Compact tactical flashlights are quite popular with anyone who is interested in personal protection. For the concealed carry holder, it is important to be able to identify threats in addition to the multitude of more mundane tasks for which a handheld light is good.
One of the smaller tactical lights on the market is the Streamlight ProTac 1AAA. This light fits in the palm of your hand, weighs a touch over one ounce and can still throw a respectably bright beam.
The ProTac 1AAA is one of several Streamlight products I picked up this year, and it is the first that I am putting through my improved flashlight testing process. I’m pleased to say that the light – and the testing process – both work well. Please read through the review and let me know in the comments section if you think I’ve missed anything.
The ProTac 1AAA is a small flashlight that is ready to be carried virtually anywhere. At less than 4″ long and weighing only 1.2 ounces with a lithium battery on my scale, the flashlight can clip on a pocket or be carried deep in one with equal ease.
I have medium-sized hands, and the light fits neatly into my hand. Gripping it in an icepick hold, the head of the flashlight clears my hand to provide unobstructed light while the switch remains easy to reach.
As the name suggests, the flashlight is powered by a single AAA-type battery. Streamlight designed this light to run on both alkaline and lithium batteries. While I suppose any alkaline-powered flashlight can benefit from lithium power cells, this one is clearly marketed to be optimized for them. Run times are listed for both kinds of batteries on all of the flashlight’s literature.
Streamlight rates the light at 70 lumens using either kind of battery. With the alkaline, the runtime is listed as 30 minutes. With a lithium battery, the runtime is drawn out to 2 hours and 15 minutes. Since the company specifically mentions the lithium battery, I ran tests with both lithium and alkaline. Details on those are below.
In addition to the high output mode, the light has a low and strobe mode. These modes extend the battery life and offer more flexibility in the light’s use.
Generally, I like having the low mode available. When working on something up close, 70 lumens can be a bit overwhelming. Knocking that back to 5 lumens on the low mode allows me to work on more things without draining the battery too much.
There is a bit of debate on the usefulness of the strobe mode. I would venture to say that for the average person, the strobe mode is not needed. If, however, you’ve received specialized training on low light tactics, a strobe mode can be useful.
All of the lights in the ProTac line have the Streamlight Tap-Ten programmable switch. This allows you to set up the light how you want it. If you only want high/off, no problem – you can set it up for this. If you want other options like the low and strobe modes, you can program the switch to work with those modes as well.
I’ve used other ProTac models with this style switch during high-stress incidents as a uniformed police officer. I always found the modes easy to work with, and the ProTac 1AAA seems to operate the same way. In my testing of this light, I found no problems in moving between modes or programming the switch.
The switch is in the tail cap. It is very pronounced and stands tall. It is easy to access, and I suspected it would be easy to accidentally activate. Surprisingly, this did not appear to be a problem for me. You might have a different experience.
Streamlight uses a glass lens. The body is sealed with rubber gaskets to provide waterproofing. The aluminum body is black anodized; it feels and looks good out of the package. In normal, day-to-day wear, the finish held up extremely well. Read through the impact testing to see how well it withstands repeatedly hitting concrete.
The ProTac 1AAA comes with black nylon pouch and a single AAA alkaline battery. The suggested retail price is $48, though the actual street price is generally around $30.
Here are the specifications for the original and updated 1AAA flashlights. As you can see, the two lights are identical from the size, weight and durability viewpoints:
|Original 1AAA||Updated 1AAA|
|Weight (w/ battery)||1.3 oz||1.3 oz|
|Impact Resistance||1 meter||1 meter|
|Water Resistance||IPX7 (1 meter for 30 minutes)||IPX7 (1 meter for 30 minutes)|
The following table shows the light output of the 1AAA as reported by Streamlight using both standard alkaline and lithium batteries. As you can see, there are differences between the original and updated flashlights.
|Original 1AAA||Updated 1AAA|
|Total Light Output||70 lumens||115 lumens|
|Peak Beam Intensity||550 candelas||890 candelas|
|Beam Distance||47 meters||60 meters|
|Runtime, Alkaline Battery||0.5 hours||1.75 hours|
|Runtime, Lithium Battery||2.25 hours||2.25 hours|
Improved efficiencies are to be expected when flashlights are updated. However, something that stuck out to me was the incredible jump up in runtime for alkaline batteries. Here’s how the company is able to make that claim:
Continue on to the testing section below to see how the flashlight performed in my own testing regimen.
Streamlight adheres to the voluntary ANSI/NEMA FL-1 flashlight standards. These voluntary standards require manufacturers to test and report information in a certain way so as to give consumers better comparison information when shopping.
Like any standards, unscrupulous companies can tweak lights to work within the rules to paint a picture that is not necessarily an accurate depiction of the product’s performance. Therefore, I have come up with certain testing protocols that I now use to evaluate flashlights. I believe my testing protocol can be a valuable comparison tool for consumers.
For my evaluations, I measure light output over time, heat generation, impact resistance and water resistance. Additionally, I provide you with photos of the light’s beam and spill. Let’s take these individually.
Output Over Time
Using my illuminating sphere, I can measure through the lens light output over time. The numbers are relative and are not directly comparable to the lumen and candela output ratings offered by Streamlight. The data I capture gives a good indication of the visible light output over time. More information can be had on this on my flashlight reviews page.
Since Streamlight lists run times for both alkaline and lithium batteries, I tested the ProTac 1AAA with both types as well.
The above chart shows the visible output of the flashlight through the lens over time when using a fresh Duracell Coppertop AAA battery. Data was captured at 15 second intervals.
