Helios, Trex and BarracudaGood professional flashlight can sometimes be of the highest price – price of your own life, be it in the hands of those who daily risk their lives when protecting the order in city streets, or in the hands of some participants of risky international missions, or in the hands of private person in a self-defence situation. That’s why this part of equipment should definitely be neglected. It cannot be said that market with light sources called “tactical flashlights” is scarce. In spite of that, considerable demand for good professional source of light, which would suit an absolute majority of users by its service properties and also acceptable price, still persists.

To fight means to see

Helios, Trex and BarracudaDirect confrontation situation, which can result in desperate struggler for life, is definitely a situation, in which even the best trained members of armed forces may fundamentally fail. Distress physiological reaction may in any person significantly limit not only its ability of “cool reasoning”, in spite of all trainings. In extreme situations some people may hit the panic button with absolute destructive irrationality of behaviour and all the seemingly well drilled scenarios, acquired by long-term intensive training, may completely collapse. Fine motor activity, which is necessary for efficient use of a firearm, is under fighting stress also considerably deteriorated.

Night and darkness were for humankind from time immemorial something, which in majority of population evokes certain fears. Invisible risks materialise into terrifying images, and it thus further reduces adequacy of actions and readiness to decisions. Man in such a situation estimates poorly distances and evaluates with difficulty sources of danger. Meaningful reaction and necessary timing is then much more difficult and effect of the so called “tunnel vision“ rapidly increases. Chaotic character of situation in conditions of „night fight“ brings about great risk of inadequate of wrong use of weapon.

Helios, Trex and Barracuda
Helios, Trex and Barracuda

Armed encounter in dark then inevitably becomes the least pleasant combination of both mentioned factors. However, according to long-term statistics, up to 80% of shooting confrontations takes place namely at significantly bad light conditions, many of them in total darkness. According to experts this concerns use of firearms not only at police interventions, but also the instances of use of gun by private persons at self-defence.

Due to the fact that man does not have the amazing ability of cats – seeing in darkness – he needs help of technology. There is simply no other solution, if I intend to shoot at something, I must see at least something. And I must also have a visual control of legal reason for shooting. Probably no one at some suspicion and signs of danger shoots aimlessly into dark only to find later out that his estimate was a tragic error. Such decision might have the most tragic consequences for user of the gun, as well as for all people who happen to be around. If we don’t take into consideration the most advanced, highly sophisticated and expensive devices, such as sniperscopes, we need for detecting the source of risk and for possible use of gun a suitable source of light. However, any ordinary source of light need not be appropriate for the needs of such confrontation situations. The term “tactical flashlights” became common for special devices designated purposefully namely for “night fighting encounter”. Our article concerns namely this type of product.

New approach

Helios, Trex and BarracudaAs majority of members of armed forces often say, the persisting problem is that salesmen usually create at the design studio a product, which they then try to enforce to professional users. The company ESP therefore decided to use from the very beginning quite an opposite approach. Its managers decided several years ago to react to ever growing demand for tactical flashlights fulfilling the required criteria and of appropriate quantity and also at “acceptable price”. That’s why they started by listening to as many requirements as possible formulated by future users of such products at their everyday service. It was time of collection and evaluation of information and valuable opinions of the most competent persons. It was, however, found very soon that it would hardly possible to integrate all those requirements and comments into a single flashlight. It would be enormously complicated to accommodate literally to anyone – to members of the elite teams, as well as to line cops and municipal police constables. It is understandable – specificity of their activities is quite different and this naturally brings an extensive range of opinions as to requirements to such outfit and its functions. The realisation team has therefore decided no to create a single flashlight but rather three specialised flashlights named Helios, Barracuda and Trex.
Helios, Trex and Barracuda

This integral series should cover in practice the whole wide spectre of communicated specifications. The offer should have therefore create a comprehensive „night system“, in which each user could find “his” light source suiting best his activities and requirements, including also broader assortment of accessories. The company ESP from the very beginning were aware of the fact that just good service flashlight alone is insufficient, if user has no suitable pouch for carrying it. That’s why simultaneously with development of new flashlights also new concept of rotating plastic holders of new generation for the flashlights were being developed with application of new suspension system that would enable not only comfortable all day carrying of this night set, but also enabling its quick use in case of sudden situations.

