Amatueurlife, here’s a news flash and some flashlight philosophy. Every flashlight company has failures. Some more than others. Some less. In the end, they all produce lemons at some point.
There are Surefire fanboys who will tell you that those flashlights are the absolute best production lights available. Perhaps they are. But, if that is true, it isn’t because of the flashlights themselves. Though the rate of failure is relatively low, they can fail too. I have some personal experience in this regard. They are also slow to innovate.
So, what makes a Surefire a premium light? Their warranty and the associated customer service. You pay up front, not for an innovative light, or a 100% reliable light, but for the assurance that come heck or high water, they’ll make it right on those rare occasions when something happens.
Then there are some near premium flashlight companies like 4sevens, Sunwayman, and Fenix that blow Surefire out of the water in terms of outright innovation, come sort of close to Surefire in terms of CS, and have a fairly low failure rate. It’s best to wait for these lights to go on sale right before Christmas for them to be great deals. You can often find them deeply discounted.
A 4sevens on sale or an EagleTac at the normal street price? The answer should be clear.
Then there are flashlight companies in the middle. Nitecore, Jetbeam, Olight, Thrunite, Eagletac, etc. that have pretty good quality, but where you are starting to really roll the dice in terms of CS in the event that anything happens.
In my personal experience, Nitecore is especially bad. And since you are now dealing with lights that are mostly purchased from overseas, you ability to get satisfaction is severely compromised. Even if they will take a light back, the shipping will be cost prohibitive in most cases.
Then there are the budget brands. Solarforce, Ultrafire, Trustfire, Romisen, etc. where you can still get very good performance and some innovation, but are likely to have a lesser build quality from the get go. For the most part, you can forget about any of them helping you out if the light takes a dive.
I own lights from all four categories, and if my life depended on the performance of my flashlight, I’d only choose Surefire. Since it doesn’t, nor does it for the vast majority of flashlight users, I think that the best value in lights today comes from the budget category. It is from this group that you get 90% of the performance at 15% the cost and that is really a great value IMNSHO.
Will you have a very slightly higher failure rate than with the lights from one category up (i.e., the middle category)? In my experience, no, not really. Will you get CS service any worse than you would from one category up? No, it will still be below par. You won’t lose anything in this regard by going budget. Is there going to be a little bit less pride of ownership than if you purchased from the middle? Maybe, but lots of budget lights are actually pretty nice. Regardless of all that, when something goes wrong, one thing is for certain, the low initial cost will surely take the sting out of it.
If I was not so inclined to be a cheapskate, I’d buy from the near premium brands.
No matter what, I’d avoid those in the middle. The worse place to find value in the flashlight world is from those pretenders in the middle. Remember, it is the middle of the road where you are most likely to get run over. With the exception of the Olight i-series, nothing but disappointment can be found there.
So, in answer to your questions…
Taken in turn-
Sadly, yes it is more common than it should be, which is why these middle companies should be avoided.
Of course you should see it through. I’d send them a very polite, yet sarcastic letter, with a link to this thread and remind them of the power of social media.
Yes. And no. The real question is, are you willing to risk another $60 rolling the dice?
If you are a person who only has a few lights, I’m talking, say, less than three, I’d save my money and buy from the top two categories as I’ve laid them out. Maybe even supplement the small collection with some budget lights.
If I was on a tight personal budget, or if I intended to amass a collection of lights, I’d mostly stick to the budget category. Given where you live, I’d buy some hot rod Romisens from Shingbeam and have three or four new lights on my doorstep by the middle of next week.