If you read my column often, you know I am often on the hunt for lower-priced alternatives to expensive equipment. And that being said, you know I am often also loath to recommend Surefire anything for the normal consumer. I think they are often overpriced, which you can get away with if your biggest buyer is Uncle Sugar. Most products they make you can find a cheaper option that is good enough provided your job doesn’t include a HALO drop into Tajikistan in the dead of the night. But today we are looking at something that they are not the best option, they are the only option.
CR123 batteries, if you have looked recently, are extremely expensive. This is a problem because so many things we have for our weapons require them. It doesn’t really matter how we got here, or if the CR123 was the best choice for it, it’s a fact. Most pistol lights and lasers have no other option for power. Probably not only because a CR123 packs a lot of power in a small package, but the DOD started buying them by the trainload about 2001.
And a battery is something you can’t cheap out on. Like tires for a car, this is not a place you can save money. Oh, they make them, but I strongly discourage using them. The problem with cheap batteries is that they may leak, they may corrode quickly, or they may have incorrect power regulation. None of which are a good idea in your $1500 laser, or $500 tactical light. Saving a couple of bucks on a battery is a terrible plan if it may destroy the internals of an irreplaceable electronic device.
However, none of us can really afford to stockpile CR123 batteries at $2 apiece. So the obvious play is to get rechargeable batteries. Use that house or solar power to feed the beast. Which usually leads to an Amazon search. Which in this case is a bad idea.
Most commercial CR123 batteries have too high of an output. A little digging will get you horror stories of people burning up expensive tactical equipment with Chinesium knock of CR123’s. This is one case where the Surefire brand is not just the best option, it’s the only option. Surefire knows battery systems, and theirs are correctly dialed in. It says a lot that the only rechargeable that doesn’t void the warranty on your Surefire light is the Surefire brand.
I also strongly recommend you get a set from a known Surefire retailer, such as Primary Arms. Amazon has suffered a plague of knock-off electronics over the last 5 years, and it is getting worse by the day.
Rechargeable 123A batteries don’t pack quite the punch of disposables, but they work well enough. Surefire states right up front they still retain 80% of their capability after hundreds of charging cycles, which for most of us is good enough. My experience shows that out of the box, they run very closely with Surefire brand single use models. At $32 for a charger and two batteries, they still aren’t cheap. But it isn’t going to take long to catch up if you use your lights a lot. Not to mention the SHTF potential. This is one I highly recommend grabbing while the grabbing is good.
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I don’t recommend Surefire either. Bought one of their early 120 lumen pocket lights. Within seconds of turning it on would get to hot to hold. It got accidentally turned on once in my cargo pocket and burned my leg. Surefire was useless in resolving the problem.