Categories
Self-Defense Issues

Cheap Riot Guns

Atlanta Police Red Dog Deployed to Protest

Riots are raging across the United States – and have been for days. Consequently, I’ve had a number of emails come in from readers who are looking for the best self-defense pistol on a budget. Let’s not forget that the government lockdowns from the health crisis have left many people in a tough financial situation.

In an effort to reduce the number of emails I am responding to, I figured it might be easier to share my thoughts here.

[Note: These are the things that I was able to find in stock today. There are a lot of good guns that are inexpensive, but you can’t get them because of the run.]

LGS

Your local gun store, or LGS, may have some good deals in the used firearms case that would make for a cheap riot gun. The problem is that demand is way up on guns, so a lot of local gun shops are very low on inventory. The remaining stock tends to be a bit pricier.

Also, for the same reasons you might be looking for a gun, those that might be trading in are holding back until this crisis is over.

Nevertheless, you may still be able to find something at your local shop. It will definitely be luck if you land something great at a reasonable price.

Online

You are more likely to find what you want by shopping online. However, it will still take time for the gun(s) to ship. Between increased sales and UPS/FedEx slow downs due to the pandemic and rioting – well, shipping times are not ideal in a lot of areas. The upside is that you can still find what you need.

There are a lot of places to shop online. Palmetto State Armory is my “go to” gun store as they seem to have more in stock than many other dealers PLUS offer good pricing. Also, I’ve had good service from them for many years.

Brownells is a good company to buy from, but I’ve found the company’s inventory to be lacking. Still, you might want to check them out.

Guns.com is another online seller. They often have what I’m looking for in stock, but the pricing is hit and miss. Sometimes they’ve got great prices, but many times I’ll find the same item at PSA for cheaper.

What to Buy?

I talked about where to buy, now let’s look at what might be some of the better deals available right now.

Smith & Wesson Shield

Smith Wesson Shield - Cheap Riot Gun

If you need something small to carry for protection, it is tough to beat the original Smith & Wesson Shield in 9mm. This single-stack pistol holds 7+1 rounds in a flush-fitting magazine and 8+1 in the extended. In my Smith & Wesson Shield review, I found the gun to be an exceptional value. I still own mine and recommend them.

Normally $380-ish, PSA now has these on sale for less than $300. That’s for a brand new pistol with a full factory warranty.

Smith & Wesson M&P LE Trade-Ins

Smith Wesson MP40 LE Trade In for Self Defense

Right now, PSA has a limited number of used Smith & Wesson M&P40 pistols in stock for about $270. These are law enforcement trade-in guns chambered for the .40 S&W.

In general, I’ve found LE trade-in guns to be well maintained and 100% reliable. I own several myself, and they are some of the best deals I’ve ever gotten.

PSA has two varieties available: the first one is black, while the second has a gray frame with a black slide. Both show to have night sights, though they may be a bit weak depending on their age.

Frankly, this is one of the best deals on the used riot gun market right now.

PSA is also offering the .45 ACP version of the LE trade-in M&P pistol. These are much more desirable and have a higher price tag: about $350 (limited time sale for $320 right now.) They are also marked as having night sights.

Beretta 92S Italian Police Trade-In

Beretta 92S Police Trade In

Another law enforcement trade-in, these guns are the classic model 92 design chambered for the 9mm cartridge. If you like the feel of the US Army’s old M9 pistol, you will like the feel of this gun.

Caution, however, is in order. These guns are not identical to the 92F/M9 style pistols. The magazine release, for example, is located in the heel of the grip like many older European guns. Also, the sights are smaller than on the American guns.

However, these pistols can still shoot well and at about $390 (on sale for less than $330 right now) they are worth considering.

Taurus TH9

Taurus TH9 Cheap Riot Gun

If you are looking for a new pistol, the Taurus TH9 is one of the better priced 9mm pistols available. It’s currently less than $280 with a full warranty. I’m not a huge fan of Taurus pistols, but a number of people have recommended these guns. So, you might want to take a look.

Smith & Wesson SD9 VE

Smith & Wesson SD9 Best PRice

Also a new gun with a full factory warranty, the SD9 VE is a two-tone 9mm pistol that packs 16 rounds into each magazine. It is not a fancy gun, but I’ve had completely reliable service from my SD-series gun.

Between this and the Taurus TH9, I much prefer this for only $20 more.

Other Options

If you have the money to stretch a bit more, there are a lot of pistol options around the $400 mark. Guns like the Smith & Wesson 380EZ, Springfield Armory XD9 Subcompact and Glock 42 become available.

Final Thoughts

Atlanta Car Fire

Being on a tight budget when you need to buy a gun isn’t a great place to be in – I get it. Prices are up at the moment when people are being hit hard by economic conditions. Yet, riots are burning cities and the police are overwhelmed. You need a cheap riot gun.

None of the above would be my first choice if I wasn’t worried about money. But, all of the above should serve you well if danger comes to your home.

As with any gun purchase – get good training, use quality ammunition and keep the gun out of the hands of children, drunks and fools. If you don’t know what you are doing, ask a friend for help!

Leave a comment below if you know of any great deals –that are available– right now.

Disclosure

Some of the links on this page and site are affiliate links. Should you decide to use one to make a purchase, I earn a small commission.

GunsHolstersAndGear.com is a family business and we like to keep the site accessible to everyone. Please keep comments G or PG rated.

Categories
Flashlights

Wowtac A1S Flashlight Review – The Budget Torch that Couldn’t

Wowtac A1S Tactical Flashlight for Self Defense

The wait is over: I present my Wowtac A1S review for your consideration.

That may seem a little dramatic, but I get questions about the Wowtac flashlights on a fairly regular basis. The A1S was the first of the company’s flashlights I’ve purchased. Since then, I have also picked up a Wowtac A4 V2 and Wowtac A7 for review.

They get good reviews on Amazon and some of the folks on the r/flashlight subreddit seem to like them. But this review was spurred by one of my readers here.

