Review: Why the ASP Scribe might be your next EDC flashlight of choice
Six years of hands on experience with the pen-sized powerhouse.
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ASP is a brand that’s a mainstay in the law enforcement and private security fields, with their handcuffs considered the cream of the crop and “Asp” somewhat similar to “Kleenex” in terms of how it’s used to refer to virtually any telescoping baton. ASP also makes tactical flashlights of varying sizes and outputs, and powered by varying batteries, to meet the needs of anyone — well, almost anyone.
The ASP Scribe in particular seeks to fill the niche of the compact, pocket-friendly flashlight for someone who doesn’t have the option to carry a full-sized light on a vest or belt, while still offering a healthy lumen output at an economical price.
When I first purchased the Scribe in 2015, it had a specific set of capabilities that I was looking for in a pocket light, which is to say that it was mildly water-resistant, powered by two AAA batteries, and had a switchable output of 220 lumens and 15 lumens. Over the ensuing years, I worked for an ASP authorized dealer, handled warranty claims on several ASP lights, and then, for the purposes of this article, Task & Purpose sent me another Scribe, followed by the latest updated version of the light (featuring a rechargeable battery and improved output) from the manufacturer when I contacted them for comment.
I’ve used my Scribe as a CCW companion, a military flashlight, and as a tool while providing first aid for the better part of a decade. In essence, I’ve got a lot of experience with this company, their products, and this system in particular. At just under $70, the Scribe might just be your next EDC light of choice.
(The subjects of this particular article were provided to me by Task & Purpose as well as ASP Inc. This article is not sponsored by ASP in any way, and I am no longer affiliated with the ASP authorized dealer that I used to work for.)
The ASP Scribe comes in a simple plastic clamshell package that includes a liner card, and prominently displays the light and a very small recharging adapter. I’m not a fan of clamshell packaging, but at least this package is the variety that you can simply pull apart rather than having to cut through with scissors.
The battery that powers the light is already inserted, as opposed to older versions of the packaging that had the batteries displayed where the charging adapter currently is. This is an easy way to tell at a glance which Scribe lights are rechargeable, along with the “rechargeable” label on the liner card, right alongside the very serious (and patriotic) bald eagle.
The light has the form factor of a large pen or normal-sized permanent marker at just under six inches long, ½ inch in diameter, and weighing a scant 2.2 ounces. The message of this is clear: If you can carry a pen, you can carry this light. The body of the light is black-anodized 6061 aluminum, with a steel pocket clip, a rubber switch, and a mineral glass lens over the LED. The design has changed somewhat since the version that I first purchased, transitioning from a simple bent steel pocket clip to one that’s thicker, more durable-looking, and triangular in cross-section profile, and adding an indicator on the tail cap that shows that the switch is a two-mode switch. In the middle of the light, either side of the midsection features the classic ASP logo and “Scribe” in calligraphic font, both laser-engraved and paint-filled.
The form factor of the new, rechargeable ASP Scribe is nearly identical to the earlier model that I purchased, with only some minor cosmetic alterations. It’s so similar, in fact, that to differentiate the subject of this review from the earlier, non-rechargeable variants, I had to wrap the light with a piece of electrical tape. Additionally, the newer variants, both rechargeable and not, feature a much nicer paint job than the earlier model, as well as a more — clicky? — tail switch. Not sure how to describe that. The pocket clip on the original, being made of simple bent steel, loosened up, fell off, and had to be replaced, whereas the newer one feels much more solid out of the box. Finally, the pen-like form and pocket clip mean that it’s easy to tuck into MOLLE webbing on a plate carrier or bag for easy emergency access.
In use, the light is perfectly suited to being tucked into a pocket, sleeve, that little pen pocket in your cammies, or yes, the aforementioned MOLLE webbing. The light makes a great offhand light for use with handguns that don’t support a weapon-mounted light, and it’s thin enough for even the smallest-handed users to grip, while having enough overall length to allow comfortable activation with your thumb. Enough of the light protrudes above the pocket clip, with the beveling of the endcap providing grip to allow you to pull the light out in a hurry with little trouble. The form also allows for you to easily tuck the Scribe into the shoulder strap of a vest to allow hands-free usage, such as if you’re part of the intended law enforcement user base and your main light goes out.
