Impressions of various goodies from Solarforce-sales (various hosts, drop-ins, and accessories)

I placed a couple of orders with solarforce-sales over the past month and accumulated quite a bit of Solarforce hardware. Here are some reflections on my recent acquisitions.

This post covers the following items:

  • L2
  • L2p
  • L2r
  • L2i
  • XP-G 3 mode low-voltage drop-in
  • XM-L 5 mode 3-6V drop-in
  • FH-5 pouch
  • FH-1 pouch
  • L2-S6 switch
  • L2-S7 switch
  • B6 premium stainless steel bezel

Solarforce L2 Body

See Foy's review:

What else can I say? It's the classic, arguably best bang-for-the buck P60 host. I already had a black one, but decided to get another (this time in gray) because the price was so low. The gray is nice. It has a shiny finish and similar level of fit and finish as Solarforce's other HA-II lights. I think solarforce would sell more of these if they made it easier to get accessories in this color.

Solarforce L2p Body

Foy really nailed his review of the L2p body:

I don't have a lot to add here. The fit and finish on this body is up there with my Fenix LD20 - the best I've seen. The only negatives are that the standard tailcap does not have holes for a lanyard and that it will make most other flashlights you own feel cheap. One odd thing about the solarforce accessory selection is that their switches tend to be HA-III and matte finish, a good match to the L2p, but other accessories such as extension tubes seem to be HA-II and a glossy finish, making them a better match for the classic L2.

Solarforce L2r body

Foy also provided an excellent L2r review:

Again, I don't have much to add here. I'll point out that my impression of this flashlight suffered a bit because it arrived in the same shipment as my L2p, which is in a different category for fit and finish. You can modify an L2 to use 2 AA batteries by adding a single CR123 extension tube, but the batteries will rattle. The real advantage of the L2r is the narrower body that is a better fit for AA batteries, but this comes at the expense of incompatibility with standard extension tubes and switches. Given the low price - the body is currently just $10 and the tube/switch combo without a head is just $7 - it's hard to make any serious complaints. I've decided to leave mine in my car with some Energizer ultimate lithium primaries.

Solarforce L2i Body

Yet again, Foy has provided an excellent review already:

Again, I don't have much to add here. My impression of this flashlight also suffered from its arrival in the same shipment with the much more nicely made L2p. I'm not comfortable with how tight it is with an 18650 or 2x(R)CR123. One unexpected good thing is that it's just about perfect with one AA/14500 and a 15mm spacer. It's tight enough that it won't rattle, but not so tight that one worries about mashing the battery. As with the L2r, the body is so cheap (currently $9 or just 5.50 without the head) that it's basically an impulse buy and it's hard to complain at this price.

Solarforce Low Voltage (0.8 - 4.2v) XP-G R5 3 Mode Drop-in

This was my first XP-G. My previous drop-ins were XR-E R2s and I also have some XR-E Q5 lights. I like the 3 mode configuration - no strobe or SOS. The modes seem nicely spaced. Some might object to the PWM at low. Overall, I'm favorably impressed by the XP-G. The beam is nicer than an XR-E beam due to the lack of the metal ring and resulting donut hole. The light had a very slightly greenish cast with a center spot that was slightly yellow, but overall it was more pleasant than the cooler color cast from my R2s. I list my impressions of individual configurations below:

  • 2xAA NiMH: In this configuration, it's not a big improvement over my Fenix LD20 XR-E Q5.
  • 3xAAA Alkaline: In this configuration, it's not very impressive. The internal resistance of the alkalines is most likely to blame here.
  • 3xAAA NiMH: I didn't measure it, but this might be a little brighter than 2xAA NiMH.
  • 1x16340: This is very bright, significantly brighter than any of the AA or AAA configurations, and even a bit brighter than one my XR-E R2s powered by an 18650.
  • 1x18650: This was very bright, definitely brighter than XR-E R2 powered by an 18650. In one of two of these drop-ins that I tested, use with an 18650 would cause the drop-in to overheat and start blinking in less than a minute. Solarforce-sales offered to replace this one. The second one that I tested did not have this problem, though it did still flicker a little.

In summary, this drop-in is at least as good as a quality Q5 configuration for AA or AAA. It's brighter than an R2 when powered by 3.7V lithium ion batteries.

Solarforce 3-6v XM-L T6 5 mode Drop-in

This was my first XML-L to arrive, though I subsequently received an ultrafire 3 mode XM-L from Manafont. It's hard not to be impressed by what the XM-L can do. The larger die does tend to produce a wider, more floody beam, but the total amount of light is just a stunning improvement over previous generations. On high, I'd say the solarforce XM-L is comparable to the Manafont/Ultrafire XM-L on high. There may be some differences, but they're in the same ballpark. Some comments on specific configurations vs. XP-G:

  • 3xAAA Alkaline - Advantage of XML isn't obvious, 3xAAA alkalines probably not providing enough current
  • 16340 - Advantage of XML starts to become noticeable, can compete w/XPG R-5 w/18650
  • 3xAAA NiMH - Advantage over XP-G R5 visible
  • 18650 - The quantity of light coming from the flashlight is really impressive. You don't need to do careful comparisons to notice the difference. If the brightest flashlight you used before was single XP-G or lower, you will be immediately wowed.

