I believe that utilitarian weapons designed and employed for fighting and defense must have certain non-negotiable accessories aside from being a reliable weapon platform: a sling, ergonomic, accessible and rugged controls, a reliable sighting system – whether mechanical or accessory, and a white light for positive target identification (PID). For the purposes of this article, I will not focus on weapon mounted light (WML) systems specifically, rather the accessories that make them more utilitarian and deployable in the field.
I came across a company called Cloud Defensive a while back, and was intrigued by a tapeswitch housing called the LCSMK1, or Light Control System MK1 made for the Surefire ST07 tapeswitch. The ST07 is a momentary on/off pressure switch designed to fit commercially available Surefire Scout Light-style lights including aftermarket companies such as the excellent Arisaka bodies, as well as Surefire clone bodies offered by Haley Strategic/Impact Weapons Components.
Regardless of the light body selected, the ST07, although a viable tapeswitch option, has several deficiencies – namely its mounting surface. Direct from the factory, the ST07 is adhered to the weapon platform via stickyback hook and loop strips, which are unfortunately easily shifted and moved when heat, moisture, and rough handling occur. Most of us simply utilize zipties to securely mount the ST07 or the like, which is a simple yet annoying workaround. Cloud Defensive has created an innovative ST07 mounting platform dubbed the LCSMK1 for the Surefire series of tapeswitches, and the LCSMK2 for their Streamlight counterparts.
I had the opportunity to correspond with Sean McCauley of Cloud Defensive to talk about the company, and the LCSMK1.
Chris Tran (CT): Can you tell us a little bit about your background and the inception of Cloud Defensive? How did you get involved in the industry, and how does Cloud Defensive see itself as a viable company in the accessory market?
Sean McCauley (SM): My journey to this industry is a bit unremarkable. I was never in the military. I was never in law enforcement. I certainly love those communities and we support them unequivocally. My personal education and background is actually in the nutrition and fitness realm (web-based consulting via www.cloudhealthdynamics.com to be precise). So, I’m just a guy who loves to shoot. I also love to help people and solve problems. On 09/05/04 I lost my cousin in Sadr City, Iraq. Spc. Ryan Michael McCauley. That changed me in a lot of ways. With the passing of some time it became clear to me that I needed to do my part. The day-in and day-out routine was suffocating and I didn’t feel like I was having a big enough impact. Seeing guys like my cousin and now Sgt. Curtis Bartlett (who was among our earliest supporters and will be deeply missed) out there sacrificing everything for me while I lived in my little fitness bubble just was not cutting it anymore. I wanted to help and I knew my path forward was on the equipment side of the equation.
Cloud Defensive is how I am doing that. My mission is to get the best-possible equipment to the guys making a difference; be that on the front lines, out on the streets or to the civilians like myself, keeping your family safe wherever you may be. If I do my job right, maybe one day somebody gets go home to their kids when they otherwise would not. That literally keeps me up at night now. That’s how I do my part. As my wife would verify, it’s not uncommon for me to get out of bed at midnight and go back to work or drive out to the shop and work on stuff as the CNC’s are rolling 24 hours a day. Seeing our LCS now out in the world is fantastic for that reason. I get a lot of pictures from LEOs and other guys with this on their rifles and I know they have the best-possible solution for those switches. That makes all the work worth it.
CT: What is Cloud Defensive all about? Where are you located, and what can you tell me about your company and what it aims to achieve?
SM: We are located in southern Indiana. We are basically a think-tank. Our products are manufactured for us by our friends at Freedom Ordnance. They’re just a few miles away, their quality is second to none, their machining capabilities are significant and critically, they are also in the firearms industry. So they are completely familiar with the field. Sourcing that manufacturing does a couple of great things for us. First, it allows us a lot more flexibility and mobility. With the guys at FO just a phone call or text message away, we can make changes or updates to a given design in real-time. Secondly, it keeps us focused on the innovation side of things and not bogged down with the day-to-day realities of running a full-scale machine shop. We are a small company and just starting out. So our operating model is a bit unique in that regard. We have all the manufacturing capacity we need however and we are able to move in a given direction pretty fast compared to most.
