During the past 40 years there has been great advancement in battery technology and lighting. When I was younger the majority of small hand-held torches were useless for anything more than the briefest period of illumination. Of course this was more to do with battery life, so if you wanted more run time you needed bigger or extra batteries.
Back then the gold standard for tradesmen, fishermen and outdoor types was the good old six-volt Dolphin torch, its massive battery giving good run time, it was waterproof and the flat base meant it wouldn’t roll away. Another favoured option was the Maglite and I guess it’s no surprise both these great products are still with us in improved versions.
Back then, apart from shooting rats at three or four metres across a barn, a torch was practically inept for spotlighting. When factory-built spotlights such as those from Powa Beam started to come of age, smaller units could be directly mounted to your rifle, either above the scope or beneath the barrel for solo spotlighting. Such set-ups are still effective but generally require some form of battery pack which also needs to be lugged around.
Thankfully, with development of LED technology and perfection of lithium-ion batteries, torches have never been brighter for longer nor been more technically advanced and a great example is the new Powa Beam S1 Meteor Torch Hunter’s Kit, sent to Australian Shooter for review.
It comes in a padded black hard case and at the heart is the torch itself, measuring a compact 244mm with 63mm diameter reflector housing which tapers to around 40mm at the switch block before dropping to 25.4mm at the main tube body. I’d note at 25.4mm we’re talking exactly 1” which lends additional mounting options. Both body and reflector housing are adorned with machined circumference rings and grooves which are visually appealing and provide practical grip surfaces.
At the rear of the tube just forward of the grip cap, a lanyard ring rotates freely around the main body and is retained by the end cap. This ring, being of greater diameter, also acts as a grip stop but can be removed and there are still two small loop points on the end cap if you’d rather connect the lanyard there. The unit is made from high-strength aerospace aluminium, uses CNC precision machining and is finished with a premium Type III hard anodised anti-abrasive black finish for extreme durability. Making up the rest of the kit are a couple of spare O-rings, dual battery charger, 2 x 3400Ah 18650 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, scope mount, tape pressure switch and user’s manual.
The two batteries power an Osram 5400K~5600K LED light source which can project a beam to 1300m. As a smart torch it features six programable modes: Mode 1 offers 1200 lumens for about three minutes (based on temperature) continuous before dropping to 600 lumens which last another four hours. Mode 2 is 400 lumens for five hours straight, Mode 3 punches out 100 lumens for 20 hours with Mode 4 offering just two lumens but for an amazing 285 hours.
These four modes are also referred to as High, Medium, Low and Eco and there’s also Strobe Mode if you fancy a little outback disco and SOS Mode should you end up popping a hip and need to signal the rescue chopper. The whole unit weighs 280g without batteries which, at 50g a piece, would give you a 380g loaded gross. It has a waterproof rating of IPX-8 (2m in depth) which would indicate it’s fine at the bottom of the pool but not the bottom of the ocean. Impact is rated for 1.5m and it carries a limited lifetime warranty.
In operation there’s a bit to learn if you want to understand and use all the features, so where to start? The main on/off button is in the tail of the end cap. The light has a memory so when you use the tail switch to turn it on, it recalls which light mode (High, Med, Low or Eco) it was in when you turned it off and returns to this setting. However, the strobe is always full noise at 1200 lumens or High.
Just behind the reflector housing is the side button which controls the mode settings, breathing function as well as the strobe and SOS modes. First up, with the torch on (tail switch activated) to adjust the mode, click the side switch and with each click it will cycle through the Eco, Low, Medium and High options. Again, this sets the memory so whatever mode you leave it in that’s where it stays when switched off.
Now to the breathing function which I’d refer to as ‘pause’ mode. With the torch on, if you press and hold the side switch for half a second (a long press without a full click) the light goes off but a multi-coloured LED in the centre of the side switch slowly pulses through a series of colours, just as if it was breathing. The real purpose here is if you put the thing down in the dark, this blinking light will help you quickly locate it. A full click brings the light back on and the memory function recalls which mode it was in.
Similar to the tail switch, when in the ‘on’ position a quick double press on the side switch also activates strobe mode but this time, if you give another two quick taps, it drops into SOS mode and flashes the international Morse Code distress signal. Lastly the LED in the centre of the side switch also acts as a battery level indicator. When you turn the torch on this LED lights up and various colours indicate battery strength, below 10 per cent it flashes red to remind you to charge it.
The remote switch can activate the torch when mounted to your rifle. The remote tape switch has a cord with a rubberised pad at the end, within the pad are two small pressure switches which when held down activate the light. To install the remote, simply unscrew the end cap and replace with the remote tape switch end cap.
Scope mounting the Meteor S1 using the clamp supplied is a quick, simple and practical solution to attaching a light to your rifle, however my preferred method is to use a spare 1” scope ring and directly rail mount the torch to the rifle’s fore-end, something easily achieved on my Howa .223 Remington with APC chassis. Either way it adds a new dynamic to spotlighting as, once on target, the shooter is no longer reliant on a spotter who may not be able to clearly follow a target with the naked eye as can be done through the shooter’s optic.
In practical use the Meteor S1 certainly punches out a significant beam. At my farm using it hand-held I was surprised I could identify a 300x300mm metal plate I have on a flash target 400m across the gully from the house ‑ this with the naked eye. Likewise I could pick up the reflectors on my front gate 900m away. Side-mounted on my APC Howa it proved highly effective spotlighting when used in tandem with the remote roof-mounted 9” Powa Beam in my shooting rig.
As an important point of safety, a firearm-mounted light should never be used to search for targets, only to clearly identify a recognised target. To do otherwise breaches fundamental firearm safety of maintaining good muzzle discipline as you wave a light attached to your rifle around in the dark looking for a target. So only use such a set-up to illuminate a known target that’s been identified with another light source or a target in an established safe shooting lane such as from a hide or stand over a bait site.
The Powa Beam Meteor S1 is a well-featured, powerful modern light source perfectly adaptable for firearm mounting while the Hunter’s Kit neatly packages everything you need for the task. The kit retails for $299.95. More at powabeam.com.au
Beam distance: 1300m
Candlepower (CD): 422,500
Waterproof rating: IPX 8 (up to 2m)
Impact rating: 1.5m
LED: Osram 5400K-5600K
Batteries: 2×18650 (supplied) or 4xCR123
Dimensions: 244mm (L), 63mm (HD), 25.4mm (BD)
Weight: 280g (without batteries)
Program: 4 x light modes 2LM to 1200LM plus strobe and SOS
Warranty: Limited lifetime