The charging solution is inelegant, but it works, featuring a workaround that’s a little different from the last two rechargeable flashlights that I reviewed. Instead of being on the actual body of the light, the charging port is a micro USB port that’s physically on the battery, which connects to the included charging adapter and then into any USB wall adapter or port. While charging, a small LED on the battery flashes red to show that it’s charging, but incomplete, and solid green to show that it’s finished charging. The battery itself is also exactly as long and wide as two stacked AAA batteries, which means that you can use AAA batteries as well as the rechargeable 10900 battery that’s included. This presents the downside of having to physically remove the battery to charge it, but simultaneously solves that issue by making it so that you can throw in AAAs to continue use while you charge the battery.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the package includes two ASP logo stickers, so that you can put them on your gym rat hydro flask, or on the back of your laptop screen if you feel like being trendy and collegiate.
How we tested the ASP Scribe
I’ve owned an ASP Scribe in some form for over six years, so I’m not just going to be talking about my experiences with my usual testing regimen of this tool but also situations that I’ve approached with this thing in the past. But first, a baseline of actual tests to show you the basic capabilities, based on the criteria that the certification body for flashlights uses on all ASP products.
The original Scribe was advertised as 90 minutes of 220 lumens light, with a throw distance of 81m, impact resistance of up to two meters of freefall, and mild splash resistance. The newer rechargeable version also advertises these features, but bumps up the lumens count to a maximum output of 330 lumens, at the expense of making the maximum battery life only one hour.
Speaking of the first point, the power on high mode, the reality is that it’s very unlikely that you’d ever run the light for one hour on high consistently, and it’s really not designed to be your primary source of illumination. ASP even states this on the back of the package, saying “they are designed as a shirt pocket or suit coat backup to ASP duty lights.” But sometimes, you have no other choice but to use what you have, and from personal experience that often means that you’ll find yourself needing constant illumination with a battery that’s less than full.
An example of this was a few months ago when I was coming back from the field. The unit was in the staging area, the prohibition on white lights had been lifted, my headlamp was out of batteries, and it just so happened that the portashitters that I knew weren’t going to be absolutely wrecked were a good 200 meters away, across the gravel lot that made up the staging area. Having only used the light for momentary illumination in non-military environments up until that point, the high-power mode completely died on the walk over there, only allowing the light to operate in the low power mode. This is a case where I can definitely appreciate the benefits of the newer rechargeable battery, as in this instance I could have just gone and recharged the battery while using a backup set of AAAs, and had a good-as-new charge, or even have avoided this situation entirely by recharging the batteries during the daytime prior to night time head call adventures. The light also generates a good deal of heat when used for longer than 30 seconds — not so hot that it becomes too hot to hold, or that I worry about it pulling an Olight and exploding on me, but noticeably warm. LED lights by nature get warm, but this is another case where the Scribe is not meant to be used as a long-term light, as the lightweight and thin materials used don’t effectively insulate your hand from heat, especially as you get closer to the head of the light.
In terms of output, I spoke with Michael Hess, marketing representative for ASP, regarding how they measure their lumens, and he informed me that ASP, along with other brands like Surefire and Streamlight, are part of a standardization organization known as PLATO, or the Portable Lights American Trade Organization. He said that unlike some other companies, they only measure lumens after 30 seconds of activation, because lights will usually be very bright for those first 30 seconds, and then drop precipitously at that point. So it’s very likely that your ASP, Surefire, Streamlight, Nitecore, etc. light may perform well above spec for the first 30 seconds on a full charge. What this also means is that between the 220 lumen original (that’s 6 years old, I might add) and the newer, 330-lumen model, the first 30 seconds are basically identical.
Keeping this testing standard in mind, I allowed the lights to run for 30 seconds before taking the photos. The beam is very consistent, with a soft core and a halo that’s not much dimmer than the core, which means that in close-in situations, you’ll get a decent illuminated area, at the expense of some throw distance that you might get with more tightly-focused beams. That’s not to say that the Scribe doesn’t have a respectable throw distance, as evidenced by my usual distance test of shining the light off of my second-floor balcony onto the street and waking up my neighbors at 10 pm. It’s at these further distances that you can really appreciate the added lumen count since the 330-lumen mode looks appreciably brighter than the 220-lumen mode of the older model.
