SureFire WristLight – New Gear Review

SureFire Wristlight

The WristLight measures .997 inches tall at the LED housing, roughly double the thickness of some tactical-style wristwatches.


By Guy J. Sagi

Surefire
www.surefire.com

SureFire has a hard-earned reputation for innovation and producing quality gear that is duty tough and functional, but last year the company introduced something that left more than a few scratching their heads. It took a while to arrive, but the company’s new $495 WristLight is finally available. It comes with a built-in, rechargeable Li-ion battery, produces a maximum output of 180 lumens, weighs a stout 3.62 ounces and is rugged enough to put a bad guy in a world of hurt if you hit him with that arm. It serves as a backup light for law enforcement and can complement handgun use in low- or no-light situations, but the return on investment for civilians escaped us during testing.

SureFire WristLight

A pair of activation switches found on both sides of the WristLight allows its use on either arm. Their small size, however, also makes finding them something of a challenge with gloved hands.

At 2.254 inches long, 2.052 wide and .997 tall at its tallest point, it’s not something you’d want to wear all day. It’s big and guaranteed to attract superhero, web-slinging jokes around the water cooler. For military and law enforcement personnel who routinely pull long shifts in the nighttime hours, however, it could pay big dividends.

One is None

The self-defense and tactical shooting community has an old saying that, unfortunately, is pretty true. “One is none and two is one” reminds shooters that sooner or later, perhaps at the worst possible moment, your gear will go down and you’d better have a backup.

Flashlights break. They roll behind nightstands. They migrate to the bottom of a car’s console, drop out of duty belts and batteries die mysterious and unexpected deaths. When that happens, the SureFire WristLight is, literally, at your fingertips to identify that shadow across a darkened room, or in the case of law enforcement, clear an abandoned warehouse at night.

SureFire Wristlight

Power is supplied by an integral Li-ion battery and a micro-USB plug is inserted in the back of the WristLight to recharge after use. It will take about three hours to bring a dead battery back up to full charge.

Speed

A backup or supplementary light source on your wrist makes response much faster than heading back to the cruiser or searching through a shooting bag for another flashlight, but activating either of the .337 inch long and .195 inch wide switches reliably under stress could be a challenge. The slight stature minimizes the chances of inadvertent activation, but finding their location without looking might prove problematic when wearing gloves.

SureFire WristLight

The WristLight comes with everything needed to recharge the unit and it simply plugs into any wall outlet.

Turning on the WristLight with bare fingers is intuitive enough that it allows you to keep your eyes on the threat. Simply run your finger along its side, stop when you feel the slight .1 inch elevation change and rubberized texturing, then push. Pressure from the sides or even steep angles typically did not activate the tested unit, although it was forgiving enough that perfect placement atop was not mandatory (with enough pressure). Either the sides of the rubberized exterior are stiff enough to prevent activation from angles other than nearly perpendicular, or some sort of interior element forms a protective recess for the switch.

Powered by a tough LED, maximum power output is 180 lumens, but it can also be dialed back to 60 and 15 lumens.

Powered by a tough LED, maximum power output is 180 lumens, but it can also be dialed back to 60 and 15 lumens.

Things were different with gloves. Centering a finger on the sweet spot was no longer an effortless affair. Fine motor skills are the first thing to disappear when under stress, so taking your eyes off the threat may be required for activation. Successfully depressing the switch, obviously, took a little more pressure and longer, non-tightly fitting gloves block some of the light.

Light

The WristLight has variable output settings, 180, 60 and 15 lumens. Run times are 1.25 hours, 4 hours and 13 hours, respectively. One press of either of the two switches activates the high-power mode. Depress a switch two times fast and output is 15 lumens. To turn off the unit, hit either of the buttons again.

SureFire Wristlight

A “fuel meter” tells users how much power is left in the Li-ion battery. In this case, green indicates a nearly full charge.

By holding both buttons down simultaneously, the WristLight will toggle between low, medium and high outputs. Release the buttons at the desired level. The unit will then produce constant light at that setting, although keeping both pressure switches fully depressed while the unit is rolling on a wrist can be a challenge. In cold weather with gloves, it will probably be nearly impossible.