Reader John Smith read my Anker LC90 review and recommended I take a look at this light as an inexpensive alternative to higher-priced tactical flashlights like the Streamlight models I mentioned in that article. I ordered one up immediately and have been testing it for the past few months.

Spoiler alert: some of you may not like my opinions about this light. But I hope John and other readers will appreciate my willingness to spend my own money to test the gear you guys are interested in.

So, let’s get to the testing…

General Information

Wowtac A1S Flashlight Review

Wowtac is a flashlight brand that is owned by ThruNite. The company offers a range of inexpensive flashlights that claim high light output numbers. They seem quite popular on Amazon – probably as a combination of the low price and high lumen ratings. Although rating manipulations are a well-known issue at Amazon.

The A1S is said to produce more than 1,100 lumens with a CREE XP-L V6 LED. It has a variety of modes including four different constant output levels plus strobe and SOS functions.

The body of the flashlight is made of “aircraft-grade aluminum” but the company does not offer specific information about the metal. Included with the flashlight is a 18650 battery.

Battery

Wowtac uses a 3.6v 18650 lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable battery to power the A1S. The battery is rated for 3,400 mAh, has a built-in micro-USB charging port and is made in China. It is Wowtac branded.

Wowtac 18650 3400 mah battery

The included 18650 battery is not marked as having a protection circuit.

According to the instruction sheet, the A1S can handle operating voltages of 2.7v – 4.2v.

Controls

The Wowtac A1S has two button switches that control all of the flashlight functions. The tail switch turns the flashlight on and off. A partial press allows for momentary activation. A full press and click turns the flashlight on in a constant output mode.

Wowtac A1S Tail Cap Switch

Wowtac protects the tail switch from accidental activation with aluminum “ears” that are taller than the switch.

A second switch is located near the head of the light. It cycles through the different modes: low – medium – high – turbo – SOS. This switch has no mechanical protection or any way to lock it out. An accidental press will advance the output to the next mode.

Note: The A1S tail switch failed during normal use. Scroll down to the Carry & Use section for additional information.

Specifications

Specifications are only as good as the tool used to measure them. For flashlights, there is a voluntary standard for testing and reporting common specs called ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standard. This standard is designed in a way that consumers can better compare different flashlights before making a purchase.

Wowtac A1S Specifications

Unfortunately, there are ways to game the standard. One way a manufacturer might try to dodge the standardized testing & reporting is to use a non-enforceable standard.

Wowtac states on its website and in the instruction manual that the A1S is tested to the ANSI/NEMA FL1 Standard. This was the original attempt to standardize flashlight testing and reporting and is no longer used. In fact, it hasn’t been used for years. It was also created by a body that has no enforcement ability to ensure the specifications are accurately reported to consumers.

I am not saying Wowtac has intentionally used an unenforceable standard in an effort to provide inflated specifications. I have no evidence to support that idea.

Here is the data as reported by Wowtac.

weight (as stated by manufacturer)3.1 oz without battery *
weight (as measured)4.8 oz with included 18650 3,400 mAh battery
length5.4" *
impact resistance1.5 m
water resistanceIPx7 (1 meter for no less than 30 minutes)
light output1,150 lumens **
peak beam intensity19,200 candela
stated runtime3 hours
beam distance277 meters
MSRP$39.95
* Wowtac provided weight and length measurements in metric. I converted these to ounces and inches for the benefit of my readers in the United States.. Beam distance and impact resistance distances are reported in meters as is normal per the ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standard

** Wowtac states that the most powerful output mode (Turbo) may damage the light if run for more than 10 minutes. Nothing in the documentation suggested the light had a thermal protection circuit that would step the light down to lower outputs if it begins to overheat.

Part of the FL1 standard (all iterations) are very specific requirements regarding the display of specifications. For the impact resistance, the number reported is supposed to be a whole number (rounded down) which is not what Wowtac uses in any of its literature. Some might say this is prima facie evidence that the company does not strictly adhere to the FL1 standard.

Testing

As mentioned in the Specifications section above, the voluntary flashlight testing standard is called the ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standard. While the FL1 Standard is a good start, it is not perfect and can be gamed. Hence, I conduct my own testing to determine if the light meets my needs and to compare the lights I test to one another.

Wowtac A1S Flashlight Parts

Also, when a company uses a deprecated standard, it is tough to know how accurate its reported information is.

For more information on the FL1 Standard and my own testing protocols, please visit my flashlight review page here.

Output Over Time

If you want to quickly see how much light this flashlight emits over the life of a battery charge, scroll on down.

For everyone else, let me explain a little about how runtimes are calculated and marketed.

One of the flaws in the FL1 Standard is the way output and runtime are reported. Essentially, the total output (measured in lumens) is merely the peak output after the light is turned on with a fresh set of batteries.

Runtime is reported as the length of time it takes the flashlight to dwindle down to 10% of the output number. Yet, the way the information is presented, many consumers think it means the flashlight will output the peak measurement for the entire duration of the runtime. Sadly, nothing could be farther away from the truth.

I measure output over time as a percentage of the initial output. With my testing, you see a relative measurement of how much light is put out over a period of time.

The first output over time test I conducted was in the Turbo mode. The results are below:

Wowtac A1S Output Over Time Turbo Mode 18650 Battery

As you can see in this test, the output drops substantially at the two-minute mark. This is likely designed into the flashlight as a power-saving measure.

Functionally, it allows the company to report a very high output while still recording a long runtime. At least Wowtac is clear about its use of an automatic output drop. Some companies are not.

Even so, the light output dips to less than 30% within the first 30 minutes. However, the control circuitry does produce a boost to the light so that many of the peaks are above 70%. By one hour, the average output is below 50%.

Running the light in High mode, I recorded the following:

Wowtac A1S Output Over Time High Mode 18650 Battery

The measured dips and peaks were pretty extreme.

Measured Candela

Measuring the peak beam intensity and beam distance is a straightforward calculation based on the measured lux of the beam at a known distance.

