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 every day, everywhere tool.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the review, let me give you a bit of background on this light. I originally received this light in 2014 and tested it at that time. Since then, I’ve carried it frequently. Although its brightness isn’t going to blow you away, I’ve found it to be more than enough for threat identification, working on the car and a host of other uses.
Since I wrote the original review, I updated how I test flashlights. So, I decided to run this classic light through the current testing regimen to see how it fared. I wasn’t surprised to find that it performed well.
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 sport jacket pockets. I rarely found any instance in which this Streamlight flashlight was too large to carry.
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. In fact, I consider the strobe function to be superfluous.
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 in the testing section 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 the past three years. 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.
As stated above, this flashlight is the older ProTac 2AAA. These are the specifications for the light being tested. The newer light is rated for more output and greater impact resistance. More information on these in the testing section below.
|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|
Testing and measuring the results is one of the characteristics of my flashlight reviews that sets them apart from most of the others available in any medium. Since my original review of this flashlight, I have expanded and updated my testing regimen. So, I decided to give this light a run through the new system.
Just so I am perfectly clear, this is the same flashlight I tested several years ago. I have carried this flashlight frequently during that time and subjected it to all of the normal stuff that any flashlight goes through.
Output Over Time
Contrary to what people may infer from the specifications, the manufacturer provided runtime is not how long the flashlight provides the rated lumen output. Instead, the number represents the time it takes for the flashlight to sink to a mere 10% of the original peak output.
Output over time is a very important measurement. If a 1000 lumen light only puts out 150 lumens after 5 minutes, is it really the flashlight you think you are getting?
Streamlight published a look at the runtime in this table:
My output measurements were very close to what Streamlight published:
I measured 8,100 lux for the initial output in my integrating sphere. The 30 second output was 7,800 lux. While the FL 1 standard measures runtime to 10% of the 30 second output, I measure to both 10% and 50%. I suspect most people will swap batteries around 50%, so this seems like a more realistic number to measure.
For the 10% runtime, I measured 1 hour 33 minutes. This is very close to the published specification. However, what I found to be very good is the 50% runtime as 1 hour 30 minutes. This means that the vast majority of the light output from this flashlight is at or above the 50% mark. This is much better than many flashlights I have tested.
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.
Since this is not a high output light, I did not expect to see a lot of heat generation during the run test. My measurements reflected what I expected to see.
The following table shows the surface temperature of the light at various points throughout the output testing:
You have the numbers, but what does the light look like? Below is a pair of pictures. On the left is a nighttime photo without any lights. The right picture is of the flashlight’s output.
The above photos were taken with a Canon 80D and a 50mm f/1.8 lens at a distance of 25′. The camera settings were: ISO 400, f/8.0 and 2 seconds.
As you can see, the light is not overwhelming. However, it is bright enough to identify a threat and help place rounds on target. For a very thin light running on a pair of AAA batteries, it isn’t bad.
The original ProTac 2AAA that I tested was not rated for impact resistance. However, I carried this light for about three years with many bumps and drops and no problems.
For the current 2AAA, Streamlight rates the flashlight to be impact resistant to 2 meters. Even though my older light was not rated for impact resistance, I decided to test it to the current flashlight’s rating.
Many lights fail at a 2 meter drop distance, but the ProTac 2AAA passed without any problems.
As with my other flashlight reviews, I dropped the flashlight six times onto hardened concrete. After the drops, the light continued to work as expected, and there were not any obvious breaks or cracks in the case, lens or switch cover.
For additional information on the drop test, you can read more on the testing procedures here.
Water Intrusion Test
I conduct water intrusion tests after the drop testing. This ensures that the flashlight maintains its water resistance even after rough handling.
According to Streamlight, both the original and current ProTac 2AAA flashlights are rated to prevent water intrusion when submerged for up to 30 minutes at 1 meter. Originally, I tested the light at 1 meter for 30 minutes and it passed without a problem. During the past several years, the light continued to work with no problems from being submerged.
For the updated testing, I chose to run the water test again. This time, I used a tougher standard: 1.7 meters for 60 minutes. Even after being dropped onto the concrete multiple times, the flashlight had no problems with the water test.
After an hour at the bottom of my pool, the light was completely dry inside. Additionally, the switch and light worked exactly as expected.
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.
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 very affordable price, 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.