Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: Ozark Trail 500 lumen flashlight, model 20047

Ozark Trail is a lower end brand marketed at Walmart.  Just because something is inexpensive does not mean that it cannot work well.   Value for the time spent is an important consideration.  Flashlight technology has advanced so rapidly with light emitting diodes (led) that inexpensive lights of today can easily outperform expensive lights of a few years ago.

I have been looking for a light that is very bright, so it could temporarily blind an assailant at  night, yet be tough enough to use as a makeshift  blunt instrument if necessary.

My brother recommended this light to me, as he had purchased one, abused it, and it was still working well after a few weeks.  I went to the local WalMart and picked one up for the sticker price of $29.97, which is a bit cheaper than I used to pay for a 4 cell Maglite.    The light is very sturdily made, and can take quite a bit of abuse.  It takes six AA type batteries, which are included in the price, a nice extra that would cost an additional $3 if bought separately. 

The light has a single switch with two settings, high and low.  The high setting, at 500 lumens, is said to last for 7.5 hours, the low setting at 100 lumens, is supposed to last 38 hours.   All of that can be read at the WalMart web site.

The switch cycles through the three modes.  Click once, high mode, click again, low mode, click a third time, off.   It is a momentary off switch, so you can flash it by holding partly down to turn it off, and letting it return up to turn on.

It is a reasonably  tough light, so it can be used as an improvised short billy if need be.   I found the diameter to be about right for a good grip.  Here is the light with batteries alongside for scale:

The light is 9.5 inches long, with the body 1.5 inches in diameter.  The end cap reduces down to 1.1 inches, and is flat, so the light can be stood upright on either end.

Note the flat reduced end and the ridges running along the length of the body.

Subjectively, the light is very bright.  If shown in an aggressors eyes at night at less than 10 feet, they will be dazzled for several seconds while their eyes adjust.  On an overcast and moonless night, I could make out individual tree trunks across a field 250 yards away.  Having once had to traverse 20 miles at low speed while using a flashlight as a makeshift vehicle headlight, this light would perform that function with authority.

There are some caveats that need to be considered.  First, WalMart is notorious for having items that are desirable, only to run out in a few days, never to stock them again.  Second, a light is of marginal use if it does not work.

My brothers light has always worked well, in spite of considerable abuse to see if it would break.  I did not have that fortunate experience.

The first light that I purchased seemed to work... I put it on the night stand and went to bed.   I woke at 0100, and decided to try the light.  Push switch.. nothing.  After a few iterations, it came on and worked fine.  I wondered if I had fumbled something so shortly after waking up.   That morning, I went hunting with my brother and some friends.  The meet up occurred well before dawn, so I took the light.   I pressed the switch.   No joy and no light.  After a few iterations, I tossed it on the car seat.    A couple of hours later, when I returned to the car,  I noticed that the light was on.

I returned to WalMart and exchanged it.  The new unit seemed to work.    A couple of days later, I stuck it in my back pocket as I went for a 4.5 mile hike to get some exercise, only an hour before dark, with the temperature about 40 degrees.    On my return an hour later,  I pulled out the light and clicked the switch... no joy, no light.   I set it down on a table and worked on more urgent matters.  A few minutes later, the light came on.   Could temperature be the problem?  I placed the light in the refrigerator and waited.

Two hours later, the light would not turn on.  I placed the light beside the wood stove.  15 minutes later, the light worked fine.  I put the light back in the refrigerator and repeated the results the next morning.   My brother put his light in the refrigerator, and never noticed any difference in performance.

Back to WalMart for the third trip and third light.  This one has had no problems.  I found that if I held the light at the head end, so that I  could trigger the switch with my trigger finger, and thrust the light hard against a heavy bag, my hand tended to slip forward.   It would be possible to cut one's hand on the raised ridges on the light's body.

To alleviate this problem, I wrapped the body with hockey stick tape at a point where the grip seemed natural and secure.  Several wrappings of tape were used to create a sloping stop that was comfortable and prevented the hand from slipping forward.   Numerous hard thrusts to a heavy bag proved this to be effective.   Several side impacts were done as well.   The light continues to function well.  I found that the middle finger worked well to control the switch with this grip.

I have always thought that a bright light at night gives an excellent option for evading an unpleasant encounter.   If the threat is more serious, the light could serve as an improvised short billy club.

Caution must be observed.  A hard and fast thrust with the reduced end cap to the solar plexus  will almost certainly result in loss of breath for many seconds, but if the solar plexus is missed, the flat and focused nature of the end cap could easily result in a cracked sternum or broken ribs.   If the body of the light were used in a side strike against the upper thigh, there is an excellent chance that the leg would be temporarily paralysed; hit a bit lower at the knee and the joint could be dislocated.   It is even possible that the patella could be fractured, resulting in long term disability.  If a side stroke were delivered to the head, it is likely that the ridges would result in superficial cuts and lots of blood, not to mention the real possibility of a concussion or worse.

I have never had a TSA agent stop me from carrying a flashlight in my carry on, though I have done so on several occasions.   I once carried a four cell Maglite into a high school graduation where firearms and knives were forbidden.   The ceremony would end about dark, and it was a bit of a walk to the parking lot.  No one complained about the light.  While this light is not a weapon, care must be used if it is forced into that role.  Some police departments have banned the use of substantial flashlights because suspects have been severely injured and even killed when such lights have been used as bludgeons.

If you decide that the trouble is worth it, and obtain one of these lights, be sure to keep the receipt and to test it rigorously for several days.  Do the refrigerator test.   If you purchase one that works, it can be a useful tool.

I like the light and intend to keep it.  It is not as heavy as the bigger Maglites, and the size and weight seem about right to me.

©2013 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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rr cuellar said...

Seems like an excellent candidate for a diy tactical mod. I bet one of those zombie squad guys could make this thing downright medeival.

Anonymous said...

POS is made in Red China. Have you no shame ?