I’m kind of a flashlight nut — okay, I’m definitely a flashlight nut. I’ve spent far too much money on different variants from different manufacturers in the pursuit of the perfect light.
When I first started working at the sheriff’s department, I was issued a cruddy, little, incandescent Streamlight. The first time I turned it on, I knew it wasn’t going to cut it, so I ordered a M61 drop-in from Malkoff Devices and never looked back. As it turns out, Malkoff products are pretty common among law enforcement and for good reason.
When you are in a low-light situation and a possible threat is lurking around the corner, it’s more than imperative that your light works. It needs to turn on every time, no matter what, and that’s just one of the things that makes these lights so amazing.
The Alabama company is owned and operated by Gene Malkoff, who has been tinkering with lights since 2004. In 2008 he left his “real” job to start Malkoff Devices and has since grown it into a reputable company. His customer service is on par with his creativity, though most of his lights “are born from customer input.”
Tough doesn’t begin to describe the 100 percent American-made Malkoff products. I’ve (unintentionally) dropped, kicked and otherwise abused my lights, with no ill effect, and that’s primarily due to Gene’s philosophy.
“I like to keep things simple, intuitive and hard to break. If you break it, return it to us and we will repair or replace [it] at no charge. I try to treat customers the way I like to be treated,” he said.
What’s a drop-in?
A drop-in is the actual LED portion of a light. What that means is if you already have the body of a flashlight, say an old, outdated Surefire, Streamlight or a MagLight, you can order the appropriate drop-in unit and transform your once dim light into a beam-throwing powerhouse.
The M61 is just such an example of a Malkoff Devices drop-in. Almost any 1-inch body flashlight can accommodate this particular unit. The one I used was a very old Surefire M2 Centurion. Originally, it had a fragile, xenon gas-filled bulb with an output of 120 lumens for about 15 minutes. Now, it has an out-the-front measured brightness of 325 lumens with a runtime of nearly 2 hours.
One of the problems with high-powered LED flashlights is that they can overheat and fry the electronics, but with the Malkoff drop-ins, the solid brass heat sinks provide ample temperature regulation, even with high output.
With an input voltage of 3.4 to 9 volts, the drop-in leaves you with multiple customization options for battery usage.
At $55, it’s an excellent option if you already have the other components and are just looking to upgrade your light.
Malkoff MD2, an excellent pocket light
The Malkoff MD2 is a proprietary light, using the same M61 drop-in, but with some twists. Gene has pretty much thought of everything when it comes to his products. Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
The tail cap has a deeply inset clicky switch, which means you can throw it in your pocket and legitimately not worry about accidental depression, a huge problem with many other manufacturers. All Malkoff lights also have the ability to tailstand, meaning you can set the light upside down and use it, hands-free, to illuminate a room while you work.
The outside of the body is nicely knurled, providing a grippy, slip-free surface. The inside was not forgotten either. Most 1-inch body lights accept 3V CR123 batteries. But if you use your lights a lot, you’ll quickly find out just how pricey those batteries are. Mackoff lights are bored out to accept standard CR123 rechargeable batteries, as well as the more powerful and larger diameter 18,650 cells.
Gene must have been thinking all his customers work as bomb technicians, because the head of this light is built to take a blast. The added protection does add a slight increase in weight and size, but the peace of mind it provides far outweighs those disadvantages.
The MD2 body and head starts at $59, but that doesn’t include the drop-in. The reason being, Malkoff has several variants of the M61 that are slightly different, giving the user the option to create their perfect setup.
For $25, you can also opt for a high-low bezel switch, which changes the lumen output from high to low with a twist of the head.
Or if you don’t want to scrounge around your pocket to fetch your light, for $12 you can add a pocket clip.
Basically, anything you can think of, so has Gene.
Malkoff Houndog, cut through the darkness
The Malkoff Houndog has to be, hands down, my favorite light I have ever personally used. This turnkey, three-cell monster eats up the darkness, but still fits in your pocket, at least a cargo pocket anyway.
Whenever you see a disclaimer attached to a light that says, “WARNING: This light is capable of causing eye damage at close range,” you know you’ve got a winner.
With a measured output of 1,100 out the front lumens, this light easily illuminates objects at 1,000 feet. The input voltage is 5.5 to 12 volts, permitting from two to four CR123 batteries. It also accepts 18,650 cells.
Like the MD2, this light has a deeply inset clicky switch, can tailstand, has excellent knurling and a bombproof head. The MD2 body can be used for this head, as well as other options on the Malkoff Devices website.
Starting at $110 for just the head, this light is definitely a little pricier, but I am confident anybody who turns this thing on in a dark place will instantly be happy with their purchase.
In a day and age when human interaction becomes less and less frequent during business transactions, it is refreshing to deal with a company that is genuinely invested in your needs. Call Gene during business hours and he’ll likely pick up the phone himself. That’s the kind of businessman he is.
The quality of these lights really speak for themselves, and you really are getting much, much more than what you pay for. The interchangeability between products means you will pay less in the long run, and the option to just buy a drop-in is priceless.
I’ve purchased a lot of lights over the years, but after using Gene’s products, on the streets and at home, I’ll never use anything else again. Period.
If you are looking for a new light, for whatever purpose, I cannot recommend Malkoff Devices strongly enough.