Just as there is no single PDA that will meet every end-user’s needs, the same can be said for flashlights; there are torches for every type application and budget. Today I am going to take a look at one of the most
multi-featured and customizable models I have seen to date, the Pila GL3 Series “Commendatore”.
Before I received the GL3, I had never heard of Pila and their line of professional flashlights. According to their website,
“Permalight (Asia) Co., Ltd. was established in 1990 in Hong Kong. The company manufactures Pila professional flashlights and Pila Intelligent Li-ion Battery Charging System. Permalight (Asia) Co., Ltd owns all rights on Pila® designs and trademarks. Pila flashlights and accessories are Swiss designed and engineered. Pila flashlights, IBC chargers and rechargeable Li-ion batteries are assembled at Permalight’s
facilities in China complying with highest quality standards. During production and prior shipment, Pila parts and assemblies have to pass stringent multi-level quality controls. Pila flashlights and accessories fulfill US and European quality and environmental standards.”
At first glance the GL3 could pass as one of many other quality flashlights: It has a metal body, it is turned on or off by twisting an end, it is water resistant, and it has a somewhat traditional design. By “traditional design” I mean that it has an elongated shaft with a wider end containing the light source.
However, a second glance reveals that there is also a slightly less wide addition on the opposite end of the shaft that appears to also emit light…the user’s first clue that the GL3 is a different type flashlight than that normally encountered.
The Pila site offers an extensive list of flashlight applications suitable for various occupations, in case someone isn’t sure which configuration would be best. All GL3s start with a Xenon bulb on the larger end, but the opposite end may contain a tactical, remote or LED switch in white, red, green or Infrared.
I was sent the GL3 Xenon with a white LED switch. Although it is capable of running on three disposable CR123A lithium batteries (included), my kit also came with the Pila Battery Charging System, which consists of the Pila IBC 4 -stage charger and their Pila branded rechargeable Li-ion batteries
The GL3 is composed of anodized aircraft grade aluminum, and it measures approximately 6.5″ long x 1.6″ wide on the Xenon end and 1.22″ on the LED end. The middle shaft area has a 1″ diameter, and the GL3 weighs a hefty 8.8 ounces. The flashlight feels quite substantial in the hand, and it would probably be a suitable last-minute weapon.
The ridges and cut-outs along the metal shaft allow a solid grip, and the fluting on both ends help keep the GL3 from rolling.
Dismantled, the GL3 consists of the two removable lighted ends, an aluminum reflector for the Xenon bulb end, and a sealed LED switch end. Here the light is shown with the three disposable CR123A lithium batteries.
Let’s take a look at the flashlight’s operation, starting with the LED switch end…
There are four ~10 lumens LEDs in the smaller end, which are activated either by turning the bulb head one quarter turn…
…or by lightly pressing on the edge of the raised light lens.
When lit, the four white LEDs put out a satisfactorily strong beam that according to Pila will last for up to 18 hours on either the disposable or rechargeable batteries.
This untouched photo shows what the white LED beam looks like at the end of a 37′ pitch black hallway. Remember that the interchangeable LED switch end is also available in red, green, Infrared or other colors upon request.
It is the other end of the flashlight that really blew me away. Have you ever driven a car with Xenon headlights? It immediately spoils you from ever wanting to drive the typical incandescent headlight vehicles again. This experience is similar.
The Xenon end of the GL3 holds a blinding 200 lumens bulb (more like a spotlight!) which is also turned on by twisting the opposite end, this time a full turn. As I previously mentioned, the first quarter turn will power the LED end; once the quarter turn is passed and the twist is obviously headed into a full turn, the LEDs will switch off.
Experience has taught me that quickly making the twist will keep the “wrong” end from shining for very long, and of course I eventually learned not to look at the the LEDs as they switched on and off while activating the Xenon end
The Xenon bulb is much more power hungry than the LEDs; in continuous use the batteries should last about an hour.
This untouched photo shows what the Xenon beam looks like at the end of a 37′ pitch black hallway; it is quite impressive in person.
I am sure that by now there are some reading this review that can’t fathom why anyone would want two lighted ends on the same flashlight. Well, let’s talk about that…
The first benefit is that the user can have either a really bright Xenon light that will last for about an hour, or an adequately bright LED light that will last up to 18 hours. Because of the ingenious way that the smaller LED end operates and interacts with the light, there are extra configurations that can be achieved, all depending on how many twists of the head are involved. Here are the various options:
1. When the end is screwed as tightly as it will go, only the Xenon end is lit. Pressing the LED switch does nothing.
2. Turning the end one quarter turn from tightest will turn on just the LED end. Pressing the LED switch will activate the Xenon light for bursts as long as the switch is pressed.
3. Turning the end one quarter turn more will turn both ends’ lights off, putting them in Morse Code mode. Pressing the LED switch lightly on its rim will give an LED beam, and a firmer press on the LED switch’s end will activate the Xenon bulb. I found that covering the entire LED switch with my thumb would eliminate unwanted LED glare-back while using the Xenon light in this mode.
4. Turning the end two more twists will effectively turn the flashlight OFF. Pressing the LED switch will not accidentally activate either light.
Learning to operate the GL3 is a little bit tricky at first, but the motions soon become second nature.
So that the user will always keep it handy, there is an included nylon Cordura holster with a built-in battery holder. The holster can be affixed to a belt or other strap, up to three inches wide. The belt clip is secured with both Velcro and a heavy snap.
I can’t end this review without talking about the Pila Battery Charging System, which consists of the
IBC 4 -stage charger and the rechargeable Li-ion batteries. The proprietary battery charger measures 3.75″ long x 2″ wide x 1.75″ thick, and it includes an AC adapter.
The charger is made to accept either of the Pila sized rechargeable batteries. Since the GL3 uses the shorter 300P batteries, there are screw in adapters to adjust the charging bays’ lengths.
The ability to use rechargeable batteries will help make the flashlights operation more cost effective and environmentally friendly. Having the option to use disposables is handy when longer LED battery life is required.
If plastic bodied flashlights don’t inspire your confidence, if a single light source is not “enough”, and if customization and versatility are the key for a torch to even begin to meet your needs, then the Pila GL3 Series “Commendatore” may be the answer.