Today’s first impressions and mini-review brings us a metal-bodied flashlight and its associated LED drop-in module. But not just any light and drop-in: one from Malkoff Devices. Lots of folks who follow lights and outdoors gear will immediately recognize the company name, and yet, still many more won’t. They rely greatly on word-of-mouth advertising online, and aren’t really found in any retail stores.
My search was for a simple, dependable light with a neutral tint that had a good balance of output and runtime. Expecting to use the light for both every day carry, as well as investigating bumps in the night, I wanted a simple on-off switch, with no complicated modes to scroll through. And if I could find a U.S.-made light with a solid warranty, all that much better.
After jotting down a few products that met the criteria, I suddenly remembered Malkoff Devices. They are a small mom-and-pop company based in Alabama, and have been making flashlight drop-ins for years. In fact, they were one of the first to offer powerful aftermarket LED modules for the likes of Mag-Lite, SureFire, and so forth. From this experience, Malkoff has also brought to market their own flashlights. No longer do you need to rely on another brand for use as a so-called “host”. I looked for reviews online, and found plenty on Candlepower Forums, with lots of happy customers. Sold!
There are numerous options for those just starting out. I chose to go with their basic “MD2” flashlight body; a two-cell CR123A battery light with a click switch, and their “M61NL” drop-in; a lower-output LED with a neutral tint. After placing my order, I had a question about whether I needed to purchase a lens for the the light, too. An e-mail to Malkoff Devices was answered very quickly by Gene himself (the founder of the company). He even offered to have the flashlight and drop-in module assembled for me. Talk about top-notch customer service!
According to the specifications on the manufacturer’s website, the “M61NL” drop-in utilizes a Cree XP-G2 LED, has an output of approximately 160 lumens, features a neutral white tint (4000K and 80 CRI), and will run in regulation for about 5 hours on a pair of CR123A lithium batteries. It is also fully potted, meaning that the electronics of the module are protected from shock and recoil.
The MD2 body is stout, built to last, and the fit and finish are perfect. The clicky switch is just right — easy to use for momentary mode, click further for constant on mode. It even features springs at both ends of the battery compartment for additional shock resistance. And the M61NL drop-in has a beautiful artifact-free beam, great neutral tint, excellent color rendition, and an amazing balance of throw and flood thanks to the reflector. The complete weight of the MD2 and M61NL combo, along with a pair of CR123A batteries, comes in at a beefy 5.70 oz. (162 g).
On a side note, It’s great to be able to support a small business, knowing that you are getting rock-solid gear and a company that stands behind it. Honestly, I’m not sure what caused me to take so long to try out Malkoff’s products. But whatever the reason, I’m looking forward to putting this flashlight through its paces!
Ongoing Notes – October 2019:
I’d highly suggest picking up one of the accessory “High/Low” bezel switches that Malkoff offers. Having since added one to the MD2, it’s great to have a long-running low mode for tasks that don’t require full brightness. It’ll give you approximately 10-20 lumens (manuf. specs.) of output; which is plenty to navigate around a campsite, read a map or book without blinding yourself, etc. The added bonus is conserving your light’s batteries.
Also, since this article was written, I’ve swapped the M61NL drop-in LED out for a limited edition offered in collaboration between Malkoff and Illumn. The module that’s being used now is the M61 Nichia 219B, which offers around 330 lumens of High CRI (95+) output at 4,000K color temperature, for a more accurate color rendering.
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