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2/10/12 - The Thorntail and Dropwing Adaptive Light Mounts are designed to mount a weapons light as close to the weapon as possible while maintaining ergonomic operation of the light, especially with short rails/handguards where the light cannot be positioned forward enough. Haley Strategic Partners teamed up with Impact Weapons Components to produce the mounts.
Haley Strategic Partners (HSP) was formed by former Magpul Dynamics CEO Travis Haley. Impact Weapons Components (IWC) is a Colorado-based company that designs, tests and manufactures the MOUNT-N-SLOT brand direct-attach mounts for slings, firearms, handguards and buttstocks with rails or slots/holes incorporated into their design. Their designs are sleek, streamlined and functional.
Background - As I've noted in other writeups, offset light mounts have increased in popularity over the past few years as shooting grip styles change - the first offset mounts were used to place the light in a position (usually at 4:30 and 7:30) where the thumb could activate the tail cap when using a 'wrap around' hold on a vertical grip, where the thumb went under the rail. Some people, however, started using a 'thumb forward' grip with the support thumb pointed forward along side the upper part of the rail, and found that using an offset mount was more comfortable than just mounting the light on the 9 or 3 o'clock rails. Instead, the light would then be in a 10:30 or 1:30 clock position, right where the thumb is. Offsetting the light and placing it in the 'corners' between the rails brings them closer to the bore, and reducing the width of the weapon.
This method of activation works well with the more extended support arm style of shooting, usually with a midlength or longer handguard. The issue with carbine-length handguards or shorter handguards is that there's very little room on the rail to mount a light using a conventional offset mount, and activate the push button ergonomically. This is where the Thorntail and Dropwing mount come in. They extend the mounting interface to the flashlight beyond the front of the handguard, without the need for a longer rail. This allows the user to use the handguard without sacrificing proper hand position.
The Thorntail and Dropwing mounts are CNC machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and finished with a mil-spec type III hard anodize. They're available in versions for SureFire Scout lights (shown here), and ring versions for use with other flashlights. They're can be purchased from Haley Strategic and IWC. Both the Thorntail and Dropwing are named after species of dragonflies, which are featured in HSP's logo.
Thorntail - The Thorntail mount consists of a cantilevered arm, mount cap, and hardware. The same arm is used for the Scout light or ring mounts. The Scout version is shown here, which is a direct mount for the SureFire Scout lights. The cantilevered arm is symmetrical, so it can be mounted on either side of a rail. This means that there are eight possible mounting positions on a handguard with four rails. I suspect that most people will use the side or top rails to mount a light to.
The Scout light is first attached to the arm with the supplied hardware (after removing the stock mount), then the desired location determined on the handguard. The mount cap (with the dragonfly logo) is placed across the picatinny rail, and the hardware inserted and tightened down with the supplied hex wrenches. Ironically, I no longer have an M4 carbine in stock configuration; all my uppers have either longer than carbine-length handguards, or an aftermarket front sight base. Shown directly below is the Thorntail and Scout mounted to a dummy M4, with the standard fixed front sight base. You can see that the Scout is now positioned entirely forward of the handguard, allowing the rear push button to be depressed without moving the hand back too far on the handguard. It's a very sturdy, solid mount. Note that the Thorntail precludes using rail covers alongside the cantilevered arm on the same rail.
There a few things to consider when planning to use the Thorntail. You have to make sure that the cantilever arm has the necessary rail space and there's no interference with rail or non-standard front sight. Depending on the tailcap you use (pushbutton or pressure switch plug), you also need to ensure that there's enough clearance. The Thorntail works best with shorter handguard, where space is of a premium. Below left, I have it mounted to the LMT CQB MRP upper, which is a midlength handguard. It's mounted on the side rail, and has adequate clearance with the Troy front sight. The Troy precludes the Thorntail from being mounted to the top rail, of course.
