AIRSOFT AND HEADLAMPS
What can a headlamp be associated with? With work in a workshop, an evening walk, fishing, camping, mountaineering and many other types of hobbies. Can it be associated with airsoft? Yes, certainly, although in this case all tactical flashlights mounted on replicas lead the way. If you think otherwise, just look at how often questions about RIS mounted products are asked in the community and how rarely about headlamps.
Is that justified? It all depends on the player's preferences and the type of games in which he/she participates. A headlamp is a rather unnecessary piece of equipment for players spending most of their time in CQB games. The situation looks different in the case of long games in the forest, e.g. milsims. Non the less, whether you want to light an area under your feet, work with equipment in a set up camp or to discreetly look at a map, a headlamp turns out to be extremely comfortable.
MACTRONIC T-FORCE H1L
Mactronic has once again decided to face the market of headlamps, both tourist and tactical. There is no denying that the competition is very strong here. In the past, I had longer or shorter contact with several headlamps of this Polish company. Those were, among others, the Mactronic Luna, the Nomad 03, as well as the M-Force MX-T110-HL. In terms of airsoft application, the best of these products, in my opinion, was Nomad flashlight, but it also had several drawbacks (please refer to its review). How does the product of the relatively fresh T-Force line compare with them?
As I mentioned above, there are various applications that headlamps is most often associated with. They were mentioned on purpose as the Mactronic company advertises the T-Force H1L headlamp as a product created for fishing, hunting, outdoor as well as military use. These are not empty words: the solutions used in this product can actually be of great importance for the versatility of the new headlamp, but I will write about them in a moment.
If someone is currently thinking about buying a headlamp, not knowing which direction to go, I encourage you to read the following text. As usual, it is not strictly technical. Instead, I will focus mainly on the basic aspects and airsoft application of this headlamp.
PACKAGING AND CONTENTS OF THE SET
The Mactronic T-Force H1L flashlight is delivered in an aesthetic, cardboard box kept in dark colors. The minimalism is striking: the visible part of the packaging contains only the most important information about the product, i.e. links to the Mactronic website, the manufacturer's logo, as well as the name of the flashlight model. Only after lifting the box, on its bottom side can we find a bit more information, such as the product type and its technical data.
Inside the box one can find everything needed to fully enjoy the new headlamp. In addition to the flashlight and a detachable head strap, the manufacturer has added a 14500 type power cell (lithium-ion equivalent of AA rechargeable batteries), a Micro-USB charging cable, spare seals and a user's manual.
The head strap and the included Li-Ion battery deserve more attention.
The head strap is made of a flexible material in gray-black tones, which is covered with silicone strips from the inside to improve its grip. The strap is comfortable to wear and has extensive adjustment options using a total of four plastic buckles. In its front part. there is a solid, rubber flashlight mount.
The included 14500 type Li-Ion 3.7V battery has a capacity of 700mAh and a built-in charging port (Micro-USB). This means that the battery can be recharged using a computer, a power bank, or with most cell phone chargers. You don't need any additional devices for this and it makes life a lot easier. The battery also has a built-in indicator diode that informs you when the charging process is complete.
APPEARANCE AND MANUFACTURING QUALITY
The first thing that catches one's attention when picking up the headlamp, is how light it is. It weighs only 34 g without the battery. In terms of design, the H1L does not stand out from similar modern flashlights made by other manufacturers. The head is located in the center of the tube, on one of the side of the device. The length of the flashlight is only 65 mm, the diameter of the tube at the widest point is about 23 mm (counting with the head its 27 mm), and the diameter of the head is about 21 mm. The housing of the device is made almost entirely of aircraft grade aluminium, and the switch located above the head is made of rubber.
The diameter of the tube changes practically along its entire length. In the central part it is wider as it is the base for the switch and the head. In the rear part there are ribs to improve the dissipation of heat emitted by the diode. At both ends of the tube there is the Mactronic logo. One of the two ends of the tube, the knurled one, turns out to be a cap that allows you to get inside the flashlight.
The head of the headlamp has a small, deeply-set and well-protected reflector. The head ring has the "T-FORCE H1L" and "1050 lm" makings on it. The first one is, of course, the designation of the headlamp line and model, the second one is the luminous flux value declared by the manufacturer. The reflector itself is only 12 mm in diameter and has a texture of an "orange peel", which affects a more even distribution of light. At the bottom of the reflector is a CREE XP-L LED emitter in HD version. Although this LED has been on the market for about 5 years now, it is still very popular and can be found in many good quality tactical flashlights.