Coverage from the WristLight at its maximum setting was wide and broad during testing. It lit up small rooms extremely well and did a great job across a living room, spilling light into an adjoining kitchen. Bear in mind, though, this is not designed for long-distance illumination.

SureFire WristLight

A micro-USB connector at the back of the WristLight means dust and moisture may find their way in.

This will undoubtedly vary by shooter and grip, but the center of its pattern did not index with point of aim during testing. The WristLight can be relocated on your arm, so its not a terminal flaw, but don’t be surprised if right-handed shooters find the brightest illumination to be to low left. It’s something to bear in mind when suiting up, although the lens provides enough side lighting to make it perfectly functional even when slightly off.

During drills with the handgun, the light rotated slightly on the arm. Snugging the .925 inch-wide nylon wristband was an easy solution, but it still moved a little. Discipline will also be required to avoid altering grip in a misguided effort to co-witness point of aim with the center of lighting if the two are slightly off.

SureFire WristLight

The unit comes with a nylon wristband that is .925 inch wide, which can be easily changed.

The back of the support hand catches a significant amount of illumination, too. Bad guys often shoot at lights pointed their direction, so backlighting any portion of your body is a concern, although not as much of a one as not having any light at all.

Bear in mind LEDs get hot and heat conducts through metal, like the hard-anodized aluminum used for the WristLight’s body. It didn’t get scorching hot, but it did get warm.

SureFire WristLight

The WristLight came in at 3.62 ounces, including wristband and battery.

The unit survived shooting drills with the kind of aplomb you expect from SureFire products. For those who don’t know, the SureFire story began back 1979, when Laser Products Corporation was established. The company provided shotgun laser sights to the LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff’s Office during the 1984 Olympics and the next year the company rolled out its first SureFire-labeled weaponlight. SureFire’s reputation grew so fast that in 2000 Laser Products Corporation became part of SureFire LLC.

Power

Unlike most other tactical lights, the WristLight doesn’t run on 123A batteries. Instead, an integral (read non-replaceable by the consumer) Li-ion cell provides all the power.

Casio watch weighed

Despite the fact the “tactical style” Casio watch used for comparison was half as thin, it weighed only .32 ounces less.

Recharging takes place through a micro-USB port found at the back of the unit. That external electronic connection pretty much precludes waterproof claims, and SureFire hasn’t made any that we know of. Initial charging of the test unit required two hours, but the company’s literature warned to expect it to require three hours when the cell is completely empty.

One of the more handy features on the WristLight is an LED on the back of the unit SureFire calls the fuel gauge. If it’s glowing bright green after you turn it on, the battery is fully charged. It’s time to get worried when the color changes to yellow and if it shows red, you’re battery is dead. It sure beats nasty surprises.

The red light comes on when you first plug the WristLight into its charger. When full, the light turns green. You can leave the unit plugged in after a full charge and, according to SureFire, it will not damage anything.

Civilian Use?

SureFire WristLight

The WristLight is effective as a backup, but it brightly backlights your support hand.

The military and law enforcement applications are obvious, but the advantages of a wrist-mounted light over a flashlight or headlamp for civilians are hard to find. You’re not going to have time to put it on during a home invasion. And it might be roughly the same weight as some popular wristwatches, like this Casio that was used for comparison, but the added height of the LED housing makes it twice as tall and more cumbersome. So the odds are pretty good you’re not going to put it on before your daily commute, at least not routinely.

There are much better tactical flashlight options out there for civilians, many of them in SureFire’s line. Those in uniform who routinely patrol the night, however, in areas where fingerless gloves are an option and long-sleeves are not mandatory, will see the WristLight in a different light.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • CK March 27, 2013, 6:29 am

    they could of at least put a watch on it for that price

  • Daniel March 26, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Price is dirty stupid….and the batteries for these “sure to set your wallet on fire” do not last..
    I own 1 surefire, unfortunately and it will be the last I ever buy.

  • jason March 26, 2013, 10:46 am

    All of these people commenting are right! The price is crazy. Don’t waste your money on this junk.

