Review: Ultrafire C3 Stainless Steel , 1 x AA [ 14500 ] 5 mode

This review was kindly made possible by Flashlight Heaven who sent me the C3 for review.

Ultrafire C3 Stainless 5 mode AA [ 14500 ]

Description from Flashlight Heaven .

  • Full Stainless steel
  • CREE Q5 LED module
  • 190-lumen output on high mode
  • Runs on 1x AA or 1x 14500 cell
  • 5 mode memory - arranged Hi > Med > Low > Strobe > SOS
  • Quoted 40min runtime on constant high output mode
  • Glow in the dark tail cap
  • 93mm long, 21mm wide, ~91g
  • Carry strap included

First Impressions :

I have to say its a very nice little light [ ok its not that little ] , and being stainless steel there is a little weight to it [ not unduly heavy - just enough to notice ] and just to get it out of the way , the tailcap for me wants to cross thread . Probably a combination of the fine threads and just a little generosity on the tolerances at the very beginning of screwing the tailcap on . Once its started all is fine , but it is something that fine threads tend to suffer from generally speaking .

The two tests : Test Methodology !

The horizontal test :

This test consists of me lying down and watching music video's [ also listening ] and as I do so I play with the light [ Test ! ] turning it on and off , changing modes and seeing if there are any problems , how the clicky feels and functions , looking for any problems .

Im glad to report there were no issues , the light has mode memory and it kicks in some 5 seconds after the light is turned of , there is some noticeable PWM in Low and Medium though on the faster side . The clicky is very smooth , and works very well , not being mushy or difficult to use , very nice . Now the body is a little generous on the internal diameter , and if you like to shake the light there is some noticeable battery rattle , but I could not get the light to change modes , no matter how vigorously I shook the light , and I was surprised that with a smooth reflector , the beam was as nice as it was .

The vertical test :

This test consists of taking the light for a walk , to see how it travels as an EDC light . What is it they say , never judge a light until you have walked a mile with it in your pocket ! So thats what this test is about , walking a mile with the light in my pocket .

Being stainless steel , there is a little weight to the light , and the light never really vanishes into your pocket , its there and you notice it as you walk along gently slapping your leg as you walk .. At first it was very noticeable , but towards the end of the walk , it was far less prominent , but you knew it was still there . Choosing where to put the light to minimize its presence , like a back pocket , where there will be less motion could help make it comfortable to carry . I have to admit , small lights like the Maratac AAA made from alloy , after a minute or two , you have to check to make sure its till there , so its somewhat personal , do you want the light to go un-noticed or the the reassuring feeling of the lights presence ? when carrying .

Now I did , a) Tighten the retaining ring on the tailcap ,

b) Remove the pill , and cut some groves into the side of the rim for my needle nosed pliers so I could tighten the pill properly + remove it should I want to in the future , the groves in the pill are a standard mod I do to lights if the groves are not factory cut .

The emitter base is not glued down , and there is no thermal compound , but with an AA battery , I dont see a problem , especially with the pill tightened down properly .

On a 14500 , you may wish to correct the situation if you can to improve heat transfer away from the emitter .

Performance :

AA batteries

Recyko High = 2.16A / 126L , Medium = 0.72A / 42L , Low = 0.12A / 6L

Vapex High = 1.93A / 99L , Medium = 0.62A / 31L , Low = 0.1A / 5L

Eneloop High = 2.16A / 125L , Medium = 0.72A / 41L , Low = 0.12A / 6L

AccuEvolution High = 2.17A / 131L , Medium = 0.77A / 44L , Low = 0.12A / 6L

Since I had some sitting around ...

PowerGenix @ 1.81v [ resting ] High = 1.75A / 143L , Medium = 0.58A / 46L , Low = 0.1A / 7L

Then moving up to the 14500

High = 1.09A / 224L , Medium = 0.33A / 76L , Low = 0.05A / 10L

Top line is AA and for comparison bottom line of beams is 14500

Good clicky

Steel Body

PWM [ on the fast side of noticeable ]

Small amount of battery slop if you shake the light with vigour

Well cut threads [ Clean and well cut ] , maybe too fine ?

Good output on an AA [ even better on a 14500 ]

Very long run time on Low [ 14500 ]

Throws well for such a small light [ do you buy such a light for throw ? ]

Beam is nice , very nice for an XR-E , very usable , just works well .

Conclusion :

An interesting and surprising light , I went for a walk past the park tonight [ after dark ] and was pleasantly surprised by how well the light performed , I did have it stocked with AA batteries , and it performed very well . Threw out a usable amount of light to about 75 meters , it reached further out than that , but for seeing stuff reasonably well , I would draw the line at 75 . It caries easily when walking at night , is easy to use , and performed well .

Keeping in mind this is a budget light , it performed better than expected . Ok not everyone likes stainless steel , and I cant argue that , but if your looking for a car - house - bedside light , then the C3 should perform such duties with ease , and the stainless steel should offer a rugged light that can take some knocks and not coming out looking second best .

