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August 17, 2010 Comments (0) Gear & Equipment

Elzetta ZFL-M60 Review

One thing the outdoorsman needs is a quality flashlight.  Even when you don’t expect to be out at night, some sort of light source is a staple of the well planned trip.  In this article, Woods Monkey looks at the lights being put out by Elzetta, a 100% Made In USA quality tool.

 

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Elzetta has been making lighting instruments since 2007, and from the beginning they set out to do things right.  Named after one of the founder’s grandmother, Elzetta Designs produces quality lights, weapon lights, and appropriate mounts right here in the good ‘ol USA.  Now, I don’t mean that most of the parts were made here, or that the machining is done here.  No, I mean 100%, from the flashlight body, to the lamp assembly, to the batteries that come with it!  Quality is held high on every part, all the while making the lights for affordable prices.

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The model reviewed here is the Elzetta ZFL-M60, with the crenelated bezel and High/Low tail cap switch.  The M60 is similar in size and weight to many of the popular lights on the market already.  Using two CR123 lithium batteries, the M60 is about 4 ¾” long, and weighs 5.3oz.  That’s a touch heavier than the competitions plastic bodied lights, but the Elzetta uses the bit of extra metal to disperse heat during use, keeping the light body cool to the touch.  This particular model has a tail cap controllable switch with High and Low settings, and a push button end switch that that is capable of momentary or constant on.  Also available are single brightness models, as well as a twist-on rotary tail cap.

The Elzetta ZFL-M60 is built entirely of metal.  The main body of the light is aluminum that is hard anodized matt black. Built in rings and flat spots, combined with the knurled grip areas ensure that the light is easy to hold even when wet or wearing gloves.  The tail cap screws off for battery replacement and the head is removable as well, although you won’t have any reason to take it off.  Elzetta utilizes the Malkoff M60 LED light module that is entirely self-enclosed and sealed to prevent moisture and dirt from hurting the light.  The front of the Malkoff light module has a thick acrylic lens built in, eliminating the need for a separate lens cover in the head of the light.

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One of the best aspects of the M60 is the switch design itself.  To turn the flashlight on “High” mode, you screw the tail cap in all the way.  Pushing the tail switch slightly allows momentary light as long as the button remains pushed.  Pushing in further, a lightly audible and tactile ‘click’ turns the light on constantly.  High mode puts out an impressive 235 lumens of light for 1.5 hours, then useable light for about another 6.5 hours.  A nice feature is that the light just doesn’t die when the batteries can no longer keep up with the high level.  The slowly diminishing light of the high setting gives you plenty of time to find replacement batteries, even if that takes until you get back to camp or home.

To turn the flashlight on the “Low” level, simply back the tail cap out approximately ¼ turn.  On low, the momentary and constant functions the same way with the tail switch.  Low level puts out 15 lumens for approximately 40 hours which is a lot of light for a long time.  I remember growing up using the grocery store 2 ‘D’ lights that barely put out half this.  15 lumens is high enough to perform simple jobs like looking for an item in the bottom of a pack or cooking on a camp stove, all the while conserving battery power and preserving night vision.  If used as a hunting light, the low setting would allow you to travel to or from your stand without spooking game.  In a tent, the low level allowed me to get changed and find needed items without turning my tent into a glowing orb.

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The genius of the design is that all functions are controlled at the tail of the flashlight.  Furthermore, all functions can be selected and operated one handed, while the flashlight is held in your hand.  This is heads and shoulders better than some other designs out there on the market.  I have owned a two-level light that was adjusted for brightness at the head, and turned on and off at the tail.  This resulted in a two handed operation that would force me to put down my work, or take my hand off something else to select the lights output level.  With the Elzetta, I can use my thumb and index finger to twist the tail cap to select the output level I want, and push the button with my thumb, all the while having my other hand perform another task.  The Elzetta doesn’t force the user to click though unused functions either.  I leave the light set to where I want it and just push the button when it’s needed.