  • Larry March 25, 2013, 7:39 pm

    For the price I will buy a new gun and led mag light.
    Larry

  • Johno March 25, 2013, 2:26 pm

    I have several Surefire lights from over the years- I also have their ~$200 headlamp setup. I do love their stuff but the pricing is ~painful, but right of passage. I often wonder what competition/quality is doing these days with handheld pieces. The headlamp(with external extra battery attachment) was hard- but there was an independent company making a more technical unit years back for serious caving(and anyone else who got wet- and would die in the dark) for ~$320. I almost had one of them- but cash then was as hard these days. So rationalized the $200 now as better deal- and still awesome in any serious problem(still happy couple yrs later with Surefire- and I found the ‘used’ AA batteries my camera pukes run forever in headlamp- Sweet!!
    All that said- $495 is crazy. Yikes! Cool yes, attainable no. But there are lots of cool stuff I don’t have. Maybe they can offer it without the rechargeble feature-undoubtedly a major cost. Too bad there is development cost issue there.
    ~JO:)
    ps: I have tossed cheap lED headlamps by many other companies- -flickering issues anyone else!?

  • jh March 25, 2013, 11:54 am

    Flashlights are like attorneys or prostitutes, you get what you pay for…. but you will never regret spending the money….. think!

    • Administrator March 25, 2013, 12:13 pm

      Well thanks for the insight on that one. It’s good to know for those of us who don’t have the personal experience.

  • louis March 25, 2013, 11:48 am

    i must agree, i have sure fires and i understand the brand, but i think they are going a little to far with their pricing lately, 495 dollars for a wrist light that lights up your support hand, no thanks, i will buy a 9mm and a good mini mag light. i know how to hold a firearm and a flashlight old school flatfoot. to much money, we all cant work on wallstreet and drive the porsche ehhh. blue collar paycheck and wouldn’t have it any other way. if surefire wants to price themselves to a certain client, that is up to them. I personally will not pay that price. and you can call me all the names you want, but i know how to be thrifty, and will not pay more for a beam of light than a firearm.

  • Nick March 25, 2013, 11:31 am

    WOW it little pricey much? Surefire must be looking for a US military contract for that light, only our idiot government would be the ones to spend almost 500 buck of our money for a wrist light LOL. The guy who thinks spending that much money for a wrist light is ok because of the technology and thinks it will be good for 20 years, might be the same guy who ran out and paid almost 10,000.00 dollars for a plasma TV not so long ago LOL.

  • pocketchange March 25, 2013, 11:04 am

    Price is past being over the top.. and I have several Surefire lights BTW.
    Not any time soon.

  • rod March 25, 2013, 10:27 am

    worth maybe 40-50 bucks at most.

  • rod March 25, 2013, 10:26 am

    The price is nuts.

  • doctordoctor March 25, 2013, 8:02 am

    Looks like it has potential… but the price tag is ridiculous! Why not use a nice $80 headlamp for back up? Heck if you mess with it enough you could probably turn your head lamp into a wrist lamp! There problem solved. Your Welcome. If Sure fire wants to justify the price they better throw in a 9mm wrist gun on that light!

    • Administrator March 25, 2013, 10:33 am

      Whining about the price of a Surefire just identifies you as someone who has never bought a light anywhere but Wal-Mart. Surefire is in a completely different class for both brightness and reliability. When you buy a Surefire you are making a lifetime purchase on something you will still be using 20 years from now.

      • Adam March 26, 2013, 12:28 am

        Has gunsamerica reviewed any Brite Strike flashlights? I’ve had great success with them in Search and Rescue applications, but haven’t found any thorough reviews of them as a mounted weaponslight

      • rassd71 April 1, 2013, 1:24 pm

        I’ve used Surefire lights, and love them. HOWEVER, 20 years from now, will they still warranty it, carry parts for it etc? I have a Surefire light that I can no longer get bulbs for, the rechargeable batteries are also no longer available. So, when I run out of the last 3 bulbs I was able to find, OR if the batteries die before that, then I will have to replace the WHOLE thing because they quit supporting it! And that’s not even my biggest issue with Surefire and the rest of the flashlight makers, my single biggest issue, is that they are bent on using ‘exotic’ batteries when standard off the shelf batteries will provide just as much power, albeit for a shorter time. I’d rather be able to grab replacements or use standard rechargeable batteries in common sizes, then have to buy the specialty ones at absurd prices!

        Oh, and Admin, you MIGHT want to keep in mind that the READERS are what keeps these things going, if you alienate enough of us, you’ll be writing for your own amusement!

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