February 23, 2023
When it comes to innovative tactical white lights, Modlite has really caught people’s attention in a short amount of time. Founded in 2018 by Cory Starr, he started Modlite after growing tired of weapon lights he considered to be lacking in usability and performance. His goal was to do better, and he has. He’s accomplished this while giving his customers the ability to tailor their lights the way they want them. As white lights are very important tools, I decided to review three models from Modlite.
I purchased a Modlite OKW-18650 Kit in June of 2021. The customer service experience I had as a buyer was both pleasant and informative, as I was a bit bamboozled at first making sense of the best options for my application. The rep I dealt with took into consideration my rifle’s current setup, including type of optic, and ranges I plan to use the light. Running an LPVO, with the possibility of needing it for a longer-range critter-getter, he recommended the OKW head on the 18650 battery body, a couple spare 18650 batteries, and a Modbutton pressure switch.
So, I’d have the option of running it with their standard “Clicky” tailcap, or running the Modbutton pressure switch on the top rail of my handguard connected through a Surefire UE tail cap, which I also purchased through their website. I elected to go with the pressure switch on my rifle, but as a backup, keep my Clicky tailcap in my rifle bag, right next to the spare batteries, should something ever happen to the pressure switch.
I decided I would be putting this light on one of my Seekins Precision NX15 based AR15s, with their low-profile handguard. To mount the light to the handguard, the Modlite rifle lights have a SureFire Scout mount machined into the lightweight 6061 aluminum body. So, any mount designed to fit the popular Surefire Scout weapon mounted light (WML) will fit the Modlite.
Modlite works closely with Arisaka Defense and offers many options from Arisaka’s line-up of Scout Mount compatible mounts directly on their website. I went with the M-LOK compatible Inline Scout Mount for mine. When discussing options with the rep, I mentioned only having M-LOK slots on the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions on my low-profile handguard, and my desire to run my SilencerCo Omega 300 suppressor on the rifle, so the necessity for clearance took precedence.
After I’d had the OKW on my rifle for a few months and shot many rounds through it without issue, Modlite announced and began teasing their PL350 light geared specifically for pistol-mounted applications. I reached out again and this time, was able to get my hands on one of their FDE packages for testing. When it arrived, the plain brown cardboard box didn’t boast much. But, when I opened it a smooth and clean-sided, aluminum-bodied light met my eyes. Underneath the light was one rechargeable protected-cell lithium-ion battery, a charger that fits two batteries, and a set of PHLSTER ARC WML switches of varying sizes. These I can switch out at my own discretion, giving me a light that fits best for how my hand interfaces with my pistol.
I had already determined I’d be putting this on my SIG Sauer P226R pistol, and with my large hand-size, I found the switches that were already factory installed to be a perfect fit for both. On the same molded polymer piece the switches come on, are two recoil inserts for the light, one marked, “1913,” and another, slightly thinner one marked, “UNIV.” Their website has an easy guide for determining which insert to use, and for the light rail on my SIG. Had I elected to mount this light on my Glock 19, the insert marked “UNIV” would have been the one to use. As far as options to choose at the time of purchase, the lights come in either Black or FDE anodized, and you have the choice of using the OKW head, or the recently upgraded PLH-V2 head. I already had the OKW head, as mentioned earlier, so I chose the PLH-V2 head.
I also ordered one of their handheld models. A handheld light is an important tool for Every Day Carry (EDC) and complements a weapon mounted light. I’m a sucker for OD green, so this time I went with their limited edition moss-green Cerakote, and with the OKW head, because, why not? This limited edition kit already came with a Thyrm Switchback 2.0 pocket clip, to give the user absolute control over their grip on the light, and when flipped 180 degrees in your grip, the Switchback 2.0 gives the user the option to still use their hand as a support hand on their weapon, and hold the light simultaneously. It’s useful for retention, will keep the light from rolling and the pocket clip works as advertised.
Modlite lights come with a quick start guide and a QR code printed on a simple business card. Scanning this code takes you to a page on their website. Here you can read, watch videos, and find resources available to help you determine how to best mount your light, troubleshooting and maintenance. There’s also info on holsters, mounts, and other options available to get you taken care of in the setup and ownership process.
Visually, the lights boast clean lines, and low profile engravings to keep with the clean appearance. Structurally, the precision machined 6061 aluminum heads and bodies are plenty sturdy, while the electronic drivers are fully potted, much like a rifle action would be bedded. This gives them superior shock and vibration resistance to stay lit, even under the duress brought on by heavy caliber, hard-recoiling rifles such as a select-fire 7.62x51mm FN SCAR 17, known for its optic-breaking recoil impulse. The potting of the electronics also lends itself to moisture resistance, for work in all conditions.
Performance-wise, the light output from these three lights is impressive, with many factors to be thanked. The lens itself is constructed of BOROFLOAT, a glass that combines a high-thermal resistance, extreme durability, high strength, and excellent transparency, giving between 98 and 99% light transmission. Translation: Crazy bright! The power system is provided by 18350(short) or 18650(long) protected-cell, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Rechargeable cells are a definite advantage. Typical CR123 batteries run hot, fast, and hard and they’re not cheap to replace. So, using a quality rechargeable battery makes sound economical sense. The protected cell in the Modlite batteries is another excellent feature. The heat put out by these lights is high, and if used for any extended length of time, does not bode well with typical Lithium-ion batteries. The protected cell not only protects the cells against high heat, but also prevents them from being overcharged, over-discharged, short-circuiting, and a host of other potential electronic failures. Having these protections in place ensures longer life and more charges for the batteries, as well as protecting the light itself from detrimental issues that can come from non-protected power sources.
