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The flashlight is the unsung hero of the tactical and everyday carry world. Truth be told, most of us will never need to shoot an intruder in our homes, get into a bloody knife fight with an assailant, or unravel that cool survival bracelet you made from 550 paracord while bored on that deployment overseas all those years ago, but we’ll all need a flashlight with some frequency. As a police officer, my flashlight was oftentimes my most valuable asset. Even when not working the night shift, you never know when you’ll find yourself in a dark building or other low-light situation.
Last month, my editor sent me the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 — a compact tactical LED flashlight that is smaller than the standard tactical light — and asked me to put it to the test and review my findings. The SOG DarkEnergy DE-02 isn’t designed for mounting onto a rifle or shotgun or as a replacement to a standard tactical light but as a suitable replacement for use as a backup light or for everyday carry. Compared to other lights of its size, this is a notably more expensive option at just over $100, but one which is well worth the money: the quality and caliber of the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 meets and surpasses that of its rivals and even competes with larger, traditional tactical lights.
The SOG DarkEnergy DE-02 arrived in a stylistically designed black and white box with graphics of the flashlight, diagrams of the flashlight, and summary of information on the bottom of the box. The interior box is a simple black cardboard box with the SOG logo and company information on one end. Inside, the SOG DarkEnergy DE-02 is encased in a gray packaging insert with three custom inlays – one for the flashlight and one each for the two CR-123A lithium batteries. Also included are two pamphlets – a general pamphlet outlining other popular SOG products and a user’s guide for the SOG DarkEnergy DE-02. The inclusion of the batteries was a nice touch. No need to remember to buy/order batteries before you can start using your new cool guy gear. This is especially helpful if you decide to purchase the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 as a gift for that special tactical nerd in your life or that boss you’re trying to impress for a cool assignment or promotion.
My first impression of the SOG DarkEnergy DE-02 was that it was by far the lightest flashlight I had ever held. The flashlight measures 5.1 inches in length with an output of 247 lumens. The body is made of black, machined 6016-T6 aluminum with mil-spec hard anodized coating, a tail cap control button, and a low-carry pocket clip. The power button offers four settings: full on, momentary on, 40 percent power, and tactical strobe, all powered by two CR-123A lithium batteries. At just a hair over four ounces, you barely register you are holding anything at all. In fact, I clipped it into the pocket of a pair of athletic shorts I was wearing and completely forgot it was there.
The flashlight itself is a useful size and shape. It fits nicely in the palm of the hand comfortably enough to manipulate the light and its controls with little trouble. The machined patterns of the aluminum casing provide for a good grip and easy handling. The front bezel of the SOG Dark Energy flashlight has a scalloped pattern, described in the user’s guide as a “scalloped front bezel for maximum impact pressure while used for self-defense.” In other words, if you smash someone with it, it’s going to hurt. Bad.
In terms of personal self-defense, there are many excellent advantages to having a good, tactical flashlight. Why is a good tactical flashlight like the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 a great asset? Probably first and foremost would be accessibility. You can carry a flashlight in highly restrictive places like Canada, the UK, and California with no issues. You can carry a flashlight while getting drunk in a bar, on an airplane, or into your kid’s school. As a weapon of opportunity, 247 lumens blasted into someone’s face can easily throw off an assailant’s point of aim. When manufacturers like SOG provide conveniently located scalloped beveling, it’s just that much better. In close, getting cracked across the head with this flashlight is going to, as they say, leave a mark.
How we tested the SOG DarkEnergy DE-02 flashlight
The specific areas we wanted to evaluate with the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 were its battery life, impact resistance, weather resistance, and water resistance.
Battery life: To begin, I decided to assess the battery and bulb life. SOG claims the Dark Energy DE-02 has 145 minutes of burn time at 100 percent power and 485 minutes at 40 percent power. For those of you who, like me, do not math good, that’s a little under two and a half hours at full power and about eight hours on the low power setting.
I turned the flashlight on to full power and set it aside. After a couple of hours, the flashlight body became very hot to the touch. Not so hot it was difficult to hold, but hot enough that I moved it from a wood table to concrete. After four hours, the flashlight had cooled off to a normal temperature and switched itself to the strobe mode. I’m not sure why, but I can assume the strobe mode uses less energy. Over the following couple of hours, the flashlight switched itself to the 40 percent low power mode.
Twenty hours into my assessment, the flashlight was still going on the 40 percent low power setting and was normal temperature to the touch. At this point, I concluded the testing. I was pretty happy knowing the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 would run consistently for over twenty hours.
Water resistance: The SOG Dark Energy DE-02 is rated IPX-7 for water resistance. In short, this means it is rated for submersion in up to one meter of water for up to thirty minutes. So, not effective as a dive light, but able to withstand some pretty gnarly water conditions. Definitely sufficient for extended use in miserable rain and wet conditions.
I turned on the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 and dropped it into a full 2.5-liter water bottle — which meant the flashlight was immersed in eight and a half inches of fresh water — for fifteen minutes. After almost ten minutes, the light began to flicker slightly (differently from the strobe mode), but this stopped after four to five minutes.
