Watching the production flashlight market for the past five years has been pretty fun, but it has also been pretty frustrating. Lots and lots of great lights have come out, but none of them have been thoughtless recommendations. It was light shooting at a target 200 times and barely missing each time. I wanted to just nudge a few lights and then they would be perfect. Let’s take a quite look at the great, but imperfect lights:
Surefire Titan Plus: fix the clip and make it tailstand (which I did when I had the light modded at a local machine shop and swapped out the stock clip for a Prometheus Lights clip)
47s Preon Mk. III: make it tailstand
oLight S1R: improve throw
Fenix E16: improve throw
RovyVon: improve tint
Zebralight: fix UI
Over and over and over again we got great lights that were nearly ideal, but for one or two nagging drawbacks. It was frustrating. It also meant that my Best series didn’t have a top recommendation for a few years running because no light was just unabashedly great.
There was one light, from before that five year period, that had a bunch of things going for it, the JetBeam RRT-01 Raptor, that always held a spot in my imagination. It too was nearly perfect. It couldn’t tailstand, sadly, so it was just another near miss. But the UI and form factor were great and so over the years enthusiasts loved it and the price on the secondary skyrocketed. The light retailed for $79.95 and yet it was selling used for three or four times that on ebay and in forums.
Let’s pause a second and think through that. Flashlights, unlike knives, are basically tech. They are small computers that convert power into light. And so as tech changes, flashlights grow obsolete. And they do so very quickly. A flashlight is the lumens king for no more than a year or two before someone comes along and knocks it off its throne. And yet, with all of that churn, the Raptor was still highly sought after. So sought after that it actually kept going up in price.
Well, Jetbeam noticed and they reworked the Raptor and rereleased it. And it is phenomenal. In a field littered with 2 or 3 hit shutouts, the v2 Raptor is Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965 when he set the record (later tied by Matt Cain) for most strikeouts in a perfect game with 14. This torch is amazing.
JetBeam has not posted a product page yet. Here is a written review, as well as specs, by Zero Air, the best light reviewer in the world. Here is a video review. Here is a link to Amazon where you can buy the v2 Raptor. Here is my review sample (which I DEFINITELY bought with my own money so I can keep it FOREVER AND EVER):
Twitter Summary: Production EDC flashlight perfection.
Some of the subcompact designs, especially those with side switches, feel like there is no where to grip the light, as if you are holding a pen from the knock and trying to write with it. Its a daunting design problem as the lights have gotten too small. I strongly prefer twisties or the even smaller keychain rechargeable lights like the Rovy Von. The drive for smaller torches also squashed the optics. The only thing shorter than the body tube on some of these lights is their throw. And lastly a lot of these subcompact torches basically say “screw it” when it comes to UI. With just a bit more size (really, see below), you get a much better throw, much better grip, and the possibility of UI perfection like here.
The original Raptor, which was a bit more staid in is appearance, was pretty darn close to perfect. The optics weren’t ideal, seemingly ported over from larger lights where small imperfections were unlikely to be a detriment (after all, who cares about a few artifacts if you are lighting up the side of a mountain). And then there was the way too long lanyard lug. Here both issues are fixed and the glory of the selector ring only UI is allowed to shine through (PUN-TACULAR!).
One note that doesn’t fit anywhere else—the Raptor has a rechargeable battery. And by that I mean the battery has a Mini USB port and you can charge it directly from any such cable. It even has an LED indicator light built in. I would like the battery to be chargeable in the light, but this is pretty fascinating and allows you to charge the battery and use it in other devices, so I am not sure if it is per se worse than being chargeable only when in the light. This is the first time I have seen this in a battery from the factory and I really, really like it.
There is no product page and no specs thus no ratios.
Fit and Finish: 2
Folks marvel over the machining on the new wave of Chinese knives (WE, Reate, Civivi, etc…) but those keyed into the flashlight world have known for a long time that Chinese made stuff is very high quality. Here, with a very complex (perhaps too complex) design, you see very little in the way of mistakes. There are no machine marks. The threading is clean, even, and tight. The parts thread together well. The original was good. The v2 Raptor is just as good but with a higher degree of difficulty.
With the classic hourglass shape found on a lot of great lights, the Raptor is really nice in the hand. This is one of the major upgrades when to step up from the subcompact class to this size light. You get the real estate to hold up instead of feeling like your trying to pick up a BB with your bare fingers. Here the clip also aids in grip, which is quite nice. Years of clips on knives generating hotspots makes it strange to think that a clip could actually help.