Up close, however, the results are basically identical, with the only difference being that the 330 lumen has a cooler tone. The low mode was very helpful in March, where I had to evaluate a car crash victim for injuries, and I used the much milder 15 lumens to check his pupil dilation to make sure it was even, to ensure that there wasn’t a TBI more serious than a concussion. Finally, in a counter to the lumen war where more and more, people act like 1,000 lumens or better is the place to be for a tactical flashlight, the 330 lumens is perfectly acceptable for close-in use, and won’t blind you with backscatter if you shine the light against a white wall in complete darkness.
The drop resistance is rated to two meters. Per PLATO standard, that means it has to be dropped six times onto cured concrete from the stated height, once on each side to “approximate the angles of a cube” and show no cracks, while remaining fully functional. I don’t doubt that, as I’ve definitely dropped mine from that height onto concrete, if not higher. But two meters is 6.5 feet and change, and let’s say you’re a really tall person whose sole reason for not going to the NBA was the fact that you have butterfingers, and so you drop your flashlight a lot. Or maybe you’re just a regular person who’s going to drop the Scribe from the second floor from over your head, roughly five meters up, aka me, and what I did. Six drops, one on each side. As a control, the light that ASP sent me is going to be dropped from the guaranteed height, and the one from Task & Purpose will be dropped from five meters up to see if the Scribe can perform above spec. The former light fared well, as expected, but the latter light hit the concrete with a sickening crack, and I thought it was all over. Then I did it five more times. After the sixth drop, I retrieved the light and inspected it for damage. The black anodized finish was very lightly scuffed, and the pocket clip was dislodged to the point of being incredibly wobbly. My confidence was not high, and it was further tanked by the fact that when I turned the light on, it simply gave off a dim strobe. I tried whacking the light against a railing to try to see if concussive maintenance helped. No avail. But then I simply took the battery out and reinserted it and, to quote Genesis 1:3, “let there be light.” Pretty impressive result, considering that this is over double the advertised specification, and although I wouldn’t say this is proof that ASP could jack their advertised spec up, it adds a layer of confidence.
Finally, for the water-resistance test, PLATO standard states that whatever the light in question is rated for must be tested after the impact test, to ensure that the light operates in real-world conditions. This light has a simple IPX4 rating, which means that it has to withstand water being sprayed at it from all angles. I tested this by spraying the light with my kitchen sink spray nozzle, which the Scribe handily passed. Additionally, over my years of using a Scribe, it’s stood up to pocket sweat and rain quite well. But realistically, you’re going to drop your light in water at some point, and while the Scribe isn’t rated for any kind of submersion, one full minute in a bucket of water seemed like a reasonable test beyond spec. After ensuring that the end cap was tightened down, I left the Scribe in the water, and after one minute pulled it out. The light worked. Please note that this isn’t conclusive evidence that the Scribe could be submersion rated, and one minute in a bucket of water isn’t anywhere near a substantial test of water resistance. This just means that ASP isn’t comfortable rating all of their lights to be water-resistant after their drop test and that this light was one of the ones that performed above that guarantee. Your mileage may vary, but this does add an additional slight layer of confidence.
What we like about the ASP Scribe
The Scribe is a durable, handy, and decently bright light that performs very well for the price that you pay. It fulfills the role of a penlight that is fully capable of being pocket-friendly and useful in the adverse conditions that you’d expect to find in a concealed carry or tactical environment. The light’s stated 330 lumens of constant power is perfectly adequate for a pocket-sized light, and the 15 lumens are great for more detailed applications or for low power draw. Making the Scribe rechargeable with no change to the overall geometry of the light not only likely saved ASP money, but also stands to save the end-user money over the course of usage. If I swap batteries maybe four times per year, and I use lithium batteries for maximum output, and I only buy them in four-packs to avoid leaving batteries around to corrode or degrade —that’s roughly $25 per year, and over the course of six years, amounts to $600. In contrast, you can get USB rechargeable 10900 batteries for $10 before shipping, and that’s ignoring the fact that they can be charged over and over again.