Helios

Helios, Trex and BarracudaThe objective here was to create a completely new tactical flashlight, of as compact dimensions as possible, in combination with above-standard high output. Particularly the members of some special police and army task forces required unusually strong source of light, which could be carried on the belt or in tactical vest, as well as operatively mounted also on the firearm. The ESP development team had therefore to resolve not only the requirement concerning appropriate system of mounting on the picatiny rail, but they had to resolve also the system of remote switch. At the same time it meant also fulfilment of a difficult criterion for application with the army assault rifle in total darkness – i.e. to guarantee hitting the human target even at a distance exceeding the defined one hundred meters. It was required that the central shaft of light was quite narrow, intensive and sharp, and it had to be combined with broader circle for peripheral observation of surroundings. This new tactical flashlight moreover had to be equipped with the so called smart switch (slight push – short flash, full push – permanent light) with possibility of simple single-handed operation. It was also required that the flashlight should have several modes of lighting, i.e. selection of light luminosity or type of lighting. Above-standard long life of power sources was also required, which meant minimum power consumption while providing the already mentioned extremely high luminosity. As you see, it was rather difficult to achieve the combination of all the requirements…

Helios, Trex and Barracuda
Helios, Trex and Barracuda


It was also required that the flashlight should be protected against rolling away on an inclined surface. High resistance adverse external influences (such as dust, water, falls, shocks and recoil at shooting) were also self-evident. Finally the substantial factor – it was required that price would be on acceptable level, mainly in comparison with numerous incredibly overpriced products. Only under this condition the armed forces might in future consider economically broader implementation of such tactical flashlight into their armament.

All these requirements were definitely not an easy task for the development team, which meant that this development was very demanding and also expensive. However, it seems that all those efforts and spent energy were worth it. Large number of experts agrees today, and unusually high demand confirms it as well, that ratio of price to service properties of the created product really has no match. Speaking of the output, completely new high-luminance LED chip CREE 3W with electronic control ensures unusual value of luminance – more than 120 Lumen (in this case these values were officially certified, unlike the fantasized promotional values often met in publicity material of other similar products). The requirement for long range and fullness of light meant, however, that high luminance alone is not sufficient, it had to be accompanied also by specific design of the front parable with lens, so that cone of light may in fact efficiently reach the distance exceeding one hundred meters and provide thus sufficient resolving power that is necessary for hitting the target.

Helios, Trex and BarracudaIt appeared that solution of the light cone of this novelty from the company ESP was ideal – it is composed of central, extremely sharp and narrow light beam, around which is broader circle of less intensive light. The central light cone with sharp edges should dazzle the adversary, and it is realistically able to lit the aim of shooting even at the distance of 150 meters and not so rich circle around then serves for necessary peripheral observation of its surroundings. The borders between the two sectors are very distinct and concentricity is really outstanding. As the subsequent intensive testing proved, long life of power sources was also more than sufficient – with two brand new batteries CR 123 even after 1 hour of permanent lighting it was still possible to observe a figure at a distance of 100 meters, after 4 hours of permanent lighting it was still possible to observe a figure at a distance of 25 meters and after 10 hours of permanent lighting it was still possible to observe a figure at a distance of 15 meters. It was still possible to identify a person at a distance of 5 meters or to light dark staircase (which are the limit service criteria) even with the flashlight permanently lit for full 20 hours. This is definitely sufficiently long life for police purposes. Resistance of this new product made of light-weight alloy was verified during several exercise and user tests. Even members of the testing team, it means experienced policemen and instructors, were surprised to see what the new flashlight was able to withstand. This high resistance was achieved not only thanks to use of extremely resistant glass from ballistic polycarbonate. New bi-functional switch (for which and alternative of pressure switch for mounting on rifle was developed as well) enabled short flash by slight push, as well as permanent lighting after full pushing of the switch. It was moreover still possible to use the flashlight very comfortably even in thicker service gloves. Protrusions on rubber circle on the flashlight prevent rolling away on an inclined plane. The flashlight has also been equipped with a safety against accidental lighting – turning of the rear switch approx. by two revolutions will ensure that the flashlight will not get lit accidentally in your pocket or in a bag full with outfit.

Barracuda

Helios, Trex and BarracudaDevelopment of this flashlight, characterised by experts as “combat and defensive”, was guided by different requirements. Creation of this very specific aid for “night close contact encounter” was initiated by renowned instructors of shooting and tactical training, as well as several experts on real self-defence. Design of this flashlight was supposed to suit all the requirements for solution of close contact confrontation in bad light conditions or in total darkness, with or without use of arms. Close distance is the most common in majority of encounters experienced by police or security forces (according to statistics the most frequent distance of encounters is approx. 0-7 m). It was self-evident, that the next ESP flashlight must have the properties already defined for Helios. The above standard properties of Helios concerning luminance, resistance, etc. had to be matched. The internal part of new flashlight had to be almost identical, the proposed changes concerned particularly its external appearance. The objective of Barracuda developers was definitely not to develop just another excellent tactical flashlight. The development team composed of designers and leading security experts thus fully launched its inventive abilities. The main goal to give to this new product such a shape that would suit the most advanced requirements of special shooting training in combinations with the best possible features enabling its use for a contact self-defence technique „dazzle and hit“. These efforts resulted in a flashlight of very distinct shape. This unusual design is not a whim, it is strictly purposeful. Each has its strictly specified purpose.

Helios, Trex and Barracuda
Helios, Trex and Barracuda

Distinct grooving of Barracuda grip enables its perfect firm and stable holding under any conditions – be it under rain, in sweated or greased palm. If you take Barracuda into your hand you see immediately that its creators did a really perfect job – no matter how quickly you take the flashlight, the grip is firm and natural. At the same time the switch at its end is comfortably accessible and its control is easy. Handling is thus sub-conscious and automatic. But that is not all. Design of this special flashlight had to suit the hand anatomy for best grip and also the current requirements of combat firing, i.e. requirements to ideal co-operation with short gun. Design with large recess before the front part of Barracuda enables not only all “classical” variants of holding, but also use of the so called “cigar holding”, enabling firm fixation of the gun by almost two-handed optimal grip. It is exactly this American technique, which in opinion of numerous shooting experts brings not only the necessary coordination of the light and gun, but also better stability with good control of the gun at rapid repeated shooting. Distinct transversal grooving on the flashlight head (which at the same time prevents possible „rolling away“ of the flashlight), passes in the front part into atypical sharp protrusions, which create noticeably “aggressive appearance” of Barracuda. These are so called stroke spikes, the role of which is to create highly efficient impact area fro alternative use of the flashlight for surprising blow. Already the first trainings with this aid have revealed that effect of such use in real situation would be extremely efficient and practically devastating for the adversary. The person dazzled in condition of darkness by highly intensive light is practically defenceless against subsequent “contact use“ of the flashlight. Simulations on materials imitating human body proved that impact of stroke spikes – not only on vital zones – would be mildly said “highly efficient”. Some participants of these tests added with gallows humour that defender can now recognise the concrete attacker even after a long time – by typical circle indented on his forehead … This “smashing head” can be moreover useful also for other purposes – such as necessary breaking of glass – at rescue action or at police intervention, which require rapid entry and overcoming of glass obstacle.