By unscrewing the cap on one of the edges of the tube, you can get inside the battery compartment. Adapting the Mactronic T-Force H1L headlamp to different power sources in the popular size AA standard was a great idea. This solution has a very positive effect on the universality of the product, especially in the context of providing an emergency power supply. Headlamps can therefore be used with a popular AA battery, both regular and rechargeable one. Therefore you can use both standard 1.2V Ni-MH cells and the less popular 3.7V Li-Ion (type 14500) ones. Of course, despite the fact that the headlamp's driver copes well with various power sources, their properties directly translate into its performance, but I have written about it a bit further.
Coming back to the inside of the battery compartment: it is smooth and finished in black. The battery is inserted into the headlamp plus forward (there is a marking). The nut turns very smoothly on the thread, which is additionally secured with a seal. You can see very accurate workmanship here.
When reviewing previous Mactronic products, I have complained about their relatively low water resistance standards. This time it is exactly as it should be! The T-Force H1L flashlight meets the rigorous IP68 standard, which means that it is very well protected against dust and water in everyday use, including accidental immersion.
On the other hand, the manufacturer has not specified the resistance of his headlamp against possible falls.
HANDLING AND ILLUMINATION CHARACTERISTICS
The Mactronic T-Force H1L has a wide lighting angle. When illuminating a uniform background at a short distance, you can distinguish the hotspot from the spill. However, the border is not clear and sharp. I would describe the color of light as neutral white.
As I have already mentioned, the flashlight can be powered by one of three power sources: AA batteries, 1.2V Ni-MH rechargeable batteries, and 3.7V Li-Ion cells. However, they affect the maximum performance of the device and its working time.
To take full advantage of the XP-L HD LED, you must use the Li-Ion power source. In his case, in the TURBO operating mode, the flashlight, according to the manufacturer's statements, is able to produce a luminous flux of 1050 lumens. In this mode, however, you can only use it for a few dozen seconds, after which the flashlight will smoothly reduce the light output to around 350 lumens. After a while, you can return to using it at full power by re-activating the TURBO mode. Using this mode, the flashlight is able to work a maximum of 40 minutes, while frequent use of the highest luminous flux will significantly reduce this time. In the intermediate mode, with this type of power supply, you can enjoy the headlamp's light for up to 10 hours at 15 lumens. According to the data in the user's manual, in special modes, one can use the light to up to 29 hours in the MOONLIGHT mode (1 lumen) and up to 12 hours in SOS mode.
For other power sources (a 1.2V Ni-MH battery and AA batteries), the manufacturer declares the maximum possible luminous flux as 270 lumens. Operating times in all modes (excluding special modes) range from about 70-80 minutes (alkaline batteries and 2500mAh Ni-MH batteries) to about 20-22 hours in the 15 lumens mode. In the MOONLIGHT mode, the flashlight can work for up to 60 hours, and in SOS mode for up to 7 hours, using an alkaline battery, or for up to 18 hours, using a Ni-MH 2500mAh battery.
The flashlight has several lighting modes, which are operated with one button, which facilitates using the product with one hand. You can choose from TURBO, HIGH-LOW (with smooth adjustment of the luminous flux), MOONLIGHT and SOS modes. A SWITCH LOCK function is also available to prevent accidental activation of the flashlight. Below is a quick start guide for the headlamp:
- a single push activates the flashlight in HIGH-LOW mode;
- holding the button in HIGH-LOW mode adjusts the value of the light output;
- a single push turns off the flashlight;
- a double push to activate the TURBO mode;
- a triple push activates the SOS mode;
- holding the switch for 1 second activates the MOONLIGHT mode;
- holding the switch for 3 seconds turns the lock on and off.
However, considering that many people pay attention to small nuances in the context of operating this type of equipment, I present the full version below.
To start the headlamp in HIGH-LOW mode, press the switch once. To set the preferred luminous flux for this mode, you can press and hold the switch again. The headlamp will alternately increase and decrease the luminous flux. The T-Force H1L will notify about the highest setting with a triple flash and the lowest setting with a double flash. The flashlight remembers the level selected by the user and returns to it when turned on.
