December 18, 2023
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It was a dreary and dismal night in late fall, 1994, and the witching hour was rapidly encroaching on Pittsburgh’s violent north side. In contrast to her typically neutral and composed speech patterns, the Pittsburgh Police midnight shift dispatcher tone could only be described as… darkly vengeful. Two young officers assigned to walk the shadowy and violent “Mexican War Streets” of the Steel City’s north side knew the caliber of violator they were about to encounter based on the unfiltered information provided to them from their amped-up dispatcher. Only two blocks away, an assailant had just brutalized his girlfriend with a baseball bat, and the dispatcher didn’t mince her words to the foot-beat rookies. The 911 operator informed the officers that the reporting party was also the victim and could barely be understood in her desperate pleas for help. In addition to numerous blunt-force trauma wounds to her body, her jaw had been broken and was nearly separated at its connection points to her skull. The two patrol officers were young, fast and eager to make things right and raced by foot to the scene.
Their quick response time was rewarded with a fleeting glimpse of the bad guy hoofing it at high speed down a dark alley. The two officers sprinted after him and were joined by a third officer. The suspect glanced back and knew he was “made,” disappearing through the open doorway of an abandoned rowhouse. The officers made a tactical entry of the derelict residence and conducted a thorough but fruitless search of the ground and upper floor. The officers attempted to heed the Pittsburgh Police playbook and called for K9 and SWAT backup, but to no avail thanks to multiple callouts across North Side and Downtown area. To complicate matters, other critical calls for service were forced into a queue and put on hold while the brutal man in the basement waited the officers out.
The youngest of the three cops knew the situation had to be resolved, even under the less-than-ideal circumstances they faced, and formulated a plan. The officers would wait silently for five to ten minutes, then, after the bad guy was confused and hopefully not in a state of readiness, the young rookie would charge without warning down the steps into the pitch-black basement with his light off and gun ready to rock. Once at the bottom of the steps, he would go prone, then light up the room with his cutting edge, high-lumen-output flashlight. Of historical note, the rookie’s cutting-edge torch and its progeny would ultimately usurp the crown jewel of police flashlights in that era: the club-like Mag-Lite. The officer’s “ace in the hole” torch was powerful, compact, and rechargeable Streamlight Stinger.
The rookie’s plan went without a hitch as he charged into the basement. Everything went swimmingly until his boot hit the third step. Its moldy, rotten wood snapped in half with a sickly, moist crunch. He lurched forward, did several somersaults down the steep steps and landed on his side in wet plaster chunks and garbage. Thanks to the knurling on the Stinger and grips of his Glock 17, both were still firmly planted in his grip when phase two of his somewhat awkward master plan kicked off. He aligned the brilliant beam of the Stinger with the sight picture of his duty weapon and immediately made target acquisition. The assailant was crouched in the far corner of the basement and in his hand was an object that should have hailed the initiation of a close-quarter gun battle: a brilliantly shiny nickel-plated .38 Special revolver.
Fortunately for the bad guy, he was slamming the handgun’s ejector rod down with the palm of his non-dominant hand and expelling the cartridges out of the revolver’s chambers onto the wet floor of the basement when the brilliant beam from the Stinger engulfed him. In his mind, the suspect thought that if he was caught with an unloaded gun, his prosecutorial exposure would be lessened. This decision, while legally moronic, saved his life. The young officer stayed his trigger-finger, the assailant dropped the empty weapon and was arrested without further incident. This dangerous game of hide and seek starring the Streamlight Stinger proved to the wet-behind-the-ears-rookie how invaluable a well-designed handheld light can be, especially against tough odds. It was a valuable lesson that I factored into every law enforcement operation or outdoor venture I engaged in since that eventful night nearly 30 years ago.
The Stinger and Kin: Still on the Prowl Three Decades Later!
Thanks to a highly instructive sit-down with Streamlight’s Melissa Nichols at SHOT Show 2023, I was able to play catch-up with the time-tested company’s latest generation light systems. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t remained a Streamlight adherent throughout my 30-year law enforcement career, but exponential changes in technology over the last several years, especially in the development of stunningly brilliant high-lumen LEDs, requires constant attention. I was schooled on Streamlight’s recent advances in LED technology and how it translated to those of us whose lives depend on rugged, reliable and capable light systems. Here’s the rundown on Streamlight’s latest generation bright-light masterpieces. From blazingly bright handheld lights, maritime/harsh environment spotlights, compact weapon light systems and a few stocking stuffers, you can’t go wrong with Streamlight.
