Monday, 5 November 2012

SureFire Helmet Light HL1-A

My Gallet CG634 helmet is a modified French design, based on the PASGT, but modified for compatibility with Canadian kit. The CG634 is similarly shaped and oft mistaken for a MICH TC-2000 Combat Helmet. Mounted on the left side of my helmet is a SureFire Helmet Light HL1-A.

SureFire Helmet Light HL1-A
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It is an older generation of the HL1-A. I managed to acquire it swapping swag with some high speed soldiers from another coalition country a few years ago. Since then I have used it on numerous operations and training venues including CTOMS TACMED.  I have used it for night-vision friendly illumination for tactical navigation during adverse lighting conditions and close-quarter work such as filling out casualty tags, finding medical interventions in my aid bag, and treating casualties both in training and in combat.


The SureFire Helmet Light HL1-A has a lot of capability for in a small, low signature package.  Illumination sources include three multiple-output white LEDs, two multiple-output blue secondary LEDs, and a blinking infrared LED that acts as an Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) beacon. The three multiple-output white primary LEDs provide light in front of the operator. With three output settings (high, medium and low), it is good for general close-work illumination when the tactical situation allows for white light. The output setting is controlled by a pressure switch on the side of the helmet light's body.

Three White LEDs
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  • White High: 19.2 lumens/6 hrs
  • White Med: 5.0 lumens/28 hrs 
  • White Low: 1.4 lumens/48hrs

The three multiple-output blue secondary LEDs provide forward projected illumination in a lower-signature, more night-vision-friendly color.The output setting is controlled by a pressure switch on the side of the helmet light's body. With same capability to provide light at three output settings (high, medium and low), I have found this light extremely useful in casualty care. The blue light allows for the identification of blood and fluids on exam gloves while still maintaining a reduced light signature.

Two Blue LEDs
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  • Blue High: 2.5 lumens/20 hrs
  • Blue Med: 0.8 lumens/48 hrs
  • Blue Low: 0.3 lumens/96 hrs

The infrared LED (IFF) beacon is side orientated and constantly blinks providing 1.72 mW of IR light for a whopping 120 hours.

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HL1-A Controls

The White and Blue LED lights are controlled by the top most toggle of the two toggle switches on the rear of the light. Pushing the toggle up will activate the three white LEDs. The toggle switches are shielded by nib of polymer to prevent unintentional activation.  Pushing the toggle down will activate the two blue LEDs. Centering the toggle switch will deactivate any output.  Using the side mounted pressure switch the operator can set the light to the required level of illumination. Keep in mind, that the either LED light bank will turn on at the output setting that was last selected prior to toggling the light off. A tip for tactical work would be to use the pressure switch to select the lowest output setting and then deactivate the light. Using this procedure, while reduce your signature when initially using the light in an active environment.

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The lower toggle switch controls the infrared LED that serves as an Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) beacon.  Simply push the toggle switch up to activate the IR LED and toggle the switch down to deactivate. Again, this switch is protected by nib of polymer to prevent unintentional activation. It has only one level of output and is not affected by the side mounted pressure switch.

In the controls area, the rear of the body, is the O-ring sealed, watertight battery compartment for the single CR123A lithium battery that runs the light. This, also, acts as a mechanism to disable the light for transport or situations that call for strict light discipline. Push in and twist clockwise to disable the light by moving the battery out of connection. Push in and twist counter-clockwise to enable the light. The newer generation of SureFire helmet lights has a different version of disable/enable battery cap to simplify the process even more.

HL1-A Mounting System

The Surefire Helmet Light attaches to any MICH, PASGT or CG634 by a low-profile mount that clamps semi-permanently to the rim secured by two socket-head machine screws. Once this mount has been secured to the helmet, the Helmet Light can be quickly and easily slid on and locked firmly into position. Pressing the locking/unlocking lever on the mount unlocks the light, allowing for quick removal for cleaning, battery changes, or converting into a handheld .  I have never had an issue with security of the mount or the helmet light to the mount; and I have abused this light….

View of the HL1-A mount
 and locking system,
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There is also a M1913 rail mount available which will enable use of the HL1-A on a weapon as a navigation light or to transfer to Ops-core helmet.  Additionally, SureFire  Z71 carry clip, allows the light to  transferred any MOLLE platform.

Helmet Light Techniques

The use of helmet mounted lights in a tactical environment requires diligence and discipline on the part of the operator. There is a training aspect that must be considered with all light sources. Under stress, most people forget to turn their lights off when making movement or after use. Disciplined control of all light sources must be drilled to be second nature. This is a training issue and must be addressed during scenario play.

Pros of helmet light
  • Light source is always directed to the operator‘s line of sight. 
  • Reduced shadows thrown on the working zone or casualty because of high angle
  • Hands free

Cons of helmet light
  •  Increased light signature over vital zone
  • Operator can ‘flash’ teammates as they update their situational awareness
  • Helmet gets ‘busy’ with NVGs, comms, strobe and a helmet light
  • Light source is high and can illuminate more area than required, creating a backlighting danger
In closing, the SureFire HL1-A Helmet Light is a compact effective package that provides multiple-output and dual colour illumination purpose built for tactical work. It is light, weighing only 3.1 ounces (0.087 kg) including battery and mount. It is a rugged light with extensive runtime powered by a single CR123A. There are other models of this light that come with different LED colours; I am sure you can find one to match your unit or agencies needs. I have used this light hard and it has always been reliable.  For anyone serious about casualty care, it is a worthwhile purchase.

Take care out there.

CAMERA or "PHOTO" BATTERY WARNING: DO NOT use any batteries advertised or promoted specifically for use in cameras, for photography, or for other low-drain purposes. Use only batteries labeled as safe to use in high-performance, high-drain devices, and which contain built-in fault and heat protection for added safety. The use of photographic-type batteries can constitute a safety hazard, including risk of fire or explosion, and may void your warranty.” From the SureFire website

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