To activate the headlamp in the most powerful mode, TURBO, press the switch twice. The manual mentions that you can do it at any time. However, according to my observations, it is not possible to directly switch to the TURBO mode from the SOS mode. Pressing the switch twice or holding it in TURBO mode will switch the flashlight into HIGH-LOW mode.
The MOONLIGHT mode is activated by pressing and holding the switch for 1 second. This should be done with the flashlight off. Another press and hold of the switch will change the mode to HIGH-LOW.
Pressing the switch three times at any time will activate the headlamp in SOS mode. Pressing the switch twice from the SOS mode will change the mode to HIGH-LOW. The device will behave similarly when holding the switch for a second while in the SOS mode. Here, however, a curiosity: the headlamp will switch to HIGH-LOW, but in the highest luminous flux set (resetting the user-saved setting).
Pressing the switch once in any mode will turn off the flashlight.
When the headlamp is turned off, holding the switch for 3 seconds will turn off and lock the headlamp. It will inform about it with three flashes. Similarly, when unlocking the headlamp, it will flash twice and start in MOONLIGHT mode.
As with many other flashlights, locking the headlamp against accidental activation is also possible by slightly loosening the nut. However, this requires using both hands to lock or unlock the equipment. The manual doesn't mention it, so I'm not sure how it affects the waterproofness declared by the manufacturer.
For the purposes of the test, I took several comparative photos with other selected products (Olight i3E - Luxeon TX 90lm; Olight S1R Baton - CREE XM-L2 900lm; Armytek Wizard Pro USB Warm - CREE XHP50 2150lm). These photos do not reflect the actual way of lighting up the area, they serve as a reference in comparison with other known products.
Comparative photos were taken with a Nikon D5100 camera mounted on a tripod, using the settings shown in the photo below.
First, a photo of the area taken during the day. The pines visible next to the shed are 20 meters away, the trees visible in the background are between 25-45 meters away, and the riverbed is about 70 meters away:
Pocket flashlight, 90 lumens:
Mactronic T-Force H1L, A battery, 270 lumens:
EDC flashlight, 900 lumens:
Mactronic T-Force H1L, Li-Ion battery, 1050 lumens:
XHP50 headlamp, 18650 battery, 2150 lumens:
Several conclusions can be drawn from the above photos. A pocket flashlight with a luminous flux of 90 lumens has a slightly larger range than the Mactronic powered by a regular alkaline battery, however its luminous flux is more focused, and thus the angle of illumination of this flashlight is definitely smaller. This effect is unfortunately not visible in the photo. The Mactronic T-Force H1L headlamp, powered by alkaline batteries, is able to effectively illuminate the area to a distance of about 25 meters. Inserting the 3.7V Li-Ion battery into the Mactronic significantly changes the flashlight's capabilities, which can be seen on subsequent shots and compared with the S1R generating 900 lumens. Only the most powerful flashlight in the list, the Wizard, turns out to better illuminate the area. However, this product is less compact, heavier, more expensive and powered by a larger cell (18650).
With Ni-MH and Alkaline batteries, the Mactronic T-Force H1L offers an average luminous flux that does not stand out among numerous other headlamps. However, when the Li-Ion 14500 3.7V battery is inserted, the Mactronic's light starts to really shine and can surprise many competitors, especially considering the dimensions of this flashlight.
USABILITY IN THE FIELD
I had the opportunity to test the Mactronic T-Force H1L flashlight during two airsoft events, including a night one, as well as during several non-airsoft treks after dark. Due to the small size and low weight, it can be worn on the head for a long time and does not cause excessive fatigue. On the other hand, using this product in your hand and not attached to a the head strap is not very convenient. It has little space to hold it, without the fear of covering the light source. In this respect, the Mactronic headlamp does worse than products with a head placed on the side of the flashlight. However, in its basic application, i.e. on the head, there is absolutely nothing to pick at, well almost.
The only reservation I have is that the light angle is too difficult to adjust. The head strap mount is holding the headlamp very tightly. This causes some difficulties (e.g. the need to use the second hand) when setting the flashlight in a way that will optimally illuminate the player's environment. Theoretically, this is not a big problem, but it can be a nuisance in a situation where we often want to change its angle. Why would someone do this often? For products with a low luminous flux, the main task of a headlamp is usually to illuminate the road a few meters in front of the player. However, Mactronic has handed over to the user a product that, due to different illumination levels, can be used in more ways. A different headlamp inclination will be needed to scan the terrain in front of the player in the 1050 lumens mode, a different one for moving around using intermediate modes, and a diffrent one still for reading a map or working on equipment using the one lumen mode. However, this is also an advantage. Thanks to the tight fitting of the headlamp in the mounting, it is unlikely to change its inclination by itself.