In the Turbo mode, I calculated the peak beam intensity of the Wowtac A1S to be 12,133 candelas with a beam distance of 220 meters. This is significantly below the manufacturer’s reported specifications of 19,200 candelas and 277 meters.

Running the same test on a variety of other flashlights from companies including SureFire and Streamlight have been much closer to the manufacturer reporting. This suggests that the accuracy of my testing is valid.

Heat Generation

Heat generation is one aspect of flashlight use that is rarely talked about. As a guy who’s had to search large buildings and wooded areas for armed felons, I know that a flashlight may need to operate for more than just a minute or two in any given instance.

High power lights like the A1S can become too hot to hold if the system isn’t efficient with a good way to dissipate generated heat.

The first chart shows the amount of surface heat generated by the A1S in the Turbo mode. Keep in mind that this mode automatically steps down its output after two minutes. You can click on the image for a larger view.

Wowtac A1S Temperature Chart Turbo 18650 Battery

As you may be able to see in the graph, the temperature ramps up quickly during the first two minutes of operation. Once the flashlight drops its output, the temperature increase continues, but at a more moderate pace.

I ran a temperature over time test during the output over time test for the High mode. This graph is shown below:

Wowtac A1S Temperature Chart High 18650 Battery

At first glance, it may appear that the flashlight heats up more quickly in the High mode than in the Turbo mode. However, the High mode runs significantly cooler – never breaking 120Ëš F.

Note: After encountering the extreme heat generation during my Wowtac A7 review, I wanted to run a similar test on the A1S. However, the A1S no longer worked.

Visual Comparisons

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. I suspect that good photos are far more valuable than that.

Here’s a look at the Wowtac A1S in Turbo mode. The distance to the target is 9 yards (~8.2 meters.)

The slider can be moved left and right. On the left is an image with ambient light only. The image on the right is with the flashlight activated.

Wowtac A7 Test - Control PhotoWowtac A7 Test - A1S in Turbo Mode

The next pair of images shows the A1S as compared to the Wowtac A7. The A1S is on the left while the A7 is on the right.

Wowtac A7 Test - A1S in Turbo ModeWowtac A7 Test - Turbo Mode

For another comparison, let’s take a look at the A1S and the similarly sized and spec’d Fenix PD35. The Wowtac is on the left.

Wowtac A7 Test - A1S in Turbo ModeWowtac A7 Test - Fenix PD35 Flashlight

Impact Resistance

As shown in the specifications section above, Wowtac claims the flashlight has a 1.5 meter impact resistance. Notwithstanding any problems with the reporting of 1.5 meters being out of step with the ANSI/NEMA FL1 requirements, I tested the light in a manner similar to the FL1 testing procedures.

If you imagine the flashlight as a cube with six sides, I dropped the flashlight from each of those sides onto cured concrete from a height of 1.5 meters.

After the testing, the light seemed to work normally and had no obvious cracks or other damage that would allow for water intrusion.

Note: As the light failed to function at a later time, I wonder if the problems stemmed from the impact resistance testing phase of this review.

Water Resistance

Wowtac states the A1S is IPX7 rated. This means the flashlight is able to survive complete immersion in water to a depth of 1 meter for no less than 30 minutes.

To test this, I suspended it with paracord at 1 meter in my pool. After 30 minutes, the light had no obvious water intrusion and appeared to work fine.

Carry & Use

The Wowtac A1S is about the same length as my SureFire G2X and Streamlight ProTac HL flashlights. I use both of those lights regularly for carrying after dark. The A1S is a little thinner than both of those, so it has a relatively good size for pocket carry.

Wowtac A1S beam shot

Even so, you will not want to slip the A1S into a fitted pair of slacks. It works much better in a comfortable pair of jeans or in the cargo pocket of your shorts or pants.

The tail cap switch was a little stiff during use, but it never prevented me from activating the flashlight when I wanted it in constant-on mode.

I was not enamored with the side switch for mode selection. The button had a cheap feel to it – like it could fail easily. Further, it stuck up from the body significantly. I found that my hand would sometimes cover it and depress it. Randomly timed changes in the output mode is a problem for me.

For momentary activation of the light – such as when one is clearing a room or building – the Wowtac tail switch was adequate but not very good. I much prefer the tail switches found on lights like the SureFire G2X, Fenix PD35, Olight M2T Warrior and Streamlight ProTac HL.

With infrequent use for about two months, the flashlight failed.

It seemed to work fine one day, but then it was a complete failure the next day. It could occasionally get a flicker of light from it, but it would never click on or reliably activate in momentary mode. I tried different 18650 battery packs (including another Wowtac) and other tail cap switches. Nothing seemed to work.

This was with infrequent use. If I used the light more regularly, I wonder how soon it would have ceased functioning.

Final Thoughts

As the light stopped working during normal use, I cannot recommend this flashlight for any use.

Even if the light continued to work, I would have a hard time recommending it for tactical use. The mode switch on the head of the unit is exposed and allowed for accidental activation during regular use. Having the modes change accidentally is not compatible with use in a potential lethal force encounter. Also, the stiff tail switch made the momentary-on function more difficult than it needs to be.

If the flashlight had not died, would it be a good hobbyist or general-purpose flashlight? Yes. If you like a lot of light for cheap, this could be a decent option if it worked.

Based on my testing of this light and the Wowtac A7, I am hesitant to recommend the Wowtac brand for any purpose. There are other lights on the market that, in my opinion, perform much better and without the durability or heat generation issues I have encountered with Wowtac lights.

The Fenix PD35 is extremely similar in appearance and operation to the A1S. However, I’ve had a much better experience with that flashlight.

Wowtac A1S Comparison to Fenix PD35

Likewise, the Olight S30R Baton III proved to be a good performer in a slightly smaller package. There are also a range of good choices from SureFire and Streamlight.

The downside to the alternatives is that they are all more expensive than the Wowtac A1S. The upside is that all of mine are still working.

