We often write product reviews and comparisons that have clear winners and clear losers. However, certain comparisons don’t elicit a winner and a loser, but rather two variants of the same fantastic theme. When it comes to weapon lights, Surefire is among the most noteworthy manufacturers.
For years they have provided high-quality tactical lights with unrivaled performance. While choosing a Surefire is a great choice, it can be difficult to decide between each model. Two models, in particular, the Surefire X300 and the Surefire X300U-A, the latter getting a lot of attention recently.
Here’s what you need to know when looking for a SureFire weapon light.
Side by Side Comparison
|Surefire X300 Ultra||SureFire X300U-A Ultra|
|Bezel Diameter||1.13 Inches||1.125 Inches|
|Length||3.6 Inches||3.6 Inches|
|Weight w/Batteries||4.0 Ounces||4.0 Ounces|
|Batteries||Two 123A Batteries||Two 123A Batteries|
|Output White||500 Lumens||1,000 Lumens|
|Runtime White||1.5 Hours*||1.25 Hours*|
|Ambidextrous Momentary- and Constant-on Switching||Yes||Yes|
|Rail Compatibility||Both Universal and Picatinny Accessory Rails||Both Universal and Picatinny Accessory Rails|
|Weather Proofing||Weatherproof o-ring seal||IPX7 Waterproof to 1 Meter for 30 Minutes|
There is a lot to like about the Surefire X300 weapon light. First, all Surefire models are made with almost entirely American-made components. Thus, the quality is consistently high. Yet, this is an impressive light regardless of origin. The lense is the true highlight of this model. This light uses a precision TIR lens that allows for an extremely useful beam.
Generally, a light requires you to choose between flood light and a focused beam. However, the majority of situations require a blend of these two. Certainly, it is important to have a defined beam of light trained on whatever you are aiming at. Yet, a solitary focus on this disregards the importance of peripheral vision. Ideally, a proper tactical weapon light will feature a focused beam but also provide enough ancillary light to keep you aware of your surroundings. In our testing, it consistently did just that.
The focus of the light was not the only strong suit here, however. Rather, the sheer quantity of light was also noteworthy. This model can output a blinding 500 lumens of light using its US-sourced LED array. This degree of light output is important for two reasons. First, it allows you to have a confident and reliable source of illumination for positively identifying your target. But the function goes further. This light is so bright that it can also be used as a non-lethal weapon in its own regard. When used in a self-defense context, this light is powerful to blind potential assailants, potentially mitigating the need to use lethal force.
Beyond the illumination itself, the overall layout and operation of this light are admirable. I am often frustrated by tactical lights with unnecessarily complex controls. Luckily, that is not the case here. This light has an intuitive single side-mounted switch. It has a momentary mode for temporary activation, or a single flip puts it into the constant-on mode. Beyond this, this light continues to impress with its versatility. Although not included, this light supports a grip switch that allows you to toggle the light without changing your grip on your weapon. That not only improves convenience but safety as well.
Whether you are attaching this light to a pistol or a long gun, Surefire made it a simple process. Using the Rail-Lock system, this light is quick and easy to remove from any weapon whether using universal or Picatinny rails. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the build quality of this light. Having spent years testing tactical gear, I can tell you first hand that the quality can vary to a shocking degree. Thus, holding a light as high-quality as this is a refreshing experience.
The mil-spec anodized aluminum body is beautifully machined and inspires a great deal of confidence. Further, the o-rings used to seal the body of the light are over-engineered and should keep the device protected in even the harshest conditions. If this were your only option, you would nonetheless be in a great position.
However, SureFire has brought another contender to the table.
In many ways, this is a story of progression rather than improvement. The X300-U-A is a very similar light to the above-reviewed model because they are fundamentally the same housing.
However, the Surefire X300u-a weapon light has benefitted from numerous upgrades that are worth discussing. The most talked-about difference is light output. For years, the 500-lumen output of the previous model was considered an industry leader. When compared to the dim incandescent models of yesteryear, it was hard to imagine a tactical light outputting more than 500 lumens. Yet, SureFire viewed that as somewhat of a challenge. By tweaking the LED drivers and voltage regulation, SureFire boosted the light output of this model to 1,000 lumens.
For anyone who has never experienced a light this bright, that number can be hard to comprehend. Suffice it to say, this light does a standup job of turning night into day.
To some extent, it is fair to take a “more is better” approach to light output. Surely, more light will make it easier to see, right? Well, not exactly. In certain circumstances, having a 1,000-lumen output is a life-saver. For night hunting or any form of tactical outdoor work, the additional illumination is a highly welcome change. But in some cases, the light can be overwhelming. Many users have reported that for any type of close-quarters or indoor use, this model simply produced too much light. When you begin using extremely high-output lights, the risk of glare or reflections blinding the user increases. Thus, it’s easy to go from seeing everything to seeing nothing if you aren’t careful.