After fifteen minutes, I removed the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 from the water. The flashlight body’s temperature was normal to the touch. I switched the flashlight on and off several times and it worked perfectly and switched smoothly between the three modes, full power, low power, and strobe. I then took the flashlight apart and inspected the interior of the flashlight body and the batteries. There were no indications of any water entering the flashlight body.
Weather resistance: During the time I was testing the SOG Dark Energy DE-02, Hurricane Ida was moving through the Gulf of Mexico. Luckily for us here in Florida, it bypassed us, but we had about a day and a half or so of getting pelted by the outer bands. I left the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 outside in the elements as Ida passed and then for another week or so for good measure. This meant the flashlight was subjected to a week of alternating between excessive heat and humidity, rain, standing water, more heat, direct sunlight, etcetera.
The results were promising. The flashlight worked perfectly after a week in the elements. I examined the exterior body and there were no indications of any type of rust or damage as a result. I took the flashlight apart and removed the batteries and there were no indications of any damage to the interior of the flashlight or to the batteries.
Impact resistance. Finally, an important element to evaluating a quality tactical flashlight is how well it survives impact. Dropping flashlights is a natural part of any flashlight usage. Whether it gets dropped from your hand or it’s sitting in an exterior pocket of your pack when you drop it or some airline baggage handler throws it, the light is going to take some impact.
I tested the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 for impact resistance by using two ancient and very available testing tools: gravity and the Earth. In a sequence of four drops, I dropped the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 from a second-story balcony and from a third-story balcony. Twice from each height with the flashlight landing on hard-packed gravel and then onto a concrete sidewalk. The body of the flashlight suffered some minor scratching, but the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight continued working without skipping a beat.
What we like about the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight
The number one standout for me about the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight is how incredibly lightweight it is. Like any kit you select for EDC, hiking, or to take on a tactical patrol, weight is a factor. As the saying goes, ounces make pounds. The combination of the weight and compact size also make it perfect for carrying in street clothes. Even for a real estate agent or a police detective wearing dress clothes, the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 can be carried in a way that makes it readily accessible, but without pulling against your clothing and making itself uncomfortable.
The power and duration are other great factors. Knowing a light can run constantly for over twenty hours makes me confident the light will function well over several days of normal and even excessive use. When selecting a tool or weapon, whether for hiking, your bug-out bag, self-defense, or whatever, it’s important to always remember you may need this tool in a literal worst-case scenario. Luckily, most of us never have to put that to the test, but when and if it happens, you don’t want to be holding your third-place choice.
Like so many SOG products, the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight is visually distinctive and well-engineered. It’s legitimately just nice to look at. In my opinion, this is a hallmark of SOG. Like certain car makers, SOG refuses to compromise on great visuals. This comment is not in any way to take away from the high performance quality of SOG products, but just to say if I can choose between two equally superior items (flashlight, knife, axe…) and one is plain looking and the other is a rock star, I’m going with rock star every time.
What we don’t like about the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight
Not having a rechargeable power option is not ideal. The batteries included with the light proved to be very effective, but they can be expensive and not always easy to find. Having a flashlight which gives the option to recharge the power from an AC plug or a USB port can be invaluable.
Here’s a little history lesson: The reason manufacturers started making tactical flashlights with the control button on the tail cap of the light was so you always knew where it was in a bad situation. Low light, taking fire, moving surreptitiously towards an armed opponent, or just sprinting from cover or from a car to back up your teammates – none of these times are when you want to fumble with your light to find the control button. Under stress, like fight or flight, we lose fine motor skills quickly.
Another development in tactical flashlight technology was a setting that allows you to depress the control button momentarily and release it. This allows you to light an area briefly and drop back into the darkness so you can maintain your night vision and not reveal your position. This setting is important because, when fine motor skills diminish under stress, it is easy to accidentally hit the button too hard and leave it on.
The SOG Dark Energy DE-02 lacks the option to keep the power button in a momentary mode. You can depress the button halfway down and release it to turn off the light, but as we discussed, you may not have the fine motor skills to do so successfully in a high-stress scenario. To test this feature, I tried unscrewing the tail cap partially, but the control switch could always be fully depressed leaving the light on.
The SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight is an incredibly lightweight and durable tactical flashlight for just over $100. The battery life is exceptional, and the flashlight is tough enough to make it through a wide variety of difficult conditions. Its compact size and light weight make it ideal for discreet carry in almost any type of clothing in many situations. This flashlight is an excellent choice.
FAQs about SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 cost?
A. The SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight is available from Amazon for $104.98.
Q. Can the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 flashlight be used as a SCUBA diving light?
A. No, the Dark Energy DE-02 is only rated for water-resistant for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. SCUBA would exceed these limitations.
Q. Can the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 be mounted to my AR-15?
A. No, the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 is designed as a pocket carry flashlight.
Q. Will my sergeant major let me carry the SOG Dark Energy DE-02 on deployment in place of my issued flashlight?
A. You will have to speak to your sergeant major about that, but we encourage you to tread lightly and not jump your chain-of-command. Contact senior leaders through social media.
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Paul O’Leary is an Army veteran and tactical nerd. He’s served multiple tours in Atropia and other theaters and once ate a Norwegian reindeer MRE. He fancies himself a connoisseur of good bourbon, wine, and cigars. He also writes for Duffel Blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @pauljoleary.