The 3rd and 4th photos show it mounted to a Vltor VIS midlength/extended upper. In this particular case, there's really no need for the Thorntail as there's adequate rail space for using a non-cantilevered mount, unless I wanted to move the light all the way forward past the muzzle device. In case anyone's wondering about the tape switch for the DBAL and light, it's a SureFire SR-D-IT that I modified to fit in the space between the rails.
The Thorntail seemed like the perfect solution for the Midwest Industries handguard with US Palm optic top cover, but the top cover didn't provide enough clearance for the cantilever arm (as seen in the last photo below. I also figured it'd be great for the FN SCAR 16S, which suffers from a too-short handguard, but it wouldn't fit on the side rails because of the forward sling loops on the SCAR. It wouldn't work on the top rail as there is not enough clearance to the front sight assembly.
The cantilever arm is about 3.75" long and the Thorntail mount for the Scout weighs 1.41 oz.
Dropwing - Like the Thorntail, the Dropwing is available in a ring version for regular lights and the Scout version shown here. Instead of mounting to the rail, the Dropwing instead mounts in between the rails on a handguard, or to handguards with holes or slots. The cantilevered mounting arm is shaped like a lightning bolt, and is mirrored on either side so it's reversible (for a possible 8 positions). On the arm are the Scout mounting holes, and two slots which allow the hardware to adjust to fit different hole or slot spacing. The surface of the arm that interfaces with the handguard is curved to match the rounded contour of a handguard. It can also be mounted to flat surfaces.
The Dropwing is supplied with two types of backing plates to fit holes or slots. The backing plates are positioned inside the handguard while the screws go through the arm's slots and into the plates. Depending on what setup you have, this may require removing the handguard. I'd recommend taping the plate to a coat hanger or something like that to get them inside the handguard without taking it off. Because the cantilevered arm fits in the space between the rails, it requires that there's enough space to accommodate it. It's about 0.524" wide.
On railed handguards, the Dropwing can only be mounted with the light forward of the end of the handguard. On tubular or similarly shaped handguards, it can be mounted further back if desired. The slight drop in the mount will allow it to clear top-mounted laser line of sights.
The Dropwing is shown below on a Vltor CASV-M, which is a midlength handguard. I used the flat backing nuts to attach the cantilevered arm to the slots at 1 o'clock. Just like with the Thorntail, whenever you're planning to use the Dropwing, you need to ensure that there's enough clearance to mount it. The Dropwing just cleared the bottom handguard tab, luckily. You can see from the photos that it's a very low-profile arrangement, without the need for an extra rail or mount.
Back to the AK. Since the Thorntail didn't work on the US Palm top cover, I decided to give the Dropwing a go. After checking the clearances, I found that the Dropwing would fit on the top cover, using the holes to mount it to. This required taking the top cover off to gain access to the inside. You can see below that the Dropwing positions the Scout light perfectly for activation with my right thumb now. Before, I really had very little options for mounting a light on the AK and being able to activate it without changing my grip around drastically. The only bad thing about mounting the light on the AK is that the front sight casts a shadow.
While the Thorntail and Dropwing were designed primarily for shorter carbine's handguards, they'll work just as well on longer handguards. Instead of installing a rail that's long enough to accommodate both a far-forward support hand shooting style plus a light, you can install a rail that's just long enough for your hand, then use the Thorntail or Dropwing to extend the light beyond the front of the rail. It's lighter than the extra handguard length. Just make sure you have the clearances and space required to mount them.
6/15/12 - The MT 2400TRN designed by Mossie Tactics and manufactured by Battle Comp Enterprises is a mount that is designed to place a weapon light at the 12 o'clock position for ambidextrous and wireless use on a rail with Troy front sight. The TRN is currently compatible only with the Troy rail-mounted front sight.
Background - Earlier this year, Mossie Tactics introduced their MT2400FSB, which is a light mount that attaches to the fixed front sight base of an AR15. This was designed primarily for users that wanted to mount a light like the X200/300 or similar lights, at a 12 o'clock position, without needed a rail or handguard mount. The 2400FSB requires no alteration to the host weapon; something that many LE officers are limited by. The '2400' refers to 12 o'clock/midnight in military time - a dual reference to darkness and the position of the light on the weapon.
