The latest entrant into 4Sevens Maelstrom line comes across as a light that is not for the faint of heart. Now the question remains if it can live up to its powerful namesake.
Meat and Potatoes
The 4Sevens Maelstrom S18 is an absolute behemoth of a torch. I have handled only a few lights larger than this in my whole time reviewing. It is also one of the brightest I have yet seen, sporting an incredible 1200 lumens via the stringent ANSI FL1 standards. While not quite as over the top as a couple of the lights I previously reviewed, this flashlight definitely holds its own in the top tier.
All those lumens come courtesy of the simply enormous Luminous Phlatlight SST-90 LED. 9 mm² of light emitting diode placed deep in the recess of the smooth polished reflector. This light was designed almost exclusively for throw, with very little flood to the beam. The moderate corona and fairly wide spillbeam simply pale in comparison to the quite well defined spot. This does tend to create a bit of tunnel vision when used in short range, but if you are looking for floodlights, there are other options to consider. Having such a large surface area to focus and not relying on any texture or stipple for assistance, the S18 does have a few artifacts in the beam, but they are not terribly major and mostly disappear in use. They aren’t the type of thing your eyes focus on when you’re looking a hundred plus yards away and still able to see clearly in the dark. It may not be the smoothest beam I have ever seen, but it still does the job quite well.
The fit and finish of the Maelstrom S18 are in a word exquisite. Take everything you have heard or read (or hopefully experienced) about a 4Sevens light and step it up a notch. The handle is intricately machined with a grip somewhat akin to the old SureFire M6’s pineapple grip. The knurled ridges and comfortable recesses make the light fit into your hand fantastically well. The large stainless steel bezel is slightly crenellated and every edge has been smoothed to keep it from being uncomfortably sharp. The anodizing is totally uniform and appears to be quite thick and durable as even the ridges show no sign of wear after several weeks of use.
The user interface of the S18 is something I have been suggesting to manufacturers since I first got into this hobby. Put some form of adjustment at the tail of the light, right near the switch, rather than at the head where you will need to alter your grip to use it. Only a select few manufacturers have agreed with me on this so far, but I suspect it will begin to increase in popularity as more companies think it through. The tailcap of this beauty sports 3 constant output modes and the seemingly obligatory strobe and SOS. Thankfully for all of you who don’t care about “blinky disco modes” these are situated so that you never have to activate them if you aren’t intentionally looking to do so. The tailcap of the S18 functions very similarly to a basic selector ring found on many other lights allowing you to select your output independent of powering on your light.
I can’t really comment about any of the possible included accessories with this light, since I was provided with only the light itself for this review, but I have read that this light does come with some sort of holster. This to me seems like a mixed bag. This isn’t the type of light you just happen to have on you because you threw the holster on before you went outside. Rather this is more the type of light that you grab specifically to go out and go flashlighting. Under such circumstances, a holster does seem to be a bit superfluous. On the other hand though, when you are out with this light, the ability to put it down securely by your side and accomplish some other task is an attractive proposition. I guess this is one of those times when the value of such falls completely under the category of “your mileage may vary”.
Though 4Sevens has been kind enough to provide you with both flashlight activation and mode selection in the same region of the torch, there are a couple of slight flaws with the current setup. First off, the tailcap power switch itself. 4Sevens touts it as a long throw switch that promotes momentary use over constant on. This is a very accurate statement. The clicky switch’s travel is significantly farther than any I have yet experienced, and the pressure required to make that final click is really quite substantial. Honestly, you aren’t ever going to accidentally lock this light on. You have to press the switch with genuine feeling before it clicks into place. Some people may see this as a benefit, helping to extend the rather pointedly short runtime the S18 is capable of, but I see it as more of a point of frustration. I’d love to see something with just a little smoother action.
Secondly, there is the selection ring itself. I happen to truly believe that it is ideally located for a tailcap switched light, however the friction it possesses in order to not accidentally change modes on you also works to its detriment by forcing you to use two hands in order to change outputs. I’m not entirely certain what a good solution would be here, but my desire would be for firmer detents but a silkier rotation. That to me seems like it would hold a better chance of being single-handedly operated.
4Sevens has introduced yet another revolutionary concept with their unique battery magazine that is built directly into the tailcap of the light. This tailcap is designed to specifically accept only standard CR123A primary cells or 16340 sized Li-ion cells. Unfortunately the use of 6 16340’s is somewhat limiting when it comes to a rechargeable option. Few people own that many already, and many will not find the abysmally short runtime acceptable if they do choose to use it. I would love to see 4Sevens come out with some sort of 18650 based tailcap/magazine to be sold as an accessory. If my math is correct, 2 cells would be very comparable to the 6×16340 in power (but more convenient) and if a way was found to use 3, then it would far exceed it.
4Sevens has created a monster. This Maelstrom definitely lives up to the fury and power of its namesake and simply exudes quality and poise doing so. This is not a casual light, but it is a capable one.
Provided for review by the kind folks at 4Sevens.