[Quick Hit] Barrel Flashlight M2JN: Form over Function

Thanks to one of my generous buddies for giving me the opportunity to check out this torch.

Expanding the YouTube channel, I’ve realized that my reviewing style has changed. The video format prioritizes conciseness and simplicity over more traditional, written reviewing. And so while I’ll still be doing in-depth reviews (which take a lot more time), sometimes it’s more effective delivering my thoughts without any pretense. More from the heart, if you will.

Introduction

Barrel Flashlight Co. is an interesting company. Way back in 2016, I recall seeing their torches on a Kickstarter that would fail with barely half the goal met. People simply were not interested in a high-end AAA flashlight. But fast-forward to 2020 and Barrel Flashlight Co. is one of the biggest names in the custom torch world, perhaps on par with even the likes of Hanko Machine Works. I’ll be taking a look at not only the M2JN itself, but also delve a bit into how I think they did it.

As the company name might imply, their flagship torch (or only torch, I should say) called the M2JN mimics the aesthetic of a firearm barrel. There are interchangeable components, namely a sleeve and a ring, that can be used to customize the flashlight. This model retails for $495 and can be purchased here.

The Good

Construction and build quality are excellent as you might expect – the torch exudes premium. But these sentiments are applicable to pretty much any custom torch, so it’s not saying much.

That said, in my opinion, the M2JN’s allure rests on its interchangeable ring and sleeve. With a lot of custom torches, you don’t have a lot of say in actually “customizing” the torch. You’re limited to your choice of base material, and if you’re lucky, maybe some of the components like the driver and the emitters. With the M2JN’s unique design, though, you can effectively mix-and-match to “dress” your torch with a myriad combinations: The aesthetic of the torch is at your whim.

The Bad

In the pursuit of bling and photogenic glory, the M2JN’s design is heavily compromised. Here’s some problems of note:

1) So as to accommodate the interchangeable sleeve, Barrel has decided to use a 16340 in lieu of a standard 18350 battery. They recommend the Efest IMR16340 which has a stated capacity of 700mAh (closer to 600mAh in practice). On the other hand, newer generation 18350s have 1200mAh which is close to – if not twice – a 16340’s capacity.

2) The sleeve is a friction fit. There is no O-ring at either end of it to prevent water from seeping directly into the tube; this is a serious concern if you’re a hard-user. Not to mention it also makes removing the sleeve difficult in some cases. And to this effect, they’ve added two notches to aid in removing the sleeve: You can see I very easily snapped one.

3) Cigar-gripping this flashlight is downright painful. There’s too little taper to the body, and the circular depressions in the body dig-in to one’s fingers quickly.

The most disgusting part about this, though, is the accessory market itself. When I snapped the notch on my buddy’s sleeve, I immediately told him and offered to pay for it in the event that it’s not covered under warranty. Imagine my shock when I realized the ring and sleeve went for well over $100 – and keeping it real, this is literally a piece of GITD plastic we’re talking about.

The accessory market for the M2JN is utterly monopolized by Barrel; they actively try to prohibit anyone from creating 3rd party accessories for their torches. First, this isn’t even remotely enforceable. And second, it’s downright scummy considering what they’re charging in the first place for these accessories. Hint: It’s a cash cow, and they’re milking it.

Now for what its worth, they did cover the broken sleeve under warranty. I mailed the torch to them, and a few weeks later, they had it on its way back to my buddy. This wasn’t without some hassle, though, and Barrel’s customer service seems to be somewhat hit-or-miss.

The Verdict

Barrel has aptly navigated the conventions of the custom torch world. To this end, a large fraction of the market is clout chasing and looking for a photogenic piece. Like so, Barrel’s built a cult-like following by means of various, fancy collaborations and a strong social media presence.

Almost everything about the M2JN prioritizes form over function; likewise, their latest model is just a new look for the M2JN that doesn’t improve upon anything functionally. So if you’re looking for something to spice up your Instagram game, then by all means, look no further than the Barrel M2JN. But if you want a torch that’s going to hold up in the real-world it’s time to look elsewhere.

Grade: D+

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