When I entered law enforcement in the mid-1970s, the best personal police flashlight was the largest you could get your hands on. The reason was two-fold: the larger the light, the more batteries it held and, therefore, the more light it provided. Second, the larger the light, the better weapon it made.
Having a five D-cell light in your hand on a traffic stop gone bad was very comforting, and, at that time, striking a suspect with a flashlight was considered fair game, ahem, I mean a judicious use of force.
I do admit hitting someone in the head with a flashlight can be scary. I once struck a suspect in the head with a four-cell metal flashlight as he was kicking the sides and windshield out of a car that he did not own. Repeated warnings to “cease and desist” went unheeded, so I felt I needed to get his attention. One swift blow to the head stopped him instantly, and I mean instantly. There was so much blood, I was convinced I killed him. As he was taken off in the ambulance, I remember thinking, “What have I done? I’ve gone and killed this man over a car!” Fortunately, he did not die, and the last time I saw him, he called me “sir.”
Sadly, the personal flashlight has fallen from favor as an impact weapon as other, more practical tools have been developed. But that does not mean you no longer can use the flashlight as a fighting implement. The development of smaller but brighter handheld lights has improved by leaps and bounds over the last two decades. A number of companies have developed extremely bright, handheld, white-light systems that can blind an opponent. The ability to overwhelm an adversary without hitting them is a huge step forward in judicious use of force. It also requires little, if any, paperwork—something every street cop greatly appreciates.
The downside: These small, intense white lights have a limited burn period because the bulb or batteries expire reasonably fast during continuous use. Additionally, the bulbs can prove fragile, popping when dropped on the ground or mounted on the end of a long gun that’s fired repeatedly.
Then came light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These electronic marvels do not create light like a conventional bulb, and have proved long lasting and extremely durable. Modern LEDs can achieve a level of brightness the human eye cannot look into without suffering momentary blindness. Thus, the LED has become a very viable light-source option for tactical lights.
In the fall of 2004, I learned of a new light by Blackhawk Industries. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to it. After all, several companies already make top quality white and LED handheld lights, so I doubted Blackhawk could improve these tools. Boy, was I wrong!
Called the Gladius by Blackhawk’s Night-Ops Division, this new LED fighting light was designed and developed by retired Navy SEAL Ken Good. Good, a well-known trainer on the military and law-enforcement training circuit, has specialized in the reduced-light fighting environment for quite a few years. While a bit larger than a number of other handheld LED lights, the Gladius does more than any other light currently available.
Weighing just over 6.5 ounces, the Gladius is made from what appears to be some type of metal alloy with a hard coating. It’s available in black, grey, coyote-tan and OD green. It measures a hair over 6" long with a 1"-wide body. The bezel measures 1.25" wide, and the Gladius takes two lithium batteries. The rear of the light, just forward of the activation switch, has a four-prong protrusion attached so you can use the light with the popular syringe-flashlight shooting technique. An adjustable lanyard allows you to drop the light from your support hand to complete a two-hand shooting grip on a handgun while not losing the light. The reflector and lens were specially designed to enhance the LED’s light output.
Some may say the Gladius is almost too complicated, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s easy to operate and learn. It took me about 10 minutes to read the supplied handbook that comes with the light, and another 10 to learn how to use the rotary tail switch to obtain the various operation modes. To tell you the truth, I doubt I will ever use some of the features, but I’m comforted knowing they’re there.
I first saw the Gladius while instructing at the Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) in southern Ohio
(www.tdiohio.com). The staff was training a number of military personnel in reduced-light operations. Jeremy Decker, a veteran Ohio police officer and staff instructor at TDI, came across one of the first Gladius lights to hit the shelf at a local police supply. Having heard about the light and understanding its capabilities, Jeremy bought one and brought it with him for the class. While performing a number of room search and clearing exercises in TDI’s two-story tactical house, Jeremy used the momentary and strobe light settings on his Gladius to great effect. While in strobe mode, he was able to move from point to point in a room without his opponents charting where he had gone! I was the recipient of the strobe effect on several occasions, and I couldn’t see Jeremy until he was standing next to me—too late to defend myself if he wanted to do me harm. At that point, I knew that I had to have a Gladius of my own.
The Gladius is not inexpensive (currently running around $200–$220), but then neither is your life. Each one of us has to decide which piece of equipment will enhance our performance and ability to prevail on the street. I’ve chosen the Gladius, and it’s with me at all times. You may want to give it serious consideration.
What’s different about this light?
Its operation modes. The rotary tail-cap switch allows you to select from four different channels. From these channels, the Gladius can perform three different operation modes:
Channel 1: A momentary switch. The light will stay on only as long as the operator depresses the button, similar to most other tactical lights on the market.
Channel 2: Strobe function. A rapid strobe action reminds one of a 1970s disco. This strobe is extremely disorienting.
Channel 3*: Constant light at full power.
Channel 4: The system is locked off so you can store the light in a go-bag or briefcase and not worry about it turning on and burning out.
*From channel three, you can set up three different modes of operation. By default, channel three supplies a continuous full-power light source that will drain the batteries in about 70 minutes, but if you need less light—e.g., you’re searching drawers or closets while executing a search warrant—you can adjust the light as follows:
Mode 1: Auto-dims from full power (80 lumens) to the lowest power level (.8 lumens) in 1.5 seconds.
Mode 2: Auto-brightens from the lowest power level to the brightest in 1.5 seconds.
Mode 3: Memory mode. When you depress the tail cap, the light initially illuminates at the previously used light level.
As you can see, Blackhawk has attempted to create a single light that meets the needs of the end user whether they are involved in a dynamic entry, searching for evidence or “shaking doors” on the midnight shift in a back alley.
2ND Opinion I saw the Gladius in action during the IALEFI conference in June. Mark Warren of Night Ops gave me a full demo of the light’s capabilities, including its fantastic strobe function. You have to see this light in operation to understand its capabilities. Short of a hands-on demo, the best way to see what it can do is to check out this Web site:http://streichers.com/gladius.
—Dale Stockton, editor
• Solidly built
• Long bulb life
• Easy to carry and use
• Backed by a proven company
• The multi-position switch can be a bit confusing
A division of Blackhawk Industries
4850 Brookside Court
Norfolk, VA 23502