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 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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 BatteryStation.com
for less than $2 each. (No, we are not affiliated with or paid
by BatteryStation.com...) 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
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
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
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.