In terms of our goals, it’s all about the end-user. While we are currently on the weapon-light side of things, this company is moving in several other directions and you’ll see some totally un-related things coming from us in the future. We are not looking to get into any one area exclusively. We are problem-solvers and we are doing a few different things right now. And like all other companies, we want to grow and be successful.
We’re also a customer service-based company. Coming from the consulting world, I know how critical it is to actually HELP people as opposed to just sell them something. It’s easy to recreate the wheel and pitch it. We don’t do that. And while we are a company and while we do market ourselves, we spend as much time helping people as possible via our social media channels. Our customers are loyal to us and we will always have their backs too. We work hard to do right by people. For example, our 100% lifetime warranty on everything we make, forever. Regardless of who owns it. That is nice but it goes farther than that for us because it’s not just about the product, it’s about the people. When the second-generation LCS came out, it was not a question of whether or not we’d give Gen1 customers a discount. It was just known. So, we sold (and continue to sell) Gen2 units to Gen1 customers for 40% off. It’s the right thing to do because again we want the best equipment in their hands. There is too much at stake in this line of work to operate any other way. I think all companies in our industry should do that.
CT: The LCSMK1 is undeniably rugged. What were your main goals in its creation, and why is it a viable accessory for consumers to consider?
SM: I saw two things that bothered me. First was the notion that we have dedicated mounts for everything else on the gun. Yet we were all forced to zip tie the switch and excess cable to the gun. That didn’t make any sense to me. Even light companies were accepting of that because they give you zip ties and Velcro when you buy spend anywhere from 100-400 dollars on a weapon light. I knew we could fix that. I knew we all needed better.
Secondly, was the notion that we bet our lives on that weaponlight activation and like any other system, your gun is only as strong as it’s weakest link. And Velcro just isn’t very strong. Not compared to machined metal anyways. Nor is a zip tie. I wanted to create to a dedicated mount that would secure the tape switches to the gun and deal with any excess cable at the same time. One of the big liabilities with tape switches is excess cable either fraying or breaking when it snags on things. That’s due to exposure to contact during movement. The LCS prevents that. Tape switches are also vulnerable to direct impact and the LCS housing protects the switch. It keeps the tape switch secured, it increases ergonomics and it increases the life expectancy of the tape switch, and hopefully the end-user as well.
CT: Can you tell me about your fabrication process? What materials are the LCSMK1 made from, and what were your design consideration in its creation?
SM: Sure thing. The LCS is made from certified 6061 aluminum, just like your handguard and your light and most other things you mount on your gun. It’s made 100% on CNC machines. This is a precisely manufactured piece of gear. They are then Mil-Spec Type III Hard anodized. We source our screws domestically. The screws are custom made of hardened steel and then coated in Mil-Spec Manganese Phosphate for superior corrosion resistance. The goal here is simple: we don’t want our units to fail. Our durability testing has literally seen lower receivers, upper receivers and handguards all fail before the LCS fails. And while none of that is desirable, ultimately a catastrophic failure of the weapon system is more likely than an LCS failure due to impact. We’ve got it all on video as our Instagram/Facebook followers have seen.
Each model in the LCS line is made specifically for the make/model switch that it houses. Our center housing section of the LCS is precise down to 1/1000th of inch to ensure the perfect fit. And it’s worth noting that not all tape switches are created equally. Some manufacturers are not as consistent as others. And they all have a different kind of shell as well. That impacts us a lot and so we have spent a lot of time adjusting each LCS to fit each tape switch optimally. It’s not easy but the end result is worth it. Switch fit is a major consideration.
To sum up the goals of the LCS: undisputed strength, reliability, perfect fit, better ergonomics, it increase the life expectancy of your tape switch and it flat-out makes you better on the gun because of all those things. We think the LCS is changing the way tape switches will be used and viewed. It basically solves a problem that’s been around for over a decade.
CT: As it stands right now, the LCSMK1 is a viable option for picatinny rail mounts and thus relegated to a 12 o’clock, 3, or 9 positions. Will Cloud Defensive offer different configurations in the future for offset mounting possibilities?
