Review: Let There be Weapon Lights — Crimson Trace, Streamlight

By Major Pandemic published on in Gun Gear

The biggest weapon lighting trend at this year’s SHOT show was integrated weapon light and laser combos. Streamlight and Crimson Trace both had some of the most well integrated models I saw at the show—each with their own unique features.

Crimson Trace and Streamlight weapon lights

Compact or full size—the choice is yours.

Previously, I was not a weapon light kind of guy and really saw these as entry tools for the tactical elite, but my mind has been changed. After getting literally destroyed by a guy with a Streamlight TLR-2 equipped airsoft trainer during the Armed Movement in Structures training course by Shivworks, I left convinced that a combo light-and-laser weapon light is an undeniable advantage… literally, the guy destroyed us round after round. Where the advantage of these lights becomes clearly apparent is when working through clearing or defending very dark areas or in mixed lighting areas.

The light-and-laser equipped gentleman in question had gone through the Armed Movement in Structures training before and had experienced the same in-training realization that lights and lasers are game changers. If you are clearing a dark room, the light delivers the ability to illuminate those dark areas or areas you think you might have seen something. Creative backlighting and/or use of reflective surfaces with a weapon light can also help you see hiding silhouettes that were not visible before.

Yes, green lasers are better than red. What you will see is that red lasers wash out easier in light or on darker colors. Green lasers are much higher contrast for the eye, so even during very fast movement on a shooter, you can still stay on target. As a defender hunkering and bunkering these light/laser give you an option to surprise, identify and engage targets extremely effectively and quickly. There were more than a couple situations where we were surprised to see a green dot on our chest followed by a painful airsoft reminder of our exposure.

Streamlight TLR-2 weapon light

The Streamlight delivers full features, size, and power.

Let There Be Light

The idea of a weapon light with laser is not to take the place of a handheld light, but as a tool to help identify, distract, control, disable, sight. and engage after a potential threat has been identified. Most people would understand that using a loaded gun as a flashlight is not the best idea when checking on kids in the middle of the night, but neither is firing a gun and holding a flashlight at the same time if you have not actually trained on this. A weapon light takes over where the handheld light leaves off and allows for full weapon control and/or a free hand for opening the door or securing a kid.

Both of these unit deliver on these weapon light capabilities and feature a high output LED light, with a high contrast green laser—integrated into one unit. Both of these models deliver light only, laser only, laser and light combo, and a laser and strobe light settings. On the street, the retail price of either of these weapons light ends up around $300. Between these two units the decision really is size and convenience versus brighter longer-range power. There are certainly a number of manufacturers offering combo laser light weapon lights. However, I liked the execution of these two models better than all of the other models I have handled.

Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro

The Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro packs a bright 100-lumen LED light and green laser weapon light combo into a super tight, small, concealable package that is compatible with any weapon featuring a Picatinny rail. The little LED is far brighter than you would expect, and the green laser is plenty bright for daylight use. The Railmaster Pro is literally only a little wider than most weapon mounted compact laser sights with a MSRP of $380. The Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro is about half the size, and a third less weight, than the full-sized Streamlight.

Rock showing a green laser dot and illuminated by a Crimson Trace Railmaster weapon light

Crimson Trace Railmaster shining brilliantly.

What I really like about this unit is that it is the basically the same size as most compact trigger guard integrated weapon lights, but is in a format that can be easily moved from one handgun or rifle to another. If you have a smaller compact gun such as a Glock G26, Walther PPS, HK P30SK, or other similar sized compact gun—or do not want a giant weapon light hanging off the end—then this is the right-sized weapon light for your gun. I also really like this for small compact AR-15 pistol builds which, when mounted at the and of the rail, acts likes a hand stop. Attachment is via two bolts and a variety of included weapon specific rail adapters.

In a time where we have access to 800+ lumen lights, 100-lumens may not seem like a lot or enough. However, in reality it is more than enough for movement inside a home or office building, and sufficient for distraction and positive identification of a threat. There are a lot of people who consider anything over 200-lumens too much light for typical defensive room clearing, because an overly bright light can actually blind the user due to the reflected light off walls. This light fills the requirement for a weapon-mounted light, which can more than sufficiently identify an attacker from your son slipping into the window at 3 a.m. 100-lumens is plenty to illuminate most standard-sized rooms, stairs, and closets when you hear a bump in the night.

The function is really simple, and the paddle actuators are about the same size as a full-sized light and are hard to miss offering tap on tap off functionality. These large paddles are an important feature of the Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro, which is that it feels and operates like a full-sized weapon light in a compact size. Often, the finger-operated buttons on the small trigger guard attached lights/lasers are something you have to think about to use and can be easy to miss with a finger in a tactical situation.

The finger operated switch on a Streamlight Railmaster

Finger operated switch makes the Railmaster easy to use.

More importantly, most of these small, flat, integrated buttons can be literally impossible to use with gloves. The Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro has a giant, cannot-miss paddle on each side, which allows a finger, thumb, or even a boot heel to activate the light. This is a really unique feature that made this light stand out for me during the review, and a feature that clearly stands out when you move the light to an AR-15 pistol or SBR.

The Streamlight TLR-2 HL G

The Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is decoded as Tactical Light Rail 2 High Lumen Green Laser. This is considered the beast in the industry with a blinding 800-lumen light with a super-bright, piercing, green laser wrapped in a very durable billet aluminum casing with heavy-duty mil-spec polymer parts. The full-sized Streamlight TLR-2 HL G weapon light lacks reasonable concealability, but it is a better option as a crossover light that you would move between a pistol and rifle while still delivering the light output needed for rifle use. The downside is that the TLR-2 HL G has an MSRP of $580, but the street price is shockingly similar to the Crimson Trace.

