This light piqued my interest when it came out, and I’ve been wanting to buy it since. I read some
of the snarky comments on the Internet about how the red/blue “police strobe” mode was just a gimmick to impress your friends. But that is just one mode of many modes this light has, and that didn’t stop me from taking a look at it.
I purchased my SRT3 from buy.com during their labor day sale with a coupon code, and picked it up for $49.99 shipped … score! Without the coupon code I would probably buy it from Amazon to get the Prime shipping, or a reputable flashlight dealer like Illumination Supply. With Nitecore pretty strict on MAP (manufacturer’s advertised pricing) the pricing is going to be pretty the same no matter where you purchase it from.
The SRT3 is a CR123 type flashlight meant for a primarily EDC (every day carry) role. With the included AA extender it can take a wide variety of primary and rechargeable batteries–basically any battery that can fit in the tube.
The “SRT” designation stands for “smart ring tactical” which is a fancy way of saying it has a control ring to adjust modes and brightness. Notable features include separate red and blue LEDs and a deep carry clip which is mounted to the tail with Torx T7 screws. The SRT3 also features the latest XM-L2 T6 emitter. And like other high end clicky lights, this one has a forward switch, aka “momentary on.”
Official Specs (From Amazon)
The latest CREE XM-L2 T6 LED for a maximum output of up to 550 lumens
SmartRing rapidly selects six functions
Peak beam intensity of 4500 cd and a throw distance of up to 146 yards
Infinite brightness adjustment from 0.1 to 550 lumens
High efficiency circuit board provides up to 200 hours run time
Unique Red and Blue tactical/signal lights
Reverse polarity protection
Stainless steel retaining ring protects core components from damage
Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating
Constructed from aero-grade aluminum alloy
Robust HAIII military grade hard-anodized
Stainless steel titanium-plated clip
Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 (two meters submersible)
Impact resistant to 1.5 meters
Tail stand capability
Package contents: SRT-3 Flashlight black finish x1, AA extension tube x1, Quality holsterx1, Removable clip x1, Lanyard x1, Spare tail cap button and spare O-ring x1.
Comparison To Sunwayman V11R
These are two very similar EDC lights. Both have a control ring for infinitely variable brightness, both take a wide range of batteries with an extender, and both are at the higher end of price and quality for a production flashlight.
1. Comes with free AA extender– no need to purchase separately
2. Longer, bulkier and heavier. Without the AA extender it’s about the same length as the V11R with extender
3. Many more modes, even has red and blue modes
4. Has detents on the control ring for some modes and mode groupings
5. Lower low than the V11R, and red is even lower than that
6. Removable, mountable deep carry clip
7. Has newer XM-L2 emitter
8. Has crenelated bezel
9. Superior fit and finish
10. Appears to be built more solid
11. Functional anti-roll ring
|Nitecore SRT3 Defender And Sunwayman V11R Extenders Side By Side|
When I took the SRT3 out of the box, it was love at first sight. The build quality and fit and finish really stand out. Lately some people have been knocking Nitecore for their quality control. And maybe some of that is deserved. My EA4 with the slightly crooked bezel isn’t going to win any awards for fit and finish, but looking at the SRT3, the attention to detail is impressive. This is probably the first flashlight I’ve seen with what I would consider a perfect fit and finish. It’s all there in the pictures. The camera loves this thing.
My second impression is that this thing is a tank. All the solid construction and fancy features come with a cost, and that cost is weight and bulk. So right from the start I’ve been torn between “oooh shiny” and “oooh heavy.”
The SRT3 has a very efficient constant current driver. I could detect no trace of PWM even on the colored LEDs. It is worth noting though that turned on very low modes, the efficiency of the circuit is offset by the overhead of the control ring. Because of this, none of these types of control ring flashlights will ever set any run time records on low. And conversely, the efficiency goes up as the output goes up.
The mode selection on the SRT3 is done via a control ring located near the head . The control ring has 8 “detents” where the ring will click into place. Starting from the left and working right, the modes are as follows:
1. Beacon – slow blink about every second at full output
2. S.O.S – at full output
3. Red/Blue Strobe aka “cop strobe”
4. Blue LED
5. Red LED (sub lumen)
6. Moonlight mode – lowest output on main LED (sub lumen)
7. Between 6 and 7 is the variable brightness between moonlight and full output
8. Strobe – variable frequency and at full output
It’s worth noting that because the variable brightness setting only has a portion of the ring to work with, the range of output between low and high is going to be less than on a light like the V11R, where the entire ring controls just the brightness. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal in practice, though.
This is the mode that most people poke fun of on this light. I have seen commenters on the Internet call it useless and gimmicky. Well, they are right. This mode is completely useless, mainly because the red LED is sub lumen (< 1 lumen) and the blue LED is low output– probably several lumens. But even if they both were bright, this mode would be of dubious value. Honestly, this mode is made to impress your friends.
