Scot’s Product Review: Malkoff

Thanks to all of the folks who are writing me about products to review. It really helps. One common thread in several letters is to test affordable stuff, and that’s going to be a priority. Please keep the ideas coming! They really help.

Malkoff might be another word for light. It is all thanks to Gene Malkoff going out one night to protect his chickens and realizing he needed a better flashlight. The Enterprise, Alabama man tried an LED light but just wasn’t happy with it. He decided he could come up with something better. After some hard work, he produced a drop-in LED head for the ubiquitous Maglite. As soon as other folks saw it, they wanted one, and he wound up in the business of making them. As time passed, he added more heads for other lights, like the Surefire 6P and Streamlight SL20X. He then began his own line of flashlights.

In case you are wondering, there are at least three big deals about LED lights. First, they save batteries. Second, they can produce more light than the older incandescent bulbs. Third, they can be a lot sturdier. If you drop a flashlight with an incandescent bulb, the filaments often break, especially if the light is on. An LED will usually just keep on going. Also, if it matters, they aren’t as hot.

Not all LED’s are equal, though. I tried several over the years, and while I appreciated the better battery life, they usually didn’t seem to produce as good a quality of light as the trusty old incandescent ones. I was lucky indeed when a friend pointed me to Malkoff, because their heads really do a great job. I now have one in the Surefire 6P that lives in my pants pocket and another in a five D-cell Maglite that lives in the bedroom. Both have been very positive additions to my quest to see in the dark. I love my Surefire 6P. I love it so much that I’ve worn almost all of the black paint off in the 22 or so years I’ve carried it. The only problem I’ve had is how quickly it gobbled up the expensive CR123 batteries it uses. I tried another brand LED head in it, which did extend battery life, but it just didn’t work as well in the light area as the original. Enter the Malkoff. It equaled or bettered the original incandescent head to my eyes and still doubled the battery life. Even better, as the batteries died, the head still puts out light. It just kind of tapers off to dim instead of bright. A lot of times, with the original head, it would pretty much just rapidly die. They have about eleven heads that can be used on the popular Surefire 6P style lights. You get a choice of light colors (cool or warm); high, medium, and low outputs; and single or multiple output levels. I actually found it a bit daunting to choose one, but they give you a lot of information to help you pick. You also have to consider how many and what type of batteries are in your light. The 6P has normally two CR123’s for six volts. You can also opt for rechargeable batteries, which provide less voltage. Watch for the voltage information while shopping. I chose a plain old boring output head for my Surefire. Malkoff also makes some of the multiple output ones that go from dim to bright to blinding with some quick pushes on the switch. I like the idea, but the times I’ve played with this sort of light, I always seemed to be on the wrong output. It’s easier for me to just have one level to worry about. If I need it dimmer, I put a finger over the lamp to reduce it to whatever light level I need. I had wanted to buy the M61W that has the warm tint to match incandescent bulbs . It lists for $59.00. When I was shopping, however, they had some blemished M61’s at a very good price, so I went with that instead and have not been disappointed. It lists price for $55.00. The reason I wanted the warm tint head is because I think I see better with a yellowish light than the blue light we usually gets with an LED. The air here has a lot of humidity, and it is something like driving in fog when the light scatters and reflects back into your eyes. Bluish light seems worse than yellow light. The head I got was a lot yellower than the LED it replaced, and I think it is at least as good as the original incandescent. Eventually, I want to check out the warm tint head, but the price I got on this one was too good to pass. It has an excellent beam, too. There is a nice hot center that can momentarily blind anyone you hit with it, but there is also enough spill so that you can easily use it to light up a room. You can use some of the heads for the 6P in the three cell Surefire 9P. They also have two heads just for the three cell lights. They don’t extend battery life very much, but they put out a stunning amount of light. One big point about flashlights is that the reflector needs to be well designed, so that it functions properly with the light source. Many of the Malkoff reflectors are custom designed for both the LED used in the head and the particular flashlight they are designed for. This clearly optimizes the light quality you get.

The Maglite head is even more remarkable than the one for my 6P. It lists for $44.00. It easily doubled the distance at which I could see things around my house and yard. Battery life on it went from bearable to phenomenal. I often use this light to look at things out on the lake we live on, and it really cuts through the haze that comes off of the water. The Malkoff minimizes that. The Maglite heads do use the original reflector, but it has to be modified. They do offer a modified one, which I bought rather than cutting up my original. This allows me to restore the light to original specs, should the need ever arise. I have this bad feeling, though, that I won’t be able to find it should I need it, sigh. The benefit of using the original reflector is that you retain the ability to focus or spread the beam of light. I don’t think you have quite as much adjustment as with the original bulb, but it works quite well. You get far more reach with this head than with the original. The color of the light is similar to the one I bought for my Surefire, and it works quite well. My light takes five D cells, but they have heads for lights with fewer batteries as well as for C-cell Maglites. The Malkoff heads, especially the one for the Maglite, are blinding. Malkoff warns that they can cause eye damage at close range, so be careful with them. I keep them away from my nine-year-old, unless I am on hand to supervise. On the other hand, if you have an intruder, you can certainly make it hard for him to see you, just by hitting him in the eyes with it and then moving. There is a lot of information on the Malkoff site about their lamp heads and flashlights. I’ve found their information on battery life and effective light throw to be pretty accurate. I don’t have the means to properly measure actual light output, but the response when folks see them is always, “Wow, that’s bright!” Malkoff sometimes has blemished units for sale at great prices. As noted, my Surefire head is blemished, but I am puzzled to know what made it that way. They said it was a cosmetic blemish that would not affect the quality of light. I’ve had no issues with it over the two years I’ve been carrying it (and dropping it). When I have had questions, I have gotten speedy replies from Malkoff. I also liked the personal “thank you” written on both invoices I’ve received. I was especially pleased to spot this on their website: “I Love God, My Family, and My Country. It is my Belief that Traditional Family Values and Honest Work are the Pathway to Happiness.” I’m always happier when I can do business with people who openly express these values, because that sort of person usually cares enough to make a good product and stand behind it. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie