Browncoats Unite!

Browncoats Unite!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Maglight 6D Mods....

It is very rare that I review a piece of gear that I have purchased pre-made, as I try to keep the focus of this blog on things that I have made myself (basement or campcraft or bushcraft), esp. out of natural materials.

But here's the latest project I have tackled.

I have always been enamoured of things that I know will outlast me. I don't know what it is, perhaps some hidden flaw in my brain that tells me "this knife/gun/flashlight/etc could be an heirloom, or an artifact in 2000 years, because it is so well-made." Perhaps it is related to my interest in ancient history, and my desire to leave a legacy for succeeding generations, whether I have children of my own, or not.

In any case, I love well-made gear. And to be honest, while most gear will not survive a Zombie Apocalypse, Nuke Attack or even an "Andromeda Strain" like episode (everything has plastic parts), there are a few manufacturers of gear that make a point of producing bombproof products that are very independent of plastics.

Mag Instruments is one such company.

Based in Ontario, California, the company that produces Maglites, does so in an exceedingly unpopular fashion. I say unpopular, because about 99 percent of the items they manufacture are designed, produced, and distributed in America! That's right, only a few parts (mostly bulbs and LED modules) in their lights are imported from Chicom countries. This, coupled with their insistence on protecting American manufacturers from patent violations (at home AND abroad), ensures that managers of third world sweatshops the world over dislike them greatly).

Suffice it to say that I love the idea of a light that I can use as a billy club.

And what better model to utilize for this purpose, than the overbuilt and extraordinarily long 6-D model?

Now for the tricky part. Maglights are a very very good value for the money. They are well built and will survive being run over by large semi trucks.

However, the incandescent models do have one fatal design flaw: the Krypton bulb. The original bulbs are not very shock resistant at all. If you wail on some lowlife, or use the light as a hammer, or drop it into a sinkhole (bad experience while caving...don't ask), you are generally left holding a very heavy and expensive piece of milled barstock. What was once a dual use item, is now just a long baton (until, of course, you change the bulb).

Enter LEDs. Mag Instruments has been badmouthed as a company that refuses to leave the Dark Ages of Illuminatory Technology. This was true, up until a few years ago, when they came out with not only stock LED upgrades, but also lights that come with LEDs installed.

Fact: LEDs are far, far more shock resistant than Krypton bulbs.
Fact: LEDs extend the battery life of your flashlight by at least 50%, depending on how hot they run.

FACT: Mag LED lights are very much more expensive than buying an Incandescent Maglite and adding one of the cheaper aftermarket LED dropin kits.

To this end, I have embarked upon the mission of buying Nite Ize 1-watt dropins for each and every C and D-cell maglite in this household. The benefits far outweigh the detriments.

I also bought another D-cell light (a 6-D model) and made the following changes:

Added a Nite Ize 1 watt LED dropin. This significantly boosted the runtime (by at least 17 hours, probably more with the 6-cell lights), while producing at least the amount of light as the standard bulbs give off. The light from LEDs is also much whiter and cleaner, avoiding color distortion and generally allowing a better view of the world in the dark.

Added a whipping along the handle and two Turk's head knots. I ended up removing most of this, because it was too hard to grip and holster the light with it wrapped.


Finally I've ended up with a combination that suits me (for now). I kept the upper Turk's head (near the switch) and, using the cord from the whipping I removed, made a belt hanger for the light. I will probably need to shorten it, as I made the belt loop too long. The idea for this I got from Stormdrane's blog. It is removable without dropping my trousers.


I also plan on adding Eneloop rechargeables in spacers, and eventually buying a solar panel and converter for charging batteries.

In general, I would not need such a big light. I live in a fairly rural area, even now after there has been a significant amount of development.

However, just because one lives in a rural area does not mean there is no crime. Wherever more than one person gathers, bad things happen to good people. It is a simple fact of life. I try to follow the Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared.

I hope this idea catches on. I have read some of the popular flashlight forum posts on Maglites, and it seems that people either love them (and do "Roar of the Pelican" type mods that practically melt the light and give less than 20 minutes of runtime) or hate them (denoucing them as being clunky, (true), bulky (true), and not very bright (only half truth, and debatable as lumen ratings don't really mean a thing, except to people who are trying to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a custom flashlight).

Either way (and whether you, my readers, decide that Maglites are a good or bad choice), I hope you have come away from this article knowing the ups and downs of standard, Made-In-The-USA, Incandescent flashlights, and knowing a few of the things you can do to increase their viability.

Here are some good links to check out:

Maglite Upgrades Overview:

Runtime Graphs with Various Flashlights and Upgrades:

Nite Ize 1 Watt LED Dropin:

6-D maglite for less than 30 bones shipped (use the Super Saver Shipping option):



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