River Rock Designs Tac-Ops T1 LED Flashlight

By Chuck Hawks

River Rock Designs Tac-Ops T1 LED Flashlight
Illustration courtesy of River Rock Designs, Inc.

The numbers, availability and capabilities of high-tech LED flashlights are rapidly increasing. The Tac-Ops T1 is a unique design sourced from Red China by River Rock Designs of Austin, Texas. I have not previously encountered this particular, and extensive, feature set in another light. To give you an idea of the capabilities of this T1 compact (5.2" long, 1.3" bezel diameter, 4.0 ounce) light, here are the stated features:

  • White LED modes: High mode (235 lumens output), Low mode, strobe mode
  • Hold tail switch down for three seconds to change from white to color modes
  • Color LED modes: Red for night vision; Green for map reading; UV to search for blood and other fluids; SOS Flashing red for signaling
  • Durable: Precision machined high-strength aluminum housing with anodized black finish will never break
  • Weatherproof: O-ring seals keep rain out
  • Lithium batteries provide the best capacity to weight ratio and function fully down to -20-degrees F.
  • Included batteries are from top tier manufacturers: Duracell, Energizer and Panasonic
  • Uses brightest Cree XR-E Q4 white LED
  • Optimized reflector/lens for best possible light beam
  • Tuned circuitry for optimum balance between bright light and run time
  • Circuit boards are machine loaded and soldered
  • Tactical tail cap switch
  • Scalloped ends (front and back)
  • Anti-roll design
  • Checkered gripping surface

A compact light with such impressive specifications and capabilities will be useful in a wide variety of lighting situations: hunting, camping, fishing and other outdoor activities; projects around the home, shop and, of course, emergencies. The red (night vision) mode makes this light potentially useful for amateur astronomy, but the fact that the T1 switch sequence is designed to go from off to red to green to UV to red SOS to off again is undesirable for preserving night vision. Here is how to circumvent the sequence: simply leave the red light on for at least five seconds. After the red LED mode runs for five seconds, the next click of the tail switch turns it directly off. A subsequent push of the switch turns the red LED back on. Always let the red LED remain on for at least five seconds and you will never be bothered by the green or UV LED's.

Here are the T1's specifications, taken from the instruction sheet supplied with the light. (The specifications given online and in promotional flyers may differ slightly):

  • Model #: R-AC12L
  • Battery type: two 3V CR123A lithium cells (included)
  • Run time: 2 hours of maximum light output; 2.5 hours in High mode; 8 hours in Low mode; 8 hours in strobe mode; 40 hours in Red, Green and UV modes; 110 hours in Red SOS mode
  • LED bulb type: Cree white LED; 5mm red LED, 5mm green LED, 5mm UV LED
  • Light output: white LED 235 lumens; each colored LED 1.8 lumens
  • Size: 5.15" long, 1.3" bezel, 1" body diameter
  • Weight: 4.0 ounces with batteries
  • Color: black
  • 2011 MSRP: $59.95

Battery replacement is, thankfully, straight forward. Just unscrew the tailpiece to change batteries, like an ordinary flashlight. The front bezel is integral with the body, as it is never necessary to replace the LED bulbs; they have a run time of over 10,000 hours of continuous use.

There is only one switch, an easy to operate push button at the back of the tailpiece. I like rear mounted on/off buttons, as I think they are less likely than barrel-mounted sliding switches to be inadvertently switched on when the flashlight is carried in a pack. The T1's on/off button is slightly recessed to make inadvertent turn-on even more unlikely. It is a good, thoughtful design.

This single push button turns the light on and off and cycles through the various modes. Hold the switch down for three seconds to switch from white light to colored light modes. Here is the way it works:

White LED Operation

Press on/off switch to turn white LED on in High mode. Press again for Low mode. Press again for Quick Strobe mode. After selecting any mode and waiting at least five seconds, the next press of the switch will turn the light directly off (not to the next mode in the sequence).

Color LED Operation

Press and hold down the on/off switch for three seconds to switch to the color LED mode. The Red LED will come on. (It is useful to retain night vision.) Press again within five seconds to turn on the Green LED for map reading. Press again within five seconds to turn on the UV LED to highlight blood and other fluids. Press again to start the RED LED SOS mode. After selecting any mode and waiting over five seconds, the next press of the switch will turn the light off. At any time, pressing and holding the on/off switch for three seconds will revert the light to White LED mode.

Two warnings are worth repeating. First, do not stare directly into the light; it is extremely bright. Second, the light will become very hot when used for extended periods.

The T1 runs on two CR123A cells and a pair of Duracell batteries was included with my test light. Contrary to what some people think, CR123A batteries are no longer particularly expensive or difficult to find. They are in stock almost anywhere batteries are sold in the U.S. and can be purchased inexpensively in bulk packs. For example, a Ray-O-Vac CR123 twin pack at Batteries Plus runs about $10. A Streamlight 12 pack costs about $27 at the same store, which is only $2.25 each.

The white LED, located in the center of the reflector, throws a light pattern with a bright center spot and a much dimmer, but very wide and well defined, circular surrounding area. This is a good general-purpose light pattern, spot lighting your subject with an adequate illuminated peripheral area. I compared the T1 at night to a large, top quality, three D-cell halogen flashlight and it made the latter look pathetic, both in terms of center brightness and light cone width. Modern LED lights like the T1 are a quantum improvement over much bigger, conventional flashlights.

This versatile River Rock Designs light works well and appears durable, far more so than the cheap LED flashlights usually sold in big box stores. As tactical type lights go, the River Rock T1 is relatively inexpensive, yet has a high quality feel. The fit and finish are equivalent to many more expensive lights. It is brighter and has more features than other lights in its price class. At $59.95, it is a deal! You can visit the River Rock website at www.riverrockledlights.com

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Copyright 2011, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.