Dragon-II from Wolf-Eyes is a sturdy aluminum-bodied light that combines a bright 10 watt miniature metal-halide HID lamp with four low-power 5mm LEDs, offering a powerful and fairly long throwing high beam and a useful low power long running light for close range use. Powered by four CR123 type lithium batteries, it runs the main lamp for up to an hour and the LEDs for 30+. An innovative design combines the low power LEDs with the battery carrier to enable it to be used outside of the main light in emergencies either momentarilly for signalling or constantly for hands free use. The main beam is adjustable and the whole thing is splash-proof and finished in smooth black anodise.
Size- 230mm long (~9 in) x 77mm head diameter (~3 in) x 47mm body diameter (1.85 in).
No. of light sources- 5 (1 + 5).
Type of light sources- 10 watt metal-halide lamp and four 5mm LEDs.
Switch modes- Independent switches for main lamp and LEDs.
Body colours/finishes- Black type-2 anodize.
Batteries- 4x CR123 type 3 volt Lithium.
Switch type- Twist body for main beam/twist tail cap for LEDs.
Approximate beam half-angle- HID- quoted 6 – 16 degrees adjustable.
Approximate beam half-angle- LED- ~22 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- Not yet measured.
You`ll have to find four CR123 type 3 volt lithium cells before your Dragon-II will work, as they are not supplied. Install them by first unscrewing the tail cap – be careful however as it is in two pieces. You need to grab the larger section, not the very end piece with the round window in. Unscrew and remove to gain access to the battery carrier inside. Cells go in with the negative ends contacting the springs and the positive ends contacting the flat pads. I found that the spaces for the cells were larger than necessary making for a somewhat sloppy fit, but once in, they stay put thanks to the spring tension. You will notice while installing the batteries that there are four LEDs and two switches (one momentary, one latching) as part of the battery carrier, I`ll explain how this works later on, it`s quite a clever idea.
Battery life is quoted by the manufacturer as being 60 minutes from the main lamp. The tail-cap LEDs have a rating of up to 30 hours, and apparently that is after the main lamp has run its hour-long duration. The main lamp duration sounds reasonable to me but I`m not sure of the LED claim. The LEDs will run *significantly* longer than the main lamp but I have no idea how much power would be left to run them after the main lamp has drained the batteries to the point where its ballast will no longer cope. Some more testing is in order to see just exactly how long it does run.
This is not any everyday light, look into the head and you won`t see the usual filament lamp. Rather it utilises a miniature 10-watt metal halide lamp, commonly referred to as a HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamp, the same sort of thing used in streetlighting and high-end car headlights. This miniaturised version was developed by specialist lamp manufacturer Welch Allyn several years ago and made its debut appearence in commercial torches courtesy of the Underwater Kinetics Light-Cannon. The lamp in the Dragon-II is essentially identical to that of the LC100 with some slight constructional differences between my units, probably due to manufacturing advances since the older lamp was produced. To the right is a close-up of the arc tube, the space between the two electrodes in the middle where all the light is generated is less than two millimeters in length, really tiny. This gives the potential for a tight, long throwing beam to be produced, although the Dragon-II`s reflector is partly faceted smoothing out the beam and slightly widening it in the process.
Metal-halide HID lamps cannot run directly from batteries, they need a device called a ballast to drive them. The ballast takes the relatively low voltage of the four CR123 batteries and boosts it initially to a very high voltage to strike the arc, then drops down to a lower, but still high voltage to keep it running. The lamp needs time to warm up when first switched on too, taking something like 20 seconds to reach full brightness. They also cannot be rapidly switched on and off, you have to wait several seconds for the lamp to cool before it will light again following being exinguished. Given the fact that this light is being sold as a “Tactical” flashlight, which are often required to respond instantly and repeatedly during special operations, the choice of a HID lamp with its inherant limitations may seem strange. Certainly does to me, but more on that later.
