Lights and lasers have come a long way.
Just a few decades ago, it was pretty unusual to see either on a firearm. Now, many guns are available from the factory with lasers, and lights have never been more plentiful.
In today’s Streamlight TLR-2 review, I will look at a product that combines the two devices into one unit.
Before we jump in, you might ask “why should I trust your evaluation of this weaponlight?”
That’s a fair question.
First of all, I have a no-BS attitude when it comes to life-saving equipment. I have no tolerance for poorly constructed gear that is likely to fail when you need it most.
Second, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about flashlights and how they work. I’ve served as a consultant to flashlight companies, law enforcement agencies, retailers and media publications on tactical lights.
Lastly, I’m a bit of a nerd. I built my own integrating sphere and other equipment to test these lights. You get more than a “it seems bright” review from me.
Don’t have time to read the whole review? Here are the highlights:
– durable through hundreds of rounds of shooting (rifles and pistols)
– very good runtime: 70+% output for more than 2.5 hours
– lifetime warranty
– best price at Amazon through this affiliate link
The Streamlight TLR-2 is weaponlight comprised of a single unit that houses both a bright LED flashlight and a red aiming laser. It can be operated in several different modes:
- white light only,
- laser only, or
- white light and laser at the same time.
It mounts to a firearm via an accessory rail. The unit does not require any special tools or skills to install. If you can turn a thumbscrew with your hand, you can install this on your own.
Streamlight designed the TLR-2 to work with a variety of mounts. Most pistols use a Picatinny-style (1913) rail, and this light works with those. Additionally, the weaponlight will also mount to non-standard rails like those found on Glock pistols.
I tested the TLR-2 on a number of different guns and found it fit all of them. The tested guns included:
- Glock 17
- CZ P-07
- Smith & Wesson SD40
- Smith & Wesson M&P9
- Springfield Armory XD9 Duty
- HK VP9
The housing is made of 6000-series anodized aluminum and is water-resistant to IPX4 standards. This means the light is splash/weather-resistant, but it is not submersible.
A limited lifetime warranty comes with the TLR-2.
White Light Output
Streamlight introduced the TLR-2 many years ago. Since then, the company upgraded the light with a more powerful LED and more efficient circuitry.
The current TLR-2 has the following specifications:
|Total Light Output||300 lumens|
|Peak Beam Intensity||12,000 candelas|
|Beam Distance||219 meters|
In an era of flashlights that claim 1,000 lumens (and more) is this weaponlight a viable self-defense tool? Yes.
A few things about light output and manufacturer specifications…
First – some flashlight manufacturers lie. When you read the specs on an advertisement or package, take them with a grain of salt.
It’s been my experience that reputable US-based companies tend to publish trustworthy specifications. Streamlight and Surefire are two of these companies.
Other companies – especially those HQ’d in China and those that advertise heavily on social media – are looking for a quick buck and sometimes (frequently?) inflate the light output and runtime specifications.
Second – 300 lumens for total light output is objectively powerful and well-suited to self-defense and law enforcement work. Combined with other performance characteristics, such as durability and runtime, it may even be ideal.
Also, a peak beam intensity of 12,000 candelas is probably ideal for the majority of people interested in self-defense. With 300 lumens of total output, 12,000 candelas provide a reasonable amount of reach while still allowing for enough area light to illuminate a room.
Candelas vs Lumens
What are the differences between lumens and candelas? Lumens are a measurement of total light output. Candelas are a measurement of peak beam intensity.
To understand the difference between them, consider a lightbulb. It will give off a lot of light (lumens), but it is not focused in any one direction (candelas). So, for a given lumen measurement, a lower candela measurement will suggest a less focused light. A higher candela rating suggests an increasingly tighter beam.
So, if you take a look at my review of the TLR-1s HP, you will see the lumen output is lower (200,) but the candelas measurement is much higher (46,000.) Even though the total light output is lower, since the beam is more focused, the TLR-1s HP is more likely to light up a target at long ranges. But for close-in things, like room clearing, the TLR-2 is likely to light up the area better. (If I’ve confused you, drop a note in the comments and I will try to clarify.)
A pair of CR123a batteries power the unit. Running the light (with or without the laser) will get an average of 2.5 hours of run time. With the laser only, expect about 48 hours of use. Batteries are included.
