Surefire Stiletto Review (Text)

Today I’ll be looking at a very unique flashlight called the Surefire Stiletto, which came out about a year ago, so it’s not exactly new. I actually remember Surefire showing it at SHOT Show 2018, and thinking to myself cool concept, but nah, just not for me. Well, I finally ended up pulling the trigger because the shop I work at over the summer had a few come in. 

The premise of the Stiletto is based on it being a quick-reaction, tactical light, and this is predicated almost entirely upon the body. The body, and the way you grip the flashlight, mimics a dagger. There are two prime advantages to this form factor which I’ll cover right now. First, the bodily ergonomics of this design are phenomenal. Ironically enough, I actually watched another review where they called the Stiletto an ergonomic fail, and I couldn’t disagree more. Because of the way the body tapers from the head, your hand easily forms a natural grip. This natural grip is further facilitated by the two notches at the end. So interestingly, on another note, this other review was saying that the plastic was slippery. I can kind of agree with that, but I also want to point out that not only is there jimping on both sides, but because plastic is a poor conductor of heat relative to metal, it’s much better for gripping in inclement weather.

OK, so the second main advantage to this form factor is how incredibly quick it is to deploy and turn on the flashlight. For comparison’s sake, let’s say we have a traditional clipped flashlight. After unclipping the light from your pant’s pocket, you’d generally need to turn the light in your hand before pressing the button. This extra range of motion leaves you more prone to losing your grip, and it also takes up time if you’re unpracticed. The Stiletto effectively eliminates this extra range of motion, and any chance of losing your grip, by means of both its bezel up carry and tapered design. Sure, there’s many other lights that offer bezel up carry, but they’re also more difficult to deploy because of their shape. On the topic of the bezel up carry, this is all thanks to the really nice clip. The clip’s retention is solid, the lip is just right, and it carries well. 

Merits of the dagger design aside, the Stiletto has dual switches. There’s one at the tail-end, and another on the side of the body. The tail end is high-only, while the side switch controls Low, Medium, and High. I’ve gotta give credit where it’s due, so props to Surefire for their implementation of the tail switch. It will always come on in some iteration of high, which is exactly what you want because this is a tactical flashlight. The rubber button itself is also stiff enough that it’s pretty much impossible to activate accidentally even with the bezel up carry. There is some flexibility with the Stiletto, and you can program the flashlight using the dedicated program switch that’s next to the side switch. The downside here is that you can only choose between two mode groups for each of the switches which gives you a total of four groups. All four of these mode groups have been well thought out, but seriously, if there’s a whole button dedicated to programming, it would’ve been nice to see more options. On a side note, the programming switch is also how you activate the medium strobe which you get by holding down for several seconds.

Okay, so let’s talk about performance. Surefire doesn’t disclose what LED’s they put in their lights, but this one looks like a CREE. The tint is pure white and color temperature is around 5500-6000K. The Stiletto is using their proprietary Maxvision reflector which basically translates to a very wide, even hotspot. This is distinctly different from the crappy beam a cheap zoomy will give you, and it’s great for short distance work and the close quarters encounters that this light is designed for. There are three outputs that go 5 lumens, 250 lumens, and 650 lumens. I just want to add that the low, 5 lumen output is probably understated. If it is actually 5 lumens, it is deceptively bright despite the broad beam pattern. That’s not such a bad thing, though, and I found myself getting a lot of utility out of it. But as usual, they still managed to screw something up. I’m talking about the middle, 250 lumen output which leaves a lot to be desired. You’ll notice that the jump from 250 lumens to 650 lumens, while it is perceptible, comes at the expense of a lot of runtime. Furthermore, 250 lumens is way too bright for most short or even medium-range tasks. So if I was picking specs, I think I’d probably cut the middle output in half. 

Because my reviews are all about real-world use, I did take this guy out with me on a trip to Lassen National Park. While I was there, I actually got to use the Stiletto in a pitch-black cave. What I basically concluded was that because of how wide the cave was, the low output was pretty useless and I mostly relied on medium which actually turned out to be a bit overkill like I was saying earlier. Over the course of about half an hour, the light did warm up considerably at the head, but it never got too hot to hold. 

While at the national park, we also checked out a bunch of natural lakes, so I threw the Stiletto in one for a couple minutes, and it came out just fine. The Stiletto’s uses an integrated USB-port which is covered by a rubber plug to charge the likewise integrated battery. It’s rated to IPX-7, so minor water immersion shouldn’t be an issue. With that said, I would definitely not trust the integrity of the rubber plug nearly as much as I would a good O-ring. You’ll also note that the port is tragically USB-A. It’s always disappointing to see how few manufacturers have yet to adopt USB-C for futureproofing. 

Another niggle I have with this flashlight is the build material. It’s made pretty much entirely out of plastic. And while this does cut down the weight, this just looks like cost-cutting to me. I’m going to posit that this is the same exact plastic as is used on Surefire’s Sidekick keychain flashlight. The build quality is still there, but the plastic build suggests to me that the Stiletto is not built to last a lifetime like some of Surefire’s other lights. Any time you have a non-user replaceable battery, it’s important to understand that you are implicitly purchasing something that is disposable. While this might be fine for keychain flashlights, some will be turned-off considering the price of this light. That said, it does have Surefire’s lifetime guarantee, so they’ll probably replace the battery for you if you ever need to send it back. 

Coming back to the price, the Stiletto currently MSRPs for $110. As such, it’s a bit hard for me to recommend the Stiletto given the drawbacks I’ve outlined. If you can grab one at around $70-80, which I did, I think it’s a lot more of a compelling option. Surefire has rested on their military contracts for a long time which has definitely evened the playing field, and there’s many great lights out there that trump the Stiletto performance-wise. However, I’m also inclined to say that there are very few, if any, flashlights that share the Stiletto’s bodily design. It’s refreshing to see Surefire come out with a unique design that is also surprisingly practical. As I see it, though, this is not a good EDC flashlight for most consumers. It has a niche appeal, and is best suited for those who want a purpose-driven tactical flashlight first. I don’t foresee myself using it much in the long run, but I also don’t think I’ll sell it anytime soon just because it’s such a unique light.

Edit 1/13/19

I ended up using the Stiletto way more than I thought. It’s very easy to carry, and I instantly gravitate toward it when I’m going somewhere “sketchy”. It’s been banged around a lot already, and the plastic really reflects it.

Grade: B- ★

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