First Light USA Tomahawk NV

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  • 7/29/2019 First Light USA Tomahawk NV


    FOG HORN 2013Twobirds Flying Publication

    Copyright 2013, Towbirds Flying Publication. All Rights Reserved.

    First Light USA Tomahawk NV

    By: Sal Palma

    First Light U.S.A. was established in 2004

    and incorporated under the laws of the

    State of Illinois. If the recesses of my mind

    serve me well, The Companys first product

    offering was its Liberator light. It was a

    great concept, departing in significant ways

    from Surefires finger ring approach, with

    two important features. First, the Liberator

    concept allowed full

    use of both hands

    while the light was in

    use; there was no need to develop

    specialized techniques for firing a weapon.

    Secondly, the operator had complete

    control of the lights features and functions

    with his or her thumb.

    For a bit of nostalgia, the Liberator also

    featured 80 lumens of concentrated light -

    remember the days when you first got your

    hands on an 80 lumen tactical light? I

    believe many of my colleagues, in the press,

    described them as flamethrowers;

  • 7/29/2019 First Light USA Tomahawk NV


    First Light USA Tomahawk NV 2013

    Copyright 2013, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

    certainly days gone by. The technology

    available today is quite capable of

    delivering 600+ lumens from a compact

    handheld light or weapon mounted light. Be

    that as it may, this was its beginnings, and

    the first rung on a ladder of continuous

    innovation and development.

    The illumination products industry is highly

    competitive and manufacturers must

    differentiate themselves. In my mind, what

    sets First Light USA apart from its

    competitors is their purpose built approach

    to product design.

    Each of its illumination products is designed

    with a purpose or role in mind. The

    company does not produce a product with

    features you adapt to; instead, they build

    lights for specific application whether

    tactical, medical, or what have you. First

    Light USA will have a lighting product and

    mounting arrangement to meet your

    specific requirements.

    In this review I take an in-depth look at the

    Tomahawk NV with the Tactical Retention

    System (TRS).

    The United States Army has traditionally

    relied on the MX-991/U L-shaped flashlight

    as its principal soldier illumination tool.

    Several years ago, the Army launched its

    initiative to modernize its portfolio of

    soldier lighting tools; to that end, PEO

    Soldier identified a number of contractors

    whose lighting products met their

    modernization objectives. These suppliers

    are approved for use Army wide.

    First Light USA holds the number three spot

    on a list of Whos Who in the military

    lighting business.

    This Family of Flashlights (FoF), currently inthe Army portfolio, consists of a Hands-Free

    Helmet-Mounted Light (HFHL) capable of

    attaching to the Advanced Combat Helmet

    and the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying

    Equipment (MOLLE) or the Interceptor Body

    Armor (IBA), a Handheld Tactical Light

    (HHTL), a Weapon Mountable

    Light/Illuminator (WML) and a Crew Served

    Weapons Light (CSWL).

    The Tomahawk NV TRS fits a number of

    roles in PEOs FoF. It also provides the same

    L-shape configuration as found in the aging

    MX-991, familiar to servicemen and

    women, but this is where similarity ends.

    The Tomahawk NV is a highly evolved

    illumination tool capable of delivering 150+

    lumens of white light in high power. The

    reflector is skewed to the flood side of

    things but still generates a reasonable hot

    spot with large amounts of peripheral


  • 7/29/2019 First Light USA Tomahawk NV


    First Light USA Tomahawk NV 2013

    Copyright 2013, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

    The LED ring, which surrounds the primary

    light LED, is available in a number of

    configurations from the company: Blue/IR,

    Blue/IR/Strobe, Red/Green/IR, Red/IR,

    Red/IR/Strobe or Yellow-Green/IR.

    Prior to starting on this review, I spoke with

    Josh Harrell First Lights Military Account

    Manager Eastern Region to get a handle on

    the benefits of the various color

    combinations. He explained a red/green

    combination, for example, enhances blood

    detection making it well suited to field


    Figure 1

    The injury shown in Figure 1 illustrates

    Joshs point quite well; its no more than a

    surface laceration but note how well the

    area is illuminated and how well the

    subcutaneous blood stands out. Had this

    been a more severe trauma, possibly

    arterial bleeding, the red/green light source

    would help a medic, working in low light or

    no light conditions, locate and clamp a

    severed artery or perhaps even locate a

    retracted blood vessel.

    Tomahawks ring arrangement helps to

    keep the light compact, and functions to

    nicely flood the area being illuminated. So,

    its a very well thought out task oriented


    My review sample was configured with a

    Red/Green/IR ring. Interestingly enough, as

    I worked through the review I kept asking

    myself why the company provides a red

    and green LED yet wont give you discrete

    use of red, green as well as the red/green


    I think the answer is no more complex than

    theres a limit to what can be done with

    three operator controls and still keep the

    light easy to use.

