Updated: Jun 22
I first started carrying a flashlight in my pocket on a daily basis in 2009. I had just transitioned out of uniformed patrol into a plainclothes unit and my line of thought was that if I was carrying a gun, I better have a way of positively identifying and illuminating a threat on my person at all times. I wanted a light with a good lumen output (lumen is the measure of visible light, it’s not a perfect metric buts it’s pretty good if you aren’t a light geek) that was small enough to fit in my back pocket comfortably but not so small that it would be difficult to get a good purchase on and manipulate under stress. Being an inveterate fan of Surefire lights since they were Laser Products back in the 90’s I settled on the Surefire EB1 which at the time was really the only game in town for an EDC (Everyday Carry) light. It boasted a 200-lumen output in a footprint that was only 4 inches long and about three quarters of an inch wide. It also sported one of the first pocket clips on the market.
Fast forward to 2016. I was transitioning out of law enforcement, my battered and beaten EB1 was still in my back pocket but it was showing some wear. The rubber part of the tailcap switch was completely gone and 200-Lumens was starting to look a lot less sexy when compared to similarly sized lights on the market that were putting out anywhere from 300 to even 500 Lumen. The $125 price for the newly upgraded version of the Surefire was also not very pleasant to my newly restricted budget. The new light’s pocket clip design also didn’t allow for bezel down carry which was my preference.
Enter the Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA. This light was the same diameter as my EB1 and was only a little under half an inch longer, which I found I actually preferred for manipulating the light while shooting. The Streamlight boasts a high output of 350 Lumen and a low output mode of 40 Lumens. Better yet the Streamlight was capable of not only running off of the same single CR123A battery as my previous light it would also operate (albeit at slightly less output) with more commonly available AA and AAA batteries. This was a boon when traveling or for potential emergency situations where the CR123As might not be accessible.
I also liked the switching on the Streamlight. The tailcap switch (which I think is a requirement for a tactical light) offers both momentary on-off function and a constant on “click”. Although some “tactical” personalities don’t like a constant on function, I personally have found it beneficial for a light that does double duty as a utility/task light. While I wouldn’t search or clear a building with the light constantly on I have found it useful to be able to activate the constant on function once a suspect has been contacted or located (this would also hold true for home defense use). In addition to the high output mode on the initial press of the tail switch the light also has a low output mode that increases run time and doesn’t blow your eyes out when performing tasks like reading a map. Finally, it also has a strobe mode, which can be useful to cover movement but is also a great option for signaling in an emergency situation. If all that is too complicated for you, Streamlight’s proprietary ten-tap programing also allows you to set up the light for high-only or low-only function.
When I was initially researching this light one of the only things that anyone had negative to say about it was that the pocket clips were prone to falling off. I haven’t had that issue with either of the two lights I have owned. In fact, I prefer this pocket clip to the Surefire. The “S” design allows for either bezel down or bezel up carry and can even be clipped to the brim of a ballcap to act as an impromptu headlamp (I’ve never actually done that, but…you know…I could).
According to Streamlight the ProTac 1L-1AA is 2-meter impact resistant and water proof to 1 meter for 30 minutes. In the nearly four years I have been carrying these lights I have dropped them off of ladders, dunked them in puddles, and even run one through the washing machine without any ill effects. They have proven to be more than tough enough for anything your average law enforcement officer or citizen would subject them to. All in all, the Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA has been a nearly perfect EDC light for me, particularly considering the retail price of only around $40.00.