Measured Runtime Performance
Using an integrating sphere, I measured the white light output of the TLR-2 over time. Here are the results of that testing:
As you can see, the light output was mostly steady at 70% for more than 2.5 hours. Then it rolled off, dropping below 10% of output after 3 hours.
This is a very good runtime – better than many that advertise for longer. Additionally, it matches the specs Streamlight publishes which builds credibility for the other specifications.
The TLR-2 utilizes a red laser aiming device that is incorporated into the bottom of the unit. When activated, it emits a laser that effectively places a red dot on the target.
Like any aiming device, you need to make sure the laser is adjusted to be “on target” at the distance you want. The laser will not be exactly aligned with the bore, and bullets will be high or low when not shot at the precise distance at which the laser is sighted in.
For the vast majority of shooters who attach the Streamlight TLR-2 to a pistol, sighting the laser in at 10-15 yards is likely ideal. Shots made at less distance than that will be off the mark, but only slightly. Just understand that you cannot make precision shots with the laser if you don’t know the distance and the bullet rise/drop.
My TLR-2 appeared to be sighted in around the 10-15 yard mark from the factory, so I did not adjust the point of aim. If yours is off when delivered, there are adjustment screws for windage or elevation on the bottom of the unit.
The brightness of the laser is always a concern; if the dot is not visible, you cannot aim with it. Red lasers are especially susceptible to being washed out in daylight.
I found that the laser in the TLR-2 was not immune from the power of the sun. In bright sunshine, the red dot was hard to find. In overcast skies and indoors, it was much easier to use. The color of the object the laser is reflecting from is also important. When pointing at a black tire, the red dot was smaller and less visible as compared to pointing it at the painted surface of a car. The more reflective the surface, the brighter the dot will appear.
Green lasers are much brighter in bright light situations. Streamlight is making the TLR-2 G with a green laser now. The green laser appears much brighter than the red but also costs you significantly more money. Green lasers also have some temperature sensitivity issues. Read my Streamlight TLR-2 G review here.
There are two switches for operating this Streamlight weapon light. The first is a three-position toggle switch that operates horizontally. This switch controls what mode the unit is in. The left position is laser only, while the center position is light only. All the way to the right is for both light and laser simultaneously.
A rocker switch operates vertically and is ambidextrous. Pushing down on one side is the same as pushing up on the other side. Pushing down on the right will activate the unit in a constant on. Pushing down on the left is a momentary-on. This is the same setup that Streamlight has used for years. It has always worked fine for me, and I’ve not heard any complaints from anyone else about it.
For my initial testing, I had this unit out on the range and attached to my Smith & Wesson SD40. The .40 S&W cartridge generates a fair amount of recoil, and I figured it would be a good starting place for reliability testing.
With almost 400 rounds through the gun, the TLR-2 held up to the shooting as I expected it would.
On future trips, I tested the Streamlight weaponlight on other pistols and rifles. This included a PSA AR-15, Glock 17, Girsan 1911, SIG P226R, Ruger American Compact, and Wilson Combat WCP320 Carry.
The TLR-2 just keeps running. I’ve had no problems from it at all.
These Streamlight weapon lights are proven technology and they know how to build good stuff.
I believe that most people can benefit from having a white light mounted on their home defense pistol. Having one mounted on a concealed carry pistol is not always feasible due to size and holster options.
Being able to identify your target is an absolute must in a self-defense situation. Perhaps the only thing worse than being shot is shooting an innocent person.
The TLR-2 serves as a great weapon light. The 300 lumens is very bright and enough for most people and most situations. The TLR-2 takes things one step farther and incorporates a red laser aiming device into the package. If you are looking to add a laser to your gun, this package would seem to be a good one to consider.
The MSRP is $492.66, which might seem a little high to some people. The good news is the unit can be had through reputable internet retailers for much less. Amazon currently has this unit for about $275, which seems to be a very fair price for a high-quality light and laser combination. (Note: If you buy the Streamlight via Amazon, I do get a small % to help keep the site running. It does not cost you any extra.)
Quick note – If you like the TLR-2, but are looking for more light, take a look at the Streamlight TLR-2 HL. This is a similar light/laser to the TLR-2 reviewed here, but with 630 lumens instead of 300. Candela still measures 12,000. They are slightly more expensive, but not much.
This Streamlight TLR-2 review is meant to be informative to you, the reader. If you have any thoughts on, questions about or experiences with the unit, please list them below. When we share our experiences and knowledge, all of us benefit.
Last Update: August 7, 2021
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