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Thread: A Streamlight PolyTac in My Glove Box

  1. #1
    Marginally Relevant NH Shooter's Avatar
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    Sep 2014
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    New Hampshire, U.S.A.

    A Streamlight PolyTac in My Glove Box

    I was in the market for a light to keep in my vehicle for roadside emergency and EDC back-up purposes. Here were my requirements listed roughly in order of descending importance;

    • Not too expensive in the case of loss or theft
    • A rugged light that can withstand some abuse
    • A polymer body, to make the light more comfortable to hold when cold (or hot)
    • A good balance of output vs. runtime
    • Small enough to carry reasonably comfortably in a pants pocket if needed
    • A strong and functional clip to carry bezel down
    • A glass lens to resist scratching
    • The ability to run on a Li-ion rechargeable with no loss of run time vs. primary cells.
    • Replacement tail cap/clicky readily available to have on-hand as a spare



    The Streamlight PolyTac fitted with a DarkSucks.com titanium clip and a KeepPower 2500 mAh 16650 protected cell meets these requirements. It’s almost as if I wrote the requirements after purchasing the light, but they are truly what I had in mind to start with!

    PolyTac fact Sheet



    My Streamlight PolyTac in screamin’/honkin’ yellow with DarkSucks.com titanium pocket clip and DIY finger lanyard. The PolyTac is
    also available in black and coyote brown, but yellow is easier to see at the bottom of a console storage compartment or man bag.

    Initial Impressions

    I paid under $45.00 with shipping for the light and having owned Streamlight products before, the PolyTac was pretty much what I expected straight out of the clamshell packaging;

    • Overall quality seems good, but not quite up to Surefire standards (in all fairness, my SF lights all cost much more than the PolyTac)
    • The feel of the polymer body is very good, with enough texture to provide a secure grip
    • Operation of the clicky seems fine, though with less travel to click constant-on vs. my SF lights
    • The lighter weight vs. a metal-body light is immediately evident in-hand
    • Threading of the polymer body is good, bezel and tail cap screw on to body with little play and can be fully tightened with no signs of stressing the polymer threads
    • The positive battery contact button in the head is retained and spring loaded – nice!
    • Got to love that crystal-clear, o-ring sealed glass lens



    Operational Impressions

    When I first turned on the light with a fresh set of CR123a cells, the first thing I noticed were obvious rings in the beam pattern, something that I thought even a $45 light should not have. This is where “low cost” is evident with the untextured but not-entirely-smooth reflector. The next thing that was immediately evident was the tint of the beam – definitely on the cool side. That said, unlike my SF lights the color is very consistent through the entire beam.



    Reflector is a not-quite-smooth finish with machine marks that create rings in beam pattern. This IMO is
    the single objectionable shortcoming of the light, though it’s not very noticeable in actual outdoor use.

    Happily (or maybe not so happily), that is the worst of the Polytac. The beam pattern itself is very good, with a well-focused hotspot and plenty of spill, very similar to my SF 6PX Pro (200 lumen version). In fact, other than the rings and color temperature, the beam pattern of the PolyTac is almost identical to the 6PX Pro.

    Using 16650 Li-ion Cells

    Since all of my go-to lights are powered with rechargeable Li-ion cells, I purchased a 16650 KeepPower 2500mAh cell for use in this light. The 16650 size is the same dimensions as two CR123a cells placed end-to-end.

    Though the set of supplied Duracell CR123a cells fit in the PolyTac perfectly, my first attempt to install the 16650 cell was met with resistance trying to insert the cell. The cell would go in, but it had to be pushed in against slight resistance the entire way. To remove the cell, I had to remove the bezel and push the cell out. Upon closer examination, Streamlight places a thin sheet of clear plastic inside the battery tube, which I assume is used as a shim to keep CR123a cells from rattling. Once the sheet was removed along with a small battery-direction sticker from inside the battery compartment, the 16650 cell slid right in with no issues and can be removed in normal fashion.



    With the thin plastic liner sheet and tiny battery-direction sticker removed from inside of battery compartment, the KeepPower 16650 cell fits comfortably.