Lamp life for the main bulb has been quoted at 300 hours which is a lot more than the few tens of hours that the normal halogen or Xenon tactical-flashlight lamps have. On the downside, the cost of a replacement lamp is several times that of some “normal” flashlight bulbs so it`s good that it does last so long. To replace it, first unscrew and remove the head. Next you need to find a small screwdriver and loosen the two screws on either side of the lamp-holder that keep the lamp held solidly in place. That done, pull out the old lamp and insert the new one, paying special attention to the polarity indicated on the lamp base and inside the head of the light. It will only work one way around, and I do not know if reverse connection would cause damage to anything, so take care. Once fitted, tighten the securing screws again and re-fit the head. Done. I would recommend that the batteries be removed before attempting to replace the lamp as the ballast inside can produce some very high voltages which might hurt like crazy if it was inadvertantly turned on during the replacement process.
When I first unpacked my Dragon-II, I tried to operate it without reading the instruction sheet to see how easy or hard it was, as I often do with new lights. For the life of me I couldn`t figure out how it worked. It has two light sources, one at either end, and is operated by twist-action switches, but you need to pay attention to which bits you`re turning. In total there are four threaded sections, two of which form switches but not necessarilly the two you`re expecting.
To turn the LEDs in the tail cap on, you need to tighten down the very end section of the tail cap – the bit with the round window in. This presses down on the momentary switch built in to the battery carrier module and turns the LEDs on. To turn off again, loosen the LED cap section. I found this could not easilly be done with just one hand, though it is not impossible. With the battery carrier/LED module completely removed from the light, you can still use the LEDs, a clever idea which gives some built-in redundancy if the main part of the light fails or is damaged. Press on the taller black switch to light momentarily, for example to signal messages. Indeed, it is marked “morse” on the board. For continuous operation push in the shorter blue latching switch, press again to turn off. Don`t forget to turn this off before installing the module back into the light or else you won`t be able to turn the LEDs off without removing the tail cap again first.
To turn the main lamp on, grasp the front and back halves of the body section and, wait, the body is in two halves? This is the bit that confused me most – from new it appeared to me that the body was in one piece. It seems the grease lubricating the o-ring sealing the two halves had stuck it together making it feel solid. It turns smoothly now but you may find it needs to be “broken in” first
The 10-watt miniature metal-halide lamp used in this light has a claimed colour-temperature of 5000K, which is close to that of daylight. I have no way of measuring this for myself but for some reason the lamp in my Dragon-II takes on a more orangey look. It`s actually quite a strange colour, there are orange parts and blue parts that mix together in different parts of the beam to make patches that look almost white and other patches with distinct colour tints. At the narrowest focus, the beam has a sharp bright hotspot that is pretty bright, immediately surrounded by an orangey colour and around that, a blueish-white corona. The orange colour flares up and down as the light warms up and also fluctuates and flickers greatly as it is moved around while illuminated. It also appears quite unstable when stood on its tail shining at the celing. This I believe to be due to deposits of the halide salts in the arc-tube becoming re-vaporised and subsequently depositing on other, colder parts of the lamp. Accounts from others with experience using these lamps say it can vary from one lamp to the next, and I believe over time as the lamp ages, the salts are used up and the fluctuation reduces. You may find that these lamps need “breaking in” by running a few sets of batteries through them, so I will have to keep an eye on how it does as time goes on. I hope I didn`t get a bad one.
Wolf-Eyes claim a 500 lumen rating for the Dragon-II`s main lamp, which is close to the 450 lumen rating given by Underwater Kinetics for its Light Cannon using the same type 10 watt halide lamp. To my eyes the LC100 has never appeared to be 450 lumens and indeed this one seems at first glance to fall short also. Below are two comparisons made between the Dragon-II and a SureFire M4, another light utilising 4 CR123 cells. This test uses the low-power lamp option for the M4, putting out only 225 lumens as claimed by the manufacturer
With the Dragon`s beam opened out to a width approximating that of the M4, the two appear to me to put out similar amounts of light (even if distributed differently), with the Dragon maybe coming out on top but not by the amount the specifications would lead you to believe. The difference in colour of the light doesn`t help the comparison, but a doubling in intensity between one and the next would surely be more noticeable. Set to the narrow beam, the Dragon beats the M4 in point-intensity but of course now illuminates a smaller area. In order to measure total lumen output of light sources, some very expensive and specialised laboratory equipment is required, which I do not have access to, but my informal tests seem to show the Dragon-II falling well short of its 500 lumen claim, to my eyes at least.
