DISCLAIMER: I am NOT sponsored by EITHER Emissive Energy Corp or Surefire LLC. I have done testing and unpaid consulting for Emissive Energy Corp in the past. I am neither being paid, nor receiving free product, from either of these companies for this review. This is an unbiased, no beating-around-the-bush write-up.
Ever since Shot Show 2015, there has been a lot of talk about the Surefire XC1. And for good reason. Well, two main reasons… it’s Surefire, and it’s tiny. As the CCW culture is evolving, gear is evolving with it. Weapon lights for pistols aren’t just being used by military, counter terror units, or SWAT teams anymore. More and more people are starting to equip their every-day carry pistols with weapon lights. Pistol lights have become small enough to conceal, and there are plenty of holster companies making holsters to accommodate these weapon configurations.
Weapon light technology is improving. Lights are getting more lumens and becoming smaller. The XC1 is the newest light to hit the market, and Surefire decided to go small with this one.
The main competition to the XC1 is, in our opinion, the Inforce APL. The Inforce APL has been out for a while, and until recently was one of the smallest and slimmest weapon lights on the market. It’s the primary light we run here at T.REX ARMS. In addition to the Surefire X300-U of course.
The most noticeable difference between these lights is in size. The XC1 is quite a bit smaller. The APL extends past a Glock 19 slide. The XC1 on the other hand, sits flush with the end of the slide. Some people want their lights to sit flush, but a little overhang can actually help keep the gun from going out of battery if you have to make a close quarters contact shot. This is a very small advantage in my opinion, since finding yourself in this situation would be unlikely for most people. But it’s an advantage all the same. Most modern handguns cannot fire if the slide is out of battery even the slightest bit.
Holsters made to accommodate weapon lights require special channels to fit the light effectively. These channels have to be wider than the weapon light body, so the skinnier the weapon light, the smaller the holster. Simple as that. The APL is very slim, so holsters made for them are a good bit slimmer than those made for, say, a Streamlight TLR-1 (which is fat) or the popular Surefire X300-U. Since the XC1 is a bit slimmer than the APL, holsters which accommodate it are a little smaller. Many people have no trouble conceal-carrying the APL in our holsters (or others for that matter), but the XC1 is going to be a tiny bit comfier since the entire holster is smaller. It’s not a big difference though.
When the XC1 was announced, a lot of people thought: “Yes! A light that is just as wide as the gun. The holster for an XC1 will be just as wide as a holster for a gun without a light!”. Not exactly. Channels still have to exist for the holster to work, regardless of how slim the light is.
Both lights feature momentary activation. Which is great. The Inforce has identical paddles on both sides. Depressing these paddles turns the light on. A quick depression and release puts the light on “constant” while holding the paddle down for a full second + turns it on “momentary” which means that upon release, the light turns off. This is my preferred method of light activation. The light is only on when I am searching or shooting. Once I go to reload, move, or do something one-handed, the light turns off. Light discipline is vital so that you don’t give away your position unnecessarily. The Inforce paddles are pressed in towards the gun. Downward pressure works as well. One beef I have with the Inforce paddles is how easy it is for your thumb to slip. They’re not very grippy. Some people even stipple the paddles on their APLs for more grip.
The XC1 has paddles on each side as well. These paddles are very similar, but are activated by pushing down. Unlike the APL paddles, the Surefire paddles have lots of grip, and they allow you to push down countering recoil. Similar to “gas-pedals” found on competition race guns. I like the XC1 paddles a lot, especially for recoil mitigation. While they don’t counter A LOT of recoil, they help some.
Constant activation is super important on lights, mainly so you can engage threats one-handed. Imagine, for instance, that you’re injured, carrying someone, clearing a rooftop via ladder access, or shooting from a vehicle while driving (don’t ask why, but it sounds like fun to me). As I stated before, the APL can be activated “constant” with a simple press of either paddle.
The XC1 on the other hand, does NOT have a “constant” light activation option that is accessible with your thumb or index finger. There is a very small switch on the left side of the light further out towards the end, but it’s very hard to hit and I don’t think it’s suitable for defense/combat. It’s not intuitive at all. So here’s what this means: say you’re running the XC1 on your Glock. You’re with your wife, walking across the parking lot to a movie theater. Armed bad guys appear and you feel that your lives are threatened. You draw your weapon from your Sidecar, grab your wife with your support hand to protect her, and engage said scumbags who rush at you with weapons. There is no effective way to turn the light on, identify/lead, and engage with the light on. You can only push the paddle for momentary activation, release (light turns off), and then trigger press. Then you have to take your finger off the trigger to hit the momentary paddle, see if you hit and re-assess. Complicated and slow? Yes. This is the BIGGEST problem with the Surefire XC1, in my opinion.
Light range comparison
NOTE: The two pictures above, and the ones below comparing both lights, had ZERO color correction done to them in post. They WERE only cropped and re-sized for this article. They were shot raw with a Canon 5D MKII at an ISO of 2000, with focal lengths of 17-32mm, and exposure times of 1/15 to 1/50. While some of these settings are a little different, the settings were the same for each range/comparison.
Both lights are rated at 200 lumens. However, they spill differently (as shown in the two pictures above). The APL has a visible center and puts light out in a tight beam. The XC1 has a wide spill with no visible center. Because of this, the APL reaches out farther than the XC1. These lights also put out different colored beams. The APL is very white, the XC1 is much more yellow. Even though Surefire advertised that the XC1 put out white light. Maybe that’s their definition of white. I don’t know.
The XC1 does have this going for it… it takes a single AAA battery. AAAs are super common, and you can get good re-chargeable ones if you’re a frugal person. The APL takes the popular CR123, like many weapon lights and military accessories. The AAA is a much slimmer battery, one reason the XC1 is so small. CR123s are fat.
So, the big question… APL or XC1? I am sticking with the Inforce APL. Because I think it’s super important to be able to activate the light one-handed. I can think of dozens and dozens of scenarios in which someone could have only one hand to illuminate and engage a threat. I have had no problem concealing an Inforce APL on my Glock 19 in a Sidecar, and will continue to do so. So it’s not like I’ve been eagerly waiting for a small pistol light to CCW with. The XC1 has things going for it, but I’d say it really needs to have improvements made to its switches. If it had a “constant” function that was intuitive and easily activated, I would probably carry one sometimes.
But it all comes down to what YOU need in a light. The XC1 will work great for some folks. Just like how the APL, Streamlights, Viridians, and other lights work for some people. This article is here to assist in your decision making. Not make the decision for you.
Thanks for reading.