Blisteringly bright light seems to be all the rage today, but sometimes the most useful flashlight is one that is moderately powerful, but small enough to have with you all the time. Today I take a look at the incredibly useful Streamlight ProTac 2AAA – a light that I believe is a carry everywhere tool.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the review, let me tell you up front that I have come to rely on this flashlight for much of my daily carry needs. Even though I wasn’t excited about it when I got it, I found that it has become one of my favorites. It is bright enough for most purposes including threat identification, plus it is cheap enough for most anyone to afford.
Ok, let’s get to the details…
What Is the ProTac 2AAA?
The 2AAA is a thin flashlight that is almost small enough to go into any pocket without getting into the way. I say almost because it is still relatively long – a little more than 5.6″ – and may not be ideal in some situations. It is, however, only slightly thicker than a AAA battery and weighs a mere 2 ounces.
I carried the ProTac 2AAA in cargo pant pockets, the front pockets of jeans and other kinds of pants and in jacket pockets. I rarely found any instance in which this Streamlight flashlight was too large or otherwise in the way.
I still very much like carrying the ProTac HL, but in many circumstances I have found myself comfortably carrying the 2AAA instead. It puts out enough light to identify a threat, yet is much thinner and easier to carry.
Light output is rated at 80 lumens with a fresh pair of AAA alkaline batteries. That might seem weak compared to other hand held lights on the market – like the 1,100 lumen ProTac HL3 – but it is more than enough to identify a potential threat, navigate, work on a car engine, and a multitude of other tasks.
At very close range, the light is bright enough to be painful to look at. Combined with the light’s strobe mode, it can be used for visual stunning in a confrontation. However, don’t expect the same disorienting effect at the longer ranges that you would get with a more powerful light.
The flashlight uses a tailcap switch. Pressing it half-way gives you a momentary on light. Depressing it all the way until it clicks turns the light on in a constant mode.
By quickly double-tapping the switch, the Streamlight goes into the strobe mode. A rapid triple tap activates a low output mode. The low mode is only 10 lumens, plenty for navigation and many tasks, and will allow the light to run for up to 30 hours.
Swapping modes is very easy with just a little bit of practice. If you are already familiar with the switch used on other ProTac models, this one will be very intuitive for you.
Unlike some of the other lights on the market, I find the switch process works well for tactical purposes. Regardless of what mode you temporarily activate, once you let off of the switch, the light reverts back to the high mode. I find this to work very well for me.
The button protrudes beyond the rear of the body and is easy to activate. However, I found that the switch is somewhat difficult to click to the constant on. I believe this is intentional – an easy to access button for momentary use, but it is not likely to click to constant on without deliberate intent.
This light is rated to be waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes (more on that below.) The body is machined 6000-series, aircraft-grade aluminum and is sealed with rubber O-rings. A MilSpec anodized black finish is standard.
Streamlight includes a removable clip for the light. It serves its purpose well, and I did not see any signs of it weakening over time. The clip can be positioned so the light rides high or low in the pocket.
There are flat spots machined into the cooling fins on the head of the light. These are designed to prevent the light from rolling away. While they do work, I found the belt clip was far more effective at preventing roll.
ProTac 2AAA Specifications
|beam distance||80 meters|
|run time||90 minutes|
|water resistance||30 minutes @ 1 meter|
|weight with batteries (stated)||2.0 oz|
|weight with batteries (measured)||2.0 oz|
|battery type & quantity||2 AAA alkaline|
|body material||machined aluminum with Type II MilSpec anodized finish|
|comes with||2 AAA batteries, removable pocket clip|
ANSI Testing – Homebrew Edition
Streamlight is one of several companies that adhere to the ANSI flashlight standards. While not perfect, the ANSI standards give consumers an easy way to compare the basic specifications of a flashlight including light output, beam distance, impact resistance and water resistance.
I do not have a reliable way of testing the light output of a flashlight. Generally, the machines are too expensive for me to cost-justify the purchase. However, I have developed a way to demonstrate the light output over time.
The below video is a time lapse recording of the ProTac 2AAA flashlight on high output. I used a dry erase board for the background and situated the light so that the head was 18″ from the surface of the board. I used a fresh set of Duracell batteries when measuring the output. The video was recorded with an iPhone 5 in time lapse mode. The iPhone 4 next to the target surface serves as the time counter.
As you can see, light output remained pretty constant until about 109 minutes in. At that point, the light quickly fades and shuts off. I was fairly impressed by the output over time. Not bad for a pair of 2AAA batteries.
The ProTac 2AAA is not rated for impact resistance, so I did not test the light for that. However, in my normal use of the light, it was dropped many times onto hard surfaces. Other than some very minor blemishes on the light’s surface, I did not see any ill effects from the drops.
A water proof rating of 1 meter at 30 minutes was given by Streamlight for this model. Using my swimming pool, a pole and some paracord, I suspended the light at a depth of about 3.5 feet (about 3″ beyond the rated depth of 1 meter) for 32 minutes. I then retrieved the light and found that no water penetrated the lens or body area of the light.
The Streamlight ProTac 2AAA is a very useful flashlight. It will not replace a true tactical light for law enforcement or military purposes. Nor would I want to mount it to one of my guns for illumination. I would much rather have something more powerful for those applications.
However, for ease of carry, this light is tough to beat. I find that I carry this everywhere including times when I have a more powerful light with me. It tucks into the corner of my pants pocket and is completely out of the way unless I need it.
The light is more than powerful enough to identify a threat, and in the more likely event of needing light for a small task or to navigate by, it works great.
When you work in the price – about $27 via Amazon – this light is a real winner. I approached this light unimpressed, but wound up making it an integral part of my everyday carry.
As I’ve said more eloquently elsewhere, too many reviews of gear are either incomplete or heavily biased in favor of the manufacturer. I’ve attempted to give you a good look at the light and how it has performed for me. Suggestions on how I can improve this are always welcome.
Regarding bias, you should know that I have bought and used Streamlight products for many years. When I got my start in police work in the mid-90’s, I was not issued a flashlight. Saving up my cash from a part time job, I shelled out my earnings for a Streamlight SL-20. It never failed me, and I’ve had good luck with all of the company’s products I have bought since then.
The ProTac 2AAA was provided to me by a representative of the company. No promises were made or solicited to do a review, much less do a positive one. I acknowledge that this can still influence my review, but believe I have presented the information in the most balanced light possible. However, it is important that you know how I obtained the product.
I do not receive any advertising money from Streamlight, nor am I in negotiations with them to provide advertising. I do make a small percentage of the sales price if you decide to purchase the light through one of my Amazon links. This does not alter your price at all, but could introduce bias into the article. Those purchases help pay for the site.
If you have any concerns about my relationship with Streamlight, or my disclosure generally, feel free to make suggestions or ask questions in the comments section.