Upon turning your light on, it will blink three times if the battery needs to be replaced/recharged. This way you don’t end up needing it only to find out its dead. I found that charge retention was excellent in my rifle light, when I had to go for extended periods of time without using it. Extra batteries are affordable enough and highly recommended. I like to rotate through mine every so often, to be sure I always have a good charge in the light, and a full spare.
Having owned the OKW-18650 on my Seekins AR Pistol for the better part of a year, I’ve been able to have it along with me in a lot of different scenarios. At the range after dark, out in middle of nowhere in the Idaho mountains, and just hanging out in my house. The versatility of this light has shown itself time and time again. The design is robust and reliable with zero problems in harsh environmental conditions or extreme cold. Weight with battery is 5.3 ounces and OAL is 6.5 inches. Battery life is good, swapping batteries is straight-forward and the use of rechargeable 18650s is a definite plus. The light interfaces solidly with the rifle and the pressure pad is well-contoured and comfortable to use. The OKW head measures 680 lumens right at the light itself. However, the lumens number doesn’t tell the whole story. Often today a light’s lumen rating is little more than a marketing gimmick. There is more to a light’s performance than the amount of lumens listed on the box.
A more useful number is the candela, or directional output of light, where it measures over 69,000. This means impressive output, and target identification out to distance. Locating a target during good/bad guy scenarios with this light was no issue out past 175 yards. The shape and size of the beam allows you to see what a possible threat’s hands are doing and for this article I shot photos at 7, 15, 55 and 100 yards with the camera on the same setting to show what the beam looks like. This light has the candela power to even go through tinted back windows to identify potential threats in the back of vehicles. Using this light feels like you have a combo of both a flood and spot light with the benefits of both. After firing hundreds of rounds down range, and across different calibers and platforms, the Modlite has performed well with zero issues.
I’ve heard of pressure switches of all makes and models having a tendency to break after hard use. I’ve not used the Modbutton to a breaking point yet, and the compact, tactile rubber button fires the light on every time I ask it to. The Modbutton only offers momentary light, as long as you’re holding the switch down with your thumb, but by using the Clicky Tailcap, you can achieve momentary or constant light, depending on your application and needs. Also, thanks to the modular platform accepting Surefire tailcaps, I can plug in other pressure switches, including ones that allow for constant on.
For the PL350 with the PLH-V2 head and 1913 rail insert, it was a good snug fit on my full-sized SIG P226 Legion SAO in 9mm. The grooved switches allowed for easy on/off manipulation, with, or without gloves, and the ability to change the switches to fit the shooter is a huge plus. Before ever using WMLs on my handguns, I always shot with my support thumb riding high along the slide. My grip stays the same, but dropping my support side thumb down along the front of the trigger guard is all I have to do to activate or deactivate the PL350.
Due to the handgun application, the light has a nice wide flood boasting 1,350 Lumens, but can still punch out ahead with a candela measurement of 54,000. Out of the gate, in a short range scenario, the PLH-V2 Head isn’t as strong on the eyes when compared to the OKW, but gives a bright, wide and even beam. This light also brightens car interiors like its daylight, and fills entire rooms with light, giving you zero issue with positive identification on threats near, or far.
Putting the MOD in Modlite
Modularity and customization are two things at the core of what makes Modlite what it is. The ability to interface with other brands such as SureFire puts a foot in the door for those looking to make the switch. Each light body can be used with any past, present, or future light head, and parts can be bought individually, or separately so you can build it the way you want it. So you can swap heads and tail caps to build a light the way you want it.
For the PL350, many holster companies hit the market with options specific to this light. Others, such as Safariland had their 6000 series holsters already set to fit other light models on the market, and also able to fit the PL350 mounted on a pistol. Modlite’s website provides a full list of holster manufacturers such as A&R Designs, PHLster, Guerilla Tactical, and many others. If you already own one or more of the light heads manufactured by Modlite, you can purchase the light bodies separately, so you don’t have to double up on things you already have. During this project I found myself switching the PLH-V2 head back-and-forth between my rifle and handheld, while also trying the OKW head on my pistol.
I do wish their rifle kits would come with a mount of some sort, or better clarify the lack of a mount on their product pages. However, between recommended products and their customer service team, I was able to get my order placed, since everything I needed could be found on their website, even if with a bit of guidance.
Modlite’s powerful, yet tailorable options bring reliable lighting even further to the masses. Talking with the team at Modlite, demand is high, and they continue to deliver their product from their US manufacturing facilities. With demand being what it is; who knows what will come next from Modlite. Maybe a compact pistol light? Maybe an ultra-powerful, over the top light? Maybe a whole host of IR lights? What I do know, is if I’m in a less than ideal scenario, I won’t be caught in the dark. Price of the OKW-1850 starts at $279, the PLHv2-PL350 FDE starts at $319 while the Handheld OKW-18650 is $309.
This article was originally published in Be Ready magazine. You can find the original magazine on the OSG Newsstand. If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.