I also tested this drop-in with 2 Surefire CR123 batteries. The results were a little frightening. The drop-in seemed to be pulling 3 amps from the batteries, which is more than (double!) the typical max drain rating for CR123 batteries. I did a somewhat sloppy run-down test with this configuration and found that brightness had dropped to about 50% after 1 hour. During this time, the flashlight (L2 host) got hot, but never too hot to hold. Clearly the driver could not have been pulling 3 amps for an hour because CR123 batteries are typically around 1500 mAH. The bad news here is the scary high drain, but the (perhaps?) good news is that the high drain may stabilize to something sane after a brief period.

One interesting thing I observed is this drop-in seemed to do a reasonable job with very tired batteries. At 3 hours, it was still providing a fair amount of light - I'd say in the ballpark of my Maratac AAA at medium (~18 lumens). It continued to provide low levels of light, comparable to my maratac AAA at low (1.5 lumens) at 10 hours.

FH-5 Pouch/Case

I purchased both this and the FH-9 to compare. At $3.50, the FH-5 might seem like a bargain, but it's not much of one in my opinion. The case so stiff that I initially thought it would be impossible to fit an L2 in it. With some pushing, I was able to stretch things out enough to fit the L2p with the standard bezel and the regular L2 but only with the the stainless steel flat bezel. With the standard, crenelated bezel, the case will not close because the extra height from the bezel prevents the snap-closure from coming far enough down to line up properly. Another potential issue with this case is that the bottom of the flashlight is exposed. Depending upon how the case is used, this could lead to accidental activation of the switch.

FH-9 Pouch/Case

This is nearly twice the price of the FH-5, but you get more. The case has a bottom, elastic sides, and a long velcro closure that lets it accomodate variations in flashlight length much more easily than the snap closure in the FH-5. The FH-9 easily accommodates an L2 with the default crenelated bezel and can even (just barely) accommodate an L2 with a crenelated bezel and a single CR123 extension.

L2-S6 Switch

This is a forward-clicky switch that's about the same length as the standard L2-S1 switch. As visible in the link above, the back of the switch is crenelated with holes for a lanyard attachment at each point. The crenelation is intended to provide a balance between stability while tailstanding and ease of access to the switch with a fat thumb. I think it's a fairly good compromise in this respect. I've read of others complaining that the crenelation is too sharp. Perhaps Solarforce has changed the design. Mine is a bit pointier than I'd like, but not pointy enough to snag clothes, and much smoother than the default L2 bezel.

This switch is HA-III anodized and has a matte finish. Visually, it is a good match for a black L2p, but it will not be a perfect match to the glossier HA-II L2.

A note about forward clickies: Forward clickies let you activate the light with a half-press. A full press and click then turns the light on. The best time to select modes is before a full press/click. By doing quick half-presses you can cycle through modes before locking in the one you want with a full press/click. Once on, you will need to do a full press/click and turn the light off before you can change modes.

L2-S7 Switch

This is a stubby switch that may seem counterintuitive to some at first. With this switch, you can use your L2 like a twisty light. Screwing the switch completely down will turn on the light. You can change modes with a quick unscrew/rescrew maneuver that will be familiar to anybody who has used a Maratac AAA or similar light. If you unscrew the switch just a little past the point where the light turns off (you have about 90 degrees of play here), you can momentarily turn on the light by pushing on the back of the tailcap. No matter how hard you press, there will be no click and that the light will turn off as soon as you release pressure from the back of the switch. You can use quick presses to change modes while operating the switch in this manner. Nota bene: There is no "clicky" function for this switch. The only way to keep the light on hands-free is to tighten the cap.

As with the L2-S6, this switch is HA-III anodized and has a matte finish, making it a better match for an L2p than a standard L2.

B6 Premium Stainless Steel Bezel

This is twice the price of the regular stainless steel bezel. The main difference is that the premium bezel is about 1mm longer. While the standard SS bezel winds up recessed within the flashlight head, the premium bezel actually extends the length of the flashlight by about 1mm. In principle, the extra steel should provide some extra protection to the lens and softer, aluminum head, but it's very hard to estimate how much of a practical benefit this is. The main advantage I see is that the extra length makes it possible to hand-tighten the bezel pretty well, while tightening the standard SS bezel is an awkward (for me) affair involving needle-nose pliers and the the constant risk of slipping and scratching the lens.

Wow, good job ron!

Nice job, and I agree with your points. That XP-G 3-mode is probably my favorite all around dropin.

Did you get a little 1" square stainless steel piece thrown in with your order? I just found out yesterday, that is the tool for tightening down the $2.50 bezel. IT is a perfect fit!

Funny - I was totally confused by that. I sent them an email asking what's up. What added to the confusion is that I think I got that instead of an extra SS bezel that I ordered. Anyway - thanks very much for pointing this out. I agree that it's the perfect size for tightening those SS bezels.

