Compact pistols are frequently carried for personal protection. Statistics tell us that many self-defense shootings happen in low- or no-light situations. So, it only makes sense that you would want a weapon-mounted light on your defensive pistol.
Enter the Streamlight TLR-4. In this review, I take a look a the light’s capabilities including the integral red laser that can be used for getting rounds on target.
General TLR-4 Information
The Streamlight TLR-4 is a rail-mounted white light and laser aiming device that is specifically designed for most compact and sub-compact pistols on the market.
The unit also works with most full-sized handguns, but is not meant to replace the company’s full-size TLR-2 series light/laser units.
Streamlight designed the TLR-4 to attach to pistols via the handgun’s accessory rail (both Picatinny and Glock types.) If you have a compact pistol without a rail, take a look at my TLR-6 review. That weaponlight attaches to the triggerguard of a handgun.
Mounting takes just a few minutes and requires only a coin or other simple tool to lock the light into place. While mounting and removal is easy, it would not be reasonable to expect to snap the TLR-4 into place when an armed encounter is anticipated. You definitely want the unit mounted prior to carrying. If you have mounted any of the Streamlight weapon lights, the technique for the TLR-4 is exactly the same.
How Bright the Light
A relatively bright LED light and a red laser are both built into this single unit. Originally, the TLR-4 used an emitter rated at 110 lumens. Since then, Streamlight upgraded the unit to 170 lumens of total light output.
While the weaponlight has a defined center beam, it is not a tight spot. Streamlight reports the peak beam intensity as 3,300 candelas with a distance of 115 meters.
Compared to some modern flashlights, these numbers might not sound impressive. However, the amount of light thrown is still very useable in a self-defense context.
As I stated above, the TLR-4 has a built-in red laser to assist with aiming. Streamlight also offers the TLR-4G which uses a green laser.
Red lasers work very well in low light conditions. However, in bright sunlight, a red laser can be washed out.
Green lasers are typically considered “daylight visible.” But, green lasers tend to use a lot more energy than red plus are significantly more expensive.
The light and the laser functions are controlled by a pair of switches on the back of the unit (facing the shooter). A three-way toggle switch sets the TLR-4 to the mode: white light only, laser only, or both light and laser when activated. The second switch is an ambidextrous rocker switch that allows for momentary- or constant-on activation.
|total light output||170 lumens|
|peak beam intensity||3,300 candelas|
|beam distance||115 meters|
|run time||1.5 hours|
Runtime specifications are often gamed by flashlight companies. Some companies – Streamlight and Surefire are good examples – appear to give true specs on runtime.
However, some of the popular Chinese companies lie about the output and runtime information.
Here is the output that I measured with an integrating sphere:
The industry FL-1 standard allows companies to report runtime as the total time it takes for a flashlight to go from the initial output to just 10% of output.
Some companies game the system by having an extremely bright output for two minutes and then dropping the output to a much lower level – as low as 11% – to squeeze out unrealistic runtimes.
Here we can see Streamlight reports very accurate runtime information. From the initial output, the TLR-4 maintains 90+% of its initial output for more than an hour. At about 1:15, it slopes down but holds above 20% past a total runtime of 1 hour 30 minutes.
Compared to most other lights in the industry, this is exceptionally impressive. I commend Streamlight for its very accurate reporting. I wish everyone did this.
Real World Use
For this Streamlight TLR-4 review, I attached the weapon light to a Smith & Wesson M&P9 that I recently purchased. As I was trying the gun out for concealed carry, I figured the compact TLR-4 was a good match to keep weight and bulk down.
In addition to carrying the gun with the light attached, I spent a great deal of time at the range. With any new pistol, I try to spend a lot of time getting used to the gun and confirming its reliability. Since I was shooting anyway, this proved to be the perfect opportunity to test the reliability of the TLR-4.
The unit mounted securely to the pistol’s rails and stayed snug after repeated firing. I found no problems with the durability or reliability of this unit during my extensive testing.
Since that time, I’ve also tested the TLR-4 on multiple other pistols including, but not limited to, a H&K VP9, Smith & Wesson SD40, Walther Creed, Glock 19, Springfield Armory XD Subcompact and CZ P-07.
I found the light performed very well, illuminating targets at up to 15 yards clearly. At interior room distances, the TLR-4 was more than adequate at lighting up the targets and disorienting a subject on the wrong end of the gun.
The TLR-4 is water and impact-resistant and is designed to work in temperatures from -10 F to +120 F. While I wouldn’t stick it into an oven, it certainly seemed to work fine in the hot, humid Florida atmosphere.
Initially, the laser needed slight adjusting to sight it where I wanted it. Adjustments were easy to make, using the windage and elevation screws. Once dialed in, the laser did not move or need readjustment after firing. It simply worked as you would expect it to.
There are many weapon-mounted lights available on the market. In that regard, the TLR-4 is not unique.
It lacks a little of the oomph that come with newer lights rated for 600 or more lumens. It is also a bit clunkier than some modern choices.
Nevertheless, the unit is a solid performer. It it tough, handles extended use on real-world weapons and is backed by one of the biggest names in tactical flashlights.
Like other Streamlight illumination tools, the TLR-4 comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Very few of my Streamlight products have ever had an issue – but when they have, the company always came through.
It is offered for sale for a suggested retail price of $215. The weapon light is available at much cheaper prices through online retailers. For example, Optics Planet has it listed for less than $140. At that price, the light is worth strong consideration. I’d much rather have it than one of the many Chinese brands that seem to have flooded the market.
Last Update: August 5, 2021
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