Cloud Defensive vs SureFire vs Modlite

Posted by Modulus Arms on 18th Jan 2023

Cloud Defensive vs SureFire vs Modlite

Weapon lights have come a long way from bulky Maglites duct taped to shotguns and rifles (thought some police departments still do this). Three companies come to mind for today’s standard of quality lights. Today we explore their best qualities and what makes their products shine.

Surefire History

A love for motorcycle street racing during Dr. John Matthews’ adolescence led him to attend a local community college. Initially, he had wanted to make use of their machining shop to work on his bike, but discovered his aptitude for engineering while taking classes there. After ten years, Matthews finished his academics with a PhD degree in engineering at California Institute of Technology.

Dr. Matthews founded the Newport Corporation, a company focused on industrial lasers for high precision positioning systems, optical components, and all things laser based. I like to imagine that Matthews finished a viewing of The Empire Strikes Back and thought “I started a laser company for laser blasters not boring spectroscopy machines“. The 1960s science fiction trend of handheld laser projectile weapons and villains’ execution weapon of choice brought up exploratory thoughts that any reasonable person could have. Do giant death rays have legitimate potential and can it really be done? Eventually these would be tempered down to how and if lasers could have practical firearm applications.

Matthews saw the potential for lasers as an aiming apparatus while shooting with the short-stroke piston variant of the AR-15, the AR-180, and wanted to pursue the idea. The financial investment to refine and produce smaller, suitable sighting lasers however faced criticism from Newport Corporation’s investors. Matthews made an agreement with the board to acquire the intellectual properties from Newport Corporation and founded a new company, Laser Products.

Their early iterations resembled LVPO sized helium-neon lasers that could be integrated onto popular classic firearms such as the Ruger Mini-14, M-16, Remington 870, Colt 1911, and more. Laser Products gained traction with the popularity of their shotgun laser sights among the LAPD and LASD during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. The wake of the North Hollywood shooting and post 9/11 led to a shift in policing. The local state felt outgunned by the everyday man and SWAT teams were becoming popular enough to be standard in most cities. The newly developed concept of the SWAT team approached Laser Products for weapon mounted illumination. For a higher performing light, Matthews sought out the lithium CR123 battery used typically for cameras. After compromising with Duracell to add a spacer to the battery to soothe safety concerns of users improperly stacking the batteries, the end result was the CR123A battery we’re familiar with today.

Matthews’ work experience with defense giant Litton Industries developed a direct connection between his products and Seal Team 6. Their relationship in developing a durable light with a solid mounting system would be influential towards the US military’s adoption of weapon mounted lights.

Laser Products had the experience and quality approved by professionals. Its reputation would be joined by its products’ popular use in Hollywood props such as the laser sight on the Terminator’s Colt 1911.

By 2001, Laser Products rebranded itself as Surefire. To this day, John Matthews remains the majority shareholder of the company and keeps its production and staff entirely American. If you’re looking for a light that will last in any environment faced by US special forces i.e. indefinitely, then know these are the lights that place durability and reliability above all.

Staple Surefire Weapon Lights

The Surefire M600, colloquially known as the scout light, sets the standards for how a rifle light should perform. Its dual-fueled variant, the Surefire M600DF, can be powered by either two CR123A batteries or one of Surefire’s rechargeable SF18650B batteries. Like most Surefire lights, the Surefire M600DF stands behind decades of experience to ensure a weapon light that will last reliably in any harsh professional environment.

  • Well proven design behind decades of door-kicker experience and law enforcement agencies world wide
  • Tempered lens withstands muzzle debris and gas
  • Durability is second to a Nokia brick
  • Runtime of around 75 minutes on CR123A batteries or 90 minutes on a SF18650B battery
  • IPX7 waterproof
  • Excellent hard-anodized finish
  • Gold standard designed and made in the US from start to finish
  • 1,500 lumens
  • 16,000 candelas with the SF18650B battery or 12,800 with two CR123A batteries

Another staple of the Surefire family is the updated lineup of the Surefire X300. The X300 has served professional operators around the world with the same reliability and resilience as its scout light counterpart. The Surefire X300U-B is the latest iteration of the X300 series with an improved performance and T-slot thumbscrew mount for handguns lacking in picatinny rail space.

