I recently made the switch from mounting my Sordins on my FAST helmet via ARC rail adaptors (overview here) to neckband Sordins – this allowed me to wear the Sordins apart from the helmet, which was nice, but it also freed up the space on my ARC rails. With Bellator Entertainment running night sims on a more regular basis, and with the need for illumination as well as red “dead” marker lights during these sims, I decided a helmet light would be my next gear purchase.
The SEALs in Zero Dark Thirty had Princeton Tec Charge MPLS mounted on their FAST helmets – with the rest of my loadout loosely based on the loadouts in the movie, I figured this would be a solid choice. I put it on my “To Buy” list for purchase down the road… no rush, right?
A day or two later, my good buddy Ali over at DS Tactical informed me they just got these in stock. I bought one the next day. Sigh.
More pics and general thoughts/review after the break.
The Charge differs somewhat from the rest of Princeton Tec’s MPLS line in that it runs on a AA battery – this is no doubt a huge convenience, as AA batteries are significantly easier to get a hold of than some obscure watch battery or even CR123As. Princeton Tec does make a version of the Charge (the Charge Pro) that runs on CR123As, but the convenience (not to mention longer burn time – 46 vs. 22 hours, according to the Princeton Tec website) of the normal Charge wins out in my book.
The Charge is extremely easy to mount on the ARC rails – it simply slides on, without any need for adapters. Simply tighten down the screw to lock it into the ARC rail, and that’s it. There is little to no wobble once properly installed. It fits solidly even to the replica ARC rails, and I don’t foresee any way it could fall off or be knocked off. It can be mounted on either side of the helmet, but Princeton Tec advises the left side as it presents less of a snagging hazard. When mounted on the right side, the light itself kind of sticks out, so I suppose it’s solid advice.
Build quality is good. It’s not made of flimsy plastic or anything, and the flexible part of the light that allows you to direct the beam seems well made and isn’t likely to fall apart any time soon – the same can be said for the battery compartment door. There are some pretty noticeable mould lines in the plastic, but these are just minor cosmetic imperfections that don’t affect the light’s function.
The Charge also comes with mounts for MICH/ACH helmets and for attaching the light directly to MOLLE, but I don’t foresee using either of these. For what it’s worth, the adapters are solidly made and I’m sure mounting the Charge to a MICH/ACH or to MOLLE works just fine.
The above pictures don’t really do the different light levels justice – there is a significant, noticeable difference between the first two levels of red light, and the white light is quite a bit brighter than it may seem in the above pic. The first level of red is more than bright enough for reading documents at night without losing your night vision in the process – I believe this is the intended use of this level… but correct me if I’m wrong. The second level of red is just bright enough for use as a “kill” marker during night games, which was one of the primary reasons why I chose a red light instead of blue and green, which are also offered by Princeton Tec.
The white light is surprisingly bright, putting out 55 lumens according to the specs on Princeton Tec’s website. Definitely not bright enough to use over a handheld or weapon mounted light, but certainly bright enough to help you with most tasks at night that require illumination (ie, digging through a pack, not tripping over stuff on your way to respawn).
Overall I’m quite happy with this purchase, even if I could have saved a few bucks by buying the clone versions that are starting to pop up. The Charge is currently going for $99 CAD on DS Tactical’s website – this is a solid purchase at this price, especially considering the clone versions will likely cost you only slightly less than this once you factor in shipping and duties.
Now all that’s left for me to get for this helmet is a Manta strobe replica and a Contour ROAM2 for the right side… although that last one costs a pretty penny and will likely have to wait while I gather the necessary monies.