Recommendations

Even though my Wowtac A1S failed during the review process doesn’t mean you will have the same results. So, if you wish to purchase one, you can do so through my affiliate link to Amazon here.

Alternatively, there are several other flashlights you might want to purchase instead. These are similar lights that operate on rechargeable 18650 batteries:

Please consider using one of these links when you would like to purchase something from Amazon. I earn a small commission on them and that provides the means for me to continue to do these kinds of honest reviews.

Disclosure

All of my reviews include a full disclosure of all potential biases that may influence my reporting.

The flashlight used in this review was purchased by me through Amazon.com. I paid the full price and did not receive any discount or repayment for its purchase. (Note: Wowtac is known to offer reimbursements for flashlights purchased to review. I have received no money or other consideration from them.)

Wowtac A1S Flashlight Order

I decided to review this light at the suggestion of a reader. Wowtac did not ask for me to review this flashlight, and my only contact with the company has been through its customer service department when I requested additional information on the A1S specifications.

Wowtac is not a sponsor or advertiser. I have no business interest in Wowtac or any other flashlight manufacturer.

GunsHolstersAndGear.com is a for-profit business. I started the company and it is independent of the conglomerates that currently own most of the major firearms sites out there. My opinions are my own.

I earn money through the use of affiliate links. These links go to companies like Amazon and Palmetto State Armory. Should you decide to purchase something from one of those companies, I make a small commission.

The links do not change your purchase price. I do not get to see what any individual purchases.

If you have any questions about my review feel free to leave a comment below. I’d also appreciate you sharing your experiences with the Wowtac (if you own one) or other flashlights. Everyone benefits when we share information.

Categories
Flashlights

Fenix LD15R Review – Handy Flashlight for Utility Use

Fenix LD15R Review

Tactical flashlights may be the sexy torches on the market, but most shooters need good non-tactical flashlights for work, camping, hunting and every day life. For this reason, I’ve expanded my flashlight testing to include more “workhorse” style flashlights.

In this Fenix LD15R review, I evaluate a tiny flashlight that I found to be incredibly useful in daily life.  It is reasonably priced and performed admirably through more than 16 months of use.

I put the light through all of the same tests that I do for a tactical light. However, I view it as a general purpose flashlight – not as a tool on which your life might depend. Even so, the LD15R made a solid backup to my tactical lights.

So, let’s get right into my LD15R review.

Quick Overview

For an EDC work light, the LD15R is an amazing flashlight. It proved itself time after time in more than 16 months of use. I highly recommend them.

The flashlight can be purchased through my affiliate link to Amazon here.

Categories
Flashlights

Wowtac A4 V2 Review – Bright Light at a Price

Wowtac A4 V2 Review

If you’re looking for a handheld light that can throw a blistering amount of light, welcome to my Wowtac A4 V2 review.

Many people are looking for the brightest, longest throwing tactical flashlight they can find. With the Wowtac A4 V2 selling for about $50, it gets a lot of interest. Considering many quality flashlights sell for $75 or more, the price point is very attractive.

But is it really a tactical flashlight? Or is it simply a bright flashlight that’s fun to play with?

In this review, I answer those questions and take a critical look at the specification claims made by Wowtac about this flashlight. Some of the results may surprise you.

Let’s dive in.

Quick Overview

While not suitable for true tactical use, the Wowtac A4 V2 is a bright flashlight that is better suited for non-emergency outdoor use. Hobbyists looking for a bright flashlight may also like this light.

The flashlight can be purchased through my affiliate link to Amazon here.

Wowtac A4 V2

At its core, the A4 V2 is a handheld flashlight that can throw an amazing amount of light: a peak of 1,895 lumens and 80,000 candelas according to the manufacturer.

The light is slightly longer than the width of your hand. It is thicker than the average tactical light but thinner than an old-school D-cell Maglite. The additional thickness of the light is due to the use of a rechargeable 26650 battery.

Wowtac A4 V2 26650 battery

Wowtac appears to sell the majority of its flashlights through Amazon. This makes sense, and there is a robust market of inexpensive flashlights from China competing in the Amazon marketplace.

Brands like Olight, Fenix, Wowtac, Anker, Ultrafire and others are all competing for your business. Many of the brands position their lights as being suitable for tactical use.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that many brands compete on brightness specifications and price instead of building rugged products with intuitive interfaces that are truly designed for tactical purposes.

What's Included with the Wowtac A4 V2

I’ve previously reviewed the Wowtac A1S and Wowtac A7 flashlights. While positioned as tactical lights, I found neither to be suited for actual hard use.

As the A4 V2 is identified as a “Handheld Tactical Flashlight” on its sales page, I tested it with that standard in mind. Someone needing a tactical flashlight will, after all, have different requirements than a hobbyist would.

Controls & Output Modes

The Wowtac A4 V2 has six output modes. Five of these modes are constant on modes with output ranging from 0.5 lumens (Firefly Mode) to 1,895 lumens (Turbo Mode.) The sixth mode is a strobe mode.

All of the modes are controlled by a single push-button switch on the side of the flashlight. The switch does not have a momentary-on function – only full-click on or off.

Wowtac Control Switch

The switch interface is somewhat complicated and not intuitive. A single click turns the flashlight on in one of three modes: Low, Medium or High. It turns on in the last mode it had been in when it was turned off. A long press turns the light on into the Firefly mode. A double click turns the light on to the Turbo mode while a second double click switches mode to strobe.

Predictably, the switch is not compatible with tactical use.

