Consumer Information

Review: Cloud Defensive OWL — The Optimized Weapon Light

AR pistol with weapon light

In a market flooded with options, it can be hard to sort the good from the bad. Weapon lights come in all shapes and sizes, but more importantly, qualities. Having a dependable weapon light is important, because you need to be able to depend on your equipment in a life or death situation, and if your light goes out at a critical moment, you’re at a tactical disadvantage. The Cloud Defensive Optimized Weapon Light, or OWL, is built to stand the test of time and handle any abuse you can throw at it.

Cloud Defensive OWL
The Cloud Defensive OWL is an amazing, snag-free design.

Why Use a Weapon Light

For those who don’t know, having a light is important for home defense because it allows you to properly identify your target. Some people prefer a handheld light because it allows you the flexibility of not having to point your firearm at everything you want to illuminate. However, a weapon-mounted light provides a hands-free option, so you can easily open doors and perform other tasks as you move throughout your house. This can be even more important when using a long gun for home defense because you’ll need two hands to run the gun.

A good weapon light allows you to see your surroundings and assess your environment — two essential components of self-defense. It can also disorient an attacker when shined in their eyes.

SIG p220 with streamlight and cloud defensive comparison
Though it may seem large, the OWL is incredibly durable.

Optimized Weapon Light Features

The Optimized Weapon Light from Cloud Defensive is an excellent option for your AR-15, tactical rifle, or shotgun equipped with a Picatinny rail. The OWL is designed to mount on the top Picatinny rail near the front of your handguard and sits low enough that it doesn’t interrupt your sight picture with standard height iron sights.

The key to the OWL is candela. According to Cloud Defensive, at over 50,000 candela (and 1,250 lumens), this weapon light has almost twice as much output as the nearest competitor. This provides exceptional throw, even out to 400 yards. There is no strobe feature — unnecessary for most in my opinion — just constant and momentary on modes.

Additionally, the Cloud Defensive OWL ‘shines’ in the durability department. The light looks and feels a little chunky compared to other options on the market, but this allows it to exceed ANSI/PLATO FL-1 standards and makes it one of the toughest lights on the market. The thing is basically indestructible, and if for some reason you have any issues, Cloud Defensive stands behind its products with an excellent warranty.

The OWL incorporates quick disconnect head and tail sections that allow you to easily swap for left and right-handed use. There’s also an integrated installation/removal tool built into the tail cap that is designed to provide the optimal amount of torque. It features a secure mount that is easy to install and remove.

Cloud Defensive includes a Nitecore Ui2 charger and two different 18650 rechargeable batteries, a red Panasonic/Sanyo and a pink Samsung. The red provides longer runtime and the pink delivers higher output. This gives you two great options to choose from when outfitting your home defense firearm.

Cloud Defensive OWL Specifications

  • Output with Samsung Battery: 1,300 Lumens, 55,000 Candela
  • Output with Sanyo Battery: 1,250 Lumens, 52,000 Candela
  • Runtime at Full Power: 90 Min (Samsung), 120 Min (Sanyo)
  • 18650 Battery
  • Certified 6061-T6 Aluminum Construction
  • Type III Hard-Coat Anodized Finish
  • 8 Hours Usable Light
  • Waterproof 200 Feet up to 24 Hours
  • Picatinny Mount
  • Weight: 11 oz with Battery
  • Reversible and Ambidextrous
disassembled Cloud Defensive OWL
The Optimized Weapon Light is easily flipped to the left or right side of your firearm.

Operation & Handling

Since the OWL is designed to mount on the top of your firearm, depending on your hand size and grip, it may not work as well with rifles that have a taller handguard section than an AR-15. It could be hard to get a good grip and operate the light. You can play around with different mounting positions and grips with your specific firearm, and may find some success mounting it on a bottom or side rail. The OWL is ambidextrous and reversible, giving you plenty of positioning options when setting up your firearm.

The pressure pad on the OWL is very tactile and provides positive operation anywhere you press. One tap on the touchpad provides a constant on, while quick taps allow you to toggle between momentary on and off. One thing I loved about the OWL was the lack of wires or additional components. There’s nothing to snag or get hung up, it’s all incorporated into one neat package. The Optimized Weapon Light handles great and leaves little to be desired in terms of operation.

Cloud Defensive OWL on AR-15
The OWL mounts securely to a Picatinny rail.

Lumens vs. Candela

One mistake many people make when shopping for lights is getting too caught up with the number of lumens. Higher lumens aren’t a bad thing, but they’re not the end all be all. Having higher candela is often more beneficial for most applications, including defensive use. More candela equates to more usable light. Lumens are considered the amount of raw light at the emitter and measures potential for performance. Candela is the amount of light on the target and is a function of your lumens being focused and put downrange on the threat. Quite simply, it’s what allows you to actually see what you’re illuminating.

Additionally, the warmer yellow light makes it easier to see detail (for me) because it is less harsh and doesn’t wash out or produce as much glare. At close distances, it seems to be a bit dimmer, but it still provides plenty of light and has more throw to illuminate targets at further distances. This is one of the main benefits of having high candela as opposed to lumens.

The image on the left displays the beam Cloud Defensive OWL, it is designed to reach out much further; the beam on the right is from a Streamlight TLR-1 HL, you can see the harsher white light.

Conclusion: Cloud Defensive OWL

The Cloud Defensive OWL is definitely a gem, and I preferred this light to my standard Streamlight TLR-1 HL with a pressure switch. Although it is more expensive than many popular weapon light options, it includes a mount and switch all in one package, and has features that outperform the competition. It is a practically bombproof light with a streamlined design that provides excellent service. The Optimized Weapon Light has a place at home on one of my AR-15 rifles.

What features do you look for in a weapon light? What do you think of the Cloud Defensive OWL? Let us know in the comment section.

  • AR pistol with weapon light
  • disassembled Cloud Defensive OWL
  • Cloud Defensive OWL
  • Cloud Defensive OWL on AR-15
  • SIG p220 with streamlight and cloud defensive comparison

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a relatively young firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting consistently for around seven years. Though he is fairly new to the industry, he loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related.

Alex tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills. He also enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and to keep them properly cleaned and maintained. He installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn.

Additionally, he is very into buying, selling and trading guns to test different firearms and learn more about them. He is not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. I was so impressed with the OWL i ended up with two. Then I went to the next level and purchased the Cloud Defensive REIN weapon light. It too is truly awesome!

    Great review and love the phot with the “slider” on it. This type of picture really let’s one “see” the difference and it way better then the regular side by side picture…thank you.

    I have found the quality of all three of my Cloud Defensive lights to be superb and well worth the money. You don’t know what you are missing until you actually see either of these weapon lights in person. No comparison with my other “high lumen” weapon lights as candela is really where it all matters when looking for amount and brightness of “light on target”

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