What I really like about the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is that it delivers a level of brightness far beyond what is expected for a light this size. You really do not expect 800-lumens from a light this small, which turns night into day and eyesight into blindness. If you get hit with this light, you are not seeing anything until your eyes readjust which gives the owner plenty of time to take a shot or maneuver around you.

Rock illuminated by a weapon light with green laser dot

The full sized Streamlight delivers a bit more output.

The huge output is both a blessing and a curse as there is so much light that in really tight confines or without careful attention to when the light is activated, reflected light is so bright it can actually blind the user. On the other side of the argument, you can hit any area of a room and light up every corner of the room with all that output. One of my friends noted the green laser was sole piecing and it is crazy daylight bright. For those situations where you might reach out a bit further or even use this light for predator control, the brilliantly bright LED and laser in the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is a huge benefit. If you want to add a pressure switch, the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is equipped with a remote-pressure switch port. Like most full-sized weapon lights, the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G offers an adjustable quick release style screw, but can allow the light to be attached or removed quickly.

One of the features I liked the most about this particular weapon light was that it allowed direct access to all the settings without going through a menu thanks to the lower toggle switch. The lower mini toggle can be easily changed on the fly from light only or laser only to both laser and light. The actuation paddles pivot up and down to activate momentary or constant on operation of whatever mode is selected. Double tapping the momentary switch accesses the strobe function. It is one of the most intuitive weapon lights I have found.

Final Thoughts

Of note, both Streamlight and Crimson Trace offer a wide array of mighty fine full-sized and compact-sized light and laser weapon lights. However, I personally liked the operation these specific models the best. It really came down to the ease of operation and use. Neither of these are cheap weapon lights, but they are tools you can depend on with your life. Let me tell you first hand, you can die fast in the dark without one of these lights.

Specifications

Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro

The Rail Master Pro Universal Green Laser Sight & Tactical Light combines two tactical tools in a single compact unit. The versatile unit is designed to fit most modern pistols, rifles, and shotguns with an M1913 Picatinny or Weaver-style accessory rail. A powerful green laser anchors the unit and provides up to 1 hour of continuous use on a single CR2 Lithium battery. The Rail Master Pro also includes a powerful 100 Lumen white light for target identification. The unit features four operational modes including: Laser/Light Constant On, Laser Constant On, Light Constant On, and Laser w/Light Dazzler. Activation is instant, with Tap On, Tap Off controls and a programmed Auto Shut Off at five minutes to conserve battery life.

Attachment Accessory Rail
Activation Mode Switch Activated – Light only, laser only, or both
Sighting Factory Sighted at 50′ – (Re-zeroable)
Battery Type CR2 Lithium Battery X1
Laser Output Up to 5mW Green Laser
Activation Mode Switch Activated
Laser Visibility Approx .5-inch Diameter at 50 Feet
User Adjustable Windage and Elevation
Installation User Installed
Warranty Three-Year Full Warranty
Color Black
Dot Size Approx. 0.50″ at 50′
Light Output 100 Lumen LED White Light
Light Specs 100 Lumen LED
Weight 2.5 ounce including battery
Size 2.25 L x 1.3 W x 1.4D inches

Streamlight TLR-2 HL G, High Lumen Rail Mounted Tactical Light

  • LED and Green Laser combo tactical light.
  • Engineered optic produces a concentrated beam with optimum peripheral illumination.
  • Green laser provides high-visibility long-range targeting.
Laser 510-530nm direct drive green laser
Light C4 LED technology, 50,000-hour lifetime, Impervious to shock
Lumens 800
Candela 15,000
Range of Light 245 meters
Runtime 1.50 hours
Battery Styles Non-Rechargeable
Battery CR123A Lithium X2
Length 3.390 inches (8.61 centimeters)
Weight 4.780 ounces (135.51 grams)
Colors Black
Attachment Accessory Rail
Activation Mode Switch Activated – Light only, laser only, or both
Sighting Factory Sighted at 50′ – (Re-zeroable)
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100 or 800—how many lumens do you prefer? Which weapon light is in your future or currently deployed on one of your firearms? Share your answers in the comments section.

Gas maskMajor Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com

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Comments (5)

  • Bill

    |

    Why was Viridian left out? I find it to be one of the best laser/light units available and I have them all. The light is bright as is the green laser. You can also choose a remote switch for a rifle. Nothing better for a 7″ AR.

    Reply

  • Doug

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    I own 2 Streamlight TLR-2G weapon lights. I have tested them thoroughly when clearing the house after bumps in the night. I am a believer in the laser/light combo. But I will also caution those considering a purchase not to chase the latest highest lumen offerings. The 300 lumen level of my TLR-2Gs is plenty. The light reflecting off from the walls does too good of a job in fully illuminating me. I get that the light itself is totally giving away my position, but it doesn’t need to also give away my center of mass. Sometimes less is more.

    Reply

  • Guest

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    $380 – seriously? Why must everything associated with firearms/hunting have such a high MSRP? A green laser can be purchased for under $100 and a 300 lumen tactical flashlight for $80. So combining the two into a package that can be mounted onto a rail adds $200 to the cost? I own a CT Green laser and love it but prices are getting out of hand for these items. The Railmaster should have an MSRP of no more than $250 or $300. You can bet CT cost is well below $200.

    Reply

  • jim

    |

    I know that it is “big business’ selling weapons lights and one sees them in Ploice Magazine and on cop shows on TV, BUT anyone who puts a light on a weapon has a death wish because if you miss the perp, guess where he/she is going to aim?!

    Reply

    • wood

      |

      Jim,
      try the off switch

      Reply

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