The flashlight gods giveth and they taketh away. While finger-sized lights are good for use they will, necessarily, carry less well. Still, for a light this size the Raptor does good. This is in part because it is made of aluminum and in part because it is still pretty small for what it is.
The 950 lumen high is good, not great for the times, but the low, the glorious lightning bug in July mellow beam is insane—perfectly suited for somnambulism. This is lowest low I have ever seen. So when you look not at the peak, but at the spread the Raptor is incredibly versatile. And versatility is the key to making great gear great.
Of course when you have insane lows you get insane runtimes. On the lowest low the Raptor will last for days. Unfortunately because there is no official product page I don’t know how low. I do know it is at least three days because my youngest son left the light on for that long before I realized it was on. Such is the curse of a truly low low.
Beam Type: 2
While not a throw light, compared to the smushed beams of most side switch lights the Raptor’s medium distance is a revelation, like your first gasp of air after being underwater too long. It hits things far away and thanks to the infinite variable brightness, it can be dimmed down to be suitable for up close work. There is literally nothing you can’t do with the Raptor aside from mountainside search and rescue.
Beam Quality: 2
Thanks to a semi-smooth emitter a lot of the problems of the original are gone and the beam is respelendently clean. The shape is perfectly circular and the beam is free of spots, holes, or artifacts. The tint is fine, though this is notably not a Hi CRI emitter as you can tell from the LED above.
The best. Simply, unmistakably, the best. Even the HDS, which is great too, is a bit “steppy” (though being able to select what level you come on in is still an HDS exclusive). This is a smooth ramping brightness that gives you insane control over the light you get, managing a truly staggering output spread with a simple twist. Anyone can use this light and get about 95% of the features to work immediately. Truly a great UI.
Hands Free: 2
JetBeam knows they have a smash hit on their hands here. They even dropped some slots for tritium, knowing this is a light folks will use and keep. I might just have to get those filled. But the tritium slots aren’t just nice, the surface they are cut into is perfectly, absolutely flat (unlike in the v1 Raptor). This thing tailstands like a pyramid. The clip is great for anti-roll and the diameter of the light still allows for hand free use.
Fidget Factor: High
Flashlights usually do poorly on this account but with a selector rign and a…holy cow…detent, this is actually pretty fidget friendly.
Fett Effect: Very Low
Lights these days are basically immutable. I have a vision that some time many millenia in the future that people will find bones, weird anime toys, and flashlights. Only the lights will look new.
Value: Very High
It is hard to call an $80 light a great value, but it is hard to find a light that runs circles around this one at any price. Your paying largely for bling, though the BOSS 35’s programming is pretty sophisticated. Beyond that, you won’t find much more out there.
Overall Score: 20 out of 20; PERFECT
If you want a small light that can do it all, highs and lows, close up and throw, the v2 Raptor is it. The flashlight market has had a bunch of great but flawed lights for years and none were wholesale recommendations. Side switch lights were great in terms of reducing the footprint, but their squashy optics and tendency to hot pocket were things that held me back. Most of the 1xAAA lights were decent, but required a twisty UI and couldn’t tailstand. Lights that solved both of these problems were rare and usually cost $300 or more. This light does all of this and more and does it for $80. If you are looking for a small light but don’t want to go the subcompact route, this is you easy choice. And yes, the selector ring is still the best UI out there.
If you want a single cell full-featured EDC torch, there is no real competition. All of the sideswitch stuff is just a mess in terms of UI bu comparison. But it is not just that the Raptor is full-featured and easy to use. It is also incredibly thoughtfully made. There are a few lights with the same care and attention in the design process—the Surefire Titan, the 47s Mini Turbo Mk. III, and the 47s Preon Mk. III but that’s about it.
Ironically the most similar light to the Raptor is the incredibly awesome and virtually indestructible HDS Rotary, but it has a few drawbacks. First the HDS has an output of “only” 300 lumens. Its not that big a deal, but for some high test folks, its a drawback. Second, the clip on the HDS, which is a $50 accessory, is really weird and awkward. Third, the HDS is not a 100% reliable tailstander. Sometimes its does and sometimes it doesn’t (you can bleed the air out of the system and make it tailstand, but it is not a process you want to do in an emergency, which is when you tailstand most often). Finally, there is the price. The HDS is roughly 4 times the price of the Raptor. Of course you pay for stuff like fully potted electronics and the ability to turn on in any output you want directly from off, but those differences are insignificant when compared to cost. If I didn’t already have an HDS Rotary, the JetBeam would probably preclude me from buying one.