SM: Yes Sir. We actually have a lot of designs and you guys will see most of them. Our LCSMK2 is shipping now and that is designed for the Streamlight ProTac series. We have a KeyMod model coming very soon for the Surefire ST07. That uses the Patent-Pending Bravo Company USA inverted KeyMod screws so it’s very low profile. We have MLOK on the way as well, and we have LCS models for Insight, Steiner, Primary Arms, Holosun and several others as well. We have in-line and offset versions of everything. So, lots coming from Cloud Defensive soon. We simply needed to start small and get a feel for what people wanted so we could prioritize things a bit, and we continue to do that daily.
All that in addition to our upcoming Mission Configurable Head System, which is a direct-thread-on upgrade for Surefire Scout, E2, Haley Strategic Partners/Impact Weapons Components Backbone and Arisaka Defense M600-style light bodies. We partnered with Gene Malkoff of Malkoff Devices on this one, and it’s going to be a great thing for the guys running those lights. We’ve got outputs ranging from 650 Lumens at 20,000 Lux to 755 Lumens at 12,800 Lux – significantly more power. It will give you the ability to select the output and beam pattern on your light so that you can match the light head to the mission. It makes your weapon light modular, and it will be hitting the market very soon. Like I said, we’re moving in several directions here.
CT: What else would you like readers to know about Cloud Defensive or the LCSMK1?
SM: Just that we are here to help. If there are things about your gear that need improvement or things that should exist but do not, let us know. Message us through the website (www.clouddefensive.com) or through social media. Tell us what you think we need to do. Trust me when I say, we’re listening. And to everybody – thank you very much for the support. We’re working hard for you guys!
The LCSMK1, as noted above, is fabricated from 6061 Aluminum and Type III Hard Anodized. When I received my LCSMK1, it came in simple packaging, and it is intuitively constructed. The LCSMK1 is comprised of three aluminum bars, and two set screws. The top bar hosts the ST07 pocket. While Cloud Defensive recommends a small drop of lubricant to ease the ST07 into the pocket itself, I found it unnecessary and that the dimensions were near perfect. The side bars, the two that clamp down to the left and right side of the 12 o’clock Picatinny rail, are channeled to allow the ST07 cable to pass through.
Now, like most dudes, I just wanted to get the LCSKM1 mounted, however I would strongly advise the end user actually read the directions. I know, I know, Man Card revoked and all that. Although the the LCSMK1 is minimalist and only comprised of five (5) parts, the directions have some good tips regarding installation that will make for a more precise mounting system. Please also pay attention to the recommended torqueing specifications to avoid voiding the warranty.
Once mounted, I tested my light configuration to make sure it was in working order, and finished clamping the assembly down. Seamless install, no issues, and the ST07 tape switch remained firmly in place even after tossing my AK “Beastie” about. Slow fire, rapid fire strings, and all sorts of banging around on my beater AK revealed that the LCSMK1 was a solid contender, vastly superior to hook & loop (especially after my build heated up), and aesthetically much more pleasing and tidier that fitting and clipping zip ties to a build.
The product is a winner.
In a nutshell, here are the high points for the LCSMK1:
- Sturdy, well-machined construction
- Ease of assembly
- Superior tape switch and cable management
- Inherently snag-free design
Several of my noted criticisms should be addressed, or are in the process of being addressed at the time of this writing:
- Cost. The LCSKM1 is sold at $60, which is not cheap, but neither is the product.
- Mounting solution limitations. Currently only picatinny mounts are available, however, as mentioned above, different mounting solutions will be released soon.
All in all, this product is good to go. The LCSMK1 is lightweight, strong, and provides a rock-solid platform to retrofit current ST07 switch mounting solutions. I really appreciate the design, execution, and performance of this product, and look forward to see what Cloud Defensive comes up with in the future. I believe that if they are able to shortly offer Keymod, MLOK, and especially offset mounts, this will become an indispensable piece of kit that is well worth the investment.
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