  • One of the most durable handgun light that money can buy
  • IPX7 waterproof
  • Excellent hard-anodized finish
  • Solid momentarily/constant toggle switch
  • 1,000 lumens
  • 11,300 candelas

What Weapon Light Does Special Forces Use?

Every year the joint exercise, Exercise Flaming Sword, between US Navy SEALs and Lithuanian special forces KNT is held to demonstrate NATO’s SOF capability in eastern Europe. The Surefire P1R Peacekeeper can be seen mounted on the rifles of SEALs operators.

In a separate joint training exercise between the 5th Special Forces Group and Tajikistan Armed Forces, the Peacekeeper can be seen again.

Modlite History

Modlite was founded by its current head, Cory Starr, who grew up tinkering with an extensive hobby collection. He applied himself working on lights for individuals he met mountain bike racing.

(Is it just me or do any of you notice that there seems to be a correlation between good lights and motorcycles?)

Starr began developing a light to identify a target out to 150 yards; he wanted to see the target clearly and to see if the individual was armed. Initial efforts were a proprietary light head using Arisaka’s body and Surefire’s tailcap. It is with this iteration that he realized the limitations of the popular light bodies capable only of housing older 16mm diameter batteries. To reach the output needed, Starr needed a housing capable of holding the newer 18mm diameter batteries, the 18650 battery and the 18350 battery. Thus, the 18650 body and 18350 body was born. The current from the 18mm diameter batteries made it possible for Modlite to support the OKW light head and the PLHv2 light head. All Modlite heads are fully potted with thermal epoxy to ensure their continued resilience against the punishment of living on even a SCAR.

Since then, Modlite has brought to the market high performing light heads for both rural use and close quarters urban applications. Their focus is not to build the one perfect light that everyone could possibly need for all applications. Modlite bodies are interchangeable with their various heads and have compatibility with even Surefire bodies like that of the M600DF. This business model can be inferred from the “modularity” of their name. Legacy light head models, for those who aren't ready to upgrade from CR123A compatible bodies, are designated as Legacy Enhanced LED-F(Flood) and Legacy Enhanced LED-T(Throw). A tight and narrow beam with the throw of a lighthouse behind it is excellent for thoroughly identifying targets over 200 yards away. However, such a setup may not be ideal for your groggily opened eyes after rolling out of bed at 3 am to find out what that noise was.

Entering the weapon light scene with the PL350

The standalone Modlite PL350 light body allowed for the user to mount Modlite heads onto their pistol frame. Want to switch to a different light head? Change the batteries? Simply unscrew the light head and swap components as needed without having to take it off the picatinny rail. While not the first company to do this, they definitely got the most widespread attention for it.

  • 18350/18650 battery compatible housing
  • Battery is replaced from unscrewing the front light head
  • Solid momentarily/constant toggle switch


Modlite heads have earned a reputation for long throws and intense candelas. While it doesn’t have Surefire’s history to prove its survivability in SOF environments yet, the fully potted Modlite OKW has four times the throw as Surefire’s M600DF and can do so against the abusive embrace of a SCAR 17. Modlite’s OKW is a light head dedicated to positively identifying targets to 300 yards with 69,000 candelas supporting 680 lumens.

  • 69,000 candelas
  • 680 lumens
  • Tight, intense beam good for long distance throw
  • Great hard anodized finish


For the same value, you get a light head designed for a more balanced spill and intensity for close to mid range engagements. The Modlite PHLv2 is adjusted to allow for just a reasonable amount of flood to see more of what’s around you while still being able to positively identify targets three times the distance of the Surefire M600DF.