This LED is sub lumen and about the same output as moonlight mode on the main LED. At this output there wouldn’t be much difference except for the efficiency. I’m not sure if anyone has tested the efficiency of the red emitter versus the Cree on moonlight. I wonder. But either way the red mode is well suited to situations where your eyes are already adjusted to the dark.
Because the red LED sits in a mini-reflector inside the main reflector, the beam pattern isn’t very smooth. Which is probably why I prefer the moonlight mode on the main LED.
The LED is a little brighter than the red one, with an output of probably a few lumens. I’m not an expert in blue LEDs so I don’t know if there’s any CSI type use for this or if it’s just another gimmick. Either way, it’s probably not a mode that would see normal use for me, unlike the red LED which I actually use occasionally.
Because it sits in the same little nook in the reflector as the red LED, the blue one also doesn’t have a very good beam pattern. So, even if there’s a use for it, the beam pattern makes it less useful.
I’m a huge fan of moonlight mode flashlights.It seems to be part of the evolution of a “flashaholic.” High output can be nice, but most of the time less is more. For example, using a 1000 lumen face melter flashlight in a camp site to walk to the restroom will make you unpopular fast. If I am using a flashlight around other people, I like to error on the side of having it too low.
The SRT3 has a very usable moonlight mode. It’s actually lower than most of my other moonlight mode lights, such as the V11R. For a control ring flashlight, I think a lower low is better because you can always twist the ring a little bit and make it brighter.
The SRT3 has an included AA extender which lets your run any type of AA battery, even including 14500 lithium-ion batteries. Basically it will take anything that will fit and doesn’t put out more than about 4.2 volts. I really like that the extender is included for free and not another thing you have to buy.
Day to day, most enthusiasts will want a rechargeable 16340 in it to make it more compact but still powerful. But in an emergency or if you loan it to your uncle, you can put on the extender tube and it will take standard AA batteries which are easy to find. It’s a feature I really liked with the V11R and I really like it with the SRT3.
Deep carry clips like the one found on the SRT3 are popular among enthusiasts for good reason. If you carry a flashlight around with you, it is much more comfortable to do it with a clip if you keep it in your front pocket.
I’ve only recently started to become a fan of deep carry clips for those times when I need something bigger than a tiny flashlight or pocket knife. The clips really help for larger items, and the SRT3 is definitely on the larger side for EDC carry. At least for me.
|The clip screws are Torx T7|
The tail switch on the SRT3 is the forward, or “momentary on” variety of clicky switch. I prefer this type of switch, which is usually found on the higher end lights such as this one. The switch itself has a great feel, though the tail isn’t scalloped like the V11R, and it takes a little extra effort to press it with gloves or fat thumbs like mine. The flip side is that it’s harder to accidentally press or get damaged.
The SRT3 also does a stable tail stand, which is mandatory for me for EDC type lights.
The SRT3 has a stainless steel, crenelated “strike” bezel. I don’t really have strong feelings about it either way. If I had my choice I would probably shorten them a bit. I wouldn’t take them off completely because they are useful for seeing if a light is turned on if you set it down on a hard surface. Without any crenelations, it can be hard to tell if a light is on or off when it’s sitting bezel down on a counter. Since I am a forgetful guy, it’s a useful feature to me.
As far as the self defense value of the aggressive crenelations on this light, I guess it’s OK. It’s probably a little bit useful for self defense, but honestly, it’s just one more thing adding bulk to the light. I wish they would offer different bezels, if even as an optional accessory.
Day to day the extra weight and bulk haven’t been much of a big deal. There’s not much of a difference using it as a nightstand light. I usually like to EDC on the lighter side so the SRT3 is a little heavy for me in normal use. However, I usually take a larger light on road trips and so I took the SRT3 with me on a 4 day drive as my main EDC. It did great.
This is one of the best designed and built flashlights I’ve held in my hands. I’m just really impressed by just about every aspect of this light. My beef about the useless modes are minor: I can just twist past the modes I don’t want. The weight/bulk issue is a little bit of a bigger deal for certain situations, but overall not an issue either.
The SRT3 is a superb EDC flashlight and it will definitely have a role in my rotation. And it will probably be my go to light for road trips and the outdoors. I know for a fact the V11R is a well built light because I’ve abused it for over a year. But the V11R looks flimsy next to the SRT3. It’s a tank, and there’s definitely room for a tank in my rotation. I’m not sure if it completely dethrones the newly repacked V11R though. But there are definitely going to be times where I grab the SRT3 over the V11R.
These were taken with all the lights on their highest setting.
|Beam shot: iTP SC1 on High|
|Beam shot: Nitecore SRT3 SC1 on High|
|Beam Shot: Sunwayman V11R on High|
|Beam Shot: Thrunite Neutron 1C on High|
|From Left: Nitecore MT1A, Nitecore SRT3, Thrunite Neutron 1C, iTP SC1, Sunwayman V11R, EagleTac 16340|
|Here you can see the reverse polarity protection|
|With EagleTac 16340 in it|
|With Sanyo Eneloop AA in it|