Malkoff MDC HA 1CR123

This is one of the best CR123 lights I own, and it’s hard to explain why unless you’ve held one.

Almost everyday I see a question pop up on some flashlight related forum which is seeking a very durable flashlight. The recommendations always end up citing the same brands: HDS, Elzetta, Malkoff, and a few brave souls recommend SureFire. The thing all of these have in common is that they are tactical focused brands which seek to make extremely durable lights.

I’ve never owned a Malkoff and I waited quite some time for this specific light to come back in stock to try out, and I am happy I waited — this light is an underrated champ.

LED & Power

Diving right in: the head on this light comes with two LED options: White which are both SST-20 one at 5700k, or Neutral White or my favorite at 4000k 95 CRI. Naturally, what we are talking about today is the Neutral White variant. The SST-20 is housed in a fairly deep orange peel reflector which gives you a TIR type beam.

The power for this light comes from a single primary CR123a, and nothing else. Malkoff is very specific with this head that you not use any rechargeable batteries or anything like that. The light is rated to work in the 2.3-3.2 volt range. That said, this still pushes the light to 210 lumens on this LED, which is more than enough for most things.

Generally I think Malkoff would have a bigger hit on their hands if they allowed for 16340s and a wider range of LED options. The SST-20 is great, but give me an LH351D and it would be heaven.

Other MDC models can take higher power batteries but this is one of the few with the right UI setup for EDC use. Basic power system for this light, but really solid and hard to complain about LED offering.

Use & Carry

The MDC is made to be a daily carry and hard use light. It’s hard anodized aluminum with a fully potted head. You can upgrade the bezel to stainless steel too for more protection, or leave as is for a cleaner look. The clip itself is beefy: made from 301 Stainless Steel and tempered. If you have clip anxiety, this is the clip for you.

The beam has a defined hotspot (made narrower by the SST-20 LED) with a decent amount of spill. Because of the lower output, the spill is almost unnoticeable in bright daylight, but plenty useable in lower light. With the lower level of output, this light is well served with the tight hotspot, giving you something that is plenty useable during the day to light up dark corners even at lower outputs.

The tail switch is a forward clicky with a standard silicone boot, I replaced this with a glow in the dark boot to give me a way to locate the light in the dark. What’s really odd is the UI, because while it goes low/medium/high (3/40/210 lumens) it does this with the weirdest memory setup. Typically a light uses off time to determine switching, but this light uses on time. This is a little hard to figure out for the first day, but then it’s not a big issue.

Generally speaking, the light is designed in a manner where it should always come on at low. However, you can set it up so that it would come on at high the next time you used it if need. To do that, tap the switch twice without clicking it, and let the light be. Most lights would reset back to low after a few, this light will not. So the next time you hit the switch it will come on at high. Any time you use the light on any mode for more than 1 second, it will always come back on at low the next time you cycle the power.

The UI takes some getting used to, but it’s much harder to verbalize than it is to get used to. If you prefer your light to always come on at low, then you are probably fine. But if you do not like ambiguity, then this will annoy you at times.

But let’s talk about what makes this light killer: it’s the hand feel and size. The light is very light weight, with an excellent finish on it and a very easy to grip and hold size. I absolutely love carrying this light and holding it in my hand. When I think about what the perfect light form factor is (for me) I am going to point to this light specifically. That’s not to say there aren’t things I would change, but generally this is as ideal as I have found.

Look at the the size:

Left to right: HDS Rotary, SureFire E1B-MV, Malkoff MDC, JetBeam RRT-01.

While the Raptor is a touch shorter, it’s heavier and bulkier to carry, and the SureFire is close in size, but the head is much larger diameter. The MDC is not that much smaller than the other lights in this size class (the best size class), but it is noticeably lighter, smoother, and easier to carry. There’s really not a single spot on the light with an edge that causes the light to snag when you are pulling it out of your pocket, it’s a very clean and smooth draw every time. And while that it not something you generally think about with a light, it’s something you notice right away when your light does it.


The MDC comes in a single AA configuration and a few longer configurations, and this CR123 — the only models with the correct L/M/H setup for EDC which also has a warmer tinted LED. And that’s a problem, because I want more of these lights, but I already own the best one. And it really is a stellar light.

At $120 shipped, this light is a great value, and a great light. For most people it will be better than the SureFire E1B-MV Backup, and unless you mod the Raptor, it’s better than that too as it has a good LED to start with. It’s a third the price of an HDS too, and more readily available.

Good value, well made, nearly indestructible and super nice in your hand. I think the only reason more people don’t have this light and rave about it, is because it goes out of stock very quickly.

Get one when they come back in stock.

Side note: my first MDC was lost by USPS. Malkoff quickly turned around and shipped me another light to replace it, and it was a very simple and friendly exchange. That was awesome.

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