I love a good flashlight, and one of my favorite lights is SureFire’s E1B-MV Backup. I still love that light and I think it is an amazing all around light. There are two small issues with it: there are only two light modes; and it is very expensive. The former isn’t an issue for how I use lights, but the latter is a big issue for me when I recommend gear to people. At $140 it is hard to tell someone this is the light when they could buy so many other options in the same bracket.
One of those other options is the Armytek Prime C1, which is a less tactical, more practical light. It can be had for about $50 give or take which sale you hit at Armytek. Like the SureFire it runs off a single CR123 and is actually brighter than the SureFire while offering far more light modes and two color temp options.
On paper, it’s a better light. But paper isn’t practice. And when you first open the light, you are greeted with this:
Let me zoom in a little on that:
Compare that to the SureFire:
What you are likely to notice is that Armytek treats the flashlight body as if it is a walking advertisement for everything they could think of at the moment they produced the light. What, exactly, the point of saying “Brightest for City” is as and item on the flashlight — well let me know what the fuck that means. And if you search around the web a little, you’ll note this is a common complaint. On the larger Armytek lights I have, this is a less of an issue because of the extra space, but here on the Prime C1 it is an issue.
This is the crux of my problem with this light, I had it a single day and thought it was so ugly that I might go stash it away in some random bag to be forgotten about. But then I had an idea: why not remove the extra bullshit Armytek put on the light. So I set out to see if anyone had done this before (which is how I learned this is a common complaint) and there was nothing listed.
So I decided I should paint it. Flat camo colored Krylon should rid me of these horrors on my new light. But what color? I had flashbacks to this light from Triple Aught Design, sold in a khaki/coyote color.
I always loved that light (never had one), so I took advantage of the opportunity to ‘fix’ this light and mimic another light. Here’s the end result of a day of painting:
Much, much better if you ask me. You can still see traces of the original logos as I didn’t attempt to sand them down, but at least this way you can still know it is “Brightest for City” should someone debate that point with you in a bar. The matte paint feels good, and after a little touch up around the lens with some steel wool, all is good:
Now that the aesthetics of the light were tolerable to me, I could get to testing it. This has been the only light I have been using for the last 6 weeks, and it has been really good. It’s not the best, but as an overall light it is incredibly solid.
The build quality it top notch, and while it has not taken hard knocks or seen time in water, I have no doubt it should weather those events fine. I do like having the switch on the body, instead of on the tail, as it makes operating the light a little easier in day to day life.
The lowest firefly mode outputs a nice subtle amount of light (listed as 0.15lm which is dim), which easily allows you to move around a dark room without waking everyone, but your eyes will need to be adjusted to the dark already or it will be too dim. The 2 lumen firefly mode is too bright. The highest output is equally fantastic, but will blind you if your eyes are adjusted. Just saying.
Some Things to Know
As with any type of light like this, it takes getting used to. The interface on the light is such that you can get to last used, lowest, and highest quickly if you know what you are doing — it’s remembering how to do that which is tricky. If you only use this light, no issue, if you rarely use it, you’ll stumble before you recall how to do it all.
The issue here is nonexistent if you are a one flashlight person, and you are the only one to use the light. But if I hand this light to anyone else, they are going to be stuck on firefly mode as that is typically the last used mode, and they will find the light useless. That’s the problem, and if you are a more than one light person, you’ll find yourself getting tripped up the same way with how to get to turbo mode (double click once light is on) or really most modes. Looking like a fool clicking around with a flashlight until you eventually shine turbo in your eye trying to sort things.
The last issue is the beam quality/design is odd. This is a TIR optic which is very common, but this implementation is lacking. In the flashlight world there are basically three types of good beams: throw (something that makes the light go far, but give tunnel vision when used close up), TIR (all around with decent throw, and decent flood), wide/flood (which will fill an entire room with light). (See here for more.)
The issue with this TIR is that it’s not ideal indoors for most users as the light is too focused, and when you really want to see outside, it doesn’t have the throw to make it that great. It’s good in limited applications. By no means does that mean it is bad, it’s just a trade off. There’s just something about the bean shape on this light I don’t love.
Paint wear after using it, looks even better now.
You could theoretically buy about 3 of these lights for the price of the SureFire E1B-Backup. But you still won’t have as good of a light. The SureFire’s I have reviewed recently, both the Titan Plus and the E1B-Backup are better lights and work well with the “Maxvision” beam pattern which excels in flooding the entire area you see with light. They won’t throw the light far the the beam is super good indoors or for closer work outdoors. (Even their TIR beams are excellent.)
That said, the SureFire lights are overkill for most people, and at a price where most people who are trying to get a really solid light, will not want to pay. If you are building an emergency kit and want a really high quality light to put in there, which you know will work well under adverse conditions and really be great: get this light. At about $50 it is a bargain with the only true downside being all the logos on it.
A lot of people love 18650 powered flashlights, and while they are really awesome, powerful, and long lasting — my go to are CR123 powered lights. They are still very high powered, but you can easily stock up on batteries and find more. And the batteries have a really good shelf life (still don’t store batteries in your light if you can avoid it). I love 18650 lights, but in an emergency you will not need the power and thus the battery, weight, and size are overkill.
I like this light, and like it even better with the added paint flair on it. In no way will it replace my SureFire lights, but it certainly has found a lot of use around my house. If you can afford a higher budget, go for something else, but if every dollar counts and you can swing the price of this light, you’ll get a great long lasting light.
It’s my pick for best budget light for emergencies. But I don’t know if I can get more niche of a pick than that.