As should be obvious, there is variation in output in the moment-to-moment data. However, the overall output through 30 minutes averaged well above 6000 lux. Output stayed at or above 50% of the initial peak measurement through the 36 minute mark. Actual performance was better than the manufacturer’s claim of 30 minutes to a 10% output.
For the second output test, I used a fresh Energizer Ultimate Lithium AAA battery. After an initial drop from the peak output, the Streamlight ProTac 1AAA maintained a relatively high output through about the 2 hour 38 minute mark. At that point, visible output dropped quickly.
The flashlight maintained at least 50% of its initial output for 2 hours and 40 minutes, which is well beyond the stated 2 hours 15 minutes of runtime to a 10% output level stated by Streamlight.
Obviously, lithium and alkaline batteries are significantly different in a number of ways. In addition to providing longer run times, lithium batteries offer excellent storage life.
The above chart shows the 50% output runtime for both kinds of batteries. While alkaline are cheaper, the lithium batteries can be a much better value. In this case, the lithium AAA battery provided more than 4x the run time, and can be stored for long periods of time without suffering significant power loss.
All lights generate heat. The more powerful the light, the more heat it will likely generate. Some flashlights do a good job of mitigating heat generation through the use of higher-efficiency parts and heat sinks. Even so, some lights can get too hot to hold.
Fortunately, the ProTac 1AAA is not a hot running light. With an alkaline battery, the flashlight peaked at 95.5° F, which was just enough to register as slightly warm in the hand.
The longer-running lithium battery did drive the temperature up, but only slightly. I measured a peak of 96.8° F, roughly 1° warmer. All temperatures were measured with an infrared thermometer.
All the charts in the world cannot replace actually seeing how the 1AAA throws light in person. While I can’t put the unit in your hands to test yourself, I can provide you with a pair of photographs to see how bright it is.
Use the slider above to move between the photos on the left and right. The photo on the left is the control with no artificial illumination, while the image on the right is of the light on the high setting with an alkaline battery. Both photos were taken with the same camera on the same settings using a tripod.
The photo comparison below is between the control photo and the light with a lithium battery. Note that the lithium battery does measure as slightly brighter on the test equipment, but does not appear very much brighter (if at all) in application. I think the lithium’s biggest benefit is the increased runtime.
By way of comparison, consider the 1AAA (with an alkaline battery) vs. Streamlight’s slightly older ProTac 1AA light below. The 1AA is on the left and the 1AAA is on the right.
The 1AA does appear brighter than the 1AAA, but still not bad for the tiny flashlight.
Streamlight states the ProTac 1AAA is impact resistant to 1 meter. The ANSI/NEMA FL-1 standards specifies how that test is to be done. For my own recreation that approximates the FL-1 testing, I dropped the ProTac 1AAA six times from a height of 1 meter onto a concrete sidewalk: four on the sides, once on the head and once on the tail/switch assembly.
To ensure the drops impact both the head and the tail, I use a length of PVC pipe. I believe that ensuring the flashlight strikes the concrete head (and tail) on negates the velocity loss of any drag that it might develop from striking the side of the pipe.
In the above video, you can see that the flashlight passed the test not just once, but twice. I’m certainly comfortable with how well it resists standard drops.
After 12 drops onto hard concrete, the flashlight had no cracks or other significant damage. The only blemishes were on the leading edge of the flashlight head, and those were minor. The finish seems to be very good, and held up better than some of the other flashlights I have tested.
For water resistance, Streamlight states the flashlight is waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes. For my testing, I attached the light to a 1 meter length of paracord and dropped it into my saltwater pool for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I pulled the light out and checked it for water intrusion.
The ProTac 1AAA passed this test with perfect marks. There was no visible penetration into any portion of the flashlight. Additionally, the light worked properly when pulled out of the pool. Checking it again several hours after the immersion showed no sign of damage or impaired function.
Since the water test, I’ve carried the flashlight for several days as my EDC light. I’ve experienced no problems with it at all.
The ProTac 1AAA is a solid flashlight for everyday use. If your intent is to carry it as a self-defense flashlight, it is both reliable and compact enough to be carried everywhere.
Larger lights can be carried with certain dress, but this light can be carried with all clothing styles and during all activities. If rule one of a gunfight is “have a gun,” rule two could be “know what you’re shooting.” This light will always be there so you can follow rule 2.
I recommend this light to anyone needing an EDC flashlight. It has a great runtime, especially with a single lithium AAA battery, and is tough enough to put up with daily use.
The suggested retail price for this flashlight is $48. However, the actual “street” pricing is generally in the neighborhood of $30. I find this to be a very reasonable price. Click here to pick one of these up on Amazon.
If the ProTac 1AAA doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty of other flashlights on the market that might. I have previously tested the ProTac 1AA and ProTac 2AAA and found them to be solid performers. For something a bit bigger and massively brighter, the ProTac HL is still one of my favorites, though it has been supplanted by the SureFire G2X. All of these lights are recommended, though each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Last Update: August 21, 2021
As with all of my articles, I want you to know of any potential biases that may have affected this review. First, you – the reader – are my customer. If I am ever on the fence about a recommendation, I err on the side of caution. I want to provide you with the best information possible to make good buying decisions.
Second, at the time of this review, Streamlight is not a sponsor or advertiser of this or any website I own. Nor am I in any discussions with them to be one.
Third, the flashlight was provided to me by Streamlight for the specific purpose of testing and writing a review. After testing this flashlight, I purchased another for my ongoing use:
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