A couple of years
back I published a generic list of “must have” equipment that every
outdoors person should have. On that list was a good, rugged flash light.
Whether you’re a dyed in the wool hunter or an occasional camper or
fisherman, a tough, capable light is a piece of gear that will sooner or
later will come in handy, or could even save your bacon in a hairy
The day of the
traditional double “D” cell flashlights that most people keep in the junk
drawer in the kitchen is technologically long over, although a huge number are
still sold, mainly because they’re cheap and familiar. But they’re also
relatively fragile and very heavy for the amount of light that they put out.
Flashlights, especially those geared towards outdoor activities, have changed
dramatically. They’re smaller, much more powerful, provide light for longer
periods of time, often use more sophisticated batteries, and are almost
impervious to outdoor conditions.
One light in this
category that especially caught my eye a couple of years ago is
Streamlight’s Sidewinder. Even by outdoor light standards, the Sidewinder
stands apart from the crowd of the usual black aluminum LED type lights
that are so typical of this class. First, there’s its appearance. Instead
of being round, it’s rectangular. Instead of being made of aluminum, its
made of a tough nylon polymer, and instead of having a fixed head, the
Sidewinder’s swivels 180 degree's.
So what does that
give us. Being flat means that it will fit into a shirt pocket for an easy
carry. However, a heavy duty, hard holding anodized spring steel clip on
the back means that the light can be fastened on to your shirt or jacket
pocket as well. (The clip is also contoured to fit either a MOLLE or ACH
attachment point which is used by emergency, police, and military
personnel.) Swivel the head 90 degrees while attached to your jacket, and
you now have your hands perfectly free to change a tire at night or to
climb a tree stand in the predawn darkness. Turn the head to the vertical
position, and you can hand hold the light as you would any standard
The light is also
100% waterproof and even meets Mil-STD-810F which means it will survive
being underwater for at least one hour. BTW, don’t be afraid of taking
your light into rough territory. It’s been drop tested from 30 feet onto a
concrete surface. Bottom line here - this is a very tough light that can
take just about anything the outdoors can throw at it.
So how’s it work?
Great! As you know from my scribbling in these pages over the years, I
like products that are versatile. In other words, products that can be
used for many applications or that do many things. The Sidewinder besides
being able to be used in all of the standard situations that a strong,
shockproof light can be used for, also has a host of other functions to
make it even more useful to the hunter. For one, besides the standard
white LED, the Sidewinder also has a green, blue, and red LED as well.
Green can been used on a hunt in the predawn night as that color won’t
spook game the way a white light would. Blue is very useful for making a
blood trail stand out. Red is a universally recognized distress signal.
Lastly, there’s a strobe function. By double clicking on the waterproof
switch, any of the different colored LED’s can be made to flash at a rate
of around 2-3 per second (my guess). A red flashing LED makes a dandy
are also four levels of brightness available for each of the four LED’s.
Select the level that is the most appropriate to the situation to conserve
battery life. For instance, for the white light, when set on “low”, the
batteries will last 100 hours. When set to high intensity, the white light
will last 7 hours. You can use either standard AA alkaline batteries or
better yet, lithium batteries. When using the lithium’s, the Sidewinder
can be used in temperatures ranging all the way from 40 degrees below zero
to 150 degrees above. To replace the batteries, there’s a 3/4” knob
located in the center of the unit’s base. Unscrew the knob and the entire
base can be removed. You’ll notice that the base plate is tethered to the
flashlight with a short length of stainless steel cable to ensure that it
can’t be lost (a wise precaution).
To select among the
various LED’s, pull up and turn on the knob located on the side of the
Sidewinder’s swiveling head. To turn on the selected color, push the
pressure switch in the center of the knob. If you hold down the switch,
the light will advance through its four levels of brightness. When you
reach the level you want, release the switch. To activate the strobe,
press the switch twice from the off position. However, the switch is kind
of stiff. Any adult would have no problem with it but a child just might.
To be honest though, this is really not a child’s flashlight.
You should note that
this particular model’s light pattern is different than from other
Streamlight products that I’ve used - probably because of the rectangular
reflector. With a standard round Streamlight reflector, you’ll get a
bulls-eye type light pattern with a very intense “hot spot” in the center
and a more diffuse circle of light around it. The light is very focused
into a distinct cone. The Sidewinder’s pattern is very broad and uniform,
with no real central hot spot. It fills a room with a very even level of
The bottom line here
is that the Streamlight Sidewinder is a light that can successfully work
in a military type environment, and as such would be an excellent choice
for the active outdoors person. Streamlight is sold everywhere so check
“streamlight.com” to locate a store near you.
essentially a company that produces specialty lubricants for a wide
variety of industries including the gun care market. I really get the
impression that cleaning rods are a just sideline for them as they can be
hard to find - but what a cleaning rod it is. In my opinion it’s
absolutely the best that you can buy and it doesn’t cost any more than
other “name” rods.
All of Pro-Tec’s
rods are made of carbon fiber. Now I own other rods made of both coated
and uncoated steel, brass, and carbon fiber. Of all those types, I prefer
the carbon fiber rods best because they’re the smoothest. Can I prove that
scientifically? No. But that’s the way it feels to me.
Now I’ve discussed
cleaning rod myths in past issues particularly the common belief that rods
MUST be made of very hard steel or otherwise combustion byproducts will
become embedded in the rod turning it into an abrasive file. I won’t
repeat all the details of what I’ve already written in the past
except to say “It ain’t so” and to also say that the people who insist
that it is so have NEVER offered the slightest bit of proof to support
their assertions. That being said, carbon fiber is extremely strong, won’t
get bent, and is very flexible (Example: I just bought a set of tires with
carbon fiber belts.)
