The Streamlight Protac 1L-1AA is one of the most sought after EDC flashlights on the market today. It came up while I was doing research for my favorite tactical flashlights under $50, so I added it to my small arsenal for testing. Below are the results of those tests and my overall rating.
Anatomy of the Streamlight Protac 1L-1AA
The Streamlight Protec 1L-1AA is a compact flashlight measuring in at a total length of 4.25 inches from end to end. The width is 5/8 of an inch around the body and 3/4 of an inch around the head of the flashlight, which was also the widest point. The short and narrow stature makes it easily concealable in your front pocket, without it digging into your leg. This is why the 1L-1AA is a preferred EDC among Flashlight enthusiasts. The weight is heavier than I expected considering the size but makes sense when you feel how solid this flashlight is. The weight with a AA battery was 2.7 ounces and the with a CR123 battery was 2.4 ounces. Definitely higher than the average of my testing with the cheaper flashlights under $20, but as you would expect with a higher dollar option.
The Protac 1L-1AA can be used with two different batteries, a single AA battery or a single CR123 battery. These two batteries are similar in width but are actually very different in length. To compensate for the different battery sizes, the Streamlight uses a spring loaded battery tray which is compressed by the longer AA battery and extends to fit the smaller CR123 battery snugly. You can see in the photo to the right how much a AA battery sticks out the top of the flashlight handle before the tailcap is installed. The battery life of this flashlight in high mode depends greatly on which battery you use (as well as the output). Measuring each battery with a multimeter, I got readings of 2.00 amps with the AA battery and 2.25 amps with the CR123. The LED clearly pulled more power from the AA battery which is driven by the lower voltage output. Streamlight estimates the battery life for each battery on high mode at 1.33 hours (AA) and 1.5 hours (CR123), and my results were pretty close. Estimating the life based on the amperage, I suggest about XX hours (AA) and XX hours (CR123).
The other really cool thing about the Streamlight is the “TEN-TAP PROGRAMMING” which allows you to customize the functions of the flashlight. Included from the factory are 3 operation modes which are activated by a tailcap clicking pattern which is actually quite different than other flashlights I have reviewed. One click of the tail cap cutton activates high mode. Another click turns it off. With most flashlights the next clips moves onto another mode however the Streamlight stays the same. In order to activate the next mode you have to double click the button within .5 seconds to activate low mode, and triple click to activate strobe. I actually struggled with this for about 30 minutes when I was first testing this flashlight as I could not get the clicks down to get it into strobe mode. After some practice it did get a bit easier, but was still a hassle when you got the clicks wrong. The operation is also programmable which allows you to adjust from 3 to 2 modes, and remove the strobe function if you don’t want to use it. This is the only flashlight that had that ability of every flashlight I have tested. Pretty cool!
This Streamlight Protac 1L-1AA is one the more durable flashlights I have reviewed. The body of the flashlight is made of thick steel and makes the flashlight very resistant to shock from a drop. The lens is not removeable so the only opening is the tail cap. The tail cap screw mechanism is strong and the seal clearly protects the internal components of the flashlight.
Included with the flashlight is a nylon belt holster which you can see in the photo above. The holster has Velcro straps for connection to your belt and a Velcro flap for holding the flashlight in. I used the holster for a week or so without issue. I liked the high hip position which made it easy to grab when needed and also out of the way during physical activity.
What You Get With This Flashlight
One of the big distinctions between cheaper flashlights and the more expensive are what is included with the purchase. With the Protac 1L-AA you get a few things: The flashlight, one AA battery, one CR123 battery, nylon belt holster and instruction manual.
The Light Tests
The Streamlight Protac 1L-1AA is “smart” in its light output. What I mean by this is the flashlight changes the wattage of the LED bulb based on the battery being used. Since a AA battery (1.5v) has less voltage than the CR123 (3v), if the Streamlight LED pulled the same wattage from both batteries, the AA battery life would be horrible. To combat this, Streamlight made the Protac adjust light output based on the battery being used so you actually get less light from the AA battery compared to the CR123. Streamlight estimates about 150 lumen output from the AA battery and 350 lumen output from the CR123. That’s a 133% efficiency improvement. I tested both batteries and included the photos below to show how they handled both my “light the path” and distance testing.
The distance testing demonstrated the difference between the AA and CR123 batteries a bit more clearly than the light the path test. The testing was done at a distance of about 40 yards, aimed at the group of two large trees. The AA battery had an effective distance around 50 yards, and lit up the trees but not nearly as clear as the CR123 battery did. With the lithium battery, the effective distance was extended to about 70 yards, which a pretty significant improvement.
The Final Verdict
The Streamlight Protac 1L-1AA definitely showed me that money can buy happiness. Comparing this flashlight to those in the lower price buckets, the Protac definitely stands out in its compact size, smart functions and light output. Overall, I am giving the Protac 1L-1AA high 8 points out of 10. This flashlight will definitely remain in my arsenal going forward.