View Full Version : Lumens ratings: overrated?

8 June 2013, 04:54
I bought my first Surefire product about 5-6 years ago. It is a E2L, two stage with I believe 3 lumens in low and 65 lumens in high. Over the past several years, I have bought other Surefire products, and had cause to use their "no hassle guarantee" once. It is appropriately named, as they replaced a part for me with zero flack. I am sold on the products even if they cost more than similar offerings from other companies.

My question is this: I have noticed lately that the lumen output is beginning to skyrocket, especially compared to my meager 65 lumens. However, none of my flashlights are rated at more than 110 lumens, and these seem pretty bright to me. Is a 500 lumen flashlight really practical? If you woke up in the middle of the night and had to turn one of these things on, wouldn't it hurt your own eyes as it reflects off white walls or similar bright objects? I can somewhat understand the usefulness of having a handheld light that will practically serve as a search light or spotlight if needed, but on weaponlights, cant lumen counts like this actually be harmful to unadjusted eyes?

Thanks in advance :)

8 June 2013, 07:02
It depends. First, realize that perceived brightness is not linear. A 200 lumen light is not perceived as twice as bright as a 100 lumen light, but rather one "increment" brighter.

It also depends on how focused the beam is. The less tight the beam, the less bright it will seem.

Also many mfgs overrate the lumens. Surefire and HDS make a point not to, but it varies by mfg.

In the end, it is hard to make generalities. You need it evaluate the specific light with your specific application.

I have a couple of 700 and 1000+ lumen lights that probably have a less bright hotspot than an old 60 lumen Surefire... but, they light up a MUCH larger area.



9 June 2013, 01:36
It depends on your application. At first I went with a Surefire X300 Ultra for my duty pistol once a light was approved. I thought why not get the best and brightest light out there? After clearing a few homes, I quickly realized brightest isn't always the best. I got a lot of "splash back" from the 500 lumens hitting white walls, which compromised my own night vision. I went back to my original X300, and have been satisfied with it. Perhaps if I was working in a more rural area with large parcels of land to cover, I may opt in that case for the highest lumen light possible.

There is nothing wrong with the old incandescent Surefire lights. My old 6P still does the job, but it definitely runs hotter and the bulbs don't last as long. I think the higher lumens is just a progression in technology, especially now that everyone has gone to LED bulbs.

9 June 2013, 04:36
There is a bit of a "lumen war" going on that is akin to the HP wars of the musclecar era. Now, like then, it mostly doesn't matter, and is mostly getting driven by a tiny (meaning, statistically insignificant) but vocal group of enthusiasts, among whom there is an even tinier (meaning even less statistically significant) group who may actually find an application for the increased performance.

Then there is the science of the thing, with the question of whether or not lumens is the number that matters, etc. That stuff puts me right to sleep.

In both cases all of this is largely the result of what happens when you take a tool and turn it into a collectible, a hobby, and a status symbol. Imagine how screwed up hammers would be if guys starting collecting them for the same reasons and starting picture threads on internet forums.

I wondered about some of these super-bright lights (based on lumen rating) so I bought a couple of Chinese lights to see if it mattered. Holy-crap-on-a-cracker are these things bright! As in, bounce-off-the-walls-and-blind-ME bright. Thank God I didn't spend Surefire money to find that out. Saved me a ton of cash both in terms of figuring out that what I had was more than adequate and in terms of not spending a ton of money on the lights to find out they were too bright for me.

9 June 2013, 12:16
I use a 700 lumen Chinese light for hiking at night, in doors as a weaponlight I don't think it is practical. For my AR and pistol I think 200 lumens is plenty of light. Like everyone above me said, too bright and you'll blind yourself indoors.

9 June 2013, 13:46
I used to collect flashlights. Flashlights have changed a lot with the advent of LED bulbs and for the past several years they have improved immensely. At this point however they have kind of stabilized and now are just slightly better with each iteration given the same size.

Like all products, manufacturers seek to make their fancy new doodad sound and look better than the competition. Thus you have the "Lumens Wars".

Based on my experience, 100 Lumens is the minimum required for any defensive situation, and 200 is the max you'd want for use inside a building. Otherwise like everyone has said, you will end up blinding yourself. Also for weapon mounting I prefer a simple momentary on, like the Inforce WML HSP (http://www.bravocompanyusa.com/Inforce-WML-HSP-Black-p/inf-wml-bwmh.htm).

Flashlights have come an incredibly long way in the past 10 years. The new LED units are far superior for several reasons: battery life, bulb life, shock resistance, color temperature, and constant brightness independent of battery charge. The best feature of the newer lights IMO is that they maintain their set level of brightness until the battery is almost completely drained.

I wouldn't get caught up in the OMG MOAR LUMENS mentality. Like any situation you just need the right tool for the job :-)

11 June 2013, 14:38
thanks for the responses, guys. I didn't think I needed to get all hung up on a 700 lumen light. I was a bit disappointed to see that Surefire's only options in the X series of weaponlights is now a 500 lumen X300, and then the light/laser combo X400 which is just too damn expensive. My old X300 is something like 110 lumens and I think it is plenty for indoors. I might get one of the higher power versions to have as a "search light" in the old BOB, but other than that, I am not too compelled to drop $400 on a flashlight.

24 October 2013, 12:35
I got in an x300U for making holsters, mounted it, and trained with it for a day, and confirmed what I thought. The back splash from the brightness of the light affected my ability to perform. The light was mounted on a handgun, I did not have my x300 with me to do a test consecutively, but I have run the same house with my x300 and not had a problem. I did pull use my long gun that has a 200 lumen scout on it and was comfortable with it's output. I am definitely for surefire, and will stand by their build quality alone, much less their performance, durability, or reliability(the tir lense is the best thing out there in light technology imo), but I think they got into a "lumen war" as referenced earlier in the thread. Hopefully they tone it back down and start evaluating things in a way that got them to where they are, in terms of "meaningful illumination".

Fun side note, who is in favor of a weapon light that uses an IR laser as a rangefinder and determines the light output based on the range estimated by the laser.
Don't worry, I'll give you a GIF to use: