Night-Ops Gladius (75200OD)

Provided for review
by the kind folks at:

5 Stars

Light Type: Luxeon III LED
Light Class: Tactical / Rough Use / Specialty

The Night-Ops Gladius is the first illumination product offering from the Blackhawk Products Group. The light is designed with the armed professional in mind and even arrives in what appears to be a small polymer pistol case. Several innovations make this light stand out relative to the competition such as a one-handed dimming option and a strobe setting to disorient a subject. It is a very high quality illumination tool in many respects, but I found one or two areas that could use improvement in my opinion.

Body description: The body is made of machined aluminum and sports an "exceptionally hard coating", but the documentation does not state what the coating is. Third party sources indicate that it is a liquid ceramic coating, which would be a significant departure from the typical HA-III anodize found on many "tactical" lights. The lights are available in four finishes: Black, OD, Gray and Tan. The head is larger in diameter than the body, and has a slight outward step about 1/3 of the way toward the body tube. The body tube has 2 flat panels for engraving and 4 flutes to aid in grip. The tailcap has 4 protruding tabs (fins) near the body tube which serve as an anti-roll device and as a grip point for tightening and loosening the tailcap during battery changes. Lanyard holes are drilled in two of the opposing tabs. At the far end of the tailcap is a wide polymer ring with 6 molded-in grooves. This ring rotates to allow selection of the various operational modes. The bottom of the tailcap has the switch button for activating the light.

The bulb is a high-dome Luxeon III LED. The bulb and smooth reflector are protected behind a "high quality" glass lens. They type of glass is not identified, but it does appear to have an anti-reflective coating. The reflector has some slight bulges which does affects the beam pattern, although not to any serious degree.

Output description: Output is in the form of a pre-focused spot with an irregular corona and a wide spillbeam. The white light produced by the LED is a high color temperature and produces good color rendition weighted toward the blue end of the spectrum. A slight purplish tint is detectable when compared against a near sunlight-white source, but this tinting is not noticeable during normal use. The light has several modes of operation and can be dimmed to a very low level.

3000 (54.77)
3800 (38.00)
Lowest Possible
12 (3.46)
15 (0.15)

All throw readings are in Lux at one meter. The numbers in parenthesis are for comparison in the Comparison Charts.

Beam at one meter at target center and at target edge to show spillbeam.

At higher output levels the LED will generate waste heat. To prevent overheating, the Gladius has a thermal protection circuit which reduces light output 50% if excessive heat builds up. If the condition continues it will turn the light off. This can be overridden by turning the light off then on again. This will allow you to use the light in 15 second bursts before it turns off again if it is still too hot. Generally this condition should only happen if the light is in an extremely hot environment or it turns on accidentally while packed.

Runtime Plot: Well, I was afraid of this... After 33 minutes it appears as though the thermal protection circuit may have kicked in and reduced output due to heat buildup from being constantly on. There was an immediate 20% drop in output. Really, this is a good thing because it shows A) the thermal protection system works, and B) the system is doing it's job and protecting the LED from damage. However, the "high" runtime is not accurate as a result. Since the light was suspended in 78 deg F. open air during this test, the graph probably reflects fairly accurately the real-world performance if left on its highest output setting. Once I put in new batteries, output went back up to normal levels, so the drop does not indicate any kind of defect or damage.

Runtime completed with Duracell batteries. More information on runtime plots is available HERE.

UPDATE: I am told via third party communication of information from Night-ops that the behavior of the light which is revealed by this plot is actually planned. The regulator system apparantly automatically drops output after a pre-determined period of time in order to extend runtime, but it only does this in constant-on mode. The mentality is that if you are leaving it on for an extended period, you probably need extra runtime more than you need full output brightness...

Switch description: As mentioned before, the switch is in the tailcap. A wide polymer ring with 6 molded-in grooves rotates to allow selection of the various operational modes. The bottom of the tailcap has the switch button for activating the light. The switching mechanism is "contactless" in order to help prevent failures due to corrosion. More accurately I think it may be called "sealed contacts" since it uses magnets to operate the switch. This means the contacts can be sealed from environmental influence. By using a very strong magnet at very close proximity I was able to operate the light in all of its modes without using the switch at all, even when it was locked out. I don't think you have to worry about the light turning on due to external magnetic influence unless you plan on using the light in a hospital room next to an running MRI, or under a junkyard electromagnet. Do keep it separated from magnetic shakelights if you were planning on storing these lights next to one another; or take the batteries out of the Gladius first.

