Identifying Friend or Foe is critical on the objective, or in low-light/no-light training. The use of tactical light emitters, like the HEL-STAR 4 EXO from CORE Survival, provide for clear identification on the end-user’s helmet, protective gear, or a K9 harness.
Designed specifically to fit the curvature of a helmet, the HEL-STAR 4 EXO is an improvement over the previous HEL-STAR 4 design with improved visibility, durable housing, and moisture resistance. Its lightweight housing and minimal profile, ensure the tactical light remains functional in any situation.
With a primary emitter housing, the HEL-STAR 4 EXO includes a power selector switch that gives a clear audible and tactile ON/OFF functioning. In addition, the sliding selector switch has sufficient tactical sensation to be manipulated with or without gloves. Rubberized gaskets help ensure the battery compartment remains sealed up in water up to a depth of 66 feet.
The HEL-STAR 4 EXO light strip itself consists of LED elements that can be pre-programmed for color, intensity, and emission duration (to include Morse Code). The LED element meets the FAA 3-Mile requirements with 180 degree of side-visibility. All of the HEL-STAR 4 EXO is powered by a single CR123a Lithium battery.
On the back of the primary emitter and light strip is a continuous field of hook-and-loop (male) to provide maximum retention to associated hook-and-loop (female) panels on most common helmet designs. The hook-and-loop has sufficient emergency breakaway retention to avoid injury.
The HEL-STAR 4 EXO is available in Desert Tan (featured) and Black. The LED emitters come in a variety of colors to include Green, White, Red, Blue, and Infrared.
Product Evaluation Scores:
- Cost – Good (4/5): With its MSRP of $149.00, the HEL-STAR 4 EXO is one of several variants to CORE’s Survival’s line of personal illumination devices, designed for field operations and rapid identification. The central module that controls the overall power source and illumination controls is robust enough for impact mitigation, as well as all-weather. The longer line of LED lighting not only provides a larger surface area for visible light, but can also be utilized to denote direction. While the HEL-STAR 5 EXO ($159) is the closest comparator to the 4 EXO, other close alternative personal illumination devices include the HEL-STAR 6 GEN III+ ($205), the Manta Strobe ($219), or VLite ($44) by S&S Precision (which has less robust housing and function). This would place the HEL-STAR 4 EXO at a good price point for the consumer for its function and material.
- Comfort – Good (4/5): From a comfort aspect, the HEL-STAR 4 EXO kept a very solid purchase to the hook-and-loop (female) sections on a helmet, given the EXO’s full-length industrial 3M hook-and-loop (male) material along the underside. The ON/OFF and Function switches also had a clear and tactile feel to them when operating so it was easy to tell when they were properly used despite the switches being out of sight on the back of the helmet. And while the HEL-STAR 4 EXO has a variety of light colors and functions available, the evaluated Green was bright and easily seen over distances to identify location and direction of the wearer.
- Durability – Good (4/5): The durability of the HEL-STAR 4 EXO was divided between two components; the main control housing and the lightbar. The main control housing was made from a molded polycarbonate similar to many other accessories, which allowed it to maintain a minimalist contour for the battery and electronics, while avoiding excess bulk. This also allowed the main control housing to take a number of strikes by fully loaded magazines, while still properly functioning and not sustaining anything but superficial marring. The lightbar itself was sealed within a transparent, but flexible polymer bar that allows the LED lights to be fully protected from impact and moisture. The only noted area of concern from a durability aspect was the Function switch with some noted play between the slide switch itself and the rail it articulates along. With continual use this play could become exacerbated over time and may need replacement.
- Functionality – Excellent (5/5): Functionally the HEL-STAR 4 EXO did an excellent job at what it was designed for, providing a simplistic, clear and readily identifiable light source to denote an individual’s location and direction. The evaluated 4 EXO only had an ON/OFF function with its Green light, but the 4 EXO has a wide array of different colors and functionality to include strobe and Morse letters. This gives the HEL-STAR 4 EXO a wide range of applicability both on the range, or afield. It should be noted that while the principle function of the HEL-STAR 4 EXO was for the light source to be observed from directly behind or above the helmet, the clear polymer material of the light bar did allow for some light to also be observed from the side of the unit as well.
- Weight – Good (4/5): At a demure 2.3 ounces, the HEL-STAR 4 EXO was extremely light weight when mounted to the helmet, and did not detract with added strain or burden to the head or neck. Indeed, individual illumination devices are often light in total weight for just that purpose. The 4 EXO maintained a light weight by keeping its profile to a minimal construct so as to offer just enough robust protection to the main electronic/power housing and LED lights. In contrast, while other CORE Survival lights like the HEL-STAR 6 (2.9 ounces) are similar in weight, much like the Manta Strobe (2.2 ounces), they have a much taller profile that risks snagging or clipping on obtrusions. But for the overall size and profile, the HEL-STAR 4 EXO was among the lighter lights of similar design and still a good weight for its function and material.
Overall Rating – Good (21/25)
I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.
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