There are various lights on the market that real operators use to identify themselves as friend or foe (IFF) to military onlookers. These will generally play a large part in keeping guys from getting shot in friendly fire incidents. The ones I’ve come to purchase are already integrating both visible and IR lights (or are available in IR) to aid in marking friendly troops during missions when there is little to no light. They can be used to visibly or invisibly mark a location or objective as well, similar to how chem lights might be used.
Top to bottom, left to right: FMA V-Lite, Element E-Lite, Element VIP Light, Element Manta Strobe.
Airsoft applications within the Lower Mainland of BC, Canada usually have little to no use for IR lights – the vast majority of local Airsoft players have no NVGs or extremely crappy night vision devices. I have used the IR functionality on some of these before to keep me from getting shot in the back while operating with guys running Gen 1 NVG (can’t see whats what through those), but I generally use the visible lights to signify if I’m “dead” or to mark an objective. I find that running these while trying to sneak around tends to get you shot at… a lot – as proven by me turning on the visible strobe of Jester’s helmet-mounted MS2000 during a daytime game.
Pics, features and my impressions thus far, and video clips (showing my applications of each to various bits of my gear) after the break. Yes, video clips – this is new for me, so bear with me here.
All of the following signal lights I’ve come to own had to meet some criteria for my own use: Each is easily operated by one hand. Each offers a unique mounting solution. Each offers either long battery life or easily replaceable batteries.
Element VIP Light (Tan)
I purchased two of these – one from Airsoft Park (highly recommended after multiple orders) and one from JK Army (not recommended after one order). Average price I’ve bought mine for was $34 USD shipped from Hong Kong.
A clone of Adventure Lights’ Visual Identification Projector (VIP) Signal Light, the Element VIP light has a hard plastic outer case and clear dome over the LEDs.
Mounting is achieved with a steel clip on the back of the VIP light, with integrated holes for looping zip ties to fasten the light to MOLLE.
A single CR123A battery powers the VIP light, which is easily accessible via the threaded battery cap. Note that the battery cap and body of the VIP light both have metal threads – good thing for long term longevity.
The Element VIP light has 5 LEDs – 3 visible green and 2 IR. Rotating the bezel controls the light in 4 modes – off/visible blink on/visible constant on/IR blink on. Pictured below is the VIP light in visible constant on. In the above pictures, the bezel is in the “off” position.
I have gamed one of the two of these that I’ve owned – I forgot to take the battery out after turning it off after a night game (it remained on IR strobe during the op) and found out a week later that the battery was dead.
FMA V-Lite (Tan/Red) – Provided by Julian from Airsoft Gear to write a review on… that was ages ago, so even though you don’t carry these anymore, here you go.
Available on EB Airsoft for $13 USD shipped from Hong Kong – price is about average.
Element EX234 E-Lite (OD/Blue)
I got 2 Blue E-Lites for free from JK Army (not one of my recommended retailers) for purchasing 1 Element Manta. They sell for an average of $13 USD shipped from Hong Kong.
The real V-Lite is produced by S&S Precision under their Advanced Illumination & Marking Systems (AIMS). The FMA and Element versions features a similar low profile to the real thing, with flexible jelly-like material and plastic backing.The backing has hook velcro, allowing quick and easy attachment to/removal from velcro panels. The backing also incorporates three holes through which lanyards/dummy cord can be affixed.The battery is supposedly non-replaceable, though the FMA/Element V-Lite/E-Lite is powered by a single CR2032 which can be removed and replaced by cutting open the jelly-like material (though the system will not be fully sealed after doing so). I have not yet been able to run any of my 4 V-Lite or E-Lites down to zero battery yet, and I’ve probably used them for an excess of 10 hours each on a mixture of constant on and blink on.
A single LED is activated with a push button switch in 3 modes – off/constant on/blink on.
Special notes – the FMA V-Lite appears to be the same shape as the real S&S Precision V-Lite and bears the “V-Lite” marking. The Element E-Lite appears to be wider in shape than the real S&S Precision V-Lite and bears the fake “E-Lite” marking.
Element EX262 Manta Strobe (Tan/Green)
I purchased mine from JK Army with 2 free random E-Lites (though I wouldn’t recommend you order from them at this time) for ~$40 USD shipped. I’ve seen the FMA version (slightly different than the Element version) available on other HK retailers websites for as low as $30 USD shipped.
The S&S Precision Manta Strobe (early Gen) repro I own is produced by Element. Later Gen clones are available from FMA. The Element Manta Strobe has a solid colour plastic backing, a clear plastic dome, and a solid colour metal tail cap.
Included in the package is a sheet of pre-cut hook velcro which mounts to the curvature of the helmet-conforming backing. There is also a small hole which allows for wearing with a lanyard or affixing with dummy cord.
A single CR123A fits inside the Manta via the removable tail cap. Do note that the threads on the clear plastic of the Manta Strobe are plastic and that the threads on the metal tail cap are metal (duh) – slight concern for the lifetime of this Manta.
The Manta Strobe features various speeds and lights – off/IR strobe/visible strobe slowest/visible strobe slow/visible strobe fast/visible strobe fastest. Turning the strobe on automatically turns on the IR strobe accompanied by a vibration from the Manta, which is otherwise not accessible unless the strobe is first turned off and then turned back on – this prevents the Manta from producing unwanted visible light in the event that it is accidentally powered on. Pressing the two rubber buttons on both sides of the Manta simultaneously causes the strobe to vibrate again and switch to the slowest frequency of visible strobe. The user can cycle through the 4 speeds of visible strobes by pressing these two buttons together on the sides of the Manta again.
(Above picture temporarily here until I retake the two photos of the mounting situation integrated into the Manta)
I find that I generally don’t use them much in the games I play, so I don’t own all of the repro signal lights that are currently on the market; however, I am looking to pick up a Element clone MS2000 sooner or later.
For what they’re worth though, these are all look pretty cool while in use on the field. I’m not sure I can justify the cost associated with some of them now that I own them, but oh well – I have them now.