The Kel-Tec CL-43 is a teeny-tiny flashlight that, at 420 lumens, packs one hell of a punch.
My first encounter with this tiny titan is documented in "Hangin' with Oleg, part 2":
Let me tell you how bright 420 lumens is. When Oleg showed it to me, it was still inside a white cardboard box. The cardboard was neither glossy nor matte; it likely had the same albedo as a sheet of printer paper. The flashlight was secured to the inside of that box with its clip.
When I pressed the "on" button, the light hit the lip of the box straight on. All I saw was reflected light because the lens was facing away from me.
The mere reflection of 420 lumens caused me physical pain, and I was seeing spots for minutes afterward. I think a direct blast from one of these will stun a human and probably incinerate small woodland creatures.
Naturally, I've asked Kel-Tec to send me one for review.
I've since gotten my hands on one of these, and it's everything I had hoped it would be:
- It's small enough to fit in the pockets of my jeans, and my tiny Hobbit hands can easily grasp and manipulate it.
- The beam will light up any room in a house, because whatever isn't directly in the beam's path will be illuminated by the light bouncing off the walls.
- And the directions specifically state "Do not place CL-43 light lens-down on a surface while light is on, as damage to the lens or surface may result", which lends some credence to my hyperbolic assertion above about starting fires.
- I must confess that I have not stress-tested this product, because I don't like the notion of destroying things just to see how much they can take. However, I can tell you that this light stands up to normal use and abuse, and short of smashing it with a rock or throwing it off a roof I don't see how you could permanently break it. I expect it's possible to crack the lens (although it's set well back from the outer lip by a good 1/8th of an inch) but I don't know how strong the lens material is.
At roughly 4" long by 1.5" wide by 1" diameter, this isn't the smallest tactical light around. Neither is it the brightest, as 500 lumen lights are available (see Brigid's excellent review of the Defiant 550), and at $140 it certainly isn't the cheapest.
However, what makes the CL-43 so impressive is that it sits at the Venn intersection of bright, portable, and versatile. Sure, there are smaller lights; but can any pocket flashlight beat 200 lumens? (If so, can you get one without breaking your wallet?)
Sure, there are brighter lights, but will they fit in your pocket? (The Defiant 550 sure won't.) Heck, you can even grasp this light in the same hand as your pistol.
Can you mount your pocket flashlight onto an accessory rail?
Disclaimer: the rail adapter is not yet available for purchase. I received one with my CL-43 because I specifically asked for it. I have every expectation that such an accessory will soon be available from Kel-Tec, but the point remains that it is designed to be rail-compatible, so other mounting systems might also work.
And if the price tag of $140 is too much, you can also buy its brother, the CL-42, for $80.
No doubt many of you are asking "What is the functional difference between the CL-42 and 43?" I know I sure did. This is the response I received from Kel-Tec:
The CL-42 is your standard issue flashlight with push button on the back. The CL-43 has more tactical applications (being able to hold it effectively with a weapon and still use trigger finger to operate). It also has more battery life. The $60.00 extra is basically for the battery life and the tactical applications. The majority of people will likely want the CL-42.
So there you go.I think that $80 for a 420-lumen flashlight that fits in your pocket is an amazingly good deal.
Other pertinent information:
- Uses three CR123 Lithium batteries (AA battery adapter is in the works for the CL-43)
- Run time of 3.5 hours
- Made from machined 6061 aluminum
- Weighs 3.8 ounces with batteries
- Comes with pocket clip and lanyard ring
- Available in black, yellow, olive drab, coyote tan, and safety orange (CL-42 is black only)
- Designed, developed, and manufactured in the USA
Edited to add: I have been asked if this flashlight comes with a strobe function, and the answer is "No, it does not." I am not entirely sure if this is a flaw, however, because 420 lumens in the eyes is going to cause temporary blindness, so is a strobe truly necessary?
My Recommendation: A+
Had I the money, I would buy a CL-42 for everyone in my family. I have also mounted my CL-43 to my home defense weapon:
|Clearly I'm no Oleg Volk, but it gets the point across.|
I trust my safety, and the safety of my loved ones, to its operation. If that ever changes I will announce it in this blog, but until then, that's the highest compliment I can give.
Obligatory Middle Finger to the FCC: I got this product for free and Kel-Tec didn't pay me anything for my review.