Between 1984 and 1988 the [incandescent] flashlight industry was modernized.
Prior to that several things must have happened first:
The Kel Lite of the 1960s had provided flashlight users with aircraft aluminum and many flashlight producers jumped on that bandwagon.
In the 1970s Halogen and Noble fill gasses were starting to be used in flashlight bulbs.
At some point the bi-pin bulb was created.
In the 1980s Laser Products (now Sure Fire) introduced using Lithium camera batteries to power flashlights
These innovations lasted well into the next two decades until LED’s became more efficient in terms of brightness, run time and compactness.
What made these lights so great (and will be discussed) is the development of the high intensity bi-pin bulb, Halogen and Noble fill gasses and for at least one of the models high density Lithium camera batteries. When the flashlights of 1984-1988 used one or more of these technologies, all flashlight users were astounded and still are.
Since about 2012, LED models have been better than their incandescent counterparts in all but a few applications. They are getting closer, but not there yet.
These lights still have a niche use and can still be fit for medical and military applications where excellent color rendering and night vision compatibility are needed.
Let me also stress that each of these flashlights (if in their original stock condition) will all survive an EMP blast, whereas many if not all LED flashlights will be ruined. I seriously believe that flashlight companies should put pressure on their LED circuit designers to come up with an EMP proof LED system. Seriously, how hard could it be? Until then, everyone should cling to their incandescent flashlights, just in case our enemies decide to fry our electronics.
The following flashlights and their features will be discussed in this piece.
They are as listed:
Eveready Halogen Line 2251, 2352, 2252, 209 and possibly others.
Rayovac Roughneck Line R2C, R2D, R3D, R2AA, etc.
These first two lines came out in 1988 and seemed as if one was the answer to the other. These light incorporated the use of rugged but affordable plastics and high quality, long lasting Halogen/Xenon bulbs. Well the Rayovac Roughneck line initially used Krypton bulbs when they first came out but later used Xenon/Halogen bulbs as well. They could take a beating, had a quality switch system. The Eveready 2251 was rebranded for Radio Shack. The Eveready 209 was one of the American versions of the Australian Dolphin. The Australian Dolphin didn’t get a Xenon/Halogen bulb until 2007 when the Mark 6 hit the market.
Mini Maglite, Brinkmann Copies and Streamlight Junior
These lights ran on 2 AA or 2 AAA batteries but had the brightness equivalent of a 2 D cell flashlight. From my research I read that they even claimed this. A 9-14 Lumen output appears to be a true statement. All except for the Streamlight Junior used bi-pin bulbs, which hadn’t been used yet to my knowledge (and someone correct me if I am wrong.) Some of the Brinkmann copies had a lockout push button tail switch to prevent accidnetal activation. At least the Mini Maglite seemed to be a revolutionary light in the world of EDC gear and of course personal lighting back in 1984. It still is today for many, myself included. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “The Mini Maglite can be used in both the medical and custodial arts and anything in between! It can meet the needs of a surgeon but still be affordable on a janitor’s wages.” Brinkmann tried copying the Mini Maglite and was hit with a lawsuit, but later produced their own versions of pocket sized flashlights. I’m not exactly sure if Streamlight was sued because of their Junior model or something else, but I never tried that model to begin with.
Maglite Solitaire use of a high quality bulb running on a single AAA battery, very high quality material and minimal size.
The brightness on this model is mediocre, but for what it was intended (finding that key hole in total darkness) it is still a winner. Mag Instrument had designed a light that was bright enough, yet weighed less than an ounce with the battery installed. This light too was achieved because of bi-pin bulb technology.
SureFire 6 and others.
These lights took advantage of compact but high capacity camera batteries to power their elite quality lamp modules. To top it off Laser Products (then owner of Sure Fire) used high quality aluminum for the bodies of their flashlights (a technique borrowed from Kel Lite and Maglite.) The company initially produced lasers for aiming systems on weapons, but then decided to develop a tactical flashlight that was (in my words) “shorter than a Mini Maglite, but bright as a 4 D Cell Maglite.” it was an instant hit (especially in the tactical world.) I’ve had conflicting reports on when the first Sure Fire flashlight was made. Some say 1985, others 1987 and then even other sources say 1988. Either which way, it was the elite flashlight for the elite of users. Sure Fire still is in my honest opinion the elite of flashlights for the elite of users. Unfortunately it has a price barrier that only the elite can justify breaking.
All of these flashlights mentioned were great, though advances in LED technology have put them on the wayside. However, one can still get some of them brand new and one can still get some of them as NOS or even used and still in fine working condition. For the Sure Fire, Mini Maglite and Maglite Solitaire there are still modern version of these with slightly different configurations, but still incandescent. I hope this has been a pleasant trip down memory lane.
I am open for corrections.
Do I leave out any models?
Let me know…