Here are some of the faults that I found with the switch:

  • size: The button is tiny – only about 1/4″ wide. Additionally, it is nearly flush with the body. It’s difficult to find with a bare thumb and was impossible when wearing my Mechanix M-Pact gloves. This alone makes it useless as a tactical flashlight.
  • lack of momentary-on functionality – There are a wide range of uses for a momentary-on capable switch. As a regular patrol cop, I would frequently use this function while searching for suspects and clearing buildings. When you add the complexity of the switch (further described below), a momentary-on function becomes even more important.
  • complexity: In the stress of a deadly force encounter, cognitive thinking can be impaired. Your brain may already be overloaded with analyzing the situation. Trying to recall single click, double click, quad click or a single long-click to get the mode you want is ludicrous in a tactical flashlight.
  • unreliable – Without stress, I still found the switch to be temperamental. I would double-click the button and sometimes get the Turbo mode. Other times it would go straight to the Strobe mode. Other times it would turn on and then off again. Perhaps my timing was a bit off, but that would still show it as being unsuitable for tactical use.

Battery & Charging

A single 26650 battery powers the Wowtac A4 V2 flashlight. The company includes a battery with the light.

Wowtac 26650 Battery

The included Li-ion battery is rated as 3.7 v and 5,000 mAh. Although there is no indication on the battery that it has any built-in protection circuit, a Wowtac representative stated: “All the batteries have protection circuits.” No such indication is printed on the battery or in the flashlight manual.

A word of caution: the Wowtac battery measures about 7 cm (~2.75″) in length. This makes it between 1-4mm longer than other 26650 batteries I checked. If you have another brand 26650 battery on hand, it may not work in this flashlight.

Charging is made with the battery installed in the flashlight. On one side of the body, almost directly opposite of the switch, is a micro-USB charging port.

As I stated in my Wowtac A7 review, the rubber flap that covers the micro-USB port seems flimsy. This A4 V2 flashlight did not come with a spare port flap whereas the previously reviewed A7 did come with a replacement.

Charging Port on Wowtac A4 V2

Wowtac claims an IPX8 submersion rating (see water testing below), but you need to make sure that flap is securely positioned otherwise water will go straight into your electronics.

One problem with the port placement is that it can easily be confused for the on-off switch if you are trying to find it in low light or without looking.

Unlike some of the company’s other flashlights, the A4 V2 will charge when turned off. Simply plug into the micro-USB port and it will begin charging. Other models of Wowtac flashlights require the light to be in an “on” position to charge.

MicroUSB Rechargeable Flashlight Wowtac

When the light is charging normally, the clicky switch glows red. When the battery is fully charged, the light turns blue. If there is a problem during charging, both the red and blue lights come on to give a purplish glow.

Questionable Specifications

One of the problems I’ve encountered with Wowtac previously is in the trustworthiness of the reported specifications. Frankly, I have reason to doubt them.

In the Wowtac A4 V2 User Manual, the company has a chart of specifications. These specs list, among other things, output from the different lighting modes, impact resistance and other features a user may be interested in.

Wowtac A4 V2 Specifications

At the top of the chart, the company prints: ANSI/NEMA FL1 Parameters.

The ANSI/NEMA FL1 specification is a voluntary system of testing and reporting on flashlight performance. When it was introduced in 2009, the FL1 standard was published jointly by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA.) Since then, NEMA has been replaced by the Portable Lights American Trade Organization (PLATO).

Since PLATO has been involved, there have been two major updates to the FL1 standard: the first in 2016 and the second in 2019.

A company claiming adherence to the ANSI/NEMA FL1 standard is following a defunct set of testing and reporting procedures – a set that is two generations old.

It is unclear why Wowtac chooses to use a set of standards that are substantially out of date.

However, the company still fails to follow the ANSI/NEMA FL1 standard for reporting.

If you look at how the company reports the impact resistance of this flashlight, you will see the specification as 1.5 meters. The ANSI/NEMA FL1 standard requires that all reporting of impact resistance be rounded down to the nearest whole number. That means any drop resistance rating of 1.0 to 1.99 meters would be reported as 1 meter if the company actually adhered to theFL1 standard.

When I asked a company representative about this, I received this reply:

Yes our light has been tested according to the FL1 (2009) standards ANSI/NEMA FL 1 Parameters to make sure its’ performance. As the standards states that for ratings over 1 meter, each sample light is dropped six times with different faces towards the ground. While the result we tested for the flashlight finally is around 1.5 meters. it’s not accurate to put on 1 or 2 meters. So we just write the most accurate number in case mislead our customers. (emphasis added)

I would like to note that not only does the representative confirm that the reporting of 1.5 meters was intentional, but she also appears to indicate that the specification is an approximation of “around 1.5 meters.”

Additionally, the company lists the same beam distance (meters) and peak beam intensity (candelas) for the highest output mode as it does for the lowest output mode. This is obviously incorrect.

Since it appears to me that the company is not following the ANSI/NEMA FL1 standard for reporting specifications, I have no confidence that they are following the testing procedures either.

Note: I’m not singling out Wowtac for questionable specifications. I’ve encountered similar issues with other manufacturers. For example you can read my Anker LC90 flashlight review and see where the company labeled its specs as “FL1 Standard” but admitted the flashlights were not tested to the FL1 standard when I questioned them about it.

Testing

Flashlight Battery and Endcap

The cornerstone of my flashlight reviews is the testing procedures I use.

I do not test to the FL1 standard. My tests are inspired by real-world use and resemble some of the FL1 tests. I leave it up to the reader to decide if a manufacturer has been honest in its representation of a flashlight’s performance. However, I do share my thoughts as well.

For more information on my testing and to see a comparison table of the various lights I have tested, check out my tactical flashlight reviews page.

Output Over Time

Without any doubt in my mind, the amount of light a flashlight puts out over time is the most gamed specification in the industry. The way the numbers are reported – including those following the FL1 standard – is misleading.

Regular readers of my flashlight reviews understand what the output and runtime specifications on flashlight packaging mean. For new readers, let me recap.

Flashlight Output

The output specification is the total amount of light emitted by a flashlight after being turned on with a fresh set of batteries. This is unfocused light and is the measurement for that one moment in time. It is measured in lumens.

The runtime specification is the total time it takes for a flashlight to drain to a point where the light output is no longer useable. Under the FL1 specification, that figure is 10% of the initial output.