  • 54,000 candelas
  • 1350 lumens
  • Balanced spill for situational awareness and decent throw
  • Good for handguns and carbines
  • Great hard anodized finish

Do Surefire Switches Work With Modlite Heads and Bodies?

Yes, Surefire tailcaps and switches will function with Modlite accessories provided that the bodies are of the right diameter, typically 16 mm or 18 mm. Modlite has designed their heads to work specifically with staple Surefire light bodies and switches. However, to reach maximum performance it is recommended to use Modlite’s heads with the ModButton or Unity Tactical’s Hot Button.

Cloud Defensive History

Founded in the 2010s, Cloud Defensive has climbed their way to the spotlight alongside Surefire and Modlite with their build quality. The company’s career has earned its reputation for offering some of the most robust and high performing long weapon mounted lights available today. Their lifetime warranty is transferable so that you can enjoy quality insurance even if you buy their lights secondhand.

Optimized Weapon Light

Cloud Defensive’s OWL is one of the best carbine lights available for those wanting a traditional 12 o’ clock switch pad. Rather than a cabled pressure pad, the momentarily/constant toggle pad is integrated into the light’s body as a single, compact package. The entirety of the OWL’s construction is optimized for minimizing failure points and resisting shock.

Changing the batteries cannot be made any simpler. The front head light twists off easily to allow access to the battery compartment.

The OWL is designed with ambidextrous utility in mind. Switching between left handed and right handed configuration can be done by swapping the end cap with the light head end. This end cap also doubles as a wrench to torque the OWL’s mounting screw.

While the lenses are tested against several direct hits of simulation rounds, they are fully field serviceable for easy replacement.

  • 50,000 candelas
  • 1250 lumens
  • IPX8 waterproof
  • Mil Spec Type III hard anodized finish
  • Comes with high performance batteries and longer run time batteries
  • Body is about as close to indestructible as a carbine light can get
  • Lifetime warranty


The REIN 2.0 is the update to Cloud Defensive’s more conventional rifle light, with improved Light Control System and a slimmer bezel diameter profile, for those who prefer a pressure switch at a different position or want to mount an IR illuminator device.

REIN 2.0’s electrical system and diode have been improved for greater efficiency. Its lens has been refreshed with a coating to produce a 5200k light temperature.

The REIN 2.0 comes in an 18650 size and an 18350 size, the full size and micro size respectively.

REIN 2.0 Full Size

  • 71,000 candelas
  • 1100 lumens
  • 150 minutes
  • IPX8 waterproof

REIN 2.0 Micro

  • 63,000 candelas
  • 950 lumens
  • 50 minutes
  • IPX8 waterproof


By far the smallest light produced by Cloud Defensive, the MCH takes the lessons Cloud Defensive and its peers have learned in making a quality, high performing light and presents itself as a formidable everyday carry light as well as a defensive tool.

CD’s Mission Configurable Handheld light is a great supplementary light to utilize the Thyrm SwitchBack technique. The MCH’s light head is fully interchangeable with a high output head and a standard daily use head.

Both MCH variants can utilize a dual output function, a feature that gives the light a low power mode to mitigate disrupting your low-light adapted vision with the light’s high power.

MCH EDC (Every Day Carry)

  • 40,000 candelas
  • 1400 lumens
  • 120 minutes

Low Power Mode (Dual Output Only)
  • 4,000 candelas
  • 140 lumens

MCH HC (High Candela)

  • 71,000 candelas
  • 1100 lumens
  • 150 minutes

Low Power Mode (Dual Output Only)
  • 7,000 Candela
  • 110 Lumens

Is Cloud Defensive Making A Pistol Light?

Yes, Cloud Defensive has announced their Enhanced Pistol Light with its current projected release date unknown. Its highly anticipated launch was officially announced to take place late 2021. The light has yet to be released for sale nor has there been any statement on a new launch date. In December 2021, Cloud Defensive’s official instagram page showed the EPL with the pistol light’s switches, commenting “it's not quite done”.