Streamlight TLR-8A FLEX: Blending Lumens and Lasers

Introduced in early 2018, the TLR-8 by Streamlight was an adaptation of the TLR-7 but with the added benefit of an optional red or green laser. Designed to fit with compatible conceal carry-sized handguns, the TLR-8 offers professional, competitive, and individual shooters with a steady source of light and pinpoint reference in an otherwise dark environment.

Compact in design, the TLR-8 was an improvement over the previous TRL-4 models in both appearance, size, and light output (measured as lumens). Its 6000 Series aircraft-grade aluminum housing ensures the light’s robust ability to withstand heavy usage.

In 2019, Streamlight added a new switch design to the TLR-8, designated the TLR-8A FLEX that allows for ambidextrous operation with the support hand by pressing forward on the rear-mounted high or low switch control. This is an evolution over the previous butterfly-style switch of the TLR-1 through 4, or the side buttons of the TLR-7. Each FLEX comes with both switch controls to allow the user to choose which best suits their preferred style. The FLEX rear-mounted switch controls allow the operator to select between three modes: Laser Only, Light Only, Both Laser/Light. Once selected, the additional strobe function for the light can be selected (if activated) by double tapping either switch within a ¼ second. The custom light optic produces 500 lumens (or 4,300 candela) in a narrow beam with peripheral illumination that reaches 140 meters before dispersal. In front of the optic, the TLR-8A glass is a Borofloat high temperature glass designed to have a high degree of heat and impact/abrasion resistance.

The TLR-8A FLEX is powered by a single CR123 lithium battery that provides the light/laser an average 1.5 hours of continual runtime, or 60 hours with just the laser only. The battery compartment is sealed via rubberized gasket to avoid penetration of moisture. A special design feature of the FLEX includes the same “Safe ON/OFF” design built into the facecap of the lens as the TLR-8 and TLR-7 that prevents accidental activation.

A series of different mounting keys are provided with the FLEX that provides platform compatibility across a wide variety of handgun platforms.

The FLEX has an overall measurement of 2.58” (L) x 1.18” (W) x 1.50” (H) and an operating range between -20 degrees Fahrenheit, to 120 degrees. It is sealed against moisture thanks to a rubber gasket and enclosed housing to provide waterproofing. It should be noted that the TLR-8 series is the red/green laser variant of the TLR-7.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Good (4/5): At an MSRP of $236.99 the price online can vary depending on retailer and availability of sales/coupons. At the time of this writing it is available for as little as $194.05 on third-party sites, but take care. Overseas counterfeits of weapon lights proliferate sites like Ebay and Amazon. For the MSRP, the TLR-8A FLEX is well below the cost of a Surefire XC1-B (the closest comparable competitor at $299 with 300 lumens) and almost half the size. Alternatively, the Olight Baldr Pro ($149.95) is a more reasonable choice economically, but at twice the bulk.
  • Comfort – Good (4/5): Very light. In comparison to other weapon lights that lead the industry, the TLR-8 FLEX was almost half the weight and was hardly noticeable on the end of the pistol. There has been some Interweb debate on the designs of previous Stremlight switches, requiring the support thumb to come down and to either press inward or down, negatively effecting shot placement. However, the new FLEX switch design allowed the user to continue supporting the firearm in a natural position and driving the support thumb slightly forward. The size of the individual’s hands and grip dictated the choice of a high or low switch.
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): Amazingly durable. The course of fire selected for testing the FLEX involved 10 magazines, each with 10 rounds, at a 15-meter target. Between magazine changes the light was struck a number of times on the housing and lens cap with the ejecting magazine before a new one was loaded. The process repeated itself until all rounds were fired. At no point did the TLR-8A light flicker or fail in the firing process, nor drift from center mass. The testing did result in some minor (cosmetic) surface scratches, but nothing that would impact the functionality of the light.
  • Functionality – Good (4/5): Aside from the traditional ON/OFF and momentary light functions, the TLR-8A FLEX has an optional strobe feature that comes from the factory disabled. The laser also came from the factory engaged, so out of the box both light and laser functions are available. It took some time to try the different high and low rear switch options for the FLEX, and find one that was most comfortable. For the user with larger hands on a compact handgun (in this instance a Gen 5 Glock 19 was used) the high switch proved a more comfortable option with its taller profile, and with less distance (however minor) needed to move the thumb down and forward to engage the switch. Smaller hands may like the low switch option, as it enabled the switch to be directly in line with the thumb and thus drive the thumb forward into the switch. In all, preference was determined by the user, and the only way to figure out which option worked best was through trial and error. The FLEX switch design differs from previous switch designs in its alignment with the thumb allowed the support hand to retain its support while still actioning the switch. This is not to say it was better, nor worse than other Streamlight designs—just a different alternative. It was a little tricky to get the rapid nine clicks of the control switch fast enough, then hold the 10th to engage the strobe feature. But once engaged, the strobe easily functioned on the second press of the switch as designed. Disengaging the strobe feature was again little tricky, but after a few tries was successful. The TLR-8A FLEX also had the same “Safe ON/OFF” feature as the TRL-7 that had a tangible/audible click at the detent that indicates it is “Safe” or fully engaged. In essence you are unscrewing the battery connection to the point (or detent) that the connection to the battery became separated. It was a nice feature in application that clearly limited the risk of negligent light discharge when the weapon light is not in use. One notable positive of the TLR-8 (or other dual light/laser combos) was that although the light did disperse as distance increased, the laser dot remained clear and crisp. This could be of an added benefit for family members who are perhaps unfamiliar with WML or handgun function and use the laser as an impromptu point of aim.
  • Weight – Good (4/5): Weighing a mere 2.64 ounces (with provided battery) the TLR-8A weighs about one ounce more than the Surefire XC1-B (1.6 ounces), but provided 200 more lumens. The Olight Baldr Pro (4.55 ounces) was nearly double in weight and drew upon two power cells for its function. In comparison, the TLR-8A weighs half of a TLR-1 but also provided 200 more lumens. Thus, when considering the current market of available weapon lights, the TLR-8 and 8A FLEX were under the average weight of other legacy devices (including other Streamlight units), but comparable to newer models. The weight did not pull the muzzle of the handgun down nor have a notable impact to target acquisition while firing.

Overall Rating – Good (21/25)

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IMG_2889_TackenbergI 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.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.