In other words, the runtime spec on a flashlight package is not likely a measurement of how long the flashlight emits the output specification.

Even with the FL1 spec, these numbers can be gamed. For example, a manufacturer could design a system that put out 1,000 lumens for the first 2 minutes then drop to 101 lumens for the next 2 hours and 58 minutes. The accepted way of reporting that information would be 1,000 lumens output and a 3 hour runtime.

Sadly, the reporting suggests that it will emit 1,000 lumens for 3 hours when that’s not the case. Not by a long shot.

In my testing, I measure the runtime in an integrating sphere. This tool allows me to collect the total amount of light emitted and show what that figure is over the entire runtime. I report this information in graphs so you can quickly see what the output over time looks like.

Turbo Mode

For the Wowtac A4 V2, I intended to make two runtime graphs. I wound up encountering a problem and made three.

The first graph shows you the output for the Turbo mode. According to the company, the Turbo mode emits 1,895 lumens for only 3 minutes before dropping to “about 700 lumens.” That’s about 37% of the original output.

Here is what I measured:

Wowtac A4 V2 Turbo Output with Step Down graph

 

According to my measurements, the output immediately began dropping and hit 68% of the initial output just ahead of the 3-minute mark. At the 3 minute mark, output dropped to 45%. With two additional step downs, the flashlight settled in at 34% until it hit about 2 hours and 4 minutes.

At this point, the light began a decline to 18% of the initial output at the 2 hour 16 minute mark. At that point, the light simply shut off.

To the company’s credit, Wowtac does indicate in the User Manual a runtime of “3 mins + 148 mins” for the Turbo mode. This suggests 3 minutes of full output mode and 148 minutes of run at the much lower level. Although that comes up 15 minutes short compared to my measurements, the runtime is close enough for me to believe it was accurately reported.

However, to my way of thinking, the company should list the run time as 3 minutes only as the designed drop in output brings the output well below 50% at that point.

Constant Turbo Mode

You can kick the flashlight back into the higher output by turning it off and back on again (assuming the double click doesn’t move you into the strobe mode, etc.)

Doing this, I recorded the following output:

Wowtac A4 V2 Turbo Output without Step Down

The runtime in “constant” Turbo Mode was actually impressive. The light ran at more than 50% of the initial output for about 50 minutes.

If you assume the company’s 1,895 lumens specification is accurate, that means the light throws about 1,000 lumens for nearly an hour. In a handheld light, that’s impressive.

However…

I don’t think the light was putting out anywhere close to 1,895 lumens during any part of the second run.

Let me explain.

The integrating sphere I use is not calibrated to provide absolute light output measurements (lumens.) I can measure output over time relative to the initial output, but I cannot measure how many lumens the light emits.

My light meter measures lux off-axis to the flashlight beam inside the sphere. I can compare lux readings between two lights measured in this sphere and give a relative comparison between the two – such as flashlight A emitted 50% more light than flashlight B. I cannot say if flashlight A produced the total light output (lumens) that the manufacturer claims.

When I ran the first Wowtac A4 V2 Turbo Mode (with step down) test, the maximum lux I measured was 178,300 lux. This was in line with other flashlights I’ve measured with similar output ratings.

If you sort the testing results table on my flashlight review page, you can see that 1,000 – 1,100 lumens flashlights from Streamlight and Olight measured between 110,200 and 121,500 lux.  So, I would expect the measured lux to be much higher with the 1,895 lumens claimed by Wowtac in the A4 V2. And I got it…in the first run.

Yet, on my second Turbo run (without a step down) I measured a peak lux of only 91,000 lux. That puts it right at the same measurement I managed with the Wowtac A7 in Turbo Mode. The A7 is rated at 1,047 lumens in Turbo Mode. Compare that to the A4 V2 which is rated for 1,058 lumens in High Mode.

In other words, it looks like after the first Turbo run (with the step down,) the flashlight never exceeded the High Mode output.

Third Time’s the Charm?

Seeing the obvious problem, I ran the test a third time. When I ran this test, several days had elapsed between the two prior runs and this one.

This time I got the following results:

Wowtac A4 V2 Turbo Output without Step Down Run 2

 

This time, the peak output measured 176,800 lux. This is very close to the initial 178,300 lux reading I measured on the first Turbo Mode test.

As the graph shows, output dropped very quickly each time the flashlight was reset back to the Turbo Mode. The runtime to 10% of the initial output was 52 minutes.

I do not understand why the first constant run in Turbo Mode shows significantly less output than the second one. I can only speculate that some internal issue caused the light to go to the High Mode for the duration of the test instead of the Turbo Mode.

Measured Candelas

Peak beam intensity is a measurement of how bright the center spot of the flashlight beam is. It is measured in candelas. A high number of candelas for a given total light output (lumens) suggests a tight spot-type beam. Peak beam intensity is directly related to the maximum beam distance.

My measurements in each of the five constant modes are as follows:

 

Firefly

Low

Medium

High

Turbo

Manufacturer Specs
peak beam intensity (candela)

80,000

80,000

80,000

80,000

80,000

beam distance

565 m

565 m

565 m

565 m

565 m

Measured
peak beam intensity (candela)

38

1,068

12,412

60,387

121,000

beam distance

12 m

65 m

223 m

492 m

696 m

Heat Generation

High output flashlights tend to produce a lot of heat.

If a light emits enough heat, it can literally burn your hand. Even with gloves, some lights are too hot to hold for more than a few minutes.

I typically use a datalogging thermometer with pipe clamps to measure surface temperatures. Due to the diameter of the A4 V2, I was not able to get a good fit of the pipe clamps to the flashlight body to provide a temperature over time graph.

I did take several measurements with a laser-type thermometer. I’ve found that this provides lower readings than other thermometers, but it will give you a general idea of the surface temperatures.

In the turbo mode, the highest reading I took was 128.9Ëš F. This was with the step down in light output at 3 minutes.

When I kept the light in constant turbo mode, the surface temperature hit 184.7ËšF within 10 minutes.

