Is this the best self defense flashlight yet? FourSevens Quark Smart review

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Background

For many years now my carry light of choice has been the FourSevens Quark Tactical QT2A-X. It had most of the features I demand in a self defense light: it has sufficiently high output to work as a distraction tool, but at the same time has a fairly wide beam which is ideal for lighting up confined spaces; it’s long enough, thanks to the two AA batteries it houses, to serve as a makeshift Kubaton (which I’ve been trained to use); it’s tough enough to use as a striking implement; the tail-mounted switch only does one thing, which is to turn the light on to its highest output and nothing more; and it’s durable — unlike many other flashlights that I own, I’ve never been able to break a FourSevens.

I’ve actually worn through several of the rear switch boots on this one, which is my daily around-the-farm carry. As you can see, it’s been knocked around a bunch over the years but still functions perfectly!

Heavily Used FourSevens Quark Tactical(When I travel I take an identical one that’s in much nicer condition, and I save it just for when I’m out in public!)

This has been my favorite lighting tool of all time, but recently FourSevens discontinued the Quark Tactical line and replaced it with the less expensive (and less capable) Quark Click line. I was devastated, and even said in public that I feared FourSevens had lost its way. I even started shopping for a new brand of lights to recommend!

About that time David Chow, the owner of FourSevens, contacted me and said that I shouldn’t worry because he had a replacement for the Quark Tactical — one he thought I’d like even more. He had to discontinue the lights in order to head off a nuisance lawsuit from a larger competitor (a company I will consequently no longer do business with) and wasn’t quite ready to bring out the new product. I told him I’d wait and order one to see for myself how good they were.

About a month ago the new lights finally became available. I ordered, paid (retail) for and received the new version of my favorite light, now called Quark Smart QS2A-X, and started putting it through its paces.

The New Quark

The new Quarks are similarly styled to the old ones, which in my mind is a plus. So many of the “tactical” lights on the market have heavy knurling, lots of sharp protuberances, and in general a very masculine appearance. The FourSevens products remind of of Apple’s famous phones and computers: sleek, intelligently designed, and classic. One of the big reasons I’m a fan of FourSevens is because of that design aesthetic; their lack of sharp pointy things means that they don’t wear holes in pants!

The only real external cue that these aren’t the old lights is the large squarish rubber inset on the side of the head. It has the FourSevens logo in it and is actually a switch. Yes, the Quark Smarts have an extra switch! They still have a thumb switch on the back, of course, along with the new side switch. The good news is that they can be programmed to do different things!

The rear switch is now a momentary-only affair; in other words, it only turns the light on if you maintain pressure; some call it a “dead man” switch. This is exactly what I want to see in a defensive flashlight! The old Quark switch was known as a “clicky”: if you pressed it in slightly the light would go on and go off if you released pressure, but if you pressed further it would lock on requiring a second press to turn off. This is how most switches work these days, and it was the only complaint I had with the old lights. With the Quark Smart’s switch, I finally got exactly what I wanted!

The rear switch can be programmed to come on in any of the lights modes or brightnesses, but it will only do that; it doesn’t change modes, brightnesses, or any thing else. It just comes on, every time, the way that you want it to. This is now the perfect switch! I programmed mine to come on at full brightness, because when I’m in a position of needing that light as a safety tool I want all the light I can get instantly. I don’t want it to strobe or change brightness if I turn it off and on again, and I don’t want to guess what it’s set at from the last time I used it. The new switch makes the light absolutely perfect for defensive applications.

The side switch, which I think of as a utility switch, is the one that can change modes if you so desire. It can be set to come on in a specific mode or brightness, but you can cycle through them by holding or doing multiple quick presses. I have mine set to come on at about 1/3 brightness for use as a general lighting tool: finding things at the back of dark cupboards, etc. I can easily hold the button down and change the brightness on the fly if I need more or less.

How bright is the Quark Smart QS2A-X? It’s noticeably brighter than my original Quark Smart. At its highest setting it puts out 350 lumens, which is amazing for a light that runs on AA-size batteries; I have the side switch set at 90 lumens. It is plenty bright, and the beam is typical of FourSevens: smooth, no rings or dark spots, with a large central hotspot which fades out to a fairly bright corona. It’s a very good balance between “throw” (narrow but with long distance) and “flood” (wide but short-range) and pretty representative of FourSevens’ beam quality.

What do they mean by ‘Smart’?

If the new Quark only had those features going for it, that would be good enough to earn my recommendation. But the Quark Smart has more up it sleeve!

The light is so named because it uses a Bluetooth chip to connect with an app on your iPhone (Android version is coming soon.) Now that doesn’t sound terribly exciting, let alone necessary; it’s a flashlight, right? Why do you need an app for a flashlight?

The Quark smart has quite a few tricks up its sleeve. For instance, you can now do things like link lights together so that they’re all controlled by one; you can use the app to turn lights off, on, and access different modes and brightness levels; you can even set a proximity alarm so that if your light and phone are separated they’ll each put out a warning. None of that, however, is why I like the new functions!

FourSevens Quark Smart QS2A-X FourSevens Quark Smart QS2A-X The app allows you to set a couple of items in the light that are actually useful from my perspective. First, the FourSevens logo in the middle of the side switch is clear, and underneath are green and red LEDs. The green LED lights up when the batteries are good, and turns to red when they’re getting low. The great thing is that you can set the threshold of that warning; if, for instance, you want the light to tell you when the batteries are at 50% instead of the default 20%, you can change it with the app.

You can also use the LED display as a nightlight and have it turn on and off at specific times. Now I know that doesn’t sound like it would be useful, but I discovered that leaving the LED in nightlight mode makes it MUCH easier to find on the nightstand. In fact, I’ve already started wondering how I ever got along without that feature! It’s particularly useful when traveling and the setup of your room isn’t just like the one at home.

Build quality

Of course none of this has any benefit if the lights aren’t built well. Naturally it’s too early for a long-term evaluation, but from a physical standpoint they’re built the same way that my old Quarks are. This means that the Quark Smart is a solid light and I have no qualms about its ruggedness. Of course the electronics are another matter entire
ly, but David tells me he expects the Smart to actually be more durable than the Quark — heck, even if they were just as good they’d be superb! David is a no-nonsense guy who is also a serious flashlight nut, and I trust what he tells me. I strongly expect to be using my Quark Smart QS2A-X for many years to come.

Is the new Quark Smart a winner?

Yes, I definitely think it is. The new interface otions and revised switch layout make it more suitable as a safety and rescue tool, and at the same time make it better as a general lighting tool as well. David and his company may have designed the perfect daily carry flashlight: one that can be used both to protect yourself and find those keys that dropped under the couch, and do both well.

I’m a flashlight nut myself; I’ve lost count of how many flashlights I own from the better manufacturers, and the Quark Smart is easily the best defensive flashlight I’ve yet found. From a feature standpoint it’s as perfect as anything has been, and from a quality standpoint it upholds the reputation that FourSevens has been quietly building among savvy flashlight users for more than a decade. It was worth every penny I paid for it, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a solid defensive flashlight.

– Grant Cunningham

P.S.: Based on how well this light performed, I requested review samples of the lithium-cell Quark Smart, which just came out, and their newly revised Preon P2. I’ll have reviews of those next Monday.

 

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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