Helios, Trex and Barracuda

Trex

Helios, Trex and Barracuda
Helios, Trex and Barracuda

Development of this last product from the ESP workshop was initiated mainly by numerous line cops and officers of municipal police. They – unlike SWAT and anti-terrorist teams – use their flashlights for less confrontational purposes, i.e. not so often in combination with gun, but rather for usual routine operations, such as search or for very frequent police action – stopping of vehicles. That’s why the aim was to create comparatively universal and cheap flashlight, which would enable performance of all above mentioned activities. This has defined solution of the whole “Night police set”. Luckily a predecessor existed, which could have been used for inspiration. The former flashlight was a set used by many policemen already for some time. It consisted of 8-LED powerful flashlight with an attachment in the form of red cone, the bright red colour of which is at night well seen even at a distance of several hundred meters. A hole at the end of the attachment enabled lighting for the actions following after stopping the car (such as control of driver’s documents, lighting of the car interior, verification of number plate, checking of quality of tyres tread profile, checking of the VIN code, etc.) – all this without need to put down the attachment from the flashlight.

Red light visible by other drivers at a distance of several hundred meters than contributed significantly to better protection of law officer. It protected policemen during their movement around the car so that they were not endangered by by-passing cars (which is by the way statistically one of the most frequent causes of injuries or fatalities of traffic policemen …). Exactly this very practical flashlight (available moreover at acceptable price), together with mounted red signal attachment and equipped with practical nylon pouch became in recent year big „hit“ and many police officers purchased it “privately” if they were unable to obtain it from their “employer”. Another reason for its unusual popularity consisted also in the fact that it did not use comparatively expensive and less available CR123 batteries, which are used in current tactical flashlights. The thing is that this flashlight was adapted for use of three AAA type batteries, i.e. very cheap batteries that and easily available in any tobacconist or supermarket. Although this power supply made it possible to use this popular flashlight for tens of hours and its light was sufficient for the above mentioned activities, many policemen with time wished to have a similar flashlight, but with much better luminance. Flashlight, which would use the same cheap batteries, but which would significantly expand possibilities of its use for ordinary line cops – for example for lighting several dozens of meters in a park, or for checking roofs of higher buildings. To put it shortly, they wanted much more powerful flashlight, but without substantial increase of its purchase price. In the end, after one year of development and search of an optimum satisfaction of these increased requirements a solution was found – by creation of the Trex flashlight.

Helios, Trex and Barracuda Helios, Trex and Barracuda

Helios, Trex and BarracudaTrex is a flashlight of completely new concept, its design and solution resembles the ultra-powerful Helios. Power supply using just three AAA type batteries was preserved, but thanks to the latest big technological advances they give in this particular case an extraordinary output. In spite of the fact that the flashlight uses cheap power supply, its penetrating light can reach surprising distances – even around one hundred meters. When the red signal attachment is mounted on the flashlight, it shines literally as dazzling torch. It is visible at a distance of kilometres, that’s why it is at present being tested even for guiding of airplanes. In spite of that electricity consumption is quite low and Trex has thus incredible time of service per one set of batteries. Experience proved that even after approx. 30 hours human body is visible a t a distance of 25 meters, and even after more than incredible 70 hours of permanent lighting it is still possible to recognise at a distance of 5 face of a man and see his hands, or to comfortably light your way when walking. This is possible to another mastered advantages – Trex does not have steel slope of power consumption, which is characteristic for flashlights using the CR 123 batteries (commonly used in cameras), but in this case the curve of power consumption is much more gradual. Progressive decrease in light intensity gives timely warning to the user, who is not surprised during long-lasting action in filed and can be thus better prepared for planned and timely replacement of power source.

Advanced versions

The development has definitely not been stopped even after this first success. Recently first pieces of novel upgraded versions of Helios and Barracuda flashlights came to the market, with possibility of selection between several modes of lighting. The company ESP thus flexibly reacted to the current demand and modified operatively design of these two tactical flashlights so that possibilities of their use are further expanded.