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The light arrived packaged with batteries installed, and included two o-rings that can be used around the body if the light is put in a weapon mount.  That night I stood on the deck of my house, and compared the M60 to several other similar lights I have for work and personal use.  The high mode on the M60 is higher than any other handheld light I own.  It easily out performed several name-brand, $100+ lights.  As impressive as that was, I really enjoyed discovering that the low setting on my M60 is lower than the low setting on my other lights.  This not only extends runtime and preserves night vision, but allows the light to be used in times when too much light might spook game, or otherwise give your location away.

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The low setting also allows the Elzetta to function with batteries that have a charge too low to be used by another device or light.  During testing, I swapped in a set of Sure-Fire brand batteries from my work light that was so nearly dead, my work light would barely glow.  Interestingly, the M60 produced low, useable light.  It wasn’t bright, but if I needed to repair a vehicle, or build a campfire, it would work.  I can see this ability to be useful in an extended scenario like a hurricane or severe storm, when multiple people are using their lights ‘til dead batteries.  The Malkoff M60 lamp module seems to be capable of extracting power when other lights can’t.

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During a camping trip, the M60 was used for everything from navigating through the woods, to assembling mantle’s on a lantern, to searching through gear and setting up sleeping bags.  On almost every task, I was able to do all that needed to be done with the flashlight on low mode.  High mode was impressive, allowing me to scan down the dirt road passing our camp site looking for deer, coyotes and other critters.  For the entire campout the M60 was carried in the pencil pocket of Carhartt pants and was comfortable to carry and within reach.  The anti-roll cut outs in the head of the light allowed me to set the light down and illuminate cooking and fire tending tasks without the light rolling down the rocky hillside. That night, a coyote came through camp rooting around looking for food.  We had already stored the food in the truck to deter a bear visit, but the coyote convinced me that a camp gun in rifle form would give some peace of mind when my pistol might lack the range capability.

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Shortly after this, I used the Elzetta ZFH1500-T mounting system to mount my M60 on an M-4 rifle.  I Elzetta6won’t go into the massive debates on caliber and fire power, but in my opinion an AR style rifle is one of the best all-around guns when situations get sketchy.  Now, I like large bore guns as well, but for most of my time in the outdoors an AR style rifle is nearby serving as camp security against two and four legged varmints.  With the M60 mounted on my M-4, I am able to accomplish that critical task of target identification at any time of day. For testing, I switched the M60 over from my personal gun, to my work issued select fire Colt Commando M-4.  After several magazines with multiple bursts on full auto, the M60 worked perfectly.  The tail switch was easy to operate and the ZFH1500-T mount held the flashlight firmly.  Additionally, the anodized finish cleaned up easily, with no signs of adverse affects from the muzzle blast or heat.  The ZFJ1500-T mount is supplied with all tools and hardware needed, and includes spacers that allow you to mount everything from a AA Mini-Mag, to similar CR123 lights.

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The pictures of the high and low beams were taken after midnight, against my pale-white colored garage door.  I live in the middle of the Rockies, so take my word on this, there was no ambient light adding to the photos.  Other than starlight, the pictures are a fair representation of the beams of the Elzetta M60.  Taking pictures of flashlight beams isn’t my specialty, but I think you can get a good grasp of just how bright 235 lumens is at 7 yards.  I have a tree ranged from my deck at 50 yards (pellet gun shooting, honest), and the M60 can light the tree up bright enough to see the bark patterns. At 100 yards, the M60 will illuminate a tent, trail, atv, or anything else you might be looking for while out and about.  The beam is perfectly round with no dark spots, and has plenty of ‘spill’ around the center beam to give peripheral vision and light up a large area.

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I have carried and used the Elzetta M60 daily for nearly a month.  I have used it in the woods, working under the hood of my truck, night shift at work and beyond.  Needless to say, it has really impressed me.  The 100% Made in the USA label is exactly what I want to see on my equipment.  The tail switch design makes operating the light a cinch, and the fact that I can leave it set to low or high mode is a bonus.  Elzetta offers several versions of lights, including some 3 cell lights and a wide selection of accessories and weapon mounts.  The Elzetta ZFL-M60 seen here is available on their web site for $179.95, and the ZFH1500-T weapon mount is $36.95. Some searching on the internet uncovered dealers that sold the lights in the $130 range.  Check out www.elzetta.com for all their Made in USA offerings.

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