Would I buy the light : [ Many have wanted this included in reviews - especially with sponsored reviews ]

It would depend on what function I would want the light to perform :

For a car - boat - caravan - home/bedside light - toolbox , any scenario were the light was not EDC , yes I would seriously consider the Ultrafire C3 Stainless , especially if you were seeking a multi mode single AA flashlight , reasonably good output , some throw , and 14500 compatibility . [ And more importantly = Hind sight , and having one to test ]

And this sample has performed better than quite a few AA lights in my collection , and I would give it 8 out of 10 if your looking for a score .. [ out of 10 ]

Why 8 out of 10 ? = Dated emitter [ its still good ] , battery slop , and the tailcap wants to cross thread , all very small insignificant things but when added together I feel 8 out of 10 is as honest a score I can give .

thanks for the review. i have enough AA-lights of outstanding quality (Romisen, Quark, Xeno, Klarus), so i'm not interested in this one but thanks anyway.

my next and very last FL-purchase in 2012 (??? who believes that?) will be the smallest AAA light of the world (either DQG Tiny III or Preon P0)

Great review, thanks for sharing.

A great mod for this light is swapping the pill from a Trustfire R5-A3/ or SA-2.

I did the strobe delete mod first on mine then swapped the pill.

C3 pill on left R5-A3/ SA-2 pill on right

Now I have a 360 lumen 3 mode (low,medium,high) XP-G R5 C3.

The SS C3s are the only ones I can recommend... less chance of contact issues that many aluminum ones had/have. The 93mm ones I got from Lightake back in the days, were nice for the money paid. I am not the biggest fan of SS in general on 1AA lights.

@E1320: I have a R5-A3 with a defective tailcap switch laying around here somewhere. Maybe I will also do your mod.

Oh please say that you were able to kill the strobe on the original C3? Pretty please, and how. :) (I guess you were referring to the R5-A3, but i try to feel lucky)

Great review old4570, at first i tought there was something going wrong on BLF and a otherwise high reply count old thread was somehow resurrected with low count. :)

I still like mine and over 1 year of steady use it is still reliable as the 1st day. Not gonna try a 14500 in it as i fear the driver might get cooked. IF i can make it Hi-lo i might even consider getting a nw emitter for it.

Sorry no magic for the original C3 pill. I am very partial to the look and feel of Stainless and the C3 is an awesome EDC especially with a 3 mode XPG in there. I don't know how it could get any better unless you want a 3 mode XML in which case I just swap the pill with my XML converted R5-A3.

I have 2 SS C3's and have been pretty disappointed in them. The first one never worked correctly, always had to loosen the tailcap or tighten internals up to make it light, I finally threw it out.

The 2nd one works ok but the beam is weak.

Mine is still performing admirably. I retired it not long ago with the Wk25 and later on by the Wk21 meteor for edc. A totally different beast but i never stopped liking the SS c3. If only modes were decent (ok that tint is also subpar for nowadays standards)...

This light is a thrower & bright use 14500 with memory as well! But Balder SE-1 is my EDC now. It's a floody & brighter but no memory.

Is yours 93mm long and does it still work with AA batteries after using 14500?

This has a different driver then the lightake 93mm version, just so everyone knows. The lightake version has unnoticeable PWM like a Nitecore or the UF2100 but will fry on 14500.

Review sample , comes out at 99mm according to my callipers ...

It' very expensive and I think that the seller is not U.K based.

It's Driven correctly.

Mine is 97mm long can takes both AA & 14500.

See this link:

I didn't like the shape or feel felt heavy ..What's the weight compared to the B2s ?

Of course stainless steel is heavier than traditional aluminium! See my above link.

Great review Old, thanks a lot for giving this nice classic some press. Frontpage'd and Sticky'd.

So, where the best source for a C3 SS? I just gave mine away, and I'm looking for a replacement. My main requirement aside from good quality is tailstand-ability and a good low mode. I will not buy from DX any more. Some versions of this light have a slightly protruding switch, whereas others are properly recessed. Suggestions please? Thanks!

Since the review light was provided by Flashlight Heaven, I'd hate to post another link but I gotta say they are really really overpriced.

This looks like a better deal (if you don't wanna go through DX) but I've never tried BestOfferBuy before so I can't say if they're any good:

I have the 93mm long version from DX, and it is very good. It works fine on every AA-sized battery (alkaline, nimh and Lithium-ion).

But it is a little heavy compared to aluminium flashlights.

I own two of these (one EDC and one spare I keep in a box) and I've purchased 8 of them (over the last year) for friends that want one after they see mine. I have 5 things that I do to every C3 that I purchase...

1. Trim the tailcap switch boot about 1mm on the inside where it touches the switch - tailstands a little better and doesn't ghost push the switch in your pocket.

2. Screw the switch down tighter into the tailcap assembly - keeps it from flickering and gives a brighter output.

3. Screw the pill all the way down into the head, gives the LED firmer contact with the pill, cleans up the beam, makes it more reliable.

4. Add a trimmed "business card" into the body where the battery sits - takes all the play/slop out of the battery and makes it much more reliable, keeps it from switching modes if shaken or dropped.

5. Add a blob of solder to the positive portion of the driver that touches the battery (or you can add a spring) - keeps it from changing modes and keeps it from flickering if dropped or shaken.

It's misleading to talk about "the Ultrafire C3 SS", there are lots of models and probably none of them are made by Ultrafire. One of them are/were made by the Aurora factory.