    Looking at the Streamlight fact sheet, the PolyTac uses voltage regulation that allows the light to run at full output over the course of battery life until voltage falls below a minimum requirement to sustain full output, at which point output drops off rapidly. Though I do not have the means to measure out-the-front lumens, I ran a test with the PolyTac set on high pointed at a white wall and a DLSR on a tripod to measure the brightness of the beam reflected off the wall. With the cell fully charged* to 4.23 volts, the PolyTac ran for 2 hours and 30 minutes before dropping out of regulation. Below is a light output vs. run time graph of my test;



    My run time graph mirrors that of Streamlight. The PolyTac will give plenty of warning in high mode that the battery is running low.
    Ending voltage of 2.77 volts at 3.5 hours is just above the battery’s 2.5 volt protection circuit cut off.

    Streamlight rates the PolyTac to run for 56 hours in low mode with CR123a primary cells. Since my own test on high power with the KeepPower 2500mAh 16650 Li-ion rechargeable cell closely matches their run time graph with CR123a cells, I expect the PolyTac would run for about 56 hours on low with the 16650 cell as well. This is certainly more-than-adequate for emergency use.

    *The KeepPower 16650 cell must be charged to 4.3 volts for maximum capacity, as compared to 4.2 volts for most other common Li-ion cells. The problem is that my Xtar VP2 charger has a setting for 4.2 volts and 4.35 volts. Trying to charge the cell at 4.35 volts will reportedly open the battery protection circuit, so I charge mine with the 4.2 volt setting. According to reliable sources, charging at 4.2 volts results in about a 3.5% decrease in capacity, from 2500mAh to just over 2400mAh, which for most users is insignificant. Interestingly, unlike my 4.2V cells which come off the charger at exactly 4.2 volts, this cell comes off the charger at 4.24 volts.

    Real Use Impressions

    Equipped with one of my DIY finger-loop lanyards, I have been using the Polytac for my nightly dog walks. IMO, this is “where the rubber meets the road” for any light and regardless of my white wall beam concerns, these are my impressions;

    • The PolyTac’s light weight and polymer body in combination with the finger-loop lanyard make it a VERY comfortable light to hold
    • Out of all of my lights, the PolyTac’s switch is the most accessible and requires the least amount of travel to click into constant-on. For my intended use of the PolyTac, this suits me just fine.
    • Switching between modes is quick and easy to do (I have left mine in the factory-default High > Strobe > Low setting)
    • The rings and cool beam color are not nearly as noticeable outdoors and do not impair the functionality of the light.
    • The 275-lumen output in combination with the beam pattern is very useful, with reasonable throw and adequate spill
    • The circuit uses PWM (pulse width modulation) in low mode. Some people find this “strobe effect” noticeable and annoying, I only notice it outdoors in rain or snow.




    Clicky comparison: compared to Surefire tail cap on the right, the PolyTac button is more easily accessible and
    requires less travel to click constant-on. I like it now but time will tell if this will cause unintentional activation.

    Conclusions

    Though the Streamlight PolyTac will not be the “flag ship” of most people’s collections, it is a very useful light for utilitarian purposes. With SL’s “Ten-Tap” programming the ability to set the light for single mode/high output only, in combination with its useful beam and rear clicky switch, it can fill the role of a capable hand-held tactical light as well. With its one inch O.D. body diameter and spring-loaded positive battery contact, it can also serve as a very functional weapon-mounted light (many report good results using the PolyTac for this purpose).



    Light engine removed from polymer bezel. The engine screws into bezel against the glass lens and seal, spring completes
    circuit to metal liner in polymer body. Notice positive battery terminal contact, which is retained and spring loaded.

    IMO, the PolyTac is one of those products that in actual use, performs greater than the sum of its parts would seem to indicate. It’s nothing fancy and isn’t going to wow anyone with its outward looks or seemingly limited UI. It’s not until you actually use the light in one of the many roles it is capable of filling that one can begin to appreciate it. For the role I purchased it for - a low-cost multi-role utility/back-up light - it fits my intended use perfectly. Whether in the glove box or in my pocket, I certainly do not feel inadequately prepared carrying only the PolyTac.



