SureFire revolutionized tactical illumination in the 1980s with our compact, ergonomic, high-intensity lights — both hand held and weapon-mounted. From the beginning, we’ve remained the duty experts in this area, accruing esoteric knowledge second to none in the world. We know from four decades of experience that selecting the tool with the optimal beam configuration for a given application is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. You need to understand some of the key technical aspects, plus define your personal requirements as thoroughly as possible. The following may help you decide which beam pattern suits your needs.
Lumens vs. Candela
The first things to consider in choosing a SureFire light are how much light you need and the specific beam characteristics. The total amount of light emitted by the device is measured in lumens. Generally speaking, the more light available the better, especially in deadly force situations. In low light and darkness, self-supplied illumination will often be required to locate and identify potential or manifest threats — and to visually impair them if needed. Of course, there are times when you may want less light, such as when reading a map, which is why many SureFire products let you select from multiple light levels. And our patented IntelliBeam® technology instantly and automatically adjusts light output based on distance to target.
When discussing beam configuration, we are describing how the light being emitted (measured in lumens) is distributed in the beam of light from the handheld flashlight, WeaponLight, WristLight or other SureFire tactical illumination tool. Generally speaking, these beams of light are circularly symmetrical.
Candela — or “candlepower” — is the unit of light intensity that quantifies the brightest spot in the beam. The brightest (i.e., highest candela value) light is at the beam’s center, and it gradually or abruptly diminishes in brightness as it moves out to the far edge of the beam, depending on the optic in question. High candela is often required for long-range applications.
To illuminate objects at longer distances, optics that produce a narrow, high-intensity (high-candela) beam are needed. Simultaneously, these optics also produce a much lower-intensity, wide-angle area of the beam that is useful for finding where to point the narrow, high-intensity portion of the beam. This part of the beam also enhances situational awareness. For applications where the ranges are considerably shorter, a much broader is generally desirable, and less total light output is usually required.
SureFire offers a choice of models with TIR lenses or parabolic reflectors optimized to provide the highest possible candela for the emitter in question. In contrast, for situations in which a wider beam may be desirable — e.g., close-quarters scenarios — SureFire’s patented MaxVision Beam® is often ideal. It delivers a broad, uniform beam tailored to the human eye’s field of vision.
SureFire TIR Lenses
SureFire has developed numerous lights with optics specifically designed for long-range use, the most effective being our proprietary Total Internal Reflection (TIR). Available in 17 mm or 22 mm diameters, depending upon the model, they produce true high-candela spotlight beam configuration when compared to our MaxVision Beam® and parabolic reflector models. TIR lenses feature primarily refracting elements, but as their name implies, they also utilize reflection. They are precision-molded from a clear, tough cyclo-olefin polymer that surrounds the LED emitter and gathers virtually all the light produced, then reflects and refracts it forward in a carefully designed configuration. Typically this configuration is a comparatively “tight” brighter central cone of light that throws light extended distances, surrounded by a cone containing the remainder of the emitted light that provides illumination for your peripheral vision. The M600DF Scout Light and X400V are a seminal TIR lens-equipped models in our comprehensive family of WeaponLights, and a number of SureFire handheld lights, such as our EDCL2-T, also feature this groundbreaking lens technology.
SureFire Parabolic Reflectors
SureFire parabolic reflectors produce a perfect beam for tactical applications because their beam configuration clearly illuminates the main object of interest while providing enough surround light to maintain situational awareness. We incorporate a wide variety of reflector sizes in our illumination products, ranging from the compact 19 mm reflector in our DBR Guardian dual-beam rechargeable ultra-high output LED flashlight to the colossal 96 mm reflector in our Hellfighter 4 crew-served gun/heavy gun WeaponLight.
These reflectors are made from CNC-machined aluminum instead of the stamped metal or molded plastic found in other brands. As a result, they exhibit superior strength, heat transfer capabilities and geometric exactness. The latter permits precise placement of emitters inside the reflector, typically within .005″ of optimum. Additionally, SureFire parabolic reflector surfaces are textured with tiny ripples that reflect light at slightly different angles, smoothing out beam, eliminating dark spots and other irregularities, and producing a bright central area surrounded by a gradually diminishing corona.
SureFire MaxVision Beam
SureFire’s patented MaxVision Beam produces a beam configuration tailored to the human eye response for the entire field of view. SureFire illumination tools with this optic are perfect for closer-range applications and maintaining maximum situational awareness. The MaxVision Beam is created by a special reflector with precisely engineered facets or undulations optimized for each reflector size. Depending on the model, the reflector will measure 10 mm, 12 mm or 14 mm in diameter. The 10 mm MV reflector has a multi-faceted interior surface, while the 12 and 14 mm MV reflectors have undulations; all three sizes use a highly efficient reflective coating to maximize output.
With this type of beam the intensity varies gradually, from the beam’s center out to its edges, so you don’t perceive the bright center spot when you shine the beam on a wall. The illumination appears to be uniform, even though it is still over 10 times brighter at the center than at the outer edges of the beam. The eye views it as a seamless light pattern. The MaxVision Beam is ideal for headlamps, WristLights, handheld flashlights, and handgun WeaponLights that are most likely to be used at ranges less than 25 meters.
Pushing The Envelope
From the beginning, SureFire has raised the bar when it comes to total light output and optimal beam configuration. We have never looked back, taking every advantage of cutting-edge technology to provide our customers with ever-increasing lumen output. SureFire has also pioneered groundbreaking high-candela models, such as the UDR Dominator® and Hellfighter 4, plus the rechargeable Guardian that features both a parabolic reflector and a wider MaxVision Beam. Numerous powerful yet compact handheld models, such as the V1-B Vampire, the Fury, and the recently released Stiletto rechargeable pocket flashlight continue the tradition we started decades ago with our now iconic 6P. Whatever the task or mission, SureFire makes an illumination tool that will meet your specific requirements, in terms of both total light output and optimal beam configuration.