SureFire’s 6-Series models such as the SureFire 6C and 6P are the very foundation of the company’s world-class line of handheld flashlights. The first high-output compact flashlight SureFire created was a 6-Series light, and it introduced many of the features that have established SureFire as the innovator in the tactical illumination market.
Sporting robust aerospace-grade aluminum bodies, the cutting-edge in light emitters and generations of SureFire’s industry-leading tactical tailcaps, many original 6-Series lights have spawned entirely new sub-genres of tactical flashlights while staying true to their roots at the same time. Today’s 6PX models are still at the core of SureFire’s compact handheld flashlight family.
With so many history-making models in the 6-Series family, we thought it might be interesting to look back through the decades at the evolution of the species. We’re betting there’s a good chance that SureFire customers will recognize several of these models, and many of you may have an example close at hand, ready to meet your lighting needs at moment’s notice.
Introduced in 1988, the SureFire 6C marked a true paradigm shift in handheld tactical illumination. It was the first SureFire compact flashlight to use 123A lithium batteries as a power source. SureFire pioneered their use in its 300 and 600 series handgun lights, and SureFire’s founder, Dr. John Matthews, worked with the battery industry to develop critical upgrades that increased the utility of these energy-dense cells. Today, they remain a cornerstone power source for SureFire’s family of tactical illumination tools.
Two 123A batteries helped the Model 6C deliver an astounding 60 lumens of light — six times the industry standard — in a compact flashlight measuring a mere 4.6 inches long. The 6C was smaller and brighter than any flashlight at that time. The light was activated by twisting the bezel. The 6C’s rugged, Mil-Spec hard-anodized aerospace aluminum construction set the standard for future SureFire flashlight bodies. It also featured a flat tailcap with a lanyard attachment point, allowing the light to hang from the wrist, leaving both hands free for critical tasks such as reloading a pistol. The 6C redefined what was possible in tactical illumination.
Hot on the heels of the 6C in 1989, SureFire’s classic 6P was the first in a line of SureFire flashlights to bear the 6P name. The 6P featured a high-output P60 Xenon incandescent head that produced 65 lumens from two 123A lithium batteries, but customers could also opt for an ultra-high-output P61 Xenon head that nearly doubled output to 120 lumens. Its revolutionary orientation-independent tactical tailcap switch provided two activation options: press for momentary or twist for constant-on, a definite improvement over the 6C. During the same period, SureFire also introduced a rechargeable version, the 6R. It was effectively “dual fuel” before SureFire popularized the term via models that can be powered by two 123A lithium batteries or one 18650 lithium battery. The 6R gave the user the option of two 123As or a B65 Ni-Cad battery module to power the light. SureFire also offered a kit to convert the 6P into a 6R. It consisted of a battery module, charger (smart or dumb) and an adapter to lengthen the body to accommodate the B65.
This first generation of 6C/6P/6R models were later referred to as the “round head” models by SureFire fans, distinguishing them from later 6P variants that featured hexagonal flats on the bezel. Today, round head 6-Series models are valued by collectors, and many of them are still providing faithful service.
Introduced in 1997, the SureFire 6Z was the first SureFire handheld to feature a body designed specifically for use with a pistol. Inspired by the shooting technique developed by former FBI agent Bill Rogers, the 6Z was machined with a reduced circumference in the center of the body. It incorporated one rubber grip ring onto the narrow section, allowing the user to hold the 6Z like a syringe and easily activate it by applying pressure to the tailcap with the heel of the support hand. The 6Z CombatLight was born, and its unique CombatGrip added to the legacy of U.S.-patented SureFire innovations. The 6Z was available with the P60 Xenon head that delivered 65 lumens, or the optional P61 Xenon that delivered 120 lumens.
Replacing the first 6P design, the 6P Original incorporated a host of beneficial refinements. It retained the 123A power source and added the option of either the 65-lumen P60 Xenon incandescent head or 120-lumen P61 head. Improvements also included a new lockout tail cap to prevent negligent light discharge during tactical use or depleting the batteries when stored. The 6P Original was also upgraded with a new body featuring flat longitudinal surfaces with the SureFire brand name laser-etched into them. SureFire also added hexagonal flats on the bezel to prevent the body from rolling when placed on uneven surfaces, providing a simple yet significant improvement over the first-generation round head models. This change was made practical when SureFire opened its own turning center, which allowed manufacturing capacity and flexibility not available earlier in the company’s history.
At about the same time, SureFire also introduced a value-priced cousin to the 6-series line. Known as the G2, it was based on the 6P Original but featured a lightweight, durable and corrosion-proof, glass-filled polymer (dubbed Nitrolon at the time) body mated to molded bezel. The G2 has since grown into its own successful family of lights for SureFire.
Introduced in 2007, the single-output 6P Defender seriously upped the 6P’s utility as a defensive tactical illumination tool. Two key improvements gave it a look and a functionality that set it apart from earlier 6P variants.
The most obvious was a six-point Crenellated Strike Bezel that provided the user with a means to inflict damage on an attacker in a close quarter combat situation. Today this feature can be found on the SureFire E2D Defender. The second was a new click-on/off tailcap switch that replaced the constant-on twist function by allowing the user to partially depress the tailcap switch for momentary output or press it fully for constant-on activation.
The year 2008 marked a watershed moment in the history of the SureFire 6 Series. The “Original” designation was changed from the 6P, to 6PL. So, too, were the venerable incandescent Xenon heads that met the critical requirements of 6P customers for two full decades. The new 6P marked the first 6-Series flashlight to be equipped with a light-emitting diode (LED). Projecting a precision focused beam from an all-new reflector, the high-performance LED emitter produced 80 lumens (later upgraded to 120 lumens) while extending the 6P’s runtime to an amazing 9.4 hours of illumination. The momentary-on/constant-on tailcap remained, as did the rugged, Mil-Spec hard-anodized, all-weather aluminum body, while the LED set new standards in 6P performance, ruggedness, and reliability.
6PX/6PX Pro, Tactical, Defender
As SureFire continued to push the envelope into the new millennium, the 6-Series models were primary beneficiaries of advances in technology, with new models giving customers even more choices to meet their specific tactical illumination needs. Renamed 6PX, these models were available in dual-output Pro and single-output Tactical versions. The 6PX Pro provided the user with a 15-lumen low-output with a total runtime 45 hours, and a 200-lumen high output with a runtime of 2.5 hours. Activated with the first press of the tailcap switch, the low output was ideal for basic tasks such as reading a map or writing in a ticket book; pressing the switch a second time activated the high output. The single-output 6PX Tactical and 6PX Defender (with Strike Bezel) each offered a 200-lumen maximum output by partially depressing orientation independent tactical tailcap switches for momentary-on or clicking for constant-on activation.
SureFire discontinued the 6PX Defender, although its “fighting light” concept features would remain with the compact E1D and E2D Defender models. The popular 6PX Tactical and Pro models continue to serve a vital role in SureFire’s comprehensive line of handheld lights, with both 6P variants receiving significant lumen upgrades. What began as a 200-lumen flashlight, and was later upgraded to 320 lumens, now produces a blazing 600 lumens in single-output (Tactical) or high output (Pro) mode. The 6PX Pro retains its useful 15-lumen low output, making it an ideal light for everything from law enforcement and emergency first responder service to outdoor and everyday home use.
For more information on the SureFire 6PX Tactical, 6PX Pro, and all of SureFire’s class-leading tactical illumination tools, visit SureFire.com.