What’s all this Modlite hype about – the tactical light that makes Surefire look like a dinosaur?
Well, not quite. It’s a bit more complicated than that.
Simply put, Modlite’s offer of two heads means a choice of two different beams; and neither is the same as Surefire’s signature flood. So one isn’t necessarily better than the others. It’s more about preference and choice.
That being said, many will prefer the PLHv2’s beam to all others. It’s Modlite’s general purpose weapon light and what the company recommends if the user can’t choose between it and the alternative, longer range Modlite OKW.
It’s the Modlite PLHv2 Light Package I’m looking at in this review, thanks to a good friend. It offers a fantastic balance between lumens and candela – which you’ll hear more about later.
The PLHv2 Light Package comes in two body/battery sizes. The 18650 and 18350 designations represent standard and mini versions – along the same lines as Surefire’s M600 and M300-series lights, respectively. The Modlite box stickers even call the lights ‘Scout’.
- Standard M600 size: Modlite PLHv2-18650 Light Package
- Mini M300 size: Modlite PLHv2-18350 Light Package
The Surefire M600DF’s position as the current benchmark means comparisons are right and fair. Even Modlite openly refers to the M600DF in its product descriptions and since I reviewed it here, I have some experience with it.
The beam of the Modlite PLHv2 head is a balance of throw (distance) and flood, with a defined hot spot. The Modlite OKW – which is the alternative head not reviewed here – is said to be all about throw, with a defined hotspot and very little spill outside it (so no real flood).
As mentioned in the introduction, Surefire is all about flood – so there’s no real hot spot and light is spread pretty much equally throughout the entire beam radius of the M600DF. In that sense, its throw is significantly weaker than the Modlite OKW or PLHv2 – with the PLHv2 representing Goldilocks utility for most users.
And, I must say it’s impressive. Upon first use I could instantly see what all the fuss was about.
Comparison Table: Beam
|Model||Output Description||Lumens||Candela (Throw/Distance)|
It really is all about candela (throw/distance) in Modlite’s beam model, but lumens have always dominated tactical light specs and you can read more about that here. TREX ARMS – which sells both Modlite and Surefire lights – says this:
Lumens is important, but Candela is king when it comes to identifying targets. Lumens can light up a room (flood light), but candela can light up the details on a particular object (throw light).TREX ARMS
With that said, there are always multiple simultaneous doctrines at play and Surefire designs for something different. Of the M600DF it says this:
It provides plenty of reach and enough surround light to accommodate peripheral vision.Surefire
So, it’s swings and roundabouts. The questions is, which beam do you need?
There are plenty of excellent videos out there which show comparisons, or for pics you can look at TREX ARMS’ excellent product page to see beams compared over medium distances.
I found this video from Mr Guns ‘n Gear representative of what I was seeing with PLHv2 versus M600DF:
There’s a great long range comparison in there which also includes the Modlite OKW.
What I wanted to demonstrate, however, I haven’t seen elsewhere. That’s to show what this light does up close. I want to persuade the reader that the PLHv2 overcomes any directional or ambient light the user might reasonably face, with its searing white light hot spot (an incredible offensive tool when required) and detailed spill/flood.
All that and without significant detrimental glare thrown back at the user.
2.1 Beam Pattern
The first pic shows the PLHv2’s beam pattern. I’m less than a meter away from the wall, so proportionately it’s like a miniature version of the distance stuff – but it shows clearly the demarcation between that blinding (for opponents) hot spot and flood corona:
2.2 Overcoming Ambient Light
Here I’m about five meters away from bright, daylight simulating LEDs, which are behind frosted glass in a structure. And yet you can still see the PLHv2’s beam cutting through, with that searing hotspot burning away. Notice the foreground is relatively dark, despite bright ambient light issuing forth from the building.
Even further away, the hot spot continues to dominate. Believe me, it’s unpleasant being caught in the face with this thing.
2.3 No Glare
With that being said, even bounced off highly reflective surfaces indoors, the user is not dazzled by the PLHv2 – it’s an excellent all purpose design.
3.0 Form Factor
Stylistically, I have to say I prefer Surefire lights to Modlite’s design. That also goes for the way the lights are finished (although both are hard anodised).
This is a moot point, because it’s supposed to be all about utility – but presentation does matter to those of us interested in product design (style is content; discursive, ideological content).
To all intents and purposes, however, the Modlite form factor is the same as Surefire’s. In terms of materials it’s 6061 aluminium, which isn’t even close to the pot metal end of the spectrum – it’s good quality stuff. You can’t anodise crappy aluminium.
Comparison Table: Form Factor
|Model||Length||Head Diameter||Weight w/Battery|
|Surefire M600DF||5.56 in||1.125 in||5.15 oz|
|Modlite PLHv2 18650||5.375 in||1.1875 in||5.4 oz|
|Modlite PLHv2 18350||4.125 in||1.1875 in||4.27 oz|
|Modlite OKW 18650||5.375 in||1.1875 in||5.4 oz|
|Modlite OKW 18350||4.125 in||1.1875 in||4.27 oz|
Standardisation on Surefire’s form factor is a clever move. The Modlite accepts Surefire compatible tail caps (and thus remotes) like the DS00 seen in the pics, and you can lock them out in the usual way – with a quarter turn, anti-clockwise – to prevent negligent discharge.
