Flashlight Update: S&W, Streamlight Impress

The Sportys Captains light by Smith & Wesson and Streamlight Night Com win our long-term flashlight trial. But, the Fenix UC30 is worth a try.

Fenix UC30 flashlight

In the December 2015 issue of Aviation Consumer, we declared the Smith & Wesson Captain’s light (by Sporty’s) and the Classic Maglite the top dogs among LED flashlights for the cockpit. Still, we weren’t going to let them walk away with the trophy that easily.

The real test would be using them long term—and we weren’t gentle. We’re pleased to report that all eight of the lights that were among our favorites survived a year of hard use inside the flight pack, in the cockpit and around the aircraft for preflighting and light maintenance chores. Since we think flashlights should serve double duty, we kept them handy around the garage and during rugged outdoor activities.

Fenix UC30 flashlight

None of the lights needed battery replacement, but since our use was spread out among several lights, we didn’t expect to. We continued to like the S&W’s intuitive and simple buttons, plus the ability to conserve power by shutting down LEDs (three dual-mode LEDs and 10 single-mode LEDs). For a AAA-powered light, we think the $39.95 price (with holster) is a solid buy. Worth mentioning is the model used in our January 2011 review recently suffered a broken switch.

S&W Captain’s light

Replacing the Maglite LED, our new second favorite is the law enforcement-endorsed Streamlight Night Com. While we like the anodized aluminum body and long battery life (28 hours via two 123-series lithium cells), we couldn’t warm up to the small rotary knob that’s difficult to use with gloves. But, the “safety” mode to guard against inadvertent power-up was a saving grace. If the $59.95 price is an issue, we’d go for the cheaper Sporty’s/S&W.

Fenix UC30

Streamlight Night Com

The $60 UC30 shines 960 lumens and runs on either a single 18650 USB rechargeable li-ion battery or two CR123A batteries. You’ll only get 1.5 hours endurance at full brightness, but over 30 at 50 lumens. At 5 inches long and 1 inch wide, the impact and water-resistant UC30 is the right size for the cockpit. The light has five outputs, including an instant strobe mode. We use Lone Tree, Colorado-based Fenix cycling lights with good results, plus the company is easy to reach and talk with.

For more, visit Fenix online.

Editor in Chief Larry Anglisano has been a staple at Aviation Consumer since 1995. An active land, sea and glider pilot, Larry has over 30 years’ experience as an avionics repairman and flight test pilot. He’s the editorial director overseeing sister publications Aviation Safety magazine, IFR magazine and is a regular contributor to KITPLANES magazine with his Avionics Bootcamp column.