As much as I’d like to wish I could see in the dark like a velociraptor, I can’t. And as much as I’d like to wish that all shooting happens nicely on a one-way range, during the day, with easy-to-distinguish targets, the real world just isn’t that way. And so for those of us who carry firearms and train to use them, a light is an indispensible tool for our Every Day Carry (EDC) arsenal.
With anything in this world, there are opinions and sides to the entire idea of lights for the armed citizen. In one corner, you have those who wish for a light that makes anyone looking at it think Christ is returning in all His glory- bright beyond belief, giving incredible- almost day-like- illumination. In the other, you have those who say that too bright of a light will blind a shooter, particularly indoors. White walls and reflective surfaces can destroy night vision when a bright light is shined at them, so these shooters prefer to have a slightly dimmer light. And just to make things more complex, there are people who preach the values of a weapon-mounted light, and those who preach the values of an independent handheld light.
Being an avid capitalist and red-blooded American, I think we can take something from everyone without the need to paint ourselves into a corner, and get a better overall product. How about a light that gives us sun-like brightness, but can provide minimal illumination when necessary? And while the advantages of a weapon-mounted light cannot be ignored, why not make a handheld light that can interface to a pistol easier than a standard flashlight might? Enter the Firstlight TMAX.
The first thing you’ll you notice is the unconventional design. The team over at Firstlight has a noteworthy viewpoint on pistol-mounted-lights. They state that a weapon mounted light is dangerous, since it causes you to point your gun at things you shouldn’t necessarily be pointing your gun towards (see Firearm Safety Rule #2- never point your gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.) I think they raise a valid point, but the advantages of a weapon mounted light can’t be understated when the need to use said light arises. Personally, I like carrying a standalone light in addition to a weapon mounted light. But Firstlight found a compromise- instead of the standard tube-like structure we have come to associate with flashlights, the TMAX is kind of L-shaped, sort of like a light pistol. A pronounced bevel and large actual light make up the business end, while a belt clip, finger loop, and battery compartment. The light came with two different finger loop sizes, and my piano-playing fingers had to switch out to the smaller of the two loops. The belt clip can be adjusted to be on different sides, and all the controls for the light are at the top, making thumb-activation easy and natural. What first seemed like a strange design to me eventually clarified itself- everything on the TMAX is built for a purpose, and the TMAX functions in that purpose well.
The purpose of a light is to illuminate, obviously. As I wrote earlier, some people prefer dim light, and other people prefer Second-Coming-of-Christ bright when it comes to lights. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages- but the TMAX is a clean compromise of both. There are three control switches on the top of the light- momentary on with full brightness, constant on (or toggle on) with adjustable brightness, and strobe with full brightness. Full brightness is a stunning 700 lumens, brighter than most weapon-mounted-lights and definitely bright enough to blind my brother from time to time. The sheer amount of brightness, and especially when set on strobe, is enough to disorient and affect nearly anybody, turning the light into a weapon in it’s own right. As humans, we look at flashing lights, and so strobing someone with 700 lumens of white LED light definitely lends credence to the argument that lights should be bright. At the same time, the constant on/toggle switch can be adjusted to be either low, medium, or high brightness, which illuminate at 10, 80, and 200 lumens respectively. I kept the constant on setting at the lowest brightness, which was useful when I wanted to keep my night vision intact.
Perhaps the most applicable feature of the TMAX, and what sets it apart from other lights, is the way that it can interface with a pistol. Many techniques have been developed to allow a shooter to use a light, including holding the backs of your hands together, the FBI method (light held high and away from the body), the chin index, and many others. All of these fall short of the ease-of-use of a light mounted to the pistol, mainly because a shooter can use both hands when shooting. The design of the TMAX- and other Firstlight flashlights- allows the shooter to hold the light right next to the gun, keeping the palm of the support hand in contact with the gun. It points the light in the same direction as the gun, and the controls are easily accessed with the thumb. So you can have greater control over the gun when shooting, yet use the light independently of the firearm if needed. A "best of both worlds" solution, if you will.
Using the TMAX
Old habits die hard, and so when I saw this unorthodox light, I decided to use it as a secondary light. My trusty old Streamlight ProTac had served me well, and I was used to it. So, I added the TMAX to my EDC. It sat on my belt, halfway between my Werkz Bisect V2 holster and my left pocket, and I used it as a cool novelty to impress my friends. It never got me a date, unfortunately, but it was a nifty light to use. The belt clip worked well, although sometimes it would twist off if I was sitting down for a while- I tend to shift a lot since my job has me on my feet all day long. So as it was relegated to secondary light status, the TMAX kind of just… lived with me. Then one day, I had a novel thought. "Maybe I should try the TMAX as my primary carry light!" After all, it could do both high brightness, low brightness, and something in between. So I took the leap of faith, put my Streamlight in my backpack, and stuffed the TMAX in my left pocket.
The first thing I noticed was that it was comfortable! The TMAX is inherently shorter than most lights, and sat comfortably in my pocket. Sadly, I couldn’t use the "Flashlight in my pants" line anymore, but that might be a good thing. The light does have a blockier form factor, and so it printed differently, but people didn’t notice the light until I pointed it out to them. As for drawing the light, it was a simply finger-circle motion between my pocket and the body of the light, and I could draw the light with my finger in the finger loop and my thumb on the controls. Not quite as fast as the rip-method of deploying a standard light, but plenty fast enough.
After using a light that sat around 200 lumens for a while, jumping to 700 lumens was awesome. I finally started to understand why people kept racing for more and more lumens on their lights- it makes it easy! Plus, it can throw people off and disorient them, if needed. But the controls on the light made it easy for me to throw a constant-on low beam. So now I could practice clearing my house without blinding myself, and with a small shift of my thumb blind a potential attacker with a 700 lumen strobe. The versatility of the light was incredible. It has a fairly even beam, and although I’m not a light expert, I didn’t find anything lacking.
Where the TMAX really started showing off was when it came to weapon manipulation and use in conjunction with a firearm. I’m fortunate to have a very good friend here in Eastern Washington who has a range in his back yard, in the country, away from everyone else. He’s also an LEO, and has used the range often for low-light or dark shoots. I called him up, and we decided to go shooting at about 8:30 one evening. I brought the TMAX, and after some fun competitions between us, I decided to shoot using the TMAX. I found that the light required some practice to use, but not much. The palm of my left hand was still touching the grip of my Glock, so I had a more stable shooting platform than shooting with just one hand. The TMAX was easily illuminating out to about 80 yards, where a 10-inch square steel plate was sitting (yes, I hit it- twice.) Up close, the light turned everything down range into broad daylight. But, if I wanted low light, it was just a small shift of my thumb to a very low-lumen beam. Overall, a win.
So would I recommend this light for an EDC light? Absolutely. The versatility of an ultra-bright light and a very low light, plus it’s ease of use when combined with a handgun, makes the Firstlight TMAX a winner in my book. I am a fan of having a light on your gun as well as an independent light, but if you can only afford one light, the TMAX offers a solution that worked well for me. It’s not perfect- the blocky form factor has made me leave it in my backpack in favor of the slim Streamlight a time or two, and I had to get used to the L-shaped body instead of the tube- but it’s pretty close to being an all-in-one light as I’ve used. So next time you need a light, check out Firstlight. You won’t be disappointed.
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