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  • 7/29/2019 First Light USA Tomahawk NV


    First Light USA Tomahawk NV 2013

    Copyright 2013, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

    I suppose you can always add more

    controls; however, broadly speaking,

    increasing the number of controls, onanything, impacts ergonomics and ease of


    The Tomahawks functions and features are

    all easily accessible through its 3 button

    operator interface.

    The light starts in one of two states, locked

    or unlocked. In the locked condition, the

    white light source is disabled; however, theoperator can still use the LED ring by simply

    pressing the constant-on control (I/O) twice

    in rapid succession. The action places the

    LED ring in a constant on condition; you

    can also change the LED rings brightness

    level by depressing the cycle control.

    By the way, the concept of a lockout

    emerged prior to First Lights entry into the

    market, and all of its competitors offered

    lockout features requiring backing down the

    tail cap. First Light was first on the block

    with an electronic lockout, which is by far

    the more elegant approach.

    I suppose its

    possible to forget

    whether your light

    is locked or

    unlocked, so the

    company providesa simple solution

    to that dilemma. Pressing any one of the

    controls in a locked condition will give you a

    red lock indication. At this point Ill

    reference a continuously flashing lock

    indicator signposts a low battery condition.

    Accessing the lights full functionality

    involves unlocking it, which is easily done by

    depressing the (I/O) and cycle controls


  • 7/29/2019 First Light USA Tomahawk NV


    First Light USA Tomahawk NV 2013

    Copyright 2013, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

    If successful, youll see the lock indicator

    change from red to green signifying the

    light is now unlocked. While unlocked,

    youll have access to its full set of features,

    which includes momentary and constant on

    illumination from all sources.

    Operating the Tomahawk is surprisingly

    simple given the number of features and

    functions available. For example, from the

    unlocked condition, click the (I/O) control

    once and the LED ring illuminates. You can

    then use the cycle control to set the desired

    intensity. If you want to engage the LED ringmomentarily, simply press and release the

    cycle control. In all cases, the light

    remembers the last intensity setting for any

    source and comes up at the last intensity

    setting for the given source, so you dont

    need to constantly cycle through low,

    medium or high to get back where you

    were! This feature is available for

    everything except momentary use of thewhite light source and IR source. They both

    come up in high intensity.

    Mastering a product of this sophistication,

    means spending quality time with its

    operators manual. Theres no substitute for

    that approach, if you want to derive full

    benefit from this highly evolved illumination

    tool. I strongly suggest it.

    IR light is essential in any military flashlight.

    I remember moving down the side of a hill

    with my handy-dandy MX-991 and a poncho

    over my head to maintain light discipline. I

    dont miss it one iota!

    The emergence of an IR LED was and still is

    a significant technical achievement.

    The lights IR feature is concentrated in the

    LED ring.

    IR is activated by pressing the (I/O) and

    momentary controls simultaneously. Youll

    need to hold those down for about 2

    seconds. Youll know youre there when the

    lock LED flashes red twice.

    Before attempting to enable IR functions

    make sure the light is in a locked condition.

    Once in IR, all other light sources aredisabled.

    To use momentary IR lighting, press the

    momentary control; the IR source will light

    in high power. To use IR continuous, press

    the I/O control; at this point, youll be able

    to control IR light intensity using the cycle

    control. I found Tomahawks IR LEDs perfect

    as a task light or navigation light.

    The last IR feature is the strobe, which is an

    IR beacon at one second intervals.

    You can watch a short video clip of the IR

  • 7/29/2019 First Light USA Tomahawk NV


    First Light USA Tomahawk NV 2013

    Copyright 2013, Twobirds Flying Publication, All Rights Reserved

    Ergonomics are truly exceptional. For

    starters I really do like the L-shaped body, it

    makes directing the light beam very natural.

    Simply grasp the tube, insert your index

    finger through the finger loop and use your

    thumb to operate the light. It just does not

    get any easier.

    Operating the light with a gloved hand

    offered no particular challenges.

    In prior years First Light used a spring steel

    clip on the battery housing to make possible

    MOLLE attachment. Candidly, it worked

    better as a belt clip than a MOLLE

    attachment. The company overcame the

    weakness when it introduced, late in 2012,

    its TRS or Tactical Retention System, for the

    Tomahawk lights.

    The TRS attaches to PAL webbing using two

    malice clips. The Tomahawk light then

    mounts to the TRS which allows for a full

    180 of articulation. Dismounting the light

    entails you depress the retaining plunger,

    which allows the light to slide in or out. The

    TRS can be oriented vertically or

    horizontally for total flexibility.

    In addition to the MOLLE TRS, First Light

    offers a belt mount and magnet mount

    system. All of the TRS mounts MOLLE, Belt

    and Magnet use the same light interface, so

    the operator will experience a seamless

    transition from vest to belt or vest to


    All things considered, one is hard-pressed

    to find a mil-spec light as versatile and

    robust as the First Light USA Tomahawk NV.

    It performed brilliantly, no pun intended,

    across its entire feature set. With the

    addition of the TRS, the aggregate solution

    leaves nothing to be desired.


    Manufacturers Specifications