Several months ago, my friend UWone77 introduced me to Arisaka Defense, a small company that created several very interesting light mounts and accessories for the AR accessory market. I also learned that Arisaka Defense made "clone" light bodies that were durable, consistently-machined, and for a much lower price-point than commercially-available Surefire Scout M300 or M600 bodies.
While I have no problem shelling out hard-earned cash for quality gear, dropping $300+ on a flashlight or weaponlight, although justifiable, still makes me wince. So when I learned that an Arisaka Defense 300 Series body cost $59, and a 600 Series body cost $69 – paying retail for a name brand didn’t seem quite so appealing when I could build one for almost half the price.
The question then, was how well would an Arisaka Defense light hold up vs. their commercially-available counterparts? I had an opportunity to chat with Will Roberson, owner of Arisaka Defense, and ask him some background questions about what Arisaka Defense is all about.
Chris Tran: Can you tell me about Arisaka Defense and its namesake? How did you get involved with Arisaka, and what is your role within the organization?
Will Roberson: Walter and I chose the name Arisaka in reference to our cultural background, and as a nod to Arisaka Nariakira, one of Japan’s most well known and regarded weapons designers. We are both half Japanese, military brats, and are proud of our heritage.
Arisaka began with my personal interest in creating light mounts for my rifles. I wasn’t entirely happy with what was available on the market, having purchased quite a few of them only to find that each one did not meet my expectations in some way. Walter and I have been friends for over a decade, so he took my ideas and turned them into reality in his machine shop. From there, we decided to work on additional mounts to fulfill specific needs in the burgeoning KeyMod and M-LOK accessory market. These days, Walter is responsible for all of our CAM and CNC production, while I work on product development and design, and also handle the day-to-day operations like assembly and order fulfillment. I also get to do the majority of testing, which I can’t complain about!
CT: Now that we understand the Japanese influence in the company’s namesake, it is important for readers to understand that everything produced by Arisaka is made and manufactured in the US of A. Tell me about your product line, what’s currently offered, and what may be in store for us in the future?
WR: Arisaka’s product offering is currently based around weapon light and control accessories. A quick glance at our current product lineup will show quite a few light mounts. These provide mounting options for many different rail configurations and both handheld and weapon lights. Our most popular mounts are the Inline Scout Mount and Offset Scout Mount. As the names suggest, these are used for attaching Surefire Scout lights. A unique feature found on our Scout mounts is the patent pending overlapping hole design. This allows the light to be shifted left or right, providing additional clearance around front sights or other accessories. Additionally we have both inline and offset versions of mounts for 1" handheld lights and Picatinny rail mounted lights like the Surefire X300 and Inforce WML.
We also sell complete weapon lights, which are based around the Malkoff Devices TIR LED heads and our own light bodies and tailcaps. Most people would consider them a Scout "clone" since they are fully compatible with existing Surefire heads and tailcaps, and have the same aftermarket mounting holes. A unique feature of our light bodies is that they lack the mounting lugs used by the stock Picatinny mount, which reduces the profile and provides additional clearance when mounted beside a front sight, especially on one of our Scout mounts. For tailcaps we offer two styles: forward click, and momentary with twist for constant on. The latter is quite popular on weapons, since there’s no chance of accidentally clicking the light on.
On the control side we offer a vertical foregrip which blends into the reduced profile of the slimmer KeyMod and M-LOK rail systems. We also have my favorite product in our lineup, the Finger Stop. The Finger Stop is a low profile, minimal control accessory. Unlike a hand stop, which most people position at the rear of their support hand, the Finger Stop has a rounded profile which is ergonomically designed to be located between your index and middle fingers. This typically places it further forward on the handguard, which also means it doesn’t get in the way when transitioning to kneeling or prone shooting positions, where most people move their support hand towards the rear.
In the near future we are hoping to release a few new light mounts to fill certain gaps in the market. Specifically, there aren’t many good cantilever designs for rifles with short handguards, like AKs, or even AR15s that are stuck with carbine length fixed front sight bases. Beyond that, we don’t want to leak out too many details, but there are some bigger non-light related projects on our list. 🙂
CT: I do OK for myself financially, and I’m definitely in the "buy once, cry once" camp, but I cringe at the retail price for a quality weapon light. Arisaka somehow maintains extraordinarily high quality components, but at an extremely reasonable price. I recently built a 300 Scout using your components and a Malkoff Devices head, and it cost me approximately 50% of what it would have cost had I purchased a Surefire Scout retail. How do you maintain your quality at such a reasonable price point?
WR: I tend to think that our prices are very reasonable for the high quality and features we provide. What most people don’t realize is that Arisaka is operated by just Walter and me. Occasionally we source out some design work to one of Walter’s friends, but otherwise we handle all R&D, production, testing, quality control, assembly, and marketing. The only step during production where the parts leave our hands is when they go to the anodizers. We also have fairly low overhead, which is a huge help in keeping costs down. Many factors contribute to the final price of a product, so we work hard to streamline a lot of our processes, from production to fulfillment, which in turn saves time and money.
CT: What else would you like our readers to know about Arisaka Defense?
WR: The core of Arisaka revolves around the enjoyment of designing and making products. For us, it’s about the process of taking an idea and ending up with something tangible in our hands which fulfills a need, and does it well. When end users send us a quick email expressing their satisfaction with one of our products, it makes the long hours and stress of running our own business worthwhile. Arisaka exists because we have customers who support us, and we are thankful for all of them.
I have two 300 bodies and a 600 that I have outfitted with various Malkoff Devices replacement heads (that will be a subject for another article). Arisaka Defense also makes their own tailcaps, which I have compared directly to a Surefire tailcap. I find that both are quite dependable, with a slight edge to Arisaka Defense as I prefer the positive engagement feel of their tailcap clickie over Surefire.
The bodies are machined from 6061 aluminum, and MIL-A-8625 Type III hard coat anodized. They come with O-rings, but no lamp head, tailcap, or mounting screws. Also of note, the Arisaka Defense bodies are not manufactured with the mounting interface for stock Picatinny clamps, lending to a low-profile design that assists with front sight clearance when using Arisaka’s Inline Scout Mounts.
Arisaka Defense 300 Body: $59.00
Arisaka Defense Clicky Tailcap: $32.00
Malkoff Devices E1 Scout Head: $79.00
Surefire M300 MSRP: $299.00
I have my 600 build on a Picatinny Mount, a 300 build using a VG6 Precision LOPOM Mount, and my newest one is mounted directly to a Unity Tactical FUSION hub. All mounting solutions are tough, and seem durable even after numerous drops in the field. My next build will utilize a tapeswitch for light manipulation, and I don’t anticipate any issues.
About 5 months into using my Arisaka Defense light builds, and I have had zero issues so far. Arisaka Defense in conjunction with Malkoff Devices and the tailcap of your choice, especially with the greater lumen output from the Malkoff Devices heads (the E1T is my current favorite at approximately 300 OTF lumens and approximately 9000 lux at one meter).
Will was kind enough to send me a few extra sets of screws to assist me finding the right cap to work with my Unity Tactical FUSION hub, and I’ve purchased items from their website previously with hassle-free transactions and prompt delivery times.
Quality product in conjunction with excellent customer service make for a winning combo, and Arisaka Defense possesses both in spades. I would definitely recommend that readers give them a shot for a custom flashlight build – you can build your own quality light at reasonable price.
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