If you have any intention of using this light for more than 1-2 minutes in Turbo mode, at the very least, you need gloves. Anything beyond that, you need oven mitts.

For the amount of light Wowtac claims the A4 V2 throws, this could be an acceptable trade-off in a non-tactical situation.

However, in a self-defense situation, you may need to have the light in a constant on mode for 10 minutes, 20 minutes or even longer while you wait for assistance to arrive. I’ve held someone at gunpoint for an extended period of time and if my light put out this much heat, there would have been a serious problem.

The best balance of light output and heat generation would likely be in the Medium Mode. But for those 208 lumens (rated) and 12k candelas (measured), why buy this light? You can get any number of CR123A or 18650 powered flashlights that do that (and more) with similar heat output.

Whatever you choose, just be aware that this light can put out enough heat that I believe it could cause painful burns.

Visual Comparison

All the graphs in the world won’t make an impression quite like a photograph. Yet photos can be manipulated to make a flashlight look brighter or dimmer.

The following are comparison photos that show the existing lighting conditions, the beam of the Wowtac A4 V2 and a comparison shot of the SureFire G2x Tactical taken with the same camera settings.

Drag the handle left and right to see the ambient lighting conditions and what the Wowtac flashlight could do.

At 21.5 Yards

Night Testing 21 Yards ControlNight Testing 21 Yards Wowtac A4 V2

In these images, the SureFire G2X is the left photo while the Wowtac is the brighter right image.

Night Testing 21 Yards SureFire G2XNight Testing 21 Yards Wowtac A4 V2

You can see that the SureFire has a more even light throw that does a good job of illuminating the tree line. However, the A4 V2 has a much tighter and brighter spot-type beam. This allows you to put a lot of light in a concentrated area on the trees.

At 101 Yards

At relatively close distances, the Wowtac A4 V2 can be impressive. I think the light really shines at longer distances.

In the below photos, you can see the ambient light conditions at nighttime and compare it to how much light the Wowtac throws.

Night Testing 101 Yards ControlNight Testing 101 Yards Wowtac A4 V2 Review

I compare the SureFire and Wowtac in the following photos. The SureFire beam is wide and doesn’t have the same reach the Wowtac does.

Night Testing 101 Yards SureFire G2XNight Testing 101 Yards Wowtac A4 V2 Review

Brighter doesn’t mean better, but it can be impressive.

Drop Test

Impact resistance testing is conducted by dropping the flashlight onto cured concrete from the height specified by the manufacturer. In this case, the drop was made at a height of 1.5 meters as that is what Wowtac states the A4 V2 can withstand.

In the test, the flashlight is dropped six times – once from each “side” of the light. Think of the light as a cube and the flashlight is dropped one time for each one of those sides.

Here is a video of the testing:

The Wowtac A4 V2 appeared to handle each drop without any issues. The light continued to function normally after each drop. (Continue reading for a battery problem I discovered later.)

While there was superficial damage to the surface and finish of the flashlight, there was not any structural damage that I could find.

Drop Test Damage

At the top of the 26650 battery, I spotted some superficial damage – a very light abrasion – on the side near the positive end. However, it was not deep. The battery appeared to be completely safe to operate.

However, I continued to operate the flashlight normally for several days. When I pulled the battery out for some additional photography, I discovered a split in the battery’s overwrap.

Wowtac A4 V2 Battery Damage

I do not know if the battery swelled during use causing the split, or if the heat the flashlight generates created the issue.

I am concerned about the safety of the battery and have reached out to Wowtac for an explanation. I’ll update the article when I know more.

Water Resistance

Wowtac claims an IPX8 rating for water resistance. An IPX8 rating means the light has not been tested for dust intrusion and has the ability to be immersed to a depth of 1 meter or more for a time of 30 minutes or more, excepting that a water immersion of 1 meter for 30 minutes earns an IPX7 rating.

Wowtac states that the light is submersible to a depth of 2 meters but does not list a duration. I dropped the light into my pool (approximately 1.5 meters) for 30 minutes. After removal from the pool, the light worked as expected.

Caution: Make sure the tiny flap covering the MicroUSB charging port is properly sealed to ensure water resistance. For deliberate testing like this, there should not be any problem. If you are hiking and accidentally dislodge the flap prior to dropping it into a stream, you might have problems.

Final Thoughts

The Wowtac A4 V2 was a mixed bag that offered some great features but failed to live up to my expectations.

Review of the A4 V2 Flashlight from Wowtac

During this Wowtax A4 V2 review, I determined that it is not a flashlight I would recommend for tactical use. Yes, it is extremely bright, but that is not the sole measurement for determining what makes a good tactical flashlight.

The switch is too small and isn’t reliable. Further, there is no momentary on option. Also, the heat generation prevents it from being used for more than a few minutes.

Instead, the Wowtac A4 V2 is a great hobby flashlight. For flashlight nerds, this a fun light. It throws an incredible amount of light in Turbo mode.

The flashlight is small enough to fit into a cargo pocket if you are a hiker or outdoors enthusiast. It is far too large for normal pocket carry or EDC.

With the storage capacity of the battery, Wowtac claims 12 hours of runtime in the Medium output mode. Even if you only get half of that, that’s 6 hours of useable light. That will help you get down a trail during an all-night hike.

As always, I am concerned with the specifications presented by Wowtac in its literature. Take them with a grain of salt. My understanding of the FL 1 specification and my testing lead me to question their veracity.

It’s a fun light to play with – and in that context, it is a good flashlight.

Where to Buy a Wowtac A4 V2

Interested in this Wowtac flashlight? Although the company has its own website, it sells the flashlights through Amazon. You can use my affiliate link here to pick one up.

Disclosure

All reviews on GunsHolstersAndGear (GHG) include a disclosure of any potential biases that may influence my writing. I encourage all reviewers – no matter who they are writing for – to do the same.

