LED THERE BE LIGHT: RICO ALPHA 9 LED
Made originally for real-steel use, the Rico Alpha 9 LED version is not restricted to one weapon type only. It fits all 20mm rails, provided that they are long enough. While you can commonly see these on the M4 and M16 models, it fits the G36 and others just as well and provides great looks and ergonomics. We tried the light on various brands of rails, and it fit all of them without any issues, so the mount is as universal as they come. It is as if the weapon and light combined were originally supposed to be together as one, and the "symbiosis" prevents snagging and other hassle.
As the main light, a super-bright Cree XRE series LED is used, which provides 225 lumens of blinding light. Together with the parabolic reflector, the beam range is 100 meters (328 ft)! Also the navigator lights are two white LEDs, although they are a regular type and purposedly dim for situations where you need a bit of light, but too much light would draw attention and ruin your night vision. The cool (sic) thing about LEDs is that they don't waste much energy as heat, so the mileage of one set of batteries is quite good at 60 minutes and the unit doesn't overheat even in extended use. The unit uses three CR123 3.0V lithium batteries as the power source, and the use of any other batteries (such as rechargeable 3.7V cells) is strictly prohibited.
The construction is rock solid with a 6061 T6 aluminum frame and fiber-reinforced nylon parts. The lens is 3.5 mm pyrex type to withstand hard use. All electronics are packed in epoxy to improve shock resistance, and the light is promised to be drop-resistant to 8 meters! There are obviously no flexes or creaks to be found when handling the light, and the whole weapon can be carried just by holding from the grip of the light. It is quite hefty at 650 grams as a result, but with many AEG models being a bit light in the front compared to real weapons, this only improves the feel. Also the vertical grip makes it easy to bear the weight.
Contrasted with the unit, the included casing isn't nearly as good. It's not like you really need to protect something that could be used as a melee weapon, but the flimsy plastic case had trouble keeping closed and the padding foam was visible through the seams. Normally it wouldn't receive this kind of treatment, but the light is just so good that we believe it would deserve a better casing as well.
The ergonomics of the Rico Alpha 9 LED are good for various hand sizes, and the switches are easy to reach. Activating the light takes a decisive grip, so you won't *blink* by accident and reveal your position. The mode selector between Momentary On / Off / Constant On is quite hard to move, which is good to prevent unintended movement, but the feel is not quite tactile, but a bit sticky instead. It's not a lever you need to move in a hurry, so it is not a critical issue.
If you have used a regular flashlight on a weapon before, you haven't seen anything (pun intended). Even when used in a normally lit office, the light is blindingly bright and lights up walls over the ambient light. In darker areas like most CQB fields the light not only allows you to see and aim precisely, but it also hinders the ability of your opponents to do the same. Despite the immense brightness, the light surpassed the promised runtime of 60 minutes, and it took over 1 hour and 20 minutes for the light to drop to 50% brightness when left on continuously.