Monday, April 27, 2015

UltraFire RL-118 Review


I've had this light for several years and it sees pretty limited use, so now's as good a time as any to talk about it a little bit. It appears they don't make these anymore, either, so there's that.


I bought this, way back in 2010 maybe, because I was on the market for a stainless, single CR123A-powered, tailcap clicky, LED flashlight that didn't have a billion useless modes or look like an alien artifact. I also wanted to keep it near $30 because I am cheap and hadn't had any problems with other UltraFire lights I'd previously purchased. And this met all the criteria, so into the DX.com shopping cart it went. Perhaps unusually, I have never had any problems with UltraFire or other interchangeable-brand Chinese lights. Part of the budget pricing on these comes from minimal QC and lower quality materials. That's the risk you run, But I always had very good luck with them. There's still a dozen or so, essentially reputable online vendors that are a paradise of cheap, anodized, LED lumen hoses of dubious quality, who will gladly ship you something in about 2 or 3 weeks time.



But back to the RL-118. On first fondle, it's a nicely machined hunk of stainless steel. It's got a roll-of-quarters heft to it, and could probably serve as an improvised "punch enhancer" if you were so inclined. Not that I would recommend doing that - just saying it's heavy. I saw it listed as 90g, which wouldn't include the battery, either. So it's not exactly something that'll vanish into a pouch or pocket, forgotten. It's too bulky and heavy for that, and as such would not make an ideal EDC. This is more of an "executive" or desktop/nightstand light, and that's what I have been doing with it all this time.

And while first impressions are good, there's 2 things that I'd put in the cons column right away: the clip, and the clicky. The clip is all around bad. It's some kind of springy and poorly plated metal that cheapens the rest of the light. It is removable, but that leaves two ugly screw holes in the body of the light, and it'll also now roll freely. And if you unscrew the tail end of the light and then want to screw it back on, you have to push against the clip in order to line up the threads correctly. This bad for the threads long term, and a poor design feature.

I tried putting the screws in without the clip, but the holes in the body are tapped so shallow that they don't allow the screws to fully seat. Ugh. What's more, the screw position prevents you from deep carrying the light, as the screw heads are nested right at the top of the clip. The way they did this, it's also annoying if you ever reattach the clip because you have to put the screws through 2 sets of holes in the clip AND have them line up perfectly on the body of the light.

If you've got another clip that will fit the light or can fashion one, use that instead. Literally anything would be an improvement. A simple strip of metal with a lanyard hole in it, even. Some pictures online show the light with fugly brass screws, but as you can see mine are silver. There were both 2 and 3-mode variants of the 118, so maybe that was an indicator. Who knows.



The clicky, unlike the clip, looks just fine and is functional, but it has a spongy, gritty feel to it and a not insignificant amount of play. I wasn't expecting a premium clicky for my money, and the internals could surely be upgraded, but that's just more cost and not a worthwhile investment, IMO, though it's hardly an unbearable flaw for me. It's also a reverse clicky, which is to say that there is no momentary on feature. That's appropriate, given the style of light. And because the clicky is flush with the rest of the tail, it will tailstand.



The light comes apart in 3 sections - head, which contains the lens and smooth reflector; body, which is approximately the length of the CR123A and holds the (removable) pill; and the tail, which contains the clicky switch and is what the clip is attached to. Each section has a thick black o-ring to keep water out, and there's also a GITD ring inside the head, behind the glass lens. The glow is pretty minimal and doesn't last very long, but it's a nice touch. The threads are all perfectly machined and it screws together nicely - no pinched o-rings or mashed threads to be seen - and there was a thin layer of grease applied to the threads. It's about 3.25" fully assembled.




One of the other things that drew me to this was the OSRAM Golden Dragon emitter, versus then ubiquitous XP-Gs or what have you. The OSRAM produces a slightly greenish light here, but there's decent throw as well as flood. It throws quite a bit farther than I assumed it might, thanks to a deep, smooth reflector. It's not a bad emitter at all, though you're unlikely to find it being used anymore. I've seen lumen ratings from 150 to 220 for the HIGH setting, so I'd guess somewhere in the middle. My sample is a 3-mode (HIGH, MED, LOW) with memory, and 2-mode versions also existed. No stupid SOS or strobe that turns your light into a tactical epilepsy cannon.

I did one battery test on this when I first got it, and it ran for about 40 minutes on high before going out. That was with one of the gray 16340, protected 3.6v TrustFire cells that claim to be 880mAh. The listed runtime is 50 min, but that is probably extremely approximate or purposefully exaggerated. Still, I don't think the 40 minute range is terrible, all things considered. I don't think the RL-118 was designed for ultimate efficiency.

That's the kind of attitude you should really take when buying an UltraFire light: you should bring your expectations way, waayyyy down. You might have a real gem or it may not even work when you get it out of the box. There are several enthusiast forums where people discuss these types of lights at length, which can be a good resource if you want to brave a purchase. As long as you know what to expect, something like this may be worth your time and money.

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