The 2400TRN (Troy Rail Nut) is intended to perform a similar function to the 2400FSB, but is designed to be used with a rail mounted flip-up front sight; specifically the Troy. The Troy is one of the most popular folding front sights, which is why MT chose to make the 2400TRN compatible with it. It cannot be used with other front sights at this time. It's made by Battle Comp, and precision CNC-machined from 6061 T6 billet Aircraft Alumium and Military Type III Hard Anodized. It's compatible with the SureFire X-series, Streamlight TLR1, TL3, Insight M3/Procyon/WX150 and similar lights.
On some shorter rails, if you want to mount a light, you need a mount that extends past the front of the rail for proper hand positioning. If you have a longer rail, you can mount the light in front of the front sight. However, it usually sits high, and in the sight picture. The 2400TRN enables the same light used on a pistol to be transferred to the carbine and also places it low; out of the way.
Note that the version shown here uses a Universal single slot that accommodates weapon lights with GL or U attachments.
The TRN mounts by replacing the Troy rail clamp/nut; forming the other side of the rail clamp. It comes with a custom self locking, longer screw to facilitate this. Installing the TRN is very simple: the screw and nut holding the Troy sight onto the rail are removed, and the TRN put in the nut's place, and the longer screw used to re-attach the front sight to the rail. It's shown below, mounted to an LMT MRP carbine.
As shown below, the TRN mount places the X300 right in front of the front sight. I have to 'reach around' a bit with my thumb to activate it; and the push-forward feature of the X300 allows me to do that quite easily. I'm a lefty, so a rocker switch like on the TLR-1 would not work for me, as rotating it clockwise turns the light to 'constant on' mode. For a right hander, it shouldn't be an issue. That's why I prefer the truly ambidextrous rocker switch on the SureFire X-series lights as opposed to the others which have momentary-on rotating the switch one way, and constant-on rotating it the other way. The TRN mount is compatible with Surefire X-series lights, Streamlight TLR1, TLR3, Insight M3 and Procyon/WX150 lights.
I didn't find it as convenient to actuate as when the X300 is mounted on a side rail, but side-rail mounting is generally restricted to longer midlength or rifle length rails. But, I got used to the thumb position needed pretty quickly. With a short rail like this, I wouldn't have any other convenient options for using an X300 anyway. So, if you have a pistol light, a shorter rail, a Troy folding front sight, and want a low profile ambi mount, the TRN will serve you well.
2/28/13 - The new APL LED Auto Pistol Light from INFORCE is a 200-lumen weapon light with an integrated rail mounting system and innovative bilateral ambidextrous paddle switch. The APL produces a tight beam suitable for close to mid range applications and a spill beam for discernment of the surrounding area.
Emissive Energy Corp is an American manufacturer that designs, engineers and produced optoelectronic systems. Founded in 1991, Emissive Energy Corp spent the first 10 years developing and manufacturing custom laser and LED-based products. In 2000, the more familiar INOVA® brand of LED lighting equipment was developed. I featured the INOVA 24/7 LED Smartbright here a few years ago, and still use it today. Emissive Energy sold the INOVA brand to Nite Ize, Inc. in 2010. In 2008, the INFORCE® brand was established to develop products specifically for military and law enforcement applications. INFORCE also makes the WML (Weapon Mounted Light) reviewed earlier.
