lights up an area!
The 123 cells are shorter and fatter than their AA counterparts, making for a flashlight that’s a little larger in diameter but shorter than the QS2A-X. Because of the reduced cell length I find that lithium lights are often a little too short for many people to comfortably use as an impact weapon, but the QS2L-X is a tad longer than most flashlights in its class. It sticks out both sides of my fist a fairly good deal, making it one of the few 123-powered lights that I really feel even those with big hands could use. It’s a touch short to easily use with Kubaton pain compliance techniques, but someone with small hands (like mine) would be able to make it work in a pinch. The much longer AA Quark Smart is a better choice for that task.
The QS2L-X will use rechargeable lithium cells but the light is sensitive to battery length — and the length of rechargeable cells varies considerably. To use them the tailcap has to be loosened a bit in order to make room for their extended length, but even that isn’t a sure cure; I tried the light with several sets of the well-regarded AW rechargeables and only two sets would work. I don’t see this as a deal-breaker, mainly because I’ve met very few others who use the rechargeable lithium batteries, but it is something to keep in mind. With standard lithium primary cells operation was flawless.
If you like the performance aspects of lithium batteries and understand the cost, availability and safety issues with them, the FourSevens Quark Smart QS2L-X is a superb choice in a defensive flashlight for the same reasons that the AA version is. Be prepared, though, to go through at least a couple of sets of batteries just amazing your friends with how bright it is!
I asked to review this light because I receive lots of requests for very thin, pocketable/concealable flashlights. Many people feel that even a AA-powered flashlight is just too bulky, and I can understand that complaint. The AAA cell is much thinner than its AA cousin and can make for a very trim, almost pen-sized flashlight. There’s a reason that the term “penlight” most often refers to AAA-powered flashlights!
Unfortunately no one really makes serious AAA-powered flashlights, in the sense that they could be used as defensive tools. The new Preon P2 comes closer than most, and though it’s not perfect it may be a choice for the person who is really adamant about having a thin, stylish yet capable flashlight.
The original Preon was a smooth aluminum tube which made it somewhat slippery and quite difficult to use as a defensive tool. FourSevens has changed the finish from being smooth to having ridges on the entire body, greatly increasing the traction and lessening slippage in the hand. It’s now a much better tool for impact use, and it’s just long enough and thin enough to substitute for a Kubaton for those who know that system. The aluminum body is quite trim but the sidewalls are sufficiently thick, enough so that I don’t see any problem with using it as a physical weapon. It feels quite solid in the hand.
The beam is very soft, meaning that it doesn’t have quite as pronounced a central hotspot as the Quarks do. I personally prefer this to a beam with more “throw”, as it makes it easier to see without having to constantly move a narrow beam around a scene to find something. As expected, there were no rings or darkspots in the beam — a FourSevens trademark and a sign of a quality flashlight. Fit and finish was flawless, something else I expect from FourSevens.
The tailswitch is of the “clicky” type with a momentary feature. Normally those aren’t my ideal choice because they can be unintentionally latched in the on position when you really want it off, but the Preon’s switch is better than most: the travel to get to the click after the light comes on is quite long, and actually takes some effort to push it far enough to lock. It’s good enough that I don’t see it as a significant downside.
As it comes from the factory, the tailswitch alternates between high and low and comes on at the last brightness used. I consider that an absolute no-go for a defensive tool; a defensive light needs to come on at maximum brightness every time the switch is pressed (which for this light is a very respectable 220 lumens, astonishing from such small batteries!) Happily, the switch can be quickly reprogrammed so that the Preon P2 always comes on at full! That’s exactly what I did, and once done the Preon P2 turned into what I feel is the best of the AAA-powered lights on the market for someone who wants a good-looking, sleek light that can still be a serious defensive tool. (Oh, and it’s available in either basic black or a rich metallic blue to match any outfit!)
My friend Julie Loeffler, who teaches the superb “Light Then Fight!” course for defensive flashlight use, carries one clipped to her bra strap so that it’s easily accessible yet completely hidden. It’s that kind of very low profile carry at which the Preon P2 excels.
This is a flashlight that I honestly did not expect to like, but the more I played with it the more it grew on me. It’s very pocketable, even in a shirt pocket, while still providing the features necessary for a piece of safety/defense equipment. It’s not going to replace my beloved Quark, but as a secondary light (or perhaps a primary under certain circumstances) it has a lot of appeal. For the person who really needs a thinner and sleeker light than even the Quark, the FourSevens Preon P2 is the best choice I’ve yet found.
– Grant Cunningham
( * – Though FourSevens supplied the lights for this article there was no expectation made of a favorable review.)
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