Stinger Color-Rite Flashlight
The latest generation Streamlight Stinger expands on its original compact, rechargeable design with a cutting-edge High Coloring Rendering Index (90 CRI) LED illumination source. The CRI LED paints its target area with a softer, warmer than bright white LED counterparts. This translates in a more “honest” illumination visual for the operator. Quite simply, the user is treated to a true spectrum of light on his/her target that is akin to natural light and not unnaturally bright, pure-white illumination. Whether you are a detective examining forensic evidence at a crime scene or a bow-hunter tracking the next addition to your chest freezer, the Color-Rite Stinger provides the spectrum of bright light you need to accomplish the mission.
It looks cool. It is cool, and it can save your bacon in a clinch! If you are a minimalist in need of a tough-as-nails, uber-compact light capable of feats of illumination unheard of for its size, the Streamlight Wedge is your huckleberry. This thin but powerful two illumination mode light is a 4.25-inch long powerhouse. It is capable of blasting a 500-lumen/1,900-candela beam effective to 95 yards in high mode and a 50-lumen/200-candela beam to a practical distance of 30 yards on its low setting. The run-times before recharging are 2 hours and 11 hours, respectively. It is constructed of lightweight anodized aluminum, armored up with a waterproof charge port and fits into your pocket like a clip knife. Whether you are navigating through your house during a power outage or lighting up the interior of your boat’s cabin during a nighttime emergency in high seas, it’s built to be your partner in toughing it out.
PROTAC 2.0 Flashlight and PROTAC 2.0 Headlamp
The Streamlight PROTAC 2.0 is a compact, dynamic light system. It emits a staggering 2000 lumens of retina-searing bright light with a 2.5 hour run time. It has strobe functionality and lower-power settings providing longer battery life (570 lumens for 4.5 hours and 100 lumens for a whopping 25 hours). It operates on USB rechargeable battery pack, weighs only 8.25 ounces and is a mere 6.1 inches in length.
The catch-phrase “Game-Changer” does not do this headlamp justice. A moonless, cloud-blanketed night in Alaska has the otherworldly ability to suck in nearly any beam of bright light with the vampirical power of a black hole. This headlamp is this potent brand of darkness's nemesis with a level of illumination so aggressive it nearly equals the power of a vehicle mounted LED light bar. Its activation button is weatherproof, simple and easily accessible, even when wearing gloves in the dead of winter or foul weather. The PROTAC 2.0 headlamp operates on a USB rechargeable battery pack and sports a weatherproof protected USB port. It has a 2.25-hour run-time in “crazy bright” mode (2,000 lumens), 4.5 hour longevity at its second intensity setting (650 lumens), and 25 hours when dialed down to low. It weighs 10.48 ounces and is secured on your melon with a sturdy multi-support point harness.
WAYPOINT 300 Rechargeable Spotlight
The Streamlight Waypoint 300 is at home whether bouncing around on the back floor of your pickup truck or stuffed under the helm of your fishing boat. It is a sturdy spotlight capable of blazing through the darkest, inkiest night with 1000 and is capable of powering through the murk with a beam distance of over 1,039 yards. The Waypoint 300 is capable of providing industrial length illumination for approximately 10 hours. The Waypoint 300 is powered by an onboard lithium-ion battery, and if you need to light up an area while you work, no problem. It has a built-in stand so you can go hands-free! It weighs in at a respectable 1.52 pounds and is impact resistant and waterproof to approximately six feet. The spotlight survived five months of abusive maritime testing off the coast of Alaska without a single hiccup, which in extremely punishing “Alaska Dog Years” is nearly three years in the lower 48!
TLR-8 Sub Gun Light with Red or Green Targeting Laser
Double-trouble best describes the TLR-8’s mission. It is a weapon light/laser targeting system contained within an insanely strong machined aluminum housing. It is capable of surviving the kick of a .460 S&W Magnum hunting handgun, so a carbine or your carry gun should be no match for its sturdy engineering. Its bright-light intensity is 500 lumens and has a run-time of 1.5 hours running in light only or light/laser combo mode. In laser only mode, it has a runtime of 60 hours. It is actuated with rear paddle switches and is powered by a single CR123A lithium battery. The bezel can be used to turn off the power to avoid accidental, battery-murdering activations in adverse conditions, and it is capable of being used in full-disco/strobe mode during tactical situations or dance parties. It weighs in at a mere 2.77 ounces and can be mounted on multiple attachment platforms.
TLR-1 HPL Gun Light
If you ever find yourself in need of a weapon mounted light bright enough to reveal what extraterrestrial mysteries are concealed on the dark side of the moon from your backyard, the Streamlight TLR-1 HPL Gun Light is your light. It is one of the brightest compact weapon lights on the planet, and it is capable of illuminating threats to nearly 500 yards with its 1,000-lumen beam. It can be mounted on a variety of rail systems and actuated by either its onboard rocker-switch or wired pressure pad. It is waterproof to approximately three feet for 30 minutes, weighs 6.5 ounces and is powered by two CR123A lithium batteries.
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