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A few weeks back, I decided to get a lamp for going after rabbits after dark. I didn't want to buy a full size lamp and battery pack set-up because I only have a .22LR and I mostly go out on my own, so don't want to be carrying the weight of the batteries.
I decided to get a small, scope-mounted LED light and after a quick look online, I found that most shooters seem to use the LED Lenser P7 for this purpose. However, a little more in-depth reading around revealed that the P7 has two major drawbacks.
1) It's extremely overpriced for what you get.
2) It doesn't have any voltage control circuit, which means that as soon as you switch it on, with new, fresh batteries, the batteries start to drain, their voltage drops and your light intensity gradually decreases until the lamp goes out – the same as a standard torch with a bulb. This is all right if you are walking the dog, or going out for fire wood, but for shooting, if the beam can't reach out and illuminate your target, you're as well off with a candle and box of matches.
To overcome the latter problem, LED Lenser have fitted voltage control circuits to their M-series lights, so I considered buying an M7 or M7R (a rechargeable version of the M7). The extra cost of the rechargeable version would eventually pay for itself because you wouldn't have to keep buying batteries, but at €120, you're back to problem number 1 above. Another downside to the M-series lamp is that there is no pressure switch available for them and the pressure switch for the P7 does not fit.
Whichever I chose, there would be a compromise. The P7 would compromise on light intensity, the M7/M7R would compromise on convenience. I thought about buying rechargeable batteries for the P7, but most rechargeable AA batteries are only 1.2V, where disposable batteries are 1.5V, so even fully charged, they'd have less light than new disposable batteries.
After reading a lot of reviews and opinions on lamp-specific websites and fora, a few people had said that Fenix make a better torch than LED Lenser and that they don't cost as much and that LED Lenser are simply marketed better than other lamps. Looking at the specifications of the Fenix range, I quickly found that the Fenix TK15 did everything I wanted and did it better than the Led Lenser torches. The P7 has a beam range of about 200m and an output of about 200 lumens. The M7 and M7R have a beam range of 250m and output of 220 lumens. However the Fenix TK15 has a beam range of 250m and an output of 400 lumens!
The TK15 can be run off two, disposable CR123A batteries, or one 18650 rechargeable battery. It has voltage control circuits, which keep the torch at maximum output until the battery dies. I haven't run the batteries down until the lamp went out yet because the protection circuits in the 18650 battery mean that you can stick it in the charger whenever you want without harming it, rather than having to wait until the battery has run down completely.
The TK15 has four different output levels, as well as a strobe mode. It will run for about two hours at full power, and 170 hours on the lowest setting, which is enough to see where you are going. I read somewhere that the strobe can be used to daze rabbits and make it easy to approach them for an easy shot, but I haven't tried this.
Where the beam of the LED Lenser lights can be adjusted from flood to spot, the Fenix has a fixed beam, which is a spot with a secondary spill of light around it, which can be seen in the photo below, where I shone it against a wall. I don't really see the advantage of having a full flood option when hunting, but I think the secondary flood lighting around the spot would be useful for seeing what's around your target to ensure the shot is safe.
The TK15 is waterproof to IPX-8 (under water to 2m) and impact resistant to 1m. The battery contacts are springs front and back, to absorb recoil. It comes with a canvas holster, if you want to use it as a normal torch, and a lanyard. There are also two spare O-rings and a spare rubber boot for the on/off switch, which I think is great because on a torch like this, which should last for years, those are the things that would let it down first.
The pressure switch is four little buttons inside a rubber boot, so no matter where you press it, the lamp will light. I've only picked up a P7 once or twice but it seems the TK15 pressure switch requires a little more pressure to turn on than the P7 pressure switch, although the TK15 pressure switch is larger, so it's easier to hit it without looking. One of the things I like about the pressure switch for the TK15 is that it also has an on/off button at the side of the tail cap, so you can switch the lamp on constantly without having to hold the pressure switch. Here's the pressure pad of the pressure switch:
And here you can see the on/off button on the side of the pressure switch tail cap:
There are coloured lenses available for the TK15 and I bought a red one for mine, which seems to reduce the beam range, but I assume this is normal. There are other accessories available such as diffusers in different colours etc.
To give an idea of what the light is like from the lamp, I took a few photos on the little range I have at the back of the house.
The little placards that I pin my paper targets to are at 25m, 50m, 75m and 100m. The trees at the end are also at 100m. I adjusted the exposure time of the photo to give what I thought was the closest representation of what I could see with the naked eye, because a simple snapshot was giving a very dark photo. I have noticed that this photo can be very dark, depending on what type of screen you view it on.
Here's a photo I took at 100m, looking back at the lamp:
Here's my obliging dog, Talin, posing as a fox, to show that at 100m a fox could easily and safely be identified before taking a shot:
I think the whitish haze at the top is a product of the cheap optics in my scope. It behaved almost like vignetting, only reversed, where looking straight into the scope caused it to be most visible. It was worse when there was anything, like long grass, in the near distance for the light to reflect off.
When shopping around online, I found that http://ledpowerhouse.com/
are importers for Fenix in Ireland and because they include free shipping on most of their products, are the most competitive price I could find. I phoned to make sure they had everything I wanted in stock before placing my order and found Seán very helpful and knowledgeable. When I rang first, he thought he only had the older, lower-powered version of the TK15 in stock, but rang me back about ten minutes later to tell me that he had double checked and that it was actually the newer version that he had. I was impressed that he had actually bothered to double check, and that he went to the effort of ringing me back. I rang Seán two or three times again over the next few days to check various things with him and he was helpful and patient every time. I was so impressed with the Fenix lamp and with the service I received from ledpowerhouse.com that I have since bought a Fenix E50 torch and a Fenix HL30 from Seán. At one point, while I was talking to Seán, I asked if he would consider making a hunting bundle with the TK15 and all the accessories for hunting, and when I was buying the other lamps from him, I noticed that he took my suggestion on board and now has a bundle available for €99 with everything except the mount, which I wish was available when I was buying mine.
I know I probably sound like I'm plugging quite a bit here, but I feel praise should be given when it's due and I found it a pleasure to deal with someone helpful and knowledgeable for a change.
Here are a few photos of the lamp mounted to the rifle:
I haven't tried going out hunting with the lamp yet because I haven't had any trouble finding rabbits by day, especially with the days getting longer. But I'll update the thread whenever I do take it out.
I put a good bit of research into picking out the best LED lamp for the job and finding the best source online to buy it from, so I've posted this review to hopefully save someone else going through the same amount of work if they are looking for this type of lamp.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll answer as best I can.