    The PolyTac earns a spot in my go-to line-up. From left to right: Quark QTA with QT2L-X Burst
    Mode head, Surefire 6PX pro (200 lumen), Surefire PR1 Peacekeeper, Streamlight PolyTac.

    Doing my online research before purchasing this light, one knowledgeable LEO user posted “the PolyTac is a bright spot in Streamlight’s product line up.” If mine turns out to be as durable and reliable as reported by the vast majority of its users**, I will count myself very satisfied with my purchase.

    **The very small percentage of those who gave the PolyTac a poor rating was due almost entirely to switch problems (either right out of the box or after short use) , which is something all lights are prone to. Replacement tail caps/switches are readily available for about $7.00, so I do not count this as a major cause of concern.

  2. #2
    Site Supporter Suvorov's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
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    Occupied Kalifornia - SF Bay Area.
    I've been using the PolyTacs for several years now and am quite happy with them for my needs.

  3. #3
    Black Friday PSA had them for $22.99 and I bought a bunch. They're excellent lights for the money.
    Quote Originally Posted by Duke View Post
    I love a sub second aiwb A zone hit so much that my hands twitch when the microwave goes off.

  4. #4
    Site Supporter LOKNLOD's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
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    Oklahoma
    I've got an early polytac that has seen a lot of rounds as a weaponlight on an AR in a VTAC mount.
    --Josh

  5. #5
    Wag more, Bark less RJ's Avatar
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    Jan 2014
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    Venice Florida
    Great review, thanks for the info.
    Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught.
    J. C. Watts

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by LOKNLOD View Post
    I've got an early polytac that has seen a lot of rounds as a weaponlight on an AR in a VTAC mount.
    Ditto - myself and several coworkers run them on M4's in Thorntails.

    OP, Great review!

  7. #7
    Member
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    Upper Michigan
    How's the tension on those pocket clips? Do they retain well or slide up the pocket?

  8. #8
    Marginally Relevant NH Shooter's Avatar
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    New Hampshire, U.S.A.
    Quote Originally Posted by Up1911Fan View Post
    How's the tension on those pocket clips? Do they retain well or slide up the pocket?
    Quite good. I carried the 6PX with the DS clip for a while and it held it nicely with no upward shifting, and it also provides a good lanyard attachment point. YMMV depending on the size/proportions of the light and how it rides in your pocket.

    FYI, the clip comes with two orings - one glow-in-the-dark green and a black one. The green one is pretty soft and it had a tendency to deform and squeeze out when carrying. The black oring seems stiffer and I haven't had the issue with it.

    Surefire Titanium Pocket Clip

  9. #9
    NHShooter,

    Thanks for a most excellent review. I've been thinking about a replacement for my "gun bag light" (WHY do the best bags always have black interiors???) I've been using my venerable 6P; that light is so old, it has Laser Products on the tail cap. I replaced the very scratched lens and installed a P60L LED module some years back, but the light is enjoying semi-retirement in its current role. The one complaint I have is… no "low" level.

    I think I'll snag one of these for that role.

    I hear you re the visibility of the yellow; I keep a yellow G2 with a Cree LED on the bedside table for that reason.

    On another note… I have never been terrifically impressed with rechargeable flashlights, for one reason or another; especially nicad and NiMH batteries. However, lithium ion battery technology is a whole new ball game. I'm just wondering if it good enough (for my needs) to warrant the acquisition expense? After a charge, how long is the "shelf life" before the cell/s start dropping off? From my exposure to Li-on batteries in my radio-controlled model airplanes, they have great capacity and staying power, but are unpredictable on how long the charge stays potent… and, more importantly, their available life cycles are diminished when stored at full charge. IOW, they are best stored at about one-third capacity, and fully charged just before use.

    I'd be interested in hearing how you handle the charging/discharging process, what charger, rate, etc.

    .

  10. #10
    HAS ELECTROLYTES LittleLebowski's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    VA
    I just had a Streamlight one cell model crap the bed on me but willing to try another.
    #RESIST

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