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April 22, 2009 Comments (0) Gear & Equipment

Browning Tactical Hunter 160L Review

It doesn’t require a fear of the boogeyman to feel the need to light up the night sometimes.  Light is just one of those things that when you need it, you really need it.  Maybe you got a late start and have to find your way down a rough trail at night, or you managed to cut yourself while whittling around the campfire and need to find the first aid kit.  Far from farfetched, these are times when you need to see, now!  But not everyone needs, wants, or can afford the latest whiz-bang, uber-tactical, 500 lumen torch: fun to use, less fun to pay for.  So what’s a minimalist, budget-conscious gent to do?  Luckily, LED technology has really allowed a lot of firepower in a less expensive and more reliable package.  The new Browning Tactical Hunter 160L Model 1229 is a ‘shining’ example of this breed of flashlight.  In the author’s opinion, this light meets the needs of most any hunting or outdoors enthusiast, being powerful, compact, rugged, and dead reliable.

Housed in a body of aluminum, the Browning 1229 sports a handsome Mossy Oak finish, so don’t drop it unless it’s still on!  However, if it is dropped (as I did on a couple of occasions), I’d be most impressed if it took substantial damage: this is a stout little light.  And it is indeed little!  For reference, 2AA mini-Maglite with an LED conversion weighs a bit over 4 ounces and emits around 25 lumens.  The Surefire 6P LED has a weight of 5.2 ounces and is around 5” long, and puts out around 80 lumens.   The Browning 1229, on the other hand, weighs in at 6.4 ounces and 4.3” long, yet it throws a whopping 160 lumens.  Talk about bang for your buck!  And at this size and weight, it’s not at all a burden to carry in a coat pocket or attached to your belt via the small metal clip.  For a power source, the Browning utilizes a single CR-123A lithium battery (included with the flashlight).  While these little buggers can get expensive, the result is pretty worthwhile: light output is just plain impressive.  And fortunately, the LED design is much more energy efficient than a comparable xenon bulb.  In use, the Model 1229 is again quite comfortable.  The “non-slip knurled texture” provides a very positive grip surface, and the length fits just fine in my medium/large sized palm.

The light is controlled by the rubber-protected end-cap switch, which can either be depressed lightly for a ‘momentary on’ or fully depressed for a ‘constant on’.  It even has a lockout function in case you just want to safely stow it in your pack, which is engaged by simply rotating the tail-cap a bit.  When the 1229 is on, I think you’d be hard pressed to ignore it: 160 lumens is quite a distraction!  The beam is very strong and even, and projects something of a square (I assume this is due to the construction of the LED(s)).  Even before getting into the woods with this light, I shined it on a neighbor across our backyard: she was about 40 yards away and the 1229 lit her up and then some!  I knew this would be more than enough power for the trail or campsite.

I used this light exclusively on an overnight trip and it performed admirably.  My ‘norm’ these days is a 2-AA LED that came free with a Swiss Army Knife, but it’s a very solid light.  My only complaints about it are the weight and that it’s a ‘twist top’ to turn on, like a Maglite.  This usually means it’s going to take two hands to activate (or one hand clumsily) and in the occasional pitch dark of the woods this isn’t terribly convenient.  The Browning was quite a contrast to this however!  Firstly, the clip meant that I always had it on me but didn’t have to devote a special pouch or pocket to it: it can ride smoothly almost anywhere.

Secondly, the push-button tailcap meant I could ‘draw’ it with one hand and activate with one hand.  You no longer have to put your beer down to try and find where you put your beer!  (Fun fact: it will take 4 beers for that sentence to make sense.)  Another key feature I came to appreciate is that a double rubber o-rings seal separates each piece of the housing.  More than once, the light would end up getting a small spray of water and it was comforting not having to fret about its safety.

I’m not too keen on Maglites in general, and I think most of my buddies are pretty well aware of it.  They’re heavy, clunky, and I’ve had several fail on me during non-adverse conditions.  Beyond that, they just don’t put out very high quality beams!  It’s like a knife that can’t cut and isn’t even very comfy to use.  I’ve got several friends that use and love them, so I try to keep this judgment to myself.  So in trying to spread the gospel of quality gear availability, I casually showed the Browning 1229 to a friend of mine (who’s a bit of a Maglite die hard).  I let him goof around with it for the afternoon, and I believe it even saw some time under the hood of his truck.  By that evening, I was hard pressed to get it back into my hands!  Reportedly the size, tailcap, and brightness were the most captivating features.  I’m going to try and follow-up with him in a couple of weeks to see if he’s found himself a new torch, and I’m betting he will!

A feature that I didn’t get to take full advantage of was the set of pop-on light filters (red, blue, and green) that comes with this light.  These filters have separate and specific uses, and most revolve around saving your ‘night vision’.  Red generally gives best preservation of night-vision adaptation, while blue is a bit of a step up in helping you get around (as well as helping you to spot blood at night if you’re tracking an animal during a hunt).  The green is the best at getting around in the woods (since plants are only going to reflect that shade anyway) and it’s also the light range the human eye is most sensitive too.  The only place I really played with these was early on the trail, and I definitely enjoyed the use of the green filter the most: it maintained the best visibility overall.  No pouch comes with the Browning 1229, so these filters would have to be stowed in a pocket (or one on the light) until needed.  After some rough use down rough trails, I’m pretty pleased with the performance of this pocket light.  It rides tight and securely, has more than adequate power for my needs, and is rugged enough that I don’t have to baby it or keep part of my attention on it.

The Tactical Hunter is well thought out and ‘to the point’ in its function.  There are only a handful of drawbacks that I noticed.  First, the camo pattern can be hard to find if dropped.  This isn’t terribly different than a standard black coating, just something to be aware of.  Second, the CR123A batteries can be kind of a pain in the wallet.  Not really a fair criticism since it’s a necessary evil for the light output, but there we are.  Lastly, it will be hard to keep because all your friends will try to steal it!

Visit:  www.browning.com

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