Also, because the light uses magnets to operate the switch, the stroke distance of the switch seems a little long. This is to ensure that the magnets remain far enough from the contacts when at rest so that they don't activate the light. This results in a fairly long stroke of the tailcap switch to operate the light.

There are several modes of operation, all of which can be accessed via the tailcap with one hand. The proper way to hold the light is with the body in the palm and the thumb against the tailcap. With this grip you can use the thumb and forefinger to twist the polymer tailcap ring to access the various modes.

Initially the light is supplied in the "locked out" position. The button is pressed half- way down and the polymer ring is twisted all the way to the left (counterclockwise). This is called "channel 4". Twist the polymer ring to the right one notch to release the switch. The light is now in "channel 3" which is for constant on use and variable output.

In the channel 3 position, press and release to turn the light on. Press and release again to turn it off. Press and hold to change the brightness level. The light will ramp up or down depending on the current setting. Each long press and release will reverse the direction of the light adjustment. Factory default is for the light to start at the brightest setting and ramp down if the switch is held. You can change this by pressing and holding the button for 10 full seconds until the light blinks rapidly twice, releasing, and then pressing and holding the button for 10 full seconds again until the light blinks rapidly twice. After the second double-blink the light will move to the next option which is starting out as low as possible and then ramping up when held. The third option is selected the same way as described above, but the light remembers the setting it was on when turned off and turns back on at the same level. Repeating the selection process a fourth time returns the light to the factory setting.

Twisting the polymer ring once more to the right puts you in "channel 2"; momentary strobe mode. This momentary only mode is activated when you press the switch and shuts off when the switch is released. The strobe mode produces a rapidly blinking light designed to disorient a subject and prevent them from accurately identifying a target. Intended for the military/police use during close quarter combat, the strobe is quite irritating when directed in your face and can cause a subject to hesitate, which is often all that is needed for the operator to gain the upper hand in a potentially dangerous situation.

One more twist to the right from the polymer ring and the light moves to "channel 1" which is a typical tactical momentary. Press for on, release for off.

From the channel 3 position (constant on) you can twist the ring to preset the light in another mode. This may be useful in many situations. For example: an officer on a traffic stop uses the "memory" constant on mode to turn the light on at a fairly low, battery conserving level to check an ID, but after turning the light on they preset the ring to another channel so that if something goes wrong a quick press of the switch changes the output to the strobing momentary mode (channel 2) to visually disorient the aggressor or to the full output momentary mode (channel 1) for better illumination in general.

To return to channel 4, locked out, from the channel 3 position it is necessary to press the tailcap button in part way and hold it while twisting the tailcap to the left. Beware that if you press the button in too far it will turn on the light and you can still twist the tailcap ring, resulting in the light being locked "on". This is not a big problem with the factory default channel 3 setting as you should notice right away that the light has turned on. However, if you changed the channel 3 setting to turn the light on in its lowest setting, you may not notice the light is on and you could deplete your batteries.

Seals / Water Resistance: Although it is not stated in the literature, third party sources indicate that the light is waterproof to 50 meters. The O-ring which seals the battery compartment at the tailcap is exposed and visible when the tailcap is tight. The head of the light is completely sealed and cannot be opened.

If it gets wet inside, just disassemble as much a possible without tools and let it dry before using again.

Ergonomics: The Night-Ops literature makes a point of mentioning that the light is well balanced, and indeed it is. It is neither front heavy of tail heavy. It lacks any type of granular texture for grip, depending instead on the flutes on the body and the larger head and tailcap fins to provide a secure grip. A wrist lanyard is included with the light to aid in retrieval if dropped. Since it is all metal it really isn't designed to be "biteable" if you tend to use lights in this manner to free up your hands.

Size compared to a common 2AA aluminum light

Batteries: For batteries, this light takes two 123A lithium cells. Night-Ops recommends Duracell, Panasonic, or Night-Ops brand cells. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to run your light, I would recommend BatteryStation brand cells from for less than $2 each. (No, we are not affiliated with or paid by In comparison tests completed by a third party, they were found to perform as well as or better than the top brand name cells. I would not recommend purchasing these cells at retail stores since they cost $10 a pair or more in most retail stores!

