One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is what I use for EDC, or Every Day Carry by folks looking for advice on concealed carry and self defense. While a serviceable firearm is certainly a priority for EDC, it’s not the only tool I keep handy. The EDC item I use more than any other, thankfully, is a flashlight. The flashlight is a magnificently useful little tool and ready access to one has made life easier or helped solve a major problem on more than one occasion.
In the old days there were basically three flashlights. The military’s goose-necked flashlight, a $3 plastic flashlight you could buy at any drug store that had about as much power as a lit match, and the Mag-Lite. The Mag-Lite was the king of the flashlight world for many years because it was extremely durable. It was so durable that many a police officer discovered it made one hell of a good impact weapon and would even keep working after being used to subdue a violent felon. The size and weight of the light worked well for putting the hurt on carjackers, but it made the thing difficult to carry and even more difficult to use with a handgun. The average Joe typically kept one in the trunk in case of emergency, but having one on your person at all times was quite inconvenient.
Various elite law enforcement and military units found that they needed to have a white light mounted to their weapons, and in the old days they would use hose clamps and duct-tape to mount a Mag-Lite. The iconic press images of the British SAS raiding the Iranian embassy include a number of troops armed with H&K MP5 sub-machineguns with the big lights attached to them rather crudely. It worked, but was far from optimal. These groups sought more powerful, more compact lights to mount to their weapons and that search set off a revolution in flashlight technology. By the late 1990’s Surefire had come to prominence for making lights small enough to mount on weapons and yet powerful enough to light up most of a room. The combination of reliability, compactness, and power that they offered made them the gold standard. The appeal went far beyond those who carried guns for a living and just about everyone who up to that point had been carrying a mini Mag-Lite bought themselves a Surefire.
I’ve been using Surefire products faithfully since the late 1990’s because they simply worked and did so better than anything else I tried. They were expensive, certainly, but I was willing to pay a bit of a premium for reliability. Every now and then I’d buy one of the Chinese manufactured LED lights people raved about but I never found them to be as reliable or easy to use as the Surefire products…especially since many of those lights had a bunch of different functions on them that were pretty neat if you are into flashlight geekery but are just annoying if you want to use the light as a tool rather than regard it as a personal novelty.
On the recommendation of some friends (I’m privileged to have some pretty awesome friends who have a lot of experience and in-depth knowledge of gear) I strayed once again from the Surefire fold and purchased a Quark Tactical QTL. It’s a tiny little light that runs off of a single CR123A battery. It’s powerful enough to light up a large room but small enough to fit in your pocket or on a keychain without being out of place.
The light has a number of different modes which can be “programmed” into it by a process that I won’t even attempt to describe here. Suffice it to say it involves twisting the bezel of the light in a certain pattern to program in a primary and secondary function and that it took me a few tries to get the hang of it. I have mine set to strobe as a primary function and constant-on as a secondary function. Where most lights make you cycle through the functions of the light with the activation button, Quark’s neat little light allows you to switch between the primary and secondary functions by twisting the bezel half a turn. I greatly prefer this system because it allows me to know exactly what I’m going to get when I draw the light. If I’m doing mundane chore stuff that requires a light, I set it to the constant-on setting and go. When I’m out and about with use against potential bad guys first in my mind, I set it to the strobe. If I need to convert from the strobe to constant-on, twisting the bezel is a breeze.
I’ve been using the light pretty heavily for almost two months now and so far the only complaint I have is the rather awkward initial programming sequence. The light is strong, it’s still using the original battery, the pocket clip seems to be sturdy and shows no sign of breaking. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised. This little Quark is a cut above the other Surefire competitors that I’ve tried. The Quark Tactical QTL retails for around $50, which is a darn good price for such an item. Maybe my age is showing, but I remember when the only halfway practical multi-function light on the market was the Gladius and that thing cost over $300. This little light is smaller, more powerful, more reliable, works better, and comes in at 1/6th of the cost. Not bad.
If you are serious about self defense, a good light should be a priority item for you. If you don’t already have a good light or you’re looking for something that’s very compact, powerful, and reliable I think the Quark QTL is worth a look. For $50 it’s hard to go wrong with this little light. I’m not quite ready to abandon Surefire, as I still own several of their products and will continue to use them well into the future. I’d argue nobody makes a better weapon light than the X300U, for instance…but for the light I carry on my person every day the Quark QTL might just be the better mousetrap.