Many high-output lights have begun including intensity switches to allow the light to be used in multiple settings. SureFire did not, and I consider this to be a fairly significant oversight. While I appreciate the simplicity of the controls, a simple “high/low” adjustment would have drastically improved the functionality of this model. The other issue here is battery life. As previously mentioned, the improved brightness output was achieved by over-boosting the LED drivers. Yet, this light still uses the same array of C123A batteries as its lower-output ancestor. If you increase the demand for the same batteries, the results are fairly obvious.
I do not want to be too hard on the updated Surefire X300U-A weapon light. Beyond the light output, other factors have been improved as well. Perhaps the most significant is the improved water-proof rating. While the old model was fairly resistant to water, it lacked an official waterproof rating. The latest model remedied this by being IPX7 certified. Thus, this unit is guaranteed to withstand being underwater for up to a meter for 30 minutes. This is a helpful addition in countless circumstances. Overall, this is a fantastic weapon light.
- Incredibly bright
- IPX7 Certified
- Extra batteries included
No dimmer option
What to Look For in a Weapon Light
The market for weapon lights has never been broader. The days of self-assembled lights for providing minimal target illumination are over. Now, there is a veritable wealth of high-quality and versatile lights on the market.
This variety can make choosing difficult. Here’s what you need to look for.
The idea that brightness is important for a weapon light may seem obvious, but a shocking number of consumers overlook this factor. As discussed above, brighter is not necessarily better in all cases.
However, some models fail to achieve even the minimum required brightness. When it comes to a tactical weapon light, no number of features or gimmicks will save the function of a weapon light if it fails to output enough illumination.
While there is no hard and fast rule, I consider 500 lumens to be a bare minimum. Below this number, the range of a weapon light can become severely hampered. The required brightness will also depend on how you plan to use the light. If you often need a target light outside in complete darkness, then look for at least 800 lumens.
However, if you do primarily short-range or indoor work, then 500 is likely more than sufficient.
In my list of pet peeves with weapons lights, difficult to use controls is at the top. Being able to quickly illuminate your surroundings can often be a life or death requirement. Thus, being forced to fumble with overly complicated controls or extraneous features can quickly become a liability.
When it comes to light controls, simpler is almost always better. I prefer a model that has a momentary or always-on option. Further, my one concession to complexity is a brightness controller. On higher-powered lights, the ability to dim the output can greatly increase the functionality of the light.
However, this control should be separate from the on/off switch and should never hamper the use of the light itself.
In the world of tactical lights, water-resistance and waterproof ratings can be the source of a lot of confusion and misleading information. Let’s make something clear: the phrases “water-resistant” and “waterproof” don’t have specific meanings.
Any product with any form of water protection can slap these labels on a product, but that does not guarantee that the unit will perform in the conditions you demand.
However, many standards organizations certify the ruggedness of products. The most respected of these ratings is the “IP” system, or ingress protection rating. For a product to be IP rated, it must be tested by an independent testing facility and be found to meet the specific standards at play.
For a tactical light, I recommend looking for a unit that is rated at least IPX6, meaning it can withstand heavy rain or pelting water. However, if you find yourself working in damp environments, look for IPX7, which certifies the product as capable of withstanding submersion.
The material of a weapons light can have a tremendous impact on the lifespan and usability of the light. Some tactical lights are made from steel. While strong, it is also prone to rust. Yet the bigger issue with steel is the weight. It is important to remember that this device will be strapped onto your gun. Thus, excessive weight can make aiming or maintaining a target much more challenging.
The less impact the light has on your weapon, the better. Thus, I always look for an aluminum body. Although this can increase the cost, aluminum is the ideal material for the job. It is light, strong, and corrosion-resistant. Further, aluminum is not prone to becoming brittle and breaking over time like plastic. Purchasing an aluminum-bodied weapon light is a simple case of investing upfront to prevent a headache later.
Accessories to Consider
Below are just some of the available accessories for the SureFire X300 Ultra:
Last update on 2020-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The newer SureFire weapon light, it is brighter, has an improved beam, and has a higher water resistance rating. What’s not to like, right?
There isn’t a question that the X300 Ultra is a great light, but it simply was not the do-all model I expected it to be. SureFire did not include the ability to dim the output. Further, the increased output of this model hampered battery life.
The SureFire X300U-A Ultra weapon light is an admirable example of a modern weapon light and is highly recommended.
- Special off-white high-performance LED produces 600 lumens biased in the yellowish-green spectrum optimal for human vision
- Precision TIR lens creates a smooth, tight beam with enough surround light for peripheral illumination
- Integral, ergonomic one-finger ambidextrous momentary and constant on switching. IPX7 waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes
- Instantly attaches to both Universal and Picatinny accessory rails.FITS: The new T-slot mounting system fits most railed handguns (and rail-equipped long guns) but adapter mounts are available for some non-railed handguns
- Accepts optional pressure-activated switches for precision control without altering grip on weapon
Last update on 2020-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API