I needed better light. When it came to a flashlight, I had two problems. My small, pocket Maglite (the 2 AAA cell incandescent version) just wasn’t cutting it when I needed a bright light. I knew from experience that a AA cell version wasn’t any better. Also, my large flashlight powered off of my 18-volt cordless drill/driver batteries, while bright, wasn’t cutting it with regards to portability and carryability. The 18V powered light was great at home but too bulky at camp or hiking.
I needed a new flashlight, and I wanted the best of both words. I wanted one that had the carryability of the Maglite and the brightness of the 18V lantern. And I didn’t want to spend a fortune, either. Researching, it seemed that the LED “tactical” flashlights had reached the capabilities and price needed. So after reading many Amazon reviews, I decided on the Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight (2015 Version). You can buy the Nitecore P12 flashlight on Amazon here.
Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight: The Details
Watch the unboxing video here!
The Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight is 5.50″ (13.97 cm) in length and 1.00″ (2.54 cm) in diameter along most of the body. A feature that prevents the P12 from rolling is 1/32″ wider (0.8 mm) across a hexagonal flat pattern. The outside of this hexagonal is another 1/32″ (0.8mm). The gives a maximum outside diameter of the body 1.0625″ (2.70 cm). The side “MODE” button sticks out a bit more.
The lens end of the P12 does not have any scalloping or protrusions for self-defense, one of the negatives of the flashlight. It does stand up on both the lens end and back end on a smooth surface. The back end is a bit wobbly due to the cutouts; bumping the table while the P12 was tailstanding did knock it over. It was more resilient to bumping when standing on the lens end.
The Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight came with an instruction sheet, a warranty card, a holster/sheath, a wrist lanyard, replacement O-rings, a replacement rear button (tail cap), a removable belt clip, and a tactical ring. Note that the instruction sheet does not tell you how to install the belt clip or tactical ring.
The P12 weighs 3.1 oz (89 g) without battery, tactical ring, or belt clip. The belt clip weighs less than 0.15 oz (less than 4 g) and the tactical ring less than 0.1 oz (less than 2 g). For reference, the 3500 mAh 18650 battery I purchased weighs 1.7 oz (49 g). The holster comes in at 1.1 oz (31 g).
The Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight is tested to IPX8 standard for water resistance, which is 2 m submersible. Nitecore claims a 1.5 m impact resistance maximum drop height.
The P12 has four (4) levels for normal light:
- The lowest, at a mere 1 lumen, has an estimated 520 hours of run-time on a 18650 Li battery, or 300 hours on a pair of CR123A primary cells. The 1 lumen setting is great for when you are in the dark and your vision is already adapted. Believe it or not, 1 lumen can provide sufficient light. I tested this setting in my darkened house at night with very little moonlight. The 1 lumen setting was sufficient to see well enough to move around safely.
- The next level up is 70 lumen, with 28 and 20 hours, respectively for the two battery types. In my darkened house, the 70 lumen output was enough to locate items easily.
- The third level is a bright 240 lumen (6 hours and 5.25 hours, respectively), which is the perfect level for a night hike in the wilderness. It actually may be too bright for night hikes; the 70 lumen setting may be enough. This level provides sufficient light to see and a decent run-time.
- The brightest level is 1000 lumen, a blinding brightness that you can sustain for 1.25 hours or 1 hour, depending on battery. When I say blinding, I mean it. The illumination provided at 1000 lumen even at a distance was enough to discern specific items at night. The heat radiated from the lens end gets to be pretty high when at 1000 lumen for a sustained time. In fact, the P12 will reduce the output after about 3 minutes at the 1000 lumen setting to prevent damage to the flashlight from heat.
You turn on the Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight by pressing in the end cap button fully. A half push activates the momentary function, and the light turns off when pressure is removed. You cycle through the four (4) normal levels by pressing the Mode button briefly. The P12 does remember the setting of the brightness when turned off. When powered back on, the same setting is resumed.
