The Surefire A2 Aviator is Surefire’s only hybrid LED/Xenon flashlight, and their only light with a digitally regulated Xenon main beam. This light was one of their flagship models and is one of the reasons Surefire is so well known today.
Meat and Potatoes
The Surefire A2 Aviator employs one of my favorite Surefire inventions. The 2 stage momentary tailcap switch is, in my opinion, one of the greatest achievements of this spectacular company. There is very little that can be simpler to grasp than press harder to get more light. This simple concept is what makes this light such a joy to use. Once you turn this light on, there is no need to adjust your grip in the slightest in order to have access to full power. The basic twist for constant on settings are also very easy to use, even single handedly.
The A2 utilizes a trio of 5mm LEDs in quite a few choices of colors. I’ve had the occasion over the last couple years to spend a little time with several of the colors, but I believe that the white LEDs are the most useful. The advertized 3 lumen output seems to me to be far understated. I have found the light level of the white LEDs to be more than adequate for a large number of around the house and even outdoor tasks. In the dark with adjusted vision, the secondary beam produces a beautiful flood profile allowing the immediate area to be illuminated with little to no hotspot washing out your vision.
The main Xenon beam also seems to suffer the affliction of being underrated. It is advertised as a mere 50 lumens, however I would be surprised know that was actually the top end of it’s performance. The Aviator competes with other lights sporting somewhat more impressive numbers. This is, however, as much a testament to Surefire’s routinely understated marketing department as it is to this particular light.
This torch also provides one extremely useful feature, it’s rock solid construction. When you pick up the Aviator, you know instantly that you have a quality light in your hand. Every facet of this light exudes quality of materials and workmanship. The machine work is exquisite and Surefire’s attention to detail is unparalleled in this light.
While this light may be a touch larger than I like in an “Every Day Carry” type of setting, it does make a fantastic go-to light for around the house or around the woods at night. The two levels of light are fantastically useful for many nighttime tasks. The Aviator proves itself to be a specialized tool that does it’s job well.
While the A2 has many excellent qualities, no light is perfect. Even though I suspect that the 50 lumen output is misleading to the power of the beam, the incandescent Xenon light is incapable of truly matching output with a quality current generation LED when it comes to sheer power and efficiency. I know that many die-hard incandescent enthusiasts will be shuddering at that statement, however I think the time may have come for Surefire to find some high color rendition LED to replace the Xenon lamp assembly in these lights.
Also of concern when it comes to an incandescent light is the relative fragility of the light bulb filament. The main beam of the Aviator is most unfortunately susceptable to damage from shock or merely outliving it’s relatively short life expectancy. The A2’s “Soft Start” power regulation does wonders to increase that life span, but even still there is a likelyhood that eventually you will find yourself shelling out the price of a replacement lamp assembly.
One interesting note that I discovered is that, though the white secondary LEDs produce a beautiful, nearly flawless beam, the colored LEDs do not fare quite as well. Where the white beam has a beautifully smooth wide spread of light, the colors tend to produce a trio of noticeable interlocked rings from their oddly reflected spill beams. This inferior beam can be quite distracting in almost any circumstance. I’m not sure what method Surefire could employ to alleviate this, but I know that some users have taken to aftermarket sanding of the LED’s domes to diffuse the light better. This should not be necessary in a light of this caliber.
Even if you choose to overlook the shortcomings of an incandescent lamp in favor of it’s color rendition and warmth, you still end up having to deal with it’s relative inefficiency. If Surefire were to offer any sort of rechargeable option for this light it would go a long way. As it stands, you currently are limited to around an hour of high beam usage before you are forced to drop in another set of CR123A cells. The highly efficient 5mm LED low beam will continue to run even beyond the point where the main beam fails to light, however you will be deprived of your high output for some time if you choose to run a set of batteries into the ground. Careful usage will prolong that hour, making it seemingly lastlonger, but your burn time is still limited no matter how you look at it.
The Surefire A2 Aviator is a mainstay in the world of flashlights. It is one of the lights that opened my eyes several years ago to the world of high quality illumination tools. Many incandescent enthusiasts consider it to be about the pinnacle of that genre and would love nothing better than for it to never be changed. Over my use of this light I have found it extremely hard to put down and am now genuinely seeing the appeal of glowing tungsten as a source of light. I still personally find this light to be ripe for a makeover, but If you are looking for incandescent specifically, you can do little better.