Description - The APL (Auto Pistol Light) is a compact, angularly-shaped pistol light, with a fiber composite-covered aluminum body and integrated mount attaches to any universal pistol (U) or mil-std 1913 rail. It's both pistol and carbine compatible. The APL produces 200 lumens with a tight, hot spot beam for close to mid-range applications and balanced peripheral light (spill/corona) for discernment of the surrounding area. The head is aluminum with a high-impact glass window. Here's a rundown of the APL's features:
The APL's mounting mechanism is a clamp-type that rocks onto a rail (does not have to be slid onto the rail). When the metal lever on the left side of the body is flipped up, it cams the left side rail clamp open, allowing the APL to be mounted or removed from a rail. Flipping the lever down locks the clamp in place, relying on cam action/tension to keep it there. It's 'self adjusting', so it'll accommodate rails that vary within the tolerance range. Two mounting bars are supplied with the APL. The narrower one is for universal (U) pistol rails like the Glock. The wider one is for MIL-STD-1913 rails. The rails are swapped out by using the provided hex key to uncrew two small screws holding the rail bar to the body, removing the rail bar, then replacing it with the other one.
The single CR 123A battery is accessed by unscrewing the head counter clockwise. The gold contact inside the body is marked with a '+' to indicate the positive end; the battery is inserted with the positive end first.
The APL has an interesting switch system that is probably the most natural of all the pistol lights I've tried. The two paddles at the rear of the body pivot slightly, and when depressed inwards towards the center of the pistol, activate the light. The paddles can be activated by the index/trigger finger of the strong hand, or the thumb of the support hand. The modes of operation are as follows:
Comparing the APL to the X300 - Comparing the APL to the X300 is unavoidable, as I see the prolific X300 as the pistol light that all others are compared to. When I first saw the APL, the angled body reminded me of a Stealth fighter, and it didn't look very compact or streamlined. However, as you can see in the photos below, the APL is quite a bit shorter than the X300, it's narrower, and exactly the same height. It should be more compact, since it only has to house one battery vs. two. It's also about an ounce lighter. The APL is a bit brighter than the 170-lumen X300, but has less run time (an hour's less) due to the single battery.
The APL is illustrated below on various pistols and a carbine. Since the APL is short and stubby, this gives it the impression of bulk, especially on the top rail of a carbine. In actuality, it's more compact than the X300, which is also a popular light to use on a carbine. When mounted on a carbine, it does not interfere with the standard sight picture through the irons.
Notes/Observations - The APL is a departure from the rounded lights most commonly seen on pistols, with its faceted body. When I first saw renderings of it alone, I wasn't sure that I liked the way it looked. However, it grew on me and when I finally saw it mounted on pistols, I started liking its looks a whole lot more. One thing that I'd like to see added to the APL is some kind of positive detent that secures the locking side lever better. Right now, when the lever is pushed down to lock the clamp, it relys solely on cam tension. There's a roller on the end of the lever which bears against a smooth surface when the lever moves up and down. Adding a small raised portion on that surface that the roller has to overcome to unlock would make me feel better about it. I found that depending on the width of the rail, the cam tension would vary, and so would the amount of force needed to lift the lever up to unlock it. Very little is needed sometimes, and if the lever isn't fully seated and sticks out slightly and isn't flush to the body, there's a chance of it popping open if snagged. I'd like to see it 'snap' positively into place in the down position and use something in addition to cam tension to hold it in place.
Now, it's unfair to ask a manufacturer to make accommodations for other manufacturer's products, but I wish that the APL fit into the same envelope as the X300, since all my holsters are X300-compatible. When testing the APL, it didn't fit into any of my holsters except for the Safariland 6004. The 6004 has a more spacious light compartment because it relys on the SLS hood to retain the handgun, whereas most kydex holsters index off the rear shoulder of the X300 for retention, and are therefore molded to its particular shape. While holster manufacturers are coming on board with the APL and making APL-compatible holsters, most consumers are going to take the cost of a new holster into consideration before switching to a new light; especially those who have more than one or two custom holsters. I'd love to see the APL be X300-holster compatible, but that's because all my holsters are that way. On the other hand, the retail price of the APL is $129 and the street price of an X300 is still about $70-90 more than the APL (the X300 retail price at SureFire is $275). That difference can cover the cost of a new holster for the APL. Anyway, INFORCE informed me that the APL is compatible with Safariland SLS holsters that fit the X200, X300, TLR1 and M3, and that there are currently eight different kydex holster manufacturers making holsters for the APL.
