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Mason County News
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Light Year
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 • Posted February 9, 2011

As an American, you have certain rights. These rights are pretty much spelled out in the Constitution, or else some other important, yellowed document. These rights you have include things like getting a speedy trial, and free chips and salsa appetizers, and not having to house government troops in your home and let them put their muddy boots on your ottoman.

At the very beginning of the constitution is a line that says you have the right to light, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which is not the same thing as the right to happiness. A lot of people get that confused, but that’s their problem

What we are concerned with, in this particular column, is the right you have to light. This right has always been there, but it never used to do anyone any good, since decent lights were not available until relatively recently.

When I was a kid the term ‘flashlight’ was sort of a joke. What we used for light then, whether we were hunting coons at night, or looking under the hood to see why the pickup wouldn’t start, or poking through the attic for the Monopoly game, wasn’t much of a light. It basically consisted of a plastic housing used for storing dead batteries, which were electrically attached to an incandescent bulb of dubious wattage. Generally, when you turned one of those lights on, it didn’t work. Sometimes you could shake it and get it to weakly illuminate its own lens, but that was about it.

That was our main problem with varmint hunting when I was a kid. In order to find a coon or ringtail or fox or bobcat we had to get close enough so those old lights would cause their eyes to shine, which was pretty much the same proximity a dentist assumes when he’s drilling out your cavities. It’s not easy to get that close to wild varmints, and, more importantly, it’s not advisable.

At the recent SHOT show I visited as many booths as possible where lights were displayed, hoping to find the perfect varmint hunting light. What I was looking for was a light the size of a standard tube of Chap stick that would burn the hair off a skunk at 100 yards, could be mounted to a picatinny rail, and was powered by a fifty cent battery that would last 24 hours or more. Obviously my expectations were low, but then, I’m not hard to please.

What I found was pretty close. The main problem was that my search criteria forgot to mention anything about price. It’s kind of like the sign at the mechanic’s shop that says – "Cheap, Fast, Good. Pick any two." Lights have come a long way, but the journey has evidently been expensive.

The best lights I found were of the LED variety, as opposed to incandescent. LED is an acronym that stands for either ‘tiny but impressively bright’ or ‘light emitting diode,’ I can’t remember which. And although LEDs have been popular for a good while because of their long lifespan and miserly use of battery power, they have not been as good as incandescents for ‘throw,’ which means you can’t throw them very far.

I’m kidding. ‘Throw’ is how far a light will shine, and LEDs have come a long way in the last few years in that department. There are LEDs now that shine brighter and farther than incandescents, and the batteries are lighter and last longer. They still aren’t really cheap, but you can’t have everything. Where would you put it?

After visiting countless booths, I narrowed my search down to two companies, or maybe three. Or four, depending on how you look at it. Just don’t look directly at it, or you’ll go blind. These lights are BRIGHT.

Phoebus offers some impressive lights, among them the Pioneer, which shines 230 lumens up to 250 yards for 2 hours. At about $115, the Pioneer is low to mid-range pricewise, and is a great little light.

4Sevens has a light called the G5 S2 Maelstrom, which is a little less expensive at $95, and in its brightest mode throws 365 lumens over 100 yards, and runs 1.3 hours on a set of batteries. More light, less distance and time, but very impressive.

4Sevens also offers an Olight, which may be a different company, or not. I’m vague on that. But the Olight M20 S2 Warrior runs for 4 hours, and sends 340 lumens about 300 yards, and it runs about $100. You can see where picking one light is difficult.

I’m hoping to try out all of these lights, plus a new one from BSA called the Sub Zero Laser Designator, which tops out about $400, but shines a green light which is excellent for hunting, and is pretty much everything you could ask for, except for being free.

I did pick up a smaller BSA light at SHOT, which is impressive itself. It’s small, lightweight, and mounts easily on a rail. It shines 140 lumens about 100 yards on its brightest setting, and I think it runs about $70 or so.

Our right to light is probably the best thing the founding fathers put in our Constitution. Well, that and the free chips and salsa thing . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never met a light he didn’t like. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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