The L2i with 3xAAA NiMH seems very bright with the drop-ins that I've made (NANJG 7135 based designs), maybe even brighter than with 1x18650, though I can't do light measurements. I think maybe the NiMH's don't sag as much as a li-ion. The 18650 has better runtime for sure though.

I like the L2 a lot, maybe just as much as the L2P, though the L2P is clearly better made. I just like the L2 in gray. Shiny! I have no idea why they charge more for the L2 than the L2i, but was glad to grab a couple of L2i's before they raised the price. And even a better deal once I foyed the bezels instead of buying stainless ones.

on your L2i, after you tighten up the tailcap, remove the head and look at the top of the battery. You will see that it is jammed below the collar that the large dropin spring sits on. Load the battery from the head end and it will not fall below that ring. You will be able to tighten it with no excessive resistance. It fits perfectly

Thanks - that definitely helps. It still feels much tighter than an ordinary L2, though perhaps not so much that it's worrisome.

Personally, I like the FH-5 pouch very much. I dislike flimsy pouches and therefor appreciate the stiffness of that particular holster.

With the stock L2P's recessed switch, there's no danger of accidentally turning the light on. The fit is also great on the L2P, offering some retention even when the flap has been snapped open. The flap also works well on the B3 stainless bezel (sporting the lowest-profile, smoothed crenelation of all crenelated solarforce bezels; the L2P comes with a HAIII aluminum version of this bezel)

In my opinion, the FH-5 would be a good contribution to a duty belt. The belt loop, however, is not of the same caliber as the rest of the pouch and could have been a bit sturdier. Then again, that's nothing a sunday afternoon with needle and thread, and some layers of automotive seat belt webbing from the local 'yard couldn't fix.

I agree that the FH-5 is a good fit for some situations. Perhaps I was a bit harsh because the pouch is advertised as being compatible with the L2 even though it's not well suited to a stock L2.

ronparr, no offense - everything's easy! You are, of course, right when highlighting the drawbacks of the FH-5. It really isn't suitable for a stock L2, and the exposed switch (S1 especially) really bears the rist of unintended activation.

On my first order, I also got the FH-9 pouch. I totally agree that it is a great fit for the stock L2 with its weaponized bezel (side question here - which one was released first, the L2 or the $urefire 6P LED "Defender"? The bezels are almost the same). Unfortunately, the FH-9 I received was damaged upon delivery; the elastic side bands were both torn alongside the stitching, with no sensible way of repairing (other than replacing the elastomer bands completely).

If anything goes amiss on the FH-5, I break out the sewing kit and lay down a couple of bar seams. Considering the rigid construction of the holster, that won't be a cakewalk either, but I won't have to scrounge the stores for replacement spandex material which I'd needed on my faulty FH-9.

One more word on pouches and the weaponized bezels: With any open pouch or holster without a flap, the only sensible way to carry such a light is bezel-down. I neither want or need to scratch, bruise and cut my underarms on the sharp crenelations, nor do I want my shirt sleeves (black business shirts, and I prefer Italian ones- unfortunately with an Italian pricetag) and jackets damaged. On my beater (term borrowed from the automotive scene) L2, I have cut down, re-shaped (slight cannelure) and smoothed the B5 stainless bezel quite a lot. I still carry it bezel-down in my quick-draw V70, mostly because it is so convenient to carry, draw and reholster that way. I've also looked at the BlackHawk NightOps holster, but the prices were a bit too steep for my taste, and so I ended up with that ugly, yet incredibly well-designed chunk of plastic from $urefire - bought used, but in a very good condition for a small price on eBay. Guess I need to write a short essay on this particular light once I get the parts back from anodizing.

Funny enough, three of my friends which I had all fixed up with SolarForce torches still love (and I mean LOVE, with capital letters) their B5 bezels in their razor-sharp, weaponized stock form. Oddly enough, neither one actually carries their SolarForce - they keep them in the glove compartements of their cars, mostly, and use them to marvel at airborn dust particles.

To each their own, I guess - I enjoy looking at the throttle mechanisms of the carburetors I rebuild in my free time. Or disassembling flashlights, or my alto sax.

They've never sent me one of those and I've bought enough sensible bezels from them to keep the factory in work for a week or two.


Never mind, Don - watch case openers, even the cheapos from Taiwan, are much cooler anyways.

I have one of these and I was looking for a cheaper alternative as they are generally only used for storage.

So I got a couple of Ultrafire holsters from DX and I really like them, they are a little small than the Solarforce ones and they actually seem like a slightly better fit for an L2P with out any added lanyard rings that the SF one. They do fit with lanyard rings, but it's rather snug.

The draw back is that they are camoflage coloured which isn't really soemthing I would normal choose, but at $2 I can live with it :)

I've now got 5 of the small ones as well, they are great for AA lights at $1.49 their only fault is again their camoflageiness.

In both cases a black marker pen will work wonders. I've coloured in most of mine. Great pastime while waiting for something else to happen.