The photo below compares the beams of the X300 and APL. The X300 has a tightly focused beam with minimal spill while the APL has the same bright spot but with a brighter spill to light up a larger peripheral area. Both photos are taken with the camera on manual exposure and are not retouched, for a one-one comparison. The wall is about 10 feet away from the camera and light, and white balance was on auto. I used the APL out in the desert during an overnight camping trip, and was shooting at steel targets 23-30 yards away. The 200 lumens were more than enough at that distance to sillouette the pistol's sights. I also used it in conjunction with an RMR red dot on the pistol, and that's a nice combination for night shooting.
I really like the paddle switch configuration of the APL. SureFire's X-series light have their dual-mod switch; rotate it for constant on and press forward on either side for momentary. When shooting with both hands, I usually activate the X300 switch by pressing it with my support hand thumb. The problem is when I'm shooting one-handed. If I use my trigger finger to activate the switch momentarily, it goes off the moment I remove my finger to fire. My finger is too short to get the leverage to rotate the switch so it's constantly on. That's one of the reason folks sometimes use the SureFire DG switch, which allows light control without using the rear switch. The APL paddles, are easy to activate with the trigger finger or support hand thumb. Shooting one-handed and using the trigger finger only, I can choose to activate the light momentarily, or turn it on, take the shot, then turn it off quickly when my finger comes off the trigger. I find it much more natural. The paddle switch also works well on carbines. While the paddle is easy to activate, the drawback of that is that I find myself activating it accidentally more often. It's only happened when taking the pistol out of the range bag or setting it down on something that presses the switch - never when I was drawing or replacing it in my holster.
I really like where INFORCE is going with their designs. The WML is my go-to light on most of my carbines now, and I'd love to use the APL more but don't have compatible holsters for my Glocks (yet). I still feel that the APL can use a bit of refinement in the locking lever area, and would love to have it fit all my holsters, but it's still an excellent and affordable entry into the pistol light market even without those changes.
10/28/13 - The new SL1 Sight Light from ROSCH Works combines a compact weapon light with a front sight, allowing the user to have his cake and eat it too. It's a solution many shooters have mentioned they'd like to have, but until now no one has offered it.
Background - ROSCH Works was formed in July 2012 by the former team from NGA (Next Generation Arms), who created the X7 carbine (dubbed 'the Gray Rifle' by some due to its grey finish). The X7 carbine was designed to take the AR15 to the next level of advancement with its self-lubricating ceraminc coating, ergonomics and reliability; but unfortunately investment support ran out and NGA ceased operations in May, 2012. ROSCH Works was formed to focus on components and accessories, and the SL1 is their debut product.
The Issue - Where to mount a weapon light? That's something that's decided by personal pereference, need, available mounting space etc. One option that has gained popularity over the past few years is to put a light on the top rail at 12 o'clock, on rifles that don't have a fixed front sight gas block on the barrel. The advantage to doing this is that it's an ambidextrous setup, and that the light is not blocked when going around corners by doorways etc. A 12 o'clock position is however limited to certain lights; they'd have to be short enough such that their switch isn't too far back to actuate properly, and not so tall/wide as to intrude into the sight picture. The SureFire X-series lights have typically been the light of choice, as their short length and low profile make them suitable for top rail mounting. The INFORCE WML is another option. However, when mounted on the top rail, the question then is: where to mount the front backup iron sight? TangoDown came out with their FFA-01 Front Sight Flashlight Adapter which puts a fixed front sight around the bezel of an X300, but it can only be used with the X300. However, it requires removal to change out the batteries in the X300, which can be cause for concern in the field.
The ROSCH Works SL1 goes a step further in which the fixed front sight and body of the weapon light are machined as one piece; eliminating the question of light/sight compatibility and reducing weight and bulk.