The flashlight tested in this article was provided to me for free by Wowtac specifically for review. No promises of a positive reviewer were made or requested. Based on my prior reviews of Wowtac products, I am surprised they continue to send me products to test.

Wowtac is not an advertiser or sponsor of this site. Wowtac did not pay any money for me to write this review.

I do not have any financial interest in any flashlight company. My only concern is to provide you with reliable information so you can make informed decisions on what to buy (or avoid.)

GHG is a for-profit website. All of the content is free – I do not charge you a dime.

I earn money through the use of affiliate links. These links go to companies like Amazon and Palmetto State Armory. Should you decide to purchase something from one of those companies, I make a small commission.

The links do not change your purchase price. I do not get to see what any individual purchases.

Questions about anything? Please ask in the comments section below. If you have experience with this light, please share it with other readers.

I just ask that you keep things civil and free of profanity. I want this to be a family-friendly site.

Categories
Handguns

Stoeger STR-9 Compact

Stoeger STR-9 Compact

Stoeger Industries announced the further expansion of its compact 9mm pistol line. The new Stoeger STR-9 Compact is a variation of the original STR-9 pistol that rolled out at the 2019 SHOT Show. It follows the introduction of the optics ready model announced in January at the 2020 SHOT Show.

The new Compact model has a 3.8″ barrel and shorter grip frame. Standard magazines hold 13+1 rounds. If you are stuck in a reduced-liberty state, 10 round magazines are available.

As with the full-size pistols, the STR-9 Compact is a striker-fired handgun with a polymer frame. It weighs in at 24 ounces (unloaded.)

Stoeger uses a safety that is built into the center of the trigger. This trigger safety, popularized by Glock, helps to prevent accidental discharges. It is naturally disengaged when a shooter presses the trigger.

In addition to helping keep both cost and weight low, the polymer frame allows for the use of interchangeable backstraps. While often found on more expensive guns, Stoeger includes the feature on this pistol to improve the ability of the owner to fit the gun to his or her hand.

Drift adjustable, 3-dot sights are standard. However, the company offers tritium night sights as a factory option.

Additional features of the new Stoeger STR-9 Compact include:

  • reversible magazine release for left-handed shooters
  • low bore axis for improved control over muzzle rise during recoil
  • aggressive texturing on the front and rear of the grip
  • accessory rail for the addition of a white light or laser module
  • black nitride finish

As with the other guns in the STR-9 line, the Compact model has an affordable price tag. The suggested retail price is $329 for the standard model. If you wish to step up to the night sights, the price increases to $449. Keep in mind that these are suggested retail prices. Your dealer sets the actual price, which may be even lower.

Stoeger backs the STR-9 Compact with a 5 year warranty.

Categories
Handguns

FN 503: The Slim New 9mm Pistol

FN 503 Review

Concealable pistols continue to drive much of the firearms market, and the new FN 503 is an example of that trend.

FN America just announced the new 9mm handgun that will be direct competition for other single-stack, subcompact pistols like the Glock 43, Smith & Wesson Shield, Walther PPS M2 and the Springfield Armory XD-S Mod.2.

But, how does it compare? Will it build enough of a following to be a viable product long-term?

Let’s take a look at the pistol and what it may offer you.

FN 503 Features

Put simply, the FN503 is a striker-fired subcompact 9mm pistol that was designed for concealed carry.

FN states it took design cues from the FN 509 pistol, which was its entry in the US military’s handgun replacement program. But this gun is clearly built for concealment.

The company claims that the feel of the striker-fired system is “arguably the best in its class” with a crisp trigger break at an average of 5 pounds.

As with other striker-fired handguns, the FN 503 trigger has a safety built into the face of the trigger. Unlike many similar pistols, FN uses an all-metal trigger.

FN503 9mm Handgun

The gun is relatively small. It has a 3.1″ barrel with a maximum width of 1.1″. However, FN built the gun with large controls to make it easy to run – even under stress.

On top, the company uses metal 3-dot sights. They are dovetailed into the slide with a cut that matches that of the FN 509 pistol. That means the sights are large enough to be useable and can be replaced with fiber optics or night sights if you prefer.

FN developed a new grip texture that it likens to skateboard tape. That should provide adequate traction for controlling the pistol when shooting – even when your palms are sweaty.

Specifications

caliber9mm
magazine capacity6 rounds (flush fitting), 8 rounds (extended)
barrel length3.1"
weight21 oz unloaded
sights3-dot
finishmatte black
MSRP$549

How Does it Compare?

With a variety of other pistols on the market in this niche, is there a compelling reason to purchase it instead of the competition?

Until I’ve had this gun on the range for a full testing and review, I can’t say for sure. However, here is how the gun’s numbers stack up against the competition:

FN 503

Glock 43

Kahr CM9

S&W Shield

SA XD-S M.2

Walther PPS M2

caliber

9mm

9mm

9mm

9mm

9mm

9mm

capacity (flush fitting magazine)

6+1

6+1

6+1

7+1

7+1

6+1

barrel length

3.1"

3.4"

3.0"

3.1"

3.3"

3.2"

weight (unloaded)

21.0 oz

18.0 oz

15.9 oz

19.0 oz

21.5 oz

19.4 oz

width (thickest portion)

1.1"

1.1"

not given

1.0"

1.0"

1.0"

MSRP

$549

$589

$460

$374

$586

$449

Note: All measurements rounded to the nearest tenth.

You should not buy a defensive firearm solely on specifications. However, specs can help you narrow down your choices. All of the guns in the table above – save the new FN 503 – are currently in my possession. The Walther is my favorite with the Shield and G43 being close runner ups. It will be interesting to see how the new FN pistol will compare once I have one in hand.

Final Thoughts

FN 503 9mm Pistol

While the gun might be a little late to the party, it has the styling and features to put it on par with its contemporaries.

Assuming the gun is reliable, I think it will carve out a place for itself with many gun owners. How large of a market share it can pull remains to be seen.

Market share is important as it will be a key factor for obtaining third party support such as FN 503 holsters.