Surefire A2 Aviator

5 Stars

Light Type: Incandescent & LED Hybrid
Light Class: Outdoor / Rough Use / General

UPDATE: Surefire has affirmed that all current Surefire lights should be waterproof to about 33 feet/10 meters. Some reviews were posted before Surefire made the affirmation that their lights were watertight to 1 atmosphere depth. Any new Surefire lights you purchase now should be considered waterproof to 33 feet/10 meters.

Short Description:

The Surefire A2 Aviator is a very unique light. Surefire has blended several different technologies into one compact multipurpose light.

The body is made of the typical Surefire machined aircraft aluminum and anodized with a Type III hard finish. It is powered by 2 lithium 123a cell batteries. The bezel contains 3 LEDs and one high pressure xenon incandescent bulb. The switch is a two stage tailcap that allows the user to select the 3 LEDs first for dim lighting, followed by the incandescent bulb by increasing pressure on the thumb switch. The tailcap switch can also be twisted for constant-on use of either lighting level or can be locked-out to prevent operation of the switch when packed. The incandescent bulb is regulated for output by digital circuitry, allowing for constant white light for ~1 hour on a set of batteries.

Size Reference
Size vs. common aluminum 2-AA light
Bezel picture
Beam Picture - LED
Beam Picture - Incandescent

Reviewer's Impressions:

Despite its name, the Surefire A2 Aviator is not intended only for pilots. Originally designed for the flying crowd with its low output light from the LEDs for cockpit use and the high output incandescent for equipment checks from the ground, the transition to a myriad of other professions is an easy one for the A2. From police/EMT/fire/rescue/military, to your "average Joe" out camping with the family, the A2 fits the bill as what I would consider to be the absolute best personal flashlight you'll find on the market today.

The body is Type III hard anodized machined aircraft aluminum which is coated on the inside for corrosion resistance. The body and tailcap are knurled for grip. The body has four flat panels machined into its sides and the removable pocket clip rests over one of these panels to minimize abrasion of the user's pockets when clipped on.

Witness marks on the body and tailcap help to let you know the status of the switching mechanism. Twist back one turn to lock out the switch to prevent accidental activation when packing. Twist forward one turn for the LED lights, twist forward another turn for the incandescent bulb. Both LEDs and incandescent can also be accessed by pressing in on the tailcap button switch. A gentle press gets you LED light for low light applications or close range work, while a harder press lets you "reach out and touch someone" with the penetrating high pressure xenon beam.

The bezel of the light is a polished textured aluminum reflector with 4 holes; 3 for the LEDs surrounding one for the incandescent bulb. The textured surface keeps the permanently-focused incandescent beam nice and smooth. This is all protected behind a Pyrex lens that won't melt from the high temperature xenon bulb and allows greater light transmittance than plastic lenses.

The digital regulation circuitry and the incandescent bulb form an very special partnership in this light. The incandescent bulb is designed specifically for the requirements of the A2, and the circuit is designed to both protect and exploit that special bulb.

The bulb runs at an extremely high temperature and is kept there by the constant output regulation circuit. This helps prevent the filament breakdown that occurs in lights that dim as the batteries run down. Because of the circuit, it doesn't turn yellow or dim as the batteries are depleted, maintaining its pure white output for nearly an hour on a set of batteries. The bulb is also protected by a special "ramp-up" feature in the circuitry that protects the bulb from the initial surge of voltage that commonly breaks incandescent bulb filaments by causing them to overheat. In layman's terms: it's brighter, whiter, and longer lasting.

Runtime Plot: Very solid regulation of the incandescent bulb for about 45 minutes on a new set of 123A cells, followed by a slight drop to 50 minutes, then the "big plunge".

Runtime completed with included "Surefire" batteries. More information on runtime plots is available HERE.

The LEDs are not regulated, but will diminish in brightness over the life span of the batteries. 50% brightness is achieved in about 15 hours of exclusive LED use (advertised). The light continues diminishing after that, trailing off for many, many more hours. Plus, when the digital regulation circuitry decides there isn't enough juice to run the incandescent bulb (~50 minutes), the LEDs continue to operate so you aren't left in the dark.

The A2 can be purchased with one of four different LED colors. White is my personal favorite for any LED light since they give good color rendition under all circumstances. Red is available for those who wish to preserve their natural night vision when working in the dark. Blue is used in forensics or by hunters who find that following a blood trail from wounded game is often easier under blue light. Green is compatible with night vision equipment as it doesn't cause the display to "bloom" as much as white light.

The incandescent bulb is intended to be user replaceable, while the LEDs are not.

This light takes two 123a lithium batteries for power. These batteries are very expensive in retail stores, but can be had for a good price online. At the time of this review, has some very good prices when bought in a box of 12. Simply unscrew the tailcap to change the batteries.

One of the few problems with the Surefire high-output personal lights has been the lack of a low-light option. The A2 addresses this problem and adds in several other advanced features which make it, plain and simple, what I would consider to be the best personal light you could carry. If I had something higher than a 5 Star rating, I would give it to the Surefire A2.

+ + + Pluses: Water resistant, Tough, Regulated incandescent, Long LED battery life, Bright, Easy battery change, Lightweight

- - - Minuses: None

Quick Facts Table:

Review Date ............................. July 2003
Case Material ........................... Machined, Type III hard anodize coated aluminum
Case Features .......................... Knurled for grip, pocket clip with lanyard hole
Case Access Type .................... Unscrew Tailcap for battery change
Switch Type ............................. 2 stage momentary and constant on switch with lockout capability
Reflector Type ......................... Textured aluminum
Lens Type ................................

Pyrex glass

Bulb Type ................................. High pressure xenon & 3 x 5mm LEDs
Beam Type ............................... Incand. tight spot, LED smooth flood
Beam Characteristics ............... Incand. slightly oblong but smooth, LED smooth
Throw (Lux) at 1m (click for description) LED ~ 40 at beam center. (6.31 Comparison Chart equivalent)
Incand. ~ 2032 at beam center. (45.08 Comparison Chart equivalent)
Overall Output (click for description) LED ~ 520 (5.20 Comparison Chart equivalent)
Incand. ~ 5750 (57.50 Comparison Chart equivalent)
Battery / Power Type................ 2 x 123a lithium batteries (included)
Battery Life (advertised) ........... 1 hour regulated incandescent, 15 hrs. LED + 30 hrs diminishing
Environmental Protection ......... O ring seals
Special Items of Note ...............  
Warranty .................................. Limited Lifetime
Retail Cost ................................ 175.00 US$


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