Holding down the Mode button activates the three (3) special modes: strobe, SOS, and location beacon, in that order. (The instructions stated the order was strobe, location beacon, SOS.) All three special modes run at the full 1000 lumen setting, regardless of previous output level memory. Holding the Mode button disables the special function and resumes normal function. Note that the strobe is part of the memory system; a P12 powered down in strobe mode will resume when powered back on.
The strobe mode is a steady, fast strobe affect that is very disorienting, even when viewing it from behind the P12! The SOS function blinks a slow SOS in Morse code. The location beacon is a very quick pulse that is repeated at about once per second.
The Mode button has hidden below it a blue LED that acts as a power indicator. When the flashlight is on and the battery is below 50%, the blue LED will blink every two seconds. When the battery is nearly depleted, it will blink rapidly. If you hold down the Mode button and the power tail switch at the same time for a moment and then release both, the blue power indicator LED will blink the voltage in 0.1 V increments. If your 16850 is at 4.1 V, it will blink four (4) times, pause, then one (1) time. It will then turn on the flashlight at the last setting.
The body is black anodized aluminum with a recessed lens. The lens recess is approximately XXX in (XXX mm) from the end. The negative battery connector on the end cap appears to be a gold-plated spring. On the other end by the LED, the positive connector appears to be a gold-plated immovable post. It disassembles at two points, each part has an O-ring and lubricant pre-installed.
The holster is made of 1.16″ (just under 3.0 cm) black nylon webbing with additional black nylon on the sides to make a pocket. It has a plastic (assuming ABS) D-ring on the top and a sewn belt loop capable of supporting belts of up to 2.25″ (5.7 cm). It also supports Molle mounting with a hook-and-loop system on the back. The Molle hook-and-loop is slighter larger than 1.5″ (3.8 cm) and is of high quality. The main cover is held in place by hook-and-loop as well. All hook-and-loop are very stiff; I would not expect any to come undone accidentally.
As with any battery-powered item, you either need additional batteries or some way to charge the ones that came with it. With the Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight, you need both. The flashlight, like other tactical flashlights, doesn’t come with any batteries. There are “bundle deals” but I’m wary of those as often they are packaging lower-quality items to make the bundle look like a better deal. Since the bundles never have what I feel I need, I always end up buying them separately.
First, you’re going to need batteries. As stated above, you can go with a pair of primary (non-rechargeable, disposable) CR123A (also known as just CR123) or a rechargeable Li-Ion 18650 battery. I’m a firm believer that “one is none” and never buy only one of anything critical. When researching 18650 batteries, one common issue I kept reading about is damaging the cell by over-charging or draining too much. Nitecore has their 3500 mAh 18650 with integrated over-charge, over-discharge circuitry which, while it makes the battery taller, helps ensure the battery will last. With a 2-pack of the Nitecore 2500 mAh batteries available for a savings over two separate batteries, it was a no brainer. (Note that the package was two individually-packaged batteries in a single bag, so it’s the same as buying two separate batteries at a savings.)
Now, with special rechargeable batteries, you need a special charger. If you already have a Li-Ion charger or a new NiMH or NiCd battery charger, they may already support 18650 cells. Since I didn’t, I decided to stick with the brand and got the new Nitecore i4 Charger (2015 version), and you can check out my unboxing video for my initial impressions.
The flashlight feels good in my hands, and the buttons have a nice solid feel when activating them. It appears well sealed, with O-rings and lubricant on all threads. The included sheath/holster is very well made, but the P12 is a bit loose side-to-side in the holster without the tactical ring. With the tactical ring installed, it doesn’t fit all the way into the holster. However, the securing strap does tighten in up so it does not move much. The P12 with the clip installed fit fine within the holster. The holster is compatible with fairly wide belts or the Molle system.
The lanyard appears well made and has a tightening slide to “snug” it to your wrist. The lanyard can attach to either the end cap or the tactical ring.
I will be carrying it for several weeks and will include a follow-up in Part 2.
Take a look at other EDC/PREPARED reviews such as the Lifeline 30-Piece First Aid Kit and the Gerber Shard everyday carry (EDC) pocket tool. Also, check out the unboxing and review videos here! Bookmark the blog and subscribe to our Youtube channel for updates!
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