LED Lenser M17R Flashlight: Let Your Light Shine
The title of "Best Flashlight We've Ever Reviewed" doesn't come lightly. While the LED Lenser M17R's score suffers a bit in value, you're simply not going to find a better tactical flashlight at any price point.
Yes, it's worth it!
Like all great stories, LED Lenser began its journey in a garage with two men and a dream. Denied a loan by the local bank, twin brothers Rainer and Harald Opolka struck out on their own and created the LED Lenser company which did 200 million in revenues in its first five years and now employs over 1000 people. Not bad for a flashlight. Later, they ended up being brought into the Leatherman Group which produces, among other things, some innovative products like the Leatherman Kick multi-tool and the upcoming Leatherman Tread. The LED Lenser M17R flashlight is their flagship product—a fact made obvious by its near-$400 price point and ultra high-tech features. Everything about this rechargeable flashlight is impressive, from its dual Lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries to the docking charge station and 850 lumens of output—you’re not going to find a flashlight like this anywhere else.
LED Lenser M17R Features & Build Quality
Before I get too far, let’s go over the basic features that make this an impressive specimen of illumination goodness. Starting at the top, you have a patent-pending LED lamp that puts out 850 lumens in its brightest mode. The physical lamp and glass looks to be superbly designed, with a concave lens that bottoms out at a convex focusing bubble. The entire head assembly slides out and in, allowing the LED Lenser M17R flashlight to focus all of its lumens into a tight spot, or spread that light out for a wide wash that can illuminate an entire area. We calculated and measured the direct spread beam to be roughly 100 degrees overall (50 degrees left and right of the centerline), so you can image that you’re going to throw a lot of light around when you use it in this mode. There is also absolutely no “hot spot” in this mode. In fact, I’ve never seen such an even spread of light across such a wide area in any other flashlight. In the spot mode, you get a much more intense light, with a narrower, less even ambient overspill. This is going to be perfect for casting a beam far away…or temporarily blinding anyone in your path—including a perp or intruder.
What is an IPX4 Rating?
The LED Lenser M17R is IPX4 rated, which is to say that it is protected against splashing water. To test at IPX4 levels, the flashlight withstands having water sprayed at it from all angles at a rate of ~2.6 gallons per minute at a pressure of between 11-14.5 pounds per square inch (psi) for 5 min. That’s pretty excellent for any sort of outdoor use, even in pouring rain.
- Lumens: 850 (max), 120 (low)
- Run-time: 5 hours (max), 36 hours (low)
- Rating: IPX4
- Battery: 2 x Li-FeP04 (rechargeable)
- Charge time: 2.5 hours
- Length: 12 in
- Weight: 1.7 lbs
- Includes: Power supply, floating USB charger, charging dock
- Warranty: 5 year limited
Physically, the LED Lenser M17R Flashlight looks very imposing. At just over 12″ in length, it has the perfect feel and weight for a full-sized tactical flashlight. The on/off pushbutton control is very simple to operate, with a rotating switch that can be set to any of four modes, not including the “lock” (transport) position.
- Low: Sets the maximum output of the flashlight to 120 lumens
- Action (High): Sets the maximum output of the flashlight to 850 lumens
- Signal (SOS): Sends out an automated, repeating SOS light pattern
- Defense (Strobe): This is the full-power strobe mode that will be sure to disorient anyone you place it on.
You can also switch between High (Action) and Low modes simply by half-pressing the button during use. Sliding the Switch all the way to the left locks down the flashlight and disables the button entirely. This is more or less the “travel” mode which keeps you from accidentally turning on the light if you stuff it into a bag or backpack. On the rear of the flashlight there is a really cool circular 10-LED battery power indicator that lights up when you press the center button.
In the Field
Before I speak to the issue of using this flashlight, storing it and charging it is almost just as awesome. In fact, the “button” that tests the battery level isn’t just a button. It’s a metal feed for the charging port which integrates into the wall-mountable charger bracket. What that means is that the rechargeable M17R LED flashlight can be docked into the bracket to charge it up. All you need to do is locate a place where you can connect it to a power source.
We put our sample in the corner of the laundry room on a wainscoting wall. It’s the perfect place to grab in an emergency and it’s also close to the back door in the event I want to take it with me when I go out to the car. It’s by far the most convenient recharging system for a tactical flashlight that I’ve ever used and I hope they don’t have a patent on it so that others will take note and follow suit! (Sorry, LED Lenser!)
The flashlight is really bright—brighter than my home theater projector after it’s calibrated, in fact. I could literally paint the night sky with it and I also used it to “peer” into a forest that was approximately 200 yards away and spot for animals. The power in spot mode is absolutely incredible. In flood mode I was able to quickly light up the house when our power went out in a recent storm. Outdoors it was bright enough to flood an entire back yard area with light. In another form factor this type of power would make for an incredible battery-powered patio lighting system. 5 hours for a comprehensive light source is a real no-brainer.
In every way, the LED Lenser M17R excels as a tactical flashlight and exceeds all expectations. The only area in which is may stun is price. But to understand price you need to understand the market (most don’t). A SureFire UNR Commander will run you upwards of $425 and it’s only 9-inches long and doesn’t bear the same weight or impressiveness of the LED Lenser M17R. Most other products get you one thing or another, but not everything. If you want the best—this is probably it. If you want a bargain, then you’ll likely need to forgo the Lithium-ion battery, or the lumen output, or the convenience of a wall-charger, or reduce the expected durability. In either case, LED Lenser has laid down the gauntlet and, based on the number of SKUs they have on the market already, they are only going to innovate further. I, for one, am very interested in how they plan to top this model.