A pocket spotlight or a standard sized flashlight on steroids. Any way you look at it the Surefire M6 is a very powerful light. Last December 25th I found that a jolly man in a red suit brought me a Surefire M6 flashlight ($425) with a FM24 beam diffuser ($64) and a spare MB20 magazine ($98). As you can see in the attached pics, this is a decent sized flashlight, especially for a Surefire.
Measuring in at just a hair less than 8 inches, the M6 is about as big as the old flashlights that ran on 2 D cell batteries. The M6 however, runs on 6, 3 volt, 123A’s. The M6 comes with two interchangeable bulbs. The low output bulb, the MN20, puts out 250 lumens for an hour. The other bulb, the MN21, puts out a blinding 500 lumens for 20 minutes. All the tests in this review were conducted with the 500 lumen MN21 bulb in the light. To the naked eye there is a noticeable difference between the light outputs of the two bulbs, but this difference is very difficult to capture with a camera.
The Surefire M6 comes standard with a “Push Button Tail Cap”. This is the standard old school Surefire style. To activate the light you tighten the tail cap, then for momentary-on activation you push button in the center of the tail cap. If the tail cap is tightened farther the light will be set to a constant-on mode. Of course to ensure the light is not accidentally turned on, the tail cap has to be loosened until pressing the button no longer completes the circuit and activates the light. After handling the M6 for a while it becomes second nature as to how far the tail cap has to be tightened and loosened to ensure the light will activate or be turned off safely.
The M6 comes with a lanyard attachment point and a lanyard with dual cord locks so you can secure it either around your neck or to your wrist. There used to be an aftermarket belt pouch for the M6 but that is no longer in production. So, you’re left to using the lanyard or putting it in the pocket of a pack, the M6 is too large to be carried in a pants pocket. At 15.9 ounces when loaded with batteries, it is almost too heavy to hang around your neck for any extended length of time.
I will admit it is much more difficult than I expected to photograph and describe how well a flashlight works. If you have a 3 volt or 6 volt Surefire with an incandescent, or old fashioned bulb, then you know how bright of a light a Surefire can throw. It isn’t quite as simple as saying the M6 is three times as bright. It has to do with the bulb and focus of the beam. Most of you who are reading this article know that Surefire offers two sizes of reflectors, or “heads” as they call them. The sizes are 1.25 inches and 2.5 inches. The M6 has the 2.5 inch reflector which focuses the beam farther away and turns the M6 into more of a spotlight than a close distance light.
First, let’s consider the light alone without any beam diffuser. The M6 will shine a bright white beam of light a couple of hundred yards away. I didn’t do any side by side comparisons but it is about the equivalent of a dollar store 500,000 candle power spotlight: plenty bright enough to reach out and light up things as far as you can reasonably see. However, I don’t think the Coast Guard is going to be swapping out the lights on their search and rescue helicopters for the M6.
The Beam diffuser adds a whole different dimension to the M6; turning it into a powerful flood light. By simply flipping the Beam Diffuser over the business end of the M6 the beam is quickly tamed from a blinding white spot at close distances, to a bright but soft almost daylight flood. The Beam Diffuser also spreads the light out to a point that it is possible to light up most work areas, like a vehicle or grill for a late night snack.
I took the light to a local public gun range and used the light alone and with the beam diffuser at distances of 25 and 50 yards. As I mentioned, the M6 is really set up to throw light at distances greater than arms reach. However, if you are in need of instant daylight up close, the beam diffuser can be mounted on the light and turns the M6 into a flood light. The pictures show the light with brand new batteries at both 25 and 50 yards with the beam diffuser on and the light alone. While the light alone works great at 50 yards and beyond, the diffuser doesn’t quite reach out that far. However, if you are doing close work like on a vehicle or a grill and need light the FM24 Beam diffuser comes in quite handy. Like all light filters from Surefire the FM24 locks on to the business end of the M6 and can be hinged off quickly for a spot light, or left in place for use as a flood light.
Instead of loading each battery individually as is done with most Surefire lights, batteries are loaded into a magazine that slides into the handle of the M6. The M6 comes with one magazine, but spares are available for purchase (MB20). A second magazine makes for quick and easy battery exchanges. It is not the safest way to store batteries as it is possible to connect the circuit.
There are two major down falls to the light. The less obvious one is the massive amount of heat that is produced by the 500 lumen bulb. Using an infra-red thermometer I measured the temperature of the bulb and reflector at 145 degrees Fahrenheit after just 2 minutes of run time. This heat quickly transfers to the head of the flashlight and if left on for extended periods of time it is possible to burn yourself. The second down fall is the high cost of operation. Let’s set aside the actual cost of the light. With the 500 Lumen bulb in place using 6 batteries at about $1.88 each in twenty minutes it costs about $11.25 per set. You can stretch that time out to an hour with the low(er) output bulb.
Overall I think this is a great light as long as you keep in mind the intended purpose. This is a heavy duty flashlight. It is not an EDC light. It is not pocket sized or really something that you would want in your pack on every hike for use “just in case”. For search and rescue and medical applications in the field the possibilities are endless. Of course the tactical uses are abundant as well. If you are looking for a serious work horse of a light find yourself a Surefire M6.