I actually prefer Surefire’s push button tail cap to Modlite’s own – Surefire’s feels more positive – but you can buy Modlites without tail caps to mix and match.
Nevertheless, check this out from Modlite’s FAQs:
All Modlite lights are rated IPX8 2m [the highest rated water resistance, at 2m depth] for up to 24 hours. We are confident the the light would remain airtight at up to 10m using the supplied [Modlite] tail cap but this has not been tested.
One exception would be the use of Surefire switches. Modlite cannot guarantee an IPX rating of a light if Surefire tail cap switches are used.Modlite
Modlite’s push button tail cap is very good (again following Surefire’s design) and has the same momentary and permanently on features as Surefire’s.
Breakdown is exactly the same as Surefire lights, with the battery inserted in the top of the body. Threads are sealed from ingress of moisture and crud by O-ring gaskets; with quite a lot of lubricant applied to my examples.
Again, mount thread and spacing is to the Surefire standard, which means Modlite users have access to the huge range of Scout mounts on the market.
As the name suggests, Modlite is big on modularity. While I’m looking at Modlite packages here, heads, bodies, tail caps and batteries can all be purchased separately and mix and matched.
So I could buy one head and one tail cap, but both battery/body sizes; meaning that I’d have access to both long and short setups with a bare minimum of components. Equally I could buy one full PLHv2 package and the alternate OKW head, giving me access both beam options.
You get the idea.
It should also be noted that the Modlite’s modularity is supported by third parties. Reptilia, for example, does some very nice M-LOK mount bodies.
5.0 Power Supply
Something really interesting is that the 18350 mini Modlites have the same beam as the standard size – the head is common to both. The smaller battery just means a shorter run time (35 mins versus 75 mins) – the magic is all in the head.
Comparison Table: Run Time
|Surefire M600DF||90 mins / 75 mins*||SF18650B / two CR123 lithium|
|Modlite PLHv2 18650||75 mins||KeepPower 18650|
|Modlite PLHv2 18350||35 mins||KeepPower 18350|
|Modlite OKW 18650||75 mins||KeepPower 18650|
|Modlite OKW 18350||35 mins||KeepPower 18350|
Notwithstanding, using the recommended batteries, the Surefire M600DF has a clear advantage in terms of run time.
The M600DF’s other advantage is that, as its name suggests, it’s Dual Fuel – meaning that not only will it work with the Surefire rechargeable battery included, but with easily sourced CR123 lithium batteries; albeit with a loss in lumens, candela and run time.
The CR123 is not supported by Modlite. If used, it’s important to note that the battery’s cells will heat up and possibly explode – or catch fire.
The Modlite KeepPower batteries bundled with the lights come complete with an XTAR MC2 charger. It’s easy to operate, adapts to both battery sizes, and the power lead supplied is USB – which cuts down on bulk.
Modlite is more that transparent about the manufacture and spec of their lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries. You can read more about the 18650 and 18350 on their respective product pages.
These are protected cells, which are safer, but it should be noted that equivalent unprotected cells are usually capable of providing more current. Personally I’d stick with the protected batteries bundled with Modlite packages, but it’s worth knowing.
6.0 Potted Electronics
In the head, the electronics are ‘potted’. This evidently is a way of hardening the electronics against anything thrown at them – be that aggressive handling, shocks, or moisture. The company says the light is tested to withstand select fire SCAR Mk17 recoil.
The potted technique places the electronics assembly in a pot (mould). An insulating resin is introduced, which then hardens – permanently protecting the electronics within.
As soon as I turned on the light after stepping out into the darkness, the difference between the PLHv2 and M600DF was palpable. Candela is cool – the additional reach is as useful as it is impressive, capturing distant details that would otherwise be obscured.
It also overcomes ambient and opposing light sources, which really gives the Modlite user the advantage. Testing in pitch black is one thing, but it’s quite another moving through an urban environment with cars, street lights etc – and even cyclists with dazzling, nuclear-bright bike lights.
None of which is a problem with the PLHv2 – it dominates.
I can 100% see why Modlite has been so disruptive in the weapon light marketplace – catering for a large, important niche that previously went unsatiated. It’s a different niche to Surefire’s (although obviously there’s overlap) and the user does need to know a little about the PLHv2’s capabilities in order to choose between it and the M600DF (or the OKW for that matter).
For me its Modlite all the way – I’m converted.
One word of caution however: the PLHv2 is not so general purpose that if used as a handheld, it easily squares away close up admin (it’ll white out maps and paperwork if the head is pointed directly at them). It fits in pretty much everywhere else, out to ranges beyond which the Modlite OKW presumably becomes the optimum choice.
In that sense, I think TREX ARMS says it best about the PLHv2:
Moderately tight beam at short/medium distance, moderate flood. Excellent for targets within 75 yards or indoors.TREX ARMS
8.0 Further Notes
In my research I found the following two videos from Sage Dynamics really helpful to confirm my thinking:
Lastly, I was pleased to receive this pic from my friend who loaned the lights to me. Allegedly a CAG blaster…with a Modlite variant. Very cool.