That said, this light is no slouch when it comes to putting out light. After its initial warm-up period it is very bright and illuminates a fairly large space. Focussed properly it has a good throw too, probably reaching out over 300 feet. Problem is, you first have to wait for it to warm up, and in a “tactical” scenario, that is highly undesirable. In all honesty I do not believe this light would be suitable for applications where the operator is placed in high-pressure life and death situations, normally demanding a light that can be activated single-handed and without the operator having to think first “will it warm up in time?”. The lack of instant full-power light and the fact that you have to use two hands to switch it on are both big stumbling blocks. To the “non-tactical” user such as myself though, these limitations pose much less of a problem and many people I expect wouldn`t mind the wait while it brightens. It is certainly different, quite fun to watch it grow in intensity accompanied by the decreasing whine of the ballast as it warms up.
I must not forget to mention the LEDs, since they are the reason this light comes under the “combination” category after all. Compared to some 5mm LEDs currently avaliable, they are pretty dim. Indeed, there are some single-LED lights that wash out the Dragon-II`s LED beam. It is of course not intended to be a bright source of light. Rather, its intention is for low level use such as searching through a gear bag, as well as providing a very long run-time that could come in extremely handy in an emergency. The fact that they will work with the battery carrier removed from the light completely is extremely useful and even allows you to keep a spare battery carrier on hand for quick changeover that doubles as a low level navigation light. The beam produced is quite smooth if not perfectly round due to the inevitable slight misalignment of the individual LEDs, and the colour is a nice moonlight-white with no objectionable tints unlike the main beam.
Going purely by feel alone, this seems like a tough light. It has been machined completely from aluminum with thick walls and sturdy threads, and while the anodising doesn`t appear to be “type 3” or “hard anodise” as used on the toughest lights out there, it still should protect from general scratches and wear. That said, it is rather big, and you know what they say about being big. Dropped accidentally, or subjected to more deliberate abuse, I reckon this one would sustain more damage than a smaller or simpler light with a similar performance. I have no way to easilly get to the electronic innards to see how well they are protected, but the added complexity inherantly brings a higher chance of failure. Don`t forget the fact that the fancy metal-halide lamp will cost you several times more than the usual Xenon/halogen “tactical flashlight” lamp (although not as expensive as I first thought), and will break just as easilly. Perhaps easier, the arc-tube inside is very small and looks rather delicate. One crack following a large physical shock and it goes out immediately, whereas a deformed tungsten filament has a chance of keeping on glowing.
That said, and despite its unsuitability as such, this has been designed as a “tactical” light, presumably with suitable protection for the more delicate components that will make it stand up to rough use in adverse conditions. Chances are, the ballast assembly is either encapsulated or protected with shock-absorbing material of some kind. The sturdy body will keep its contents relatively safe, the lenses covering the main lamp and LEDs are glass which will resist scratching, and o-rings seal out moisture from bad weather or accidental exposure to water, keeping it dry inside. The clever design of the combined battery carrier/LEDs also means that if the electronics or main lamp did fail or were otherwise damaged, you wouldn`t be left completely in the dark.
I bought this light myself and it wasn`t cheap so I`ll hold my hands up and say categorically that I won`t be torture-testing it to see if it does hold up to abuse. As always of course, accidents will happen. Some days it seems I can`t touch anything without everything around it falling to the floor. This one with its wide head may be less likely to topple over, but if it does, of course I`ll report back and say how it fared.