The Maglite 3 and 4-D cell flashlights are the most
typical flashlights that many consumers consider "high
end". Looking at any flashlight rack in almost any retail
store you are almost sure to find either a Mag 3-D or
a Minimag somewhere in the display. Not only is it considered
one of the better lights by many people but an awful
lot of people have bought them. Their durability is
good, but the beam is not all that great and the output,
while fantastic at first, drops off very rapidly.
The body of the Maglite is anodized machined aluminum
with a checkering band around the center of the body
tube. The tailcap has ridges around its circumference
for gripping when chaning out the batteries. The head
of the light is tapered and can be twisted to change
the focus of the beam or completely removed to access
the reflector. Each unit is individually serialized.
The only difference between the 3 and 4 D cell lights
is length and output.
The bezel/head consists of a bezel ring, a plastic
reflector, an o-ring, a smooth silvered plastic reflector
and a standard PR base bulb in a socket. The bulb is held
in its socket by a retaining ring which is screwed in place.
Twisting the head rotates a cam which in turn raises and
lowers the lightbulb inside the reflector, thereby adjusting
the focus of the beam.
Output is in the form of a bright beam which is full
of artifacts and uneven patches no matter how it is focused.
The smooth reflector does allow the light to be focused
into a very tight beam which gives the Mag very high throw
numbers relative to many other lights. Once you rotate the
head to widen the focus you see the dreaded "rings and holes"
appear. The very center of the flood turns into a large
empty, relatively dark area surrounded by rings of brighter
throw readings are in Lux
at one meter. The numbers in parenthesis are for comparison
in the Comparison
Beam at one meter at target center, narrow and wide
Runtime Plot: Many people like to rave about the output
of the Mag but the only thing they seem to recall is the
initial output with new batteries. Well, here's the runtime
graph - note how
quickly it drops from "Wow" to "So what?". The initial
output you see with new cells drops very quickly and you
are left to settle with a mediocre yellowing beam. Since
it's a smooth decline, you really don't notice it too much
until you return a few days later to use it again.
completed with Rayovac batteries. More information on
runtime plots is available HERE.
The switch is a rubber covered clickie with momentary
option and rests on the side of the body just below the head.
Press in all the way until it clicks to activate
fully, or just press in part way for momentary operation.
The switch rests in a dimple so it sets flush with the body
There are O-rings on the head, bezel ring, and tailcap,
and the switch has a tight fitting rubber cover. I would
rate it at least "Dunkable". Pick it up, shake it off, and
Ergonomics: It's big and heavy, but not uncomfortable
to use. If you go on a long walk, expect your elbow to
ache when you get back from lugging this thing around.
Size - 4D (top) and 3D, with a 2C Mag and Minimag (bottom
2) for comparison
3 or 4 D cells (depending on model) power the light
for a while, with diminishing output throughout their
life. To change the batteries simply unscrew the tailcap,
drop out the cells and replace.
Accessories: Inside the tailcap is a spring which you
can remove and below that
you will see a spare bulb wrapped in foam. Many after-market
accessories are available for this light.
What I Liked: Water resistant,
Fairly tough, Bright (at first), Easy battery change,
What I Didn't Like: Short bright
output battery life, Heavy, Distorted beam
Other Things I Noticed:
Conclusions: A good light, but not
spectacular by any means. The body of the Mag is pretty
tough and can take a fair beating, but the beam and rapidly
diminishing output puts the Mag behind many lights out there.
As long as people keep buying them as-is, there is no
motivation for the manufacturer to change them at all, so
the only improvements you'll find (other than an upgrade
bulb) will likely be from third parties.