I first saw an Elzetta flashlight in person about a year ago. It was sitting on a shelf in a local store, and it had seen better days. The damage was obviously intentional – the entire flashlight was seriously scratched and dented, far more than any of the lights I’ve had for years, even after being dropped on concrete many times. I asked the store owner about it, and he told me that it was a T&E sample that had been “torture tested”. The appearance of the light was impressive, to say the least – as was its function, which was flawless. The switch even felt like it was brand new.
Still, I walked out without buying one of the new ones on the shelf. I figured that if I was going to spend $150 on a light, I might as well buy another Surefire.
Since then, though, I’ve found – perhaps I’m still coming to terms with the idea, since I’ve been loyal to Surefire (for good reason) for many years – that the Elzetta ZFL-M60 might actually be better than a comparably priced Surefire.
On what grounds do I base such a bold statement?
Well, let’s start out with the question “What do you want from your flashlight?”
My answer is that I want something that’s bright enough for certain tasks, exceptionally reliable, durable enough to take some nasty shocks without incident, and has sufficient battery life for an extended emergency. If I’m looking for a weaponlight, most of the above applies, but the “user interface” must also be simple enough that I can access the highest setting instantly – without twisting anything or pushing the switch more than once. A standardized diameter for mounting purposes almost goes without saying. The switch must be easy to activate with a thumb or finger. For a handheld light, a “low” setting is also useful, but again, priority must go to being able to access “high” first. It should fit in a pocket without too much trouble. I should be able to turn the light on and leave it on until the battery dies – it shouldn’t overheat and kill itself after 5 minutes of continuous use.
The ZFL-M60 was practically written for that criteria. With the Malkoff M60, it’s very bright, and it provides what Surefire calls “useful light” for quite a long time, after being exceptionally bright for an hour to an hour and a half. It is, in my opinion, one of – if not the – most durable handheld flashlights in existence. It fits in standard 1″ weaponlight or scope mounts.
The switch and user interface are very simple – and this particular model offers a high/low tailcap. Tighten the tailcap all the way, and you just need to push the switch (it’s a “forward clicky”, offering momentary and constant on) to get 235 lumens of light out the front. Loosen the tailcap slightly, and you’ll get about 15 lumens of light that’s more than sufficient for reading or navigating in a dark area. You can also put the tailcap halfway in between those two settings, and if you push the tailcap slightly, you’ll get 15 lumens – if you push it farther, you’ll get 235. I think this is the “best of both worlds”, and it certainly gives you the option to use the light as you personally see fit.
Because I’ve often heard that “clicky” switches aren’t as reliable as momentary on switches (and this is most likely true), I decided to rig up a device which would press the tailcap button of the Elzetta light at a constant and rapid pace. Although I can’t be exact, the switch was certainly activated over 3000 times. It showed no signs of deterioration, and still looks and feels new. The click isn’t as audibly distinct as Surefire click switches, but it is definitely distinct in a tactile sense, and it gave me the impression that it contained very high quality components.
The ZFL-M60 uses 4 o-rings – one inside the bezel that sits atop the Malkoff M60, another around the body of the M60, and one at each end of the flashlight body. There’s not much of a chance of water entering the device unless you’re going diving.
The body of the light has also been machined specifically for the Malkoff dropin. This is for heat purposes – the light will get hot, but it has yet to give me any indication that it might overheat and fail. Putting a Malkoff dropin in other flashlight bodies may not lead to an optimal combination, and I’ve roasted several expensive rechargeable batteries as a result. Speaking of rechargeable batteries, the ZFL is meant to take CR123s, but it’ll function with RCR123s of the 3.2 and 3.7v varieties. In addition, the body of the light will take 17mm batteries, enabling you to use batteries such as the 17670 3.7v rechargeable (although you might want to swap the Malkoff M60 for an M30 meant for the lower voltage). Elzetta says they didn’t want to open the body up to 18mm (inside diameter) because it would allow too much movement of the 16mm CR123s during recoil. That’s right – they specifically designed this light to be mounted on a rifle or other long gun.
In addition to providing me with the flashlight, Elzetta also sent two of their light mounts, the ZORM and the ZFH1500. For the purposes of this review, I used the ZORM, and will discuss the ZFH1500 in another review (which will also go into more detail about the ZORM).
The ZORM mounts to any standard picatinny rail and allows the light to be “offset” from the rail. Although it’s meant to drop the light down for VFG use, I found it to be very useful on the top rail of the Spike’s Tactical BAR 7.0, where space is at an extra premium due to the lack of rail space on the sides. This placed the light in an easily accessible position. Mounting is achieved by a single nut that clamps the rail in an even fashion. The nut and bolt are designed to accommodate a cotter pin – a very nice touch, which allowed me to secure the mount easily and without any doubt as to its desire to come loose.
Although “beamshots” of the M60 are easily found on the internet, I thought I’d add one more to the pile. For reference purposes, the speed limit sign is about 90 yards down the road from where I was standing. I found the beam pattern to be useful at range and up close.
For comparison purposes, here’s a Surefire G2 LED – the 80 lumen version. It’s not the most fair comparison, but it is a light that I believe many people will have used, so it is simply a point of reference.
In summary, the Elzetta ZFL-M60 is really a great light. It’s more expensive than some of its imported competition – but every single component of the ZFL-M60, right down to the raw materials, came from the United States. The build quality and finish (both in terms of appearance and durability) are second to none. It’s very, very bright, but it has a long useful battery life, too. It’s everything I could ask of a flashlight.
When I receive an item for T&E, I think to myself, “Okay, this is a good product. But would I buy another one?”
The answer: I’ve sold or traded half a dozen Surefires since acquiring this ZFL-M60, and I’ll use the proceeds to buy more Elzetta products.