Speaking of the applications of the illumination modes, the H1L headlamp turns out to be truly universal. Although today, a thousand lumens in a flood stream of a compact flashlight does not make such an impression any more, it is still a considerable amount of light. The most powerful mode of the Mactronic headlamp allows you to effectively illuminate an area up to 50 meters in favorable conditions, which allows you to plan your route well in advance, and also facilitates any kind of search, regardless of whether one is looking for something lost in the forest or an enemy hidden behind bushes. With some luck, in this mode one can detect reflexes from one's opponent's equipment before the user is within range of the shot him/herself.
Intermediate modes (15-230 lumens) are designed for efficient movement in any terrain. Even the weakest setting, 15 lumens, will allow you to clearly see an area 5-10 meters in front of you. This is a sufficient range to comfortably move at a walking pace. The strongest setting, 230 lumens, is able to effectively illuminate an area of up to 30 meters in front of the player, which will allow you to plan your next steps while on the run. Due to the long working time of the flashlight in the HIGH-LOW mode, it is also suitable as a light source to facilitate construction and stay in a prepared camp during longer events.
The MOONLIGHT mode, 1 lumen, is especially useful in situations requiring discretion, regardless of whether reading a map, improving equipment or lighting an area directly under your feet. The headlamp's very long operating time in this mode also allows it to be used as a navigation light.
The last of the special modes, the SOS, has little use in airsoft games. Nevertheless, I managed to use it once in a meaningful ways (in another flashlight), as a signaling marker, as well as a helpful tool in securing an area (high value of luminous flux, and at the same time long working time). I do not see any reasons for which the H1L model would be worse in such an application.
Of course, the Mactronic T-Force H1L headlamp worked best when powered by a 14500 cell. After it had been depleted and I tested it with regular batteries, the flashlight was still working fine, but the inability to activate the 1050 lumens mode from time to time felt bad. While using the headlamp, I didn't accidentally turn it on once, however, I have encountered a problem with turning off the flashlight from MOONLIGHT mode several times, after unlocking it from the SWITCH LOCK. The next switch had to be held down for 3 seconds more second for the problem to disappear. After carefully reading the instructions, which does not mention the possibility of such behavior, I think this may be a defect in the unit provided for testing.
It is impossible to deny that using the Mactronic T-Force H1L headlamp was a lot of fun, and not just in airsoft applications.
Most of the solutions used in this headlamp clearly show that this product is intended for enthusiasts of many different fields of outdoor activities and more. In the context of EDC, in particular, a good idea was to adapt the headlamp to work with very popular AA batteries. This, in turn, allowed to reduce the size and weight of the device. Not wanting to compromise, the manufacturer took care of an additional, powerful lighting mode, available only with lithium-ion cell power supply. All this means that regardless of where and how the flashlight will be used, in a workshop, on a walk, on fishing, on camping or, finally, on an airsoft event, the user of the T-Force H1L headlamp will find the right lighting mode for themselves.
In the airsoft application (especially in the context of long games), the H1L is a very useful element of equipment. This headlamp is not able to fulfill the role of the main flashlight with focused luminous flux (that one should be mounted on a replica), but it will perfectly complement it in the context of other applications for white light.
All of the above features, combined with a very good quality and a high water resistance standard, allow me to recommend the Mactronic T-Force H1L headlamp to everyone. Especially for people looking for a universal EDC headlamp that would also work well in airsoft applications.
We would like to thank the Mactronic.pl company for supplying us with this flashlight for testing.
- low weight and compact dimensions;
- powered with various types of popular AA batteries;
- very good performance with a Li-Ion cell;
- high dust and water resistance standard - IP68;
- high-quality battery with built-in charging port included;
- one-handed operation of all lighting modes;
- direct access to the MOONLIGHT mode;
- can be used as a hand flashlight.
- no defined fall resistance;
- no magnet in the nut that would increase the number of headlamp applications;
- difficult to turn the flashlight in the head mounting;
- uncomfortable when using it in your hand;
- the tested unit had difficulty turning off the MOONLIGHT after unlocking the flashlight.
Soon we will publish another Mactronic airsoft flashlight review, but this time of a completely different type. I am talking about T-Force LSR. Are you interested?