Streamlight TLR-7A FLEX Tactical Pistol Light Review
Article first appeared on Ammoland.com
U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- When it comes to pistol-mounted, tactical lights like the Streamlight TLR series, I’m very picky. The light must have great battery-life, above-average illumination, and a compact, durable body. Plus, it should ideally use common, inexpensive batteries and not cost a fortune to buy.
Streamlight TLR-7A Compact Weapon Light
The problem is that most tactical weapon lights meet some but not all of my requirements. At least that was the case until I had a chance to run the newer Streamlight TLR-7 and TLR-8 pistol lights. While I’ve owned Streamlight weapon lights in the past, and really enjoyed them, their TLR-1 and TLR-2 lights had a very big problem for my needs in particular. They impeded the mounting of a sound suppressor. For me, this ruled them, and virtually all pistol lights out for my home defense handgun. I wasn’t willing to potentially destroy my hearing just to have weapon-mounted illumination.
But then two years ago, Streamlight introduced their TLR-7 and TLR-8 lights. These had better performance than the previous TLR lights, and they were much smaller. So much so, they could be mounted flush with the muzzle of the handgun. These were and are still great, but they lacked one thing that the older models had – more accessible ergonomics.
The older Streamlight pistol models utilized a toggle switch that protruded behind the trigger guard. This allows shooters to actuate the lights with their trigger finger and without risk of accidentally pulling the trigger. The new, smaller TLR-7/8 lights removed these toggle paddles in pursuit of a smaller overall size. In practice, the side-mounted push-button switches worked but often required the use of the support hand. But what about shooters who want to keep that support hand free for other tasks? Tasks like opening doors, manipulating light switches in a home or carrying loved ones to safety. That’s where the new FLEX system comes in.
FLEXin’ on the Competition
The FLEX system introduced on the latest TLR-7 and 8 from Streamlight, is a new modular endcap. It’s designed to allow shooters to configure their tactical light to best fit their shooting grip, style, and taste. Consisting of a high and low backplate, the FLEX switches are ambidextrous, non-reciprocating mechanical switches.
Like the name suggests, the low switch positions the toggle-switches as low as possible. In many instances, this means parallel to the bottom of the trigger guard. In this position, shooters with smaller hands can still reach the buttons with a normal shooting grip.
With the high backplate installed, the buttons are roughly in the center of the trigger guard vertically. This position is ideal for shooters who want to use a support hand’s thumb to actuate the light while maintaining a standard shooting grip. In practice, both are equally comfortable, and really dependent on the shooter’s personal preferences.
But what about the fore and aft positioning of the buttons?
The TLR-7A Flex, like every TLR pistol light, includes six mounting inserts designed to align the light as close to the trigger guard as possible. For modern versions, these consist of two universal plates that fit around 95% of all handguns with a railed discover, and four 1913 plates. The latter is more for forward and rearward fit than anything else. But since Streamlight includes basically every configuration possible, shooters can be certain that the TLR-7A FLEX will fit their firearm. To make this even easier, Streamlight even includes a cheat sheet in the box that tells shooters which plate to use for the most common handguns.
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These plates are all held in place by a single machine screw which features a small spring for added security. This spring also permits quick removal and installation of the light on a given handgun. A shooter simply loosens the screw using the rim of a pistol cartridge (or a screwdriver or a penny), then depresses the screw head before tilting the whole assembly off the accessory rail. It might sound complicated, but it takes less than 10 seconds and in my personal experience has held perfectly for years and throughout hundreds of rounds fired.
While this is all well and good, what I’m sure you guys want to know about is performance, durability, and value.
In testing, I’ve never had the new light’s predecessors, the TLR-8A or TLR-8AG fail whatsoever. I’ve thus far only fired 150 rounds through a new Walther PPQ Q4 SF with the new TLR-7A FLEX installed, but so far, the light runs flawlessly. It never flickers, shuts off from recoil or rocks the battery loose. Also, the fact that I can comfortably reach the TLR-7A FLEX when mounted on the PPQ is a testament to how ergonomic and accommodating its design is. Because the PPQ has a huge winter trigger guard that places anything mounted on the dustcover dramatically further away from the shooter’s hand than on traditional designs.
In terms of raw performance, the TLR-7A FLEX produces 500 lumens from its C4 LED emitter for up to 90 minutes on a single CR123 battery. I use the previous TLR-7 on my wife’s bedside pistol now for years, and it has always run when needed. Also, while 500 lumens might not seem like much compared to the huge 1,000-lumen rifle lights, inside the confines of a house it is more than enough.
Lastly, for those of you on the fence about buying this light versus a TLR-8A Flex, I would suggest buying within your budget and be realistic about your needs. If you’re the sort of person who will never use a pistol laser, stick with the TLR-7A FLEX. You will save a good chunk of change and still get a high-performance tactical light.
In fact, in my opinion, the Streamlight TLR-7A / TLR-8A pistol lights represent the best balance of cost-to-performance-to-quality on the market today. They might not be quite as durable at super high-end offerings from military companies, but they are leagues above cheaper, imported products.
Jim is a freelance writer, editor, and videographer for dozens of publications who loves anything and everything guns. While partial to modern military firearms and their civilian counterparts, he holds a special place in his heart for the greatest battle implement ever devised and other WW2 rifles. When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.