Monday, September 12, 2016

Palette's Product Reviews: LaserMax Manta Ray Rail-Mounted Light

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This post is unusual for me, because I'm going to review a $200 flashlight and call it "blue collar".

I was originally hesitant to review high-dollar items like this, because I am exceedingly thrifty (okay, cheap) and I didn't think that $200 for a flashlight fit the auspices of this blog. But I have been convinced that I ought to review more expensive items, because 1) just because preppers are blue collar it doesn't mean they're broke, it just means they save up for things more often, and 2) preppers know that sometimes you have to pay for quality. "Buy once, cry once" is a slogan I hear a lot these days, especially when it comes to tools.

So with that in mind, I'm going to review a $200 weapon light that I feel is worth every penny.

LaserMax Manta Ray Low-Profile Rail-Mounted Weapon Light
(MSRP $199; $169.92 & free shipping from Amazon)

Like the name suggests, this is a small (about the size of a candy bar) weapon light that mounts to any rail system, but it can also be held in the hand and used like a regular flashlight. It is waterproof up to 10 feet, shockproof, and has a 1 hour run time with a 10 minute automatic time-out to prevent battery discharge. But it has two very interesting features: a green light and a pair of wings.

Green Light
The Manta Ray uses an LED to put out a 140 lumen beam that is dimmable down to 20 lumens. Now, I am certain that many readers are shaking their heads and saying "Only 140 lumens? I need at least 200 for any tactical light." But remember, this light is green, and that makes all the difference.

Have you ever noticed that night vision devices show images in shades of green instead of any other color? It's because the human eye is optimized to detect differences in green, allowing us to differentiate the subtle color difference between a poisonous plant and an edible one.

The Manta Ray takes advantage of this fact. Even though the light is only 140 lumens, our eyes process it more efficiently, and therefore it provides an effective 200 lumens* worth of illumination without having to produce 200 lumens worth of battery drain. What's more, because the light is a soft mint green instead of white, there is less glare from white interior surfaces such as walls, doors or cabinets. This means that as you navigate through your darkened house with a Manta Ray, you won't need to worry about your light reflecting off objects and dazzling you. However, I can attest from experience that the light is still plenty bright enough to dazzle and disorient anyone who has it pointed into their eyes.

One press of the button engages momentary on, with release disengaging. A second quick press is sustained on, and a third press turns it off. There is no strobe function. To dim the beam, click constant on, then press and hold; the beam will dim until you release the button. Repeating the procedure undims at the same rate. As long as the battery has a charge, the light remembers your dim setting.

* From  LaserMax sales representative Joseph D'Ambrosia: There's not really a concrete way to correlate the actual lumen amount to a measure of perceived lumens, but what I have found is that the lower output green signature provided a lot of brightness for that output level that was comparable on my eyes to many lights which sit around the 200 lumen mark.

Manta Wings
When I was shown this light at the 2016 NRA Annual Meeting, it was described to me as having a "Kung-Fu Grip", and that's an excellent explanation of how the light grips accessory rails. 

If you are familiar with products from Manta Defense (who helped make this light, hence the name), you will know how it holds on. For everyone else, the light has a rubberized coating that extends past the edge, forming a c-shaped "wing" structure. Metal reinforcements within the rubber maintain its shape and keep it gripping the rail, even after many on and off cycles (I've switched my light between various firearms about a hundred times or so, and it's only just now beginning to show some wear right at the tip of the wings. Given that the light comes with a 5 year warranty, I'm not terribly worried about damage.)

What turns this from a curiosity into a feature worthy of preppers is that the wings enable rapid mounting and swapping between weapons. Instead of a tedious thumb wheel (or worse, hex screws!) that takes time and effort to de-mount, with the Manta Ray you just grab it, peel it off, and slap onto a different rail. 

While the prepper mantra of "Two is one, and one is none" still holds, it is a fact of life that not all of us can afford lights (especially $200 lights!) on our weapons. This quick-change feature allows a prepper who only has one Manta Light to move it between various firearms as needed, or just pull it off entirely and carry it as a regular flashlight. 
A note on how much rail you need: the entire Manta Ray light takes up 12 rail slots in length. However, it's unlikely that you will need all of those to securely mount it. The light itself is only about 4 slots long, with a "stop" just in front of the power switch; I would consider this the minimum length necessary to mount it. Of course, the more rail you have to mount it, the more secure the friction grip will be. 
An additional (if unintended) side effect of these rails is that the light fits nicely into a 9mm/40 caliber double-stack magazine pouch. It isn't a perfect fit, mind you; it's a bit loose, so it might fall out under running-jumping-bending over-rolling around conditions, but it's still a handy place to put a tactical light if you cannot find a good way to mount a flashlight pouch to your gun belt. 

Left: Glock 17 magazine. Right: Manta Ray.

I can confirm from personal use that the Manta Ray is comfortable and easy to use as a handheld flashlight.

The Manta Ray runs on a rechargeable battery that fully charges in 1.5 hours with the included charger, but will recharge (albeit more slowly) via any USB port so long as you have a micro-USB tipped cable. 

Because the battery cannot be removed to prevent discharge during transit, a lockout code can be performed to prevent the light from activating. To engage this, tap the power button twice, tap and hold a third time until the power light turns red. Until the same procedure is performed to unlock it, other presses of the power switch will do nothing. 

Performance of the Manta Ray is improved with the addition of a rail-mounted pressure switch that plugs into the light's charging port. This allows a user to perform all functions (momentary on, dimming, etc) without moving the support hand. 

The RAS has an MSRP of $69, but can be bought for $61.34 and free shipping from Amazon

Recommendation: A+
This light has excellent performance and many features to recommend it. While I would be happier if it had a strobe function, I still give it highest marks because of all the other features it brings to the table, such as speed and ease of mounting and the ability to be recharged from any USB port.

If you can only afford one weapon light, this is the one to get. 

FTC disclaimer: I was given both the Manta Ray and RAS free for review. I was not compensated for this review in any way. 

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