Oh man, where do I start. I take it quite a few of you guys have figured out I am a sucker for cheap junk, the weird, and sometimes, the esoteric stuff out there. Well when I saw this amazing commercial for a Bell & Howell Tac Light flashlight on late night TV, it picked my interest. Now I must state, I have never noticed any other "As seen on TV" product placements before. I tend to equate them to junk, which in most cases, is a very good position to take. This was running through my mind when I first saw the commercial. I would like to add that I would never buy anything off of a late night commercial. I am happy to say that my opinions still stand on that matter.
However, when this "As seen on TV" flashlight started to pop up in the retail chain, I resisted for a full week before my curiosity got the better of me and I bought one for a not that expensive price of 20 bucks. You see, I not only have problems with the weird, cheap, and esoteric stuff...I also suffer from a very large dose of curiosity. I figure I must have been a cat in a previous life, because I can't help myself at times, and buying that flashlight was one of those times. I knew it was going to be utter junk, but I still went and bought one. I thought to myself at least I can hide my shame by not telling anyone...but that didn't work out all that well for me either, as I am typing this on a public forum. Yep that is me, sucker for punishment.
Anyways, if you are the only person who isn't aware of the Bell & Howell Tac Light in North American...here is a link to their commercial.
Yeah, watching this commercial still makes me
Now I did mention that I now have one, so I guess the egg is on my face. I was expecting this flashlight to be complete utter junk. You see, the last time I was suckered by such curiosity to want an actual "As seen on TV" item was back in the 80's when a Rambo knife was making the rounds. Fortunately for me, my parents said NO and that was that. This draconian but completely logical action on the part of my parents probably played a part in my purchasing one decades later when I was a full grown adult...just to spite them and to sate a decades long curiosity. Yes, I know I am doomed. On the plus side, I now know that the Rambo Survival Knife is a hunk of junk that will snap at the pommel and possibly main/kill the user when they least suspect it while daydreaming of being Rambo. I won't divulge how I came to that conclusion.
Anyways, lets get back to the Bell & Howell Tac Light shall we. As I was saying, I bought one to see just how bad this product is.I mean, the commercial makes it out to be one awesome flashlight. How can you go wrong...right? Well as far as product goes, it is kind a hard to muck up a flashlight, and for the money, the flashlight isn't all that bad. I know I am as shocked as you all are, possibly more so as owning one is starting to sink in. The flashlight is a serviceable bog standard aluminum flashlight with a push pull front which gives you beam adjustment. The odd thing about this, if you pull the bezel fully outwards, the beam becomes brighter but also square shaped. In fact, there is one position that shows in detail, the LED in all its glory. I am talking the light pattern showing a heating element like pattern on the light projection. It is weird as none of my other flashlights do this. It does throw a bit of light out there so long as you don't mind a squarish patterned result. I suppose if your a glass half full kinda guy, you could place the Tac Light on a stable surface like a sandbag, and use the beam to play tic tac toe with your foxhole buddy as the light is projected on the helmet of the poor guy in the next foxhole. Yeah, I now know why the military uses these! It all makes perfect sense.
As if any military would issue these to the troops. The enemy on the field of battle might be heard complaining of all these flashlights tossed at them with force, that their use on the battle field might have its own article in the Geneva Convention. Similar to military gear...
Ok, so I was fully prepared to not let anyone know I owned one of these Tac Lights...that is until I was walking in the local Dollarama and spied what looked like the same flashlight in a cardboard box selling for a whole 4 bucks. Well 2 things happened. I felt like an idiot for dishing out 20 bucks for the Bell & Howell version, and I of course bought one to see how it compared to the um...other flashlight. To my surprise
, the Voltax is a carbon copy of the Bell & Howell. However, the Voltax has a nicer bluer tinge to the light. So these two flashlights are made the same, but with slightly different LEDs. The Bell & Howell's light is more yellowish. I hate to say this, but I like the cheaper Voltax light, as it makes seeing details at distance a little easier.
Both flashlights have the same modes accessed via a half press of the main button on the rear of the flashlight. You get high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS. Not bad actually. The Voltax offers better light quality (in my opinion), and a better rear textured rubber button. The lanyard is cheaper than that on the Bell & Howell as I fear the plastic clip might break during usage. The Bell & Howell features a non textured rear button, and a better lanyard system. For the price, and the better light quality, that lanyard can be easily replaced...thus making the Voltax the far better buy. In all other aspects, these two flashlights are identical. Both even feature a removable 3 AAA cell carrier.
So instead of buying the Bell & Howell Tac Light, try to find the cheaper Voltax version. I am sure they are made in the same China factory, but with a better LED installed and a few other upgrade tweaks for a much cheaper price. I guess the folks behind the Bell & Howell (Yeah, like that name had anything to do with this product...much like Winchester had anything to do with the countless knife junk bearing that company 's name)
Tac Light need suckers, er I mean customers to pay for that commercial.
Now onto the proof that I am the proud owner of not one, but two of these flashlights...
Can you tell the difference?
If you look closely, there are minor variations in the actual LED used here.
The one on the left is the Voltax, and of course, the Bell & Howell is on the right.
I like the red Voltax button better.
To show you the beam of light when fully zoomed out. Yes, it does increase the brightness, but at what cost. You get a square projection that shows all the details of the actual LED in use. The Voltax, on the right in this photo below, gives a nicer blue beam and shows the LED details better in the projection.
Here you can see that there is hardly any difference between the two. The Voltax carries the colour coordination right down to the weather seal ring, a nice touch for the purist out there.
Now comes the tale of the ape, or is that the donkey in this case...
- The flashlight is shockingly durable, but then so are most all metallic flashlights.
- The beam of light is ok. closed down, you get a nice wide and perfectly usable wide beam. It does the job.
- If you absolutely are hungering for a cheap flashlight, get the Voltax for 4 bucks...that is actually a steal of a deal. I think you get a better LED, and a slightly better button.
- Everyone knows that the colour red is faster, thus the Voltax would beat the Tac Light in a race.
- The Bell & Howell name is just that, a meaningless name.
- The Bell & Howell copy that I have has a slight yellow tinge to the beam.
- The Bell & Howell flashlight loves batteries. In fact, the original set I fed it didn't last a month as they slowly died in storage.
- The lanyard on the Voltax is junk...but should that even be a consideration as you can use any lanyard you want with it.
- The feeling that you just knew better, but bought it anyways. At least with the Voltax, I harbor no such guilt.
If all you want is a serviceable cheap flashlight, you can do better than the Bell & Howell for around 20 bucks. The Voltax for 4 is the better deal. With that said, not a flashlight you would want to store batteries in for any length of time as my first set died not being used inside the flashlight. I must say, I didn't notice this issue with the Voltax...so maybe my Bell & Howell isn't typical of the breed. At the end of the day, you do get a somewhat full featured flashlight for not much money. Heck, you can even pretend your in the military much like owning a Rambo Survival Knife turns you into an instant Rambo. Just don't be surprised if the product craps out on you when you need it the most. With that said, it does throw light, and does feel somewhat substantial. It does feature several light settings which many equally priced plastic fare does not. It does throw a fair bit of light provided you don't mind the light going all square and textured. I guess you could do worse...maybe.