By Guy J. Sagi
When GunsAmerica ran a review of the readily available (but discontinued) Blackhawk Xiphos NT Night-Ops weaponlight, the company sent an e-mail indicating an all-new version was going to be available soon, and offered to provide one of the first for testing. The earlier model works extremely well, but several retailers carrying it still claim the rail-mounted light is waterproof to 10 meters, despite the fact it quit working after 60 minutes in a glass of water during our testing. The new Xiphos NTX Night-Ops, however, survived the same “water torture” test when it arrived, despite its billing as only water resistant to 10 meters.
If inclement weather is even a remote possibility for your weaponlight, the new version proved it is a much better choice, but it’s not because Blackhawk added a gasket to the battery cover/tailcap on the Xiphos NTX Night-Ops. Both it and its predecessor lack a watertight seal there, but the new version has a much tighter, moisture-stalling fit. That’s good in regard to longevity, but battery replacement will take a few extra seconds, and with a photon-beam-defying 180-lumen maximum output and 120 minute run time, you’re going to go through a few CR123 batteries.
At first glance, the Blackhawk Xiphos NTX Night-Ops looks nearly identical to its predecessor. In fact, unless you’re holding the two together, the odds are good you’ll never detect the changes.
The first thing you may notice, however, is the NTX has a smooth reflector, instead of the texturing employed in the NT. It’s a change that is far from simply cosmetic, since light management in a weaponlight or tactical flashlight is serious business.
Ribs, stippling or other texture on a light’s reflector effectively scatters some of the light transmission. With the earlier version’s reduced power output, it may not seem like that kind of approach was wise until you consider the primary mission of a weaponlight—illuminating a darkened room where a criminal may be hiding. And “hiding” is the key word. The culprit may be behind a chair to the side, next to the fridge or moving the TV as you enter the room and without that deliberate “scatter” effect, the only time he would be visible is when you’re lucky enough to sweep him with the main beam.
Why did the Blackhawk Xiphos NTX Night-Ops abandon texturing in the reflector? Turn it on in your house at night and the answer is obvious. One hundred eighty lumens reflecting off walls and bouncing off the ceiling makes things brighter than a holiday mall. Why not let the drywall do the scattering, yet maximize the ability to momentarily disorient any intruder caught in the beam?
Blackhawk didn’t ignore the necessity for side lighting, either, although it took calipers to detect the slight difference between the two models. The lens on the earlier version has a diameter of .675 inches, versus .693 for the NTX. That means there’s nearly 6 percent more surface area in the new lens, effectively widening the direct lighting beam at its source.
The lens on the NTX is also more flush with the front of its housing than the older version, so the beam begins its side lighting a little faster. Introduce variables like fading power sources and interior design, however, and the odds are good a six percent difference is more of an intellectual discussion than a practical one. However, it’s comforting to know the side lighting is there, whether reflected or an inherent part of the subtle design changes. Regardless, this light works extremely well.
Another exterior change that could go unnoticed is a slightly thinner shape to the activation paddle. We didn’t see any advantage during testing and it obviously isn’t a weight-reduction move, since the NT tips the scales (sans battery) at 1.879 ounces and the redesigned NTX is 1.738. One pound of pressure is all that’s required to activate both versions of the weaponlight.
Unlike the NT, the NTX does not require a machinegun-like index finger to toggle between lighting modes. For momentary activation, simply apply constant pressure. For a constant lighting source, tap twice. With the NT it seemed as if you needed to hit it twice, very fast, and missing the beat was altogether too easy. The new weaponlight appears much more forgiving in regard to speed of finger movement. If, in your opinion, 180 lumens won’t stun a perpetrator, tap the switch tree times for a strobe mode.
If battery levels get to the point that only 30 minutes of run time remain, the Blackhawk Xiphos NTX Night-Ops will blink twice every 15 seconds as a warning. No tools are required to install the single CR123 battery, but the tailcap is another of the changes on the weaponlight. Once removed, it looks like most other tailcaps on flashlights now. Gone is the strange “pigtail” on the old version that was so confusing its explanation occupied an undue amount of space in original owner’s manuals.
The NT and NTX tailcaps fit on either version, however, will not work when on the wrong model. So don’t be lulled into thinking you can interchange tailcaps.
Blackhawk maintains the use of its ingenious, patent-pending, rail-attachment system on the NTX. It’s simple, easy to use and goes on any rail fast. Simply loosen the paddle, index the weaponlight’s bar with a slot on the handgun’s rail, insert, tighten the lever by turning clockwise and finally push the paddle flush against the light’s body. It’s called the Cam-Clamp, and with it there’s no need to fight the light down an entire rail just to install.
At 3.10 inches, the new weaponlight’s polymer body is .047 inches shorter than its predecessor. You won’t feel the difference, but Blackhawk somehow trimmed the space in the already-crowded battery/circuitry housing.
LEDs run hot and the Blackhawk Xiphos NTX Night-Ops is no exception. To protect the unit, after two minutes it will power itself back to 80 percent output. At six minutes it will drop to 50 percent and by 10 minutes a triple pulse will signal two times and the unit will power off. It’s a great way to protect your investment, but when taking pictures of the light it got pretty annoying.
Blackhawk has made some big improvements in its Xiphos NTX Night-Ops weaponlight. Don’t let its looks fool you. Despite all the physical similarities with earlier versions, it is more water resistant, the frustrating battery-cap spring is gone and it produces the kind of illumination ideal for self-defense.