The first mode of lighting on both these flashlights is “classical” lighting at 100% output – this is selected by first light pushing of the switch (or by thorough pushing for permanent light). After the second pushing (made within approx. one second) the flashlight will work at 50% of its output. This 50% reduction of luminance has proved to be very practical, because we do not need full luminance for all activities (which may in some cases be even unpleasantly blinding for the user himself). Helios, Trex and BarracudaIt is thus possible to reduce substantially light intensity when checking the road or suspicious doors, or when reading map, which at the same time considerably extends service life of batteries (tests proved extension approx. by 45%). The third pushing starts another lighting mode – special stroboscope. This mode has been accommodated in such a manner that it becomes at night operation much more difficult target to be hit by your adversary. Pulses of the special flashing mode have been set in such a way that they very efficiently distract attention of the enemy gunman in order to hinder his possibility of hitting you. Although the purpose of this “strobo“ is to disorient vision and mind of your adversary, it still provides to its user very clear picture of the whole situation. As we have experienced it recently ourselves during testing, it is very easy, rapid and natural to switch between all these modes on new ESP flashlights.

These newest products have known also other substantial changes. Design of rear part of the flashlight was substantially changed. On the basis of request it was made slightly longer and the switch “sunk” slightly deeper was by widening of the tube ring. The switch is thus still easily accessible, but now it has advantage that the risk of accidental lighting of the flashlight, with all negative consequences such as permanent lighting bringing about depletion of batteries or even unwanted exposure during surprise action, has been substantially reduced. This reaction to comments from users based on their practical experience has further advanced properties of these very perspective ESP products, which can hardly find their match at their price level. Great attention is paid to this permanent enhancement, because this service and self-defence device should serve the best primarily to those professionals, in the work of which any error or confusion may in extreme situations lead even to threat to their lives.

Helios, Trex and Barracuda
Helios, Trex and Barracuda

 

 

 

Photo from tests of one of predecessors of Helios. One of tested flashlights after firing of 16 magazine in continuous bursts. All 480 shots were shot in less than five minutes. Everything was almost burning, but the flashlight even after such a load still functioned…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting properties of new ESP flashlights opened the door also to some units of armed forces. Many soldiers or police officers mounted this tactical flashlight on their guns. Czech army has also implemented Helios into its armament.

From the very beginning one of the criteria required efficiency use at a distance over one hundred meters. According to opinions of users this was absolutely fulfilled, as it confirmed the user tests. The above-standard lighting of Helios gives a chance of very good hitting even at a distance of approx. 150 m. The photo illustrates result of five shots made at this distance in full darkness. With the rifle Sa 58 you will not get much better results even at full daylight…

 

 

 

 

Helios, Trex and Barracuda

Development of ESP new tactical flashlights was simultaneously accompanied by development of sophisticated system of new holders. Especially for the combat Barracuda a conceptually absolutely new design of the „holder“ was developed, which in opinion of many experts has no match – not only thanks to its price. This holder is self-locking - thanks to vertical rotational cylinders, which means that the flashlight can be taken out by one snap movement. This is made even easier by an inclination of the flashlight holder with use of the time-tested rotary system. For the most demanding actions it is possible to protect the flashlight against loss by revolving lock.

 

Helios, Trex and Barracuda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Member of the “Police Rapide Intervention”, elite Congolese anti-terrorist police unit with ESP equipment – not only expandable baton, but also tactical flashlight Barracuda with new tiltable holder.

 

 

 

Helios, Trex and Barracuda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the suggestion of some units of armed forces so called “twin holders” were also developed. They create now modular system and it is possible to fix on the basic holder any equipment depending on the user’s needs and wishes. Total number of combinations is much greater than you can see in this photo.

Helios, Trex and Barracuda

 

 

 

 

Users can moreover choose for all these holders the suspension system. Not only classical simple clip or time-tested clip-over system with regulation of belt width. The last one (patent pending) is called “V-type” according to its shape when opened. In this case too the holder can be fixed instantly on the belt and again easily taken off without need of unbuckling the belt. This newest fixture combines resistant plastic material with special duraluminum alloy. It can be moreover fixed on the US Molle system, which is used on contemporary tactical vests.

 

 

 

 

Modern equipment may play in risky situations a decisive role – not only for officers of municipal police, but literally for anyone, who often risks his life in the name of law and order.

Helios, Trex and Barracuda

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