What we don’t like about the ASP Scribe
The Scribe isn’t exactly what I’d call a spec monster, and while it’s definitely a simpler and overall more durable design than a lot of similarly priced and accredited lights in its weight class, some might prefer the Streamlight Stylus for a slight boost in output and a built-in charger. They’re functionally identical, and a 20-lumen boost and a slight increase in throw range of the Streamlight isn’t enough to rate one higher than the other. It boils down to what you prefer in terms of charging, output, durability, and let’s face it, brand loyalty.
I’m not a fan of how the light and slim design affects heat management, and even though I understand that heat is an inherent issue with handheld lights, it definitely feels present here, in contrast to larger and more robust lights that might feature insulation or more real estate to grip away from the light head.
A final gripe of mine is more military-focused, but I really wish the LED was bi-color, or that the light at least had a red cap you could put over the head to give me red-lens capability for use in a tactical environment. ASP isn’t really aimed at the military market, but they could be. Maybe an FDE version of the Scribe that comes with a red lens option. I know you’re reading this Mike. Please and thank you.
The Scribe is a great choice for someone who wants a handy, capable, and economically priced light that is backed up by a brand that’s well-respected and nationally accredited. It’s served me well over the course of six years, and if you’re in the market for a handheld flashlight that’s small enough to take everywhere, this might be the option for you. Consider this an endorsement of the ASP Scribe, with the caveat that you should use it for the purposes outlined by the manufacturer, and if you want a long-lived or more powerful light for prolonged usage, consider something more robust.
I have no way of testing lumens accurately because to do so you need an integrating sphere and a light meter. So I’m reduced to going “Yep, that’s pretty dang bright, yep the 330-lumen Scribe is slightly brighter than the 220-lumen Scribe, yep I just scorched my corneas when I shined a 1,300-lumen weapon-mounted light at a white wall in complete darkness while performing tests for a future article.” This isn’t good science, since it isn’t measurable or refutable, but that’s where standardizing organizations like UL, PLATO, and ANSI come in since they at least assure a certain level of quality control.
Also, while I was working at the ASP authorized dealer, I handled several warranty returns of the ASP Scribe due to things like LED burnout, water intrusion, rubber switch shearing, and pocket clip breakage. In most cases, the item was covered by the warranty, and ASP just sent us a new unit to give to the purchaser. ASP guarantees their products to be free of defects for life, and if you do break a part through abuse, they sell the individual parts for most of their flashlights on their website, and they’re very responsive to emails.
Finally, and curiously, there’s another variant of the Scribe advertised on Amazon called the Scribe DF, or Dual Fuel. The DF has an increased output of 350 lumens and has an overall more boxy appearance. It’s also more economically priced than the traditional Scribe, so it might be something to consider if you want to pick one of these up on the cheap.
FAQs about the ASP Scribe
Got questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q: How much does the ASP Scribe cost?
A: $52.44 on Amazon for the 220-lumen version, $46-$78 for the Dual Fuel version on Amazon, and $69 (nice) on the ASP website for the 330-lumen version that I just reviewed.
Q: What is the PLATO standard?
A: The PLATO standard for FL1 is that the light must meet the advertised lumen output and beam throw distance after being on for 30 seconds, that the light lasts as long as advertised from the time you turn it on for 30 seconds to when it diminishes to 10 percent power, that it be at least one-meter impact-resistant, and be at least IPX4 water-resistant. I follow the PLATO standard and then augment it with my own experience or tests beyond the scope of what the governing body will test, simply because I want to ensure that the light in question meets the quality control that the manufacturer guarantees before progressing onward.
Q: Why do you keep saying ASP in all caps? Isn’t an Asp the snake that Cleopatra killed herself with?
A: First of all, great reference, hypothetical person who looks and sounds just like me, and has the exact same literary and historical background. ASP stands for Armament Systems and Procedures, since they not only offer flashlights, but also sell OC spray, batons, dummy firearms, and even training classes and professional certifications.
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Matt Sampson is an 0861 in the Marine Forces Reserve and a Virginia native. In his past life, he worked in tactical gear retail and is an avid firearms enthusiast. The farthest the Marine Corps has sent him from home is Oklahoma.