Description - The SL1 is a compact weapon light with integrated front sight. It has a clamp-style attachment with single cross bolt and is compatible with any Picatinny rail. The LED produces 250+ lumens and has a 50 minute run time. The beam is designed for close to mid-range applications with a bright spot and balanced peripheral light (spill/corona) for discernment of the surrounding area. Here's a rundown of the SL1's features:
The SL1 body is a one-piece machined design that has two 'legs' that project from the body, which serve as a clamp-type mount. The clamp is designed such that the light will slide easily from the front onto any MIL-STD 1913 handguard rail, then tighten down via the single rail clamp screw using the supplied 5/32" hex key and thread locker. The screw also acts as a recoil stop in the rail cross slot. The screw is torqued to 28 in-lbs, or hand tightened with the short end of the supplied hex key, plus another 60 degrees with the long end of hex key which approximates 28 in-lbs. There's no need to gorilla-tighten the screw.
The single CR 123A battery is accessed by unscrewing the tail cap or head, both of which are sealed with O-rings. The tail cap has a recessed rubber button which prevents accidental activation of the switch. The switch is momentary-only, and does not click on or off. It The brass contact inside the tail cap makes contact with the negative terminal of the battery (and is also designed such that a the positive terminal of a battery put in backwards won't make contact for polarity protection). The spring in the head pushes the battery back. When the switch is pushed forward, the contact moves forward and touches the rear of the body, completing the circuit. When the cap is backed off about 3/4 turn, the tailcap is 'locked out' and the switch cannot be pushed far enough forward to activate the light. Screwing the tail cap in all the way causes the switch contact to make constant contact with the body and therefore turns the light on. The SL1 body is not compatible with any other tailcap.
The modes of operation are as follows:
The Malkoff head is unique to the SL1, but based on his well-proven M31 head with an orange peel reflector. WARNING: DO NOT USE A RECHARGEABLE LI-ION RCR-123A BATTERY IN THE SL1! IT WILL DESTROY IT. The acrylic lens is double O-ringed - there's an O-ring between the lens and bezel for water-resistance, and another O-ring between the lens and reflector for shock absorption. The head diameter is 1" (I measured it at 1.004")
Now, we get to the front sight arrangement. The sight ears, or blades, are split down the middle which creates a clamp, much like the rail clamp. A cross bolt with steel nut clamps the front sight post in place. Loosening the screw allows the front sight post to rotate and adjust up or down. The standard spring and detent arrangement was considered when designing the SL1, but the lack of vertical room available eliminated that design. Standard front sight arrangments don't have a flashlight body and battery below them to contend with.
The front sight post has a square shoulder at its base, onto which the supplied sight adjustment tool engages to rotate the front sight. The front sight is round/tapered and I measured it to be about .075" at the base, tapering to about .067" at the top. Sight picture is going to depend on the sight radius - where the SL1 is placed on the rail, and the length of the rail.
Comparing the SL1 to other lights - Illustrated below is the SL1 with some other lights for size comparison. My favourite EDC light is the Sunwayman V10R XM-L and the SL1 is roughly the same size. It's also about the same length as the X300, but taller (only the sight portion) and narrower (due to the single battery). It's shorter and narrower than the WML, which is also a favourite weapon light of mine. Of course, the main difference is that the SL1 incorporates the front sight already. With any other light, you'll have to mount a back up sight somewhere behind it. On a midlength or carbine-length handguard, this can shorten the sight radius quite seriously. With the SL1, even when mounted on a short handguard, you don't lose much sight radius.