To change out the batteries: Be Warned! You have to do this correctly or risk damaging the light, possibly to the point of inoperability!

To remove the tailcap: unscrew the tailcap by twisting the four tailcap fins, NOT the polymer ring , and drop out the old cells. Place in new cells observing proper polarity. Now you need to STOP COMPLETELY. Reattaching the tailcap is a process that needs to be executed properly to prevent damage to the light and possibly rendering it inoperable.

To reattach the tailcap: hold the tailcap by the polymer ring. Gently set the tailcap onto the end of the light and twist the polymer ring WITHOUT APPLYING PRESSURE . I recommmed twisting it backwards - in an unscrewing motion. Part way around the tailcap will drop down, settling onto the threads. This indicates that the tailcap has aligned itself properly and can now be tightened. Only now do you twist the tailcap by the FINS (not the polymer ring) with gentle pressure and screw it into place. You will notice that although the fins twist, the polymer ring stays still.

This intricate procedure is due to the fact that the polymer ring has to be aligned in a specific way with the body to operate properly. There is a groove on the inside of the body tube that lines up with a protrusion on the outer wall of the inner tailcap mechanism. Forcing the tailcap into place may cause damage to this protrusion and prevent the tailcap from aligning properly in the future and as a result the light may not operate.


The fact that such a cautious procedure is needed for a combat-intended light bothers me a bit. I would think it should be designed so that it could be serviced very quickly in less than optimal situations, possibly while the user is under stress. Having to be slow and delicate is not feasible when TSHTF and your batteries die.

To their credit, in order to prevent this exact situation from occurring, Night-Ops has built in a couple of nice features. First is a low battery warning. The light will blink quickly twice (in any mode but strobe, obviously) every 15 seconds to warn of impending battery failure. Second is a gradual ramp-down in output as the batteries fail instead of a rapid drop. This should hopefully give the user enough warning and enough time to be able to change the batteries from a safe position or wait until after the action when care can be used to follow the proper battery replacement procedure.

Accessories: The light comes in a nice polymer case and includes instructions, batteries and a wrist lanyard.

What I Liked: Waterproof, Tough/impact resistant, Regulated/good battery life, Bright, Multiple output levels.

What I Didn't Like: This light loses points for the tricky/delicate manner in which the tailcap needs to be assembled after a battery change. In anything but a calm, controlled environment it seems likely that damage or incorrect assembly would occur. I'm also not that keen on the very long stroke needed when pressing the tailcap button - about 5-7mm, which seems excessive, but is required due to the use of magnetically activated contacts.

Other Things I Noticed: The O-ring that seals the tailcap is exposed when the tailcap is tightened. This is normal for this light.

Conclusions: I am not an "operator", nor do I put myself in harm's way intentionally. I leave that up to the heroic individuals who would be using this type of light at a professional level. The "average Joe", such as myself, probably has no real need for a light like this, but combat troops, SWAT, Police, etc. should find it to be an excellent companion during low-light encounters. As is to be expected, one should practice with the tools of the trade to become proficient in their use, and this illumination tool is no exception. I think owners of this light should also work to become very familiar with the battery changing procedure so that it becomes second nature and can be performed quickly and with accuracy so as not to damage the light.

Quick Facts Table:

Item Reviewed.......................... Night-Ops Gladius
Review Date ............................. September 2005
Case Material ........................... Aluminum, ceramic coated
Case Features .......................... Fluted, lanyard holes
Case Access Type .................... Unscrew tailcap for battery change
Switch Type ............................. Multifunction press with selection ring
Reflector Type ......................... Smooth
Lens Type ................................ Anti-reflective coated glass
Bulb Type ................................. Luxeon III LED
Beam Type ............................... Spot
Beam Characteristics ............... Narrow spot, irregular corona, wide spillbeam
Throw (Lux) at 1m (click for description) see table above
Overall Output (click for description) see table above
Battery / Power Type................ 2 x 123A lithium cells
Battery Life (advertised) ........... 70 minutes on high
Battery Life (test results) ...........  
Environmental Protection ......... O-rings, 50 meter depth
Weight (oz.) with batteries ....... 5.6
Special Items of Note ............... Follow battery changing procedure carefully, lanyard included
Warranty .................................. Limited Lifetime
Retail Cost ................................ 234.99 US$ at time of review from BrightGuy


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