"The Sidewinder is a heck of a tough light for
any outdoors person."
Because of these
characteristics, I own four carbon rods. Two are made by Pro-Tec and the
others are from two other makers. The thing that really sets the Pro-Tec rods
apart are the handles. First of all, they’re big. Most other rod makers skimp
when it comes to their handles. The Pro-Tec’s are just under 6” long and are
an inch and a quarter wide. They’re made out of a solid billet of aluminum and
are very finely knurled. On the inside, at the rod end, are two ball bearings.
As a result, the rod turns better than any other rod I’ve ever used. In fact,
in a small experiment, I gave the handle a little flip to get it spinning, and
the handle kept coasting along smoothly for a full 12 seconds. I couldn’t even
get three seconds from the handles on my other rods.
The other end of the rod
is hollowed out for about three inches and has a screw on cap. This is the
perfect place to keep your cleaning jags, brushes, and perhaps some patches.
All the workmanship is first class and Pro-Tec rods have a lifetime warrantee.
As mentioned before,
these rods can be hard to find and often are out of stock as the demand
outstrips production capacity on a regular basis in spite of the fact that
there is very little company advertising for them. I bought my Pro-Tec rods on
line from Cabella’s which also seems to have the best prices for them. Try one
out, you’ll like it.
Let’s admit it. The main
reason we clean our cases is because very few things in this whole wide world
look nicer than a big pile of brilliantly shining brass. I don’t know whether
it’s the luster, or the color, or what. Polished brass just has a quality that
appeals to the human psyche.
Of course there are
practical reasons for cleaning and polishing our brass cartridges i.e. safety
and accuracy. Dirt and black soot can hide case defects such as a split in the
neck or a crack in the web just above the rim. So yes, cases should be at
least cleaned on a regular basis.
Now there are lots of
choices available to us on how we can go about doing this. To choose which
method to use we have to decide which of these factors are more important to
us: time, effort, convenience, or cost. The number of cases that need to be
taken care of is also a big factor.
When I have a small
number of cases to clean and polish I always go to my Sinclair case holder
system. This is just a little gizmo made by Sinclair that locks the case into
a kind of spindle. The spindle is then chucked into my electric drill and
rapidly spun. I then take either a wad of 0000 steel wool or Never Dull
polishing wool and hold it against the spinning case. The steel wool both
cleans and polishes. The Never Dull also cleans and polishes and a brighter
finish can be had from it as well. However, the polishing compound in the wool
has to be removed from the case afterwards. I use an old t-shirt to do so
while the case is still spinning. It takes me about a half hour to do 50 cases
and they’re just beautiful.
For a large number of
cases, 50 or over, other methods have to be used. Here you have a choice
between wet and dry. For really filthy cases like some pistol brass and used
military stuff that’s been laying around for a long time, wet cleaning has
advantages. I like Iosso’s Quick Brite cleaning solution which comes in a big
plastic jug. Just put the dirty brass in a plastic bucket and cover with the
cleaning solution which contains a mild acid and I believe a soap solution.
Agitate the cases in the solution from time to time. After about 7-8 minutes
the cases should be clean. Strain out the solution and empty back into the jug
as it can be reused. Rinse the cases with clean water and let them dry
thoroughly inside and out. I usually lay them out in an old pan in the oven
set at 150 degrees to do so. The advantages of this method is that it’s very
easy and very fast. The cases will be very clean but won’t have that polished,
To get that super shine
on large numbers of cases, you can tumble them. Here you have a choice of
either a vibrator type tumbler or a rotary drum type. The people who make the
vibrator types say it’s faster, however in a side by side comparison a couple
of years ago I found absolutely no difference between the two. I prefer the
drum type with a rubber liner made by Thumbler because it’s quieter. It also
has a huge heavy duty motor that will last for decades.
For tumbling media
there’s walnut (decent cleaner), walnut treated with red polishing compound
(better cleaner and decent polisher), and corn cob (very good polisher but not
very good for cleaning). For very dirty cases, you’ll have to clean first and
then polish in your tumbler to get the best finish with standard media. This
can take a long time as cleaning can easily take 8-12 hours and the same
amount of time for polishing.
There’s one tumbling
media can do both the cleaning and polishing best of all. That’s Olsen’s corn
cob with chromium oxide. The product isn’t very well known as Olsen’s was a
small regional producer in Southern California that sold primarily through
local guns shows. (They also made a high quality vibrator type tumbler).
Anyway, the media is a fine ground corn cob with little green crystals
scattered throughout (chrome oxide). The chrome oxide is an excellent cleaner
aggressively scrubbing off the black case residue, and the cob polishes the
brass to a brilliant shine. It does the best job of both cleaning and
polishing I’ve ever seen on brass.
is no longer in business. However, fine corn cob media is available from a
number of sources and chrome oxide can be found on the internet or from local
abrasive supply houses. Just mix up your own using about 10% of the oxide.
To summarize, for 50 or
fewer cases use the Sinclair tool. For large and very large amounts of really
dirty, nasty brass, Iosso’s wet cleaner is the way to go. To clean and polish
in a tumbler, Olsen’s formula of corn cob and chrome oxide is # One.
"Two bearings make the ProTech rod move freely
down your gun's bore."