I've also illustrated the SL1 alongside some other front sights, to give you an idea of the shape and sight picture. As you can see, front sight hoods/blades comes in all shapes and sizes. The sight blades on the SL1 provide a sight picture close to that of the standard M16/AR15 front sight. In the photos below looking through the Eotech XPS3, the SL1 is mounted on a Noveske NSR 13.5" handguard, providing a sight radius of 16.5". The sight picture is going to vary, of course, depending on where it's mounted. Standard sight radius for an M4 is 14.5" and 20" for a 20" barrel. The rear sight I'm using is from a HK MP7, which has a .120" aperture, so it's non-standard. The standard A2 small aperture is around .07" and the large aperture is .20", so the HK MP7 rear aperture falls somewhere in-between.
Notes/Observations - I'm sure I'm not the only person wondering what took so long for a combination weapon light/fixed front sight to hit the market. Well, stuff takes time to develop. What seems like a simple concept can be more difficult to execute once you delve into the details. A simple pouch, for example, can take more than a year from idea to released product. It's obvious that a lot of thought went into the SL1, as it's a pretty slick product. ROSCH Works isn't a newcomer to the AR15 market, so I wouldn't expect anything less.
The cost of an SL1 is on par with a good weapon light and seperate front sight; more or less. There's definitely a reduction in bulk; cost and weight will depend on the combo that the SL1 is compared to, but it's a good chance it's lighter than whatever you're using right now. The main advantage, of course, is that it's integrated and solves the problem of two objects trying to occupy the same rail space. The advantages of a top-mounted light have been discussed by many before, but in a nutshell, it provides the best shadow (bottom), is ambidextrous, and helps streamline the sides of the weapon.
I didn't install the SL1 all the way to the front of the handguard; I mounted it a little way back. The main reason I did this was to get the bezel and lens out of the blast of the compensator ports. This still provides a sight radius of 16.5"; just a couple of inches longer than the standard carbine sight radius. In this location, it's also positioned well for the thumb of my support hand to activate, yet it's out of the way when I wrap my thumb over the handguard.
Installation was a breeze, and I adjusted the front sight the same way I always do when installing a flip-up front sight; I use my red dot co-witness. I flip up the rear aperture and adjust the front sight so that the red dot sits right on top of the post. This was easily accomplished with the SL1; it probably took only a minute or two before I had it aligned to my Eotech reticule.
The SL1 beam is shown below compared to the X300 (not the Ultra) beam using the same manual settings on the camera. Both lights were the same distance from the wall. The X300 has a distinct bright spot and not much of a spill beam. The SL1 spot is brighter and has a much wider/brighter spill beam lighting up a greater area. Outdoors, I found the spot beam throw of both lights to be quite similar at distances over 40 yards with the SL1 having the edge, and of course, illuminating a much wider area. Also check out an informative thread on M4carbine.net with more photos and beam shots from members.
At the range, I confirmed my zero and didn't have to make any adjustments from my initial installation and adjustment using the Eotech reticule. Using the iron sights only, the SL1 sight picture was very similar to the standard sight picture, so I didn't encounter any issues there. I did notice (as I had before) that the sight blades on either side of the post can have a bit of glare due to their sloping angle, depending on the ambient lighting. When the sun is directly overhead or at a certain angle, for example, the blades will not appear as black/dark as when they're in shadow. If there's a nitpick, I'd like to see the front sight blades reversed so that the angle is to the front, and the rear of the blades is vertical. I think that might provide a crisper sight picture and therefore easier/quicker sight alignment in the rear aperture. Other than that, they provided a familiar sight picture that I had no problems adjusting to.
I wasn't able to try out the SL1 at the range at night, unfortunately. Opportunities for night shoots don't come up too often, so I'll update this if I get a chance to. So, the only shooting I did with it was during the day. Placed where it was on my handguard, I had minimal carbon fouling from the comp on the lens. Based on my bringing the SL1 out around the neighbourhood detached from the rifle, I estimate its optimal range to be within about 50 yards in a typical surburban surrounding with ambient lighting. The range will be extended when it's darker without as much ambient lighting. Having the fixed front sight (opposed to a folding one) ensures that if your red dot is overpowered by the bright light indoors, you'll still have a front aiming point. So far, the SL1 looks like a winning combo.
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