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by Bill Mills
The Tactically Advanced Combat Mount (TACM) from Tacm III, Inc. [Editor's update: At the time of review the manufacturer's name was Diamond Products - they are now known as Tacm III, Inc.] is making a place for itself in paintball. Initially designed for combat use, the TACMIII flashlight and universal mount fit directly on most paintguns without adaptation.
The TACMIII system centers around its flashlight. At a suggested retail price of $80.05, one may wonder "why is a flashlight this pricey?" The answer is, quality of construction and a design that is solid enough for the rigors of combat. The body of the TACMIII is precision machined delrin with a very tight fit, and fine threads. The rear of the flashlight has an end cap with a pressure sensitive switch on either a 5" or 7" lead, allowing instant reflexive control of the light while mounted on a paintgun. In the unit reviewed, the end cap was not completely tightened, causing the flashlight to not work. After a bit of fidgeting, fussing and tapping, this was determined to be the cause, and a good heavy twist put it in place making electrical contact. The front and rear end caps include o-ring seals making the body water resistant.
A bit of warning from experience; if you're not sure that a TACMIII flashlight is working right - don't point it at your eyes when you turn it on - you'll see spots for a while if you do. The TACMIII is astoundingly bright for such a small flashlight, brighter than many bulky C and D cell flashlights. There are three main reasons for the brightness in such a compact size - the batteries, the bulb, and the reflector.
The TACMIII is powered by a pair of "123" 3 volt lithium batteries. While most penlight sized flashlights are powered by two 1.5 volt "AA" batteries providing 3 volts of power, the 6 volts driving the TACMIII give it a lot of umph in a small size. Two batteries are included, Duracell Ultras with the unit reviewed.
A tiny 6 volt xenon bulb provides a bright, crystal white light source. The bulbs are a "rugedized" design. The filament is shock resistant. This is a key design feature. According to Oscar Fell, Vice President of Diamond Products Marketing., the heavy shock of firearm recoil, and the resonating hammer and valve vibrations from airguns can quickly break the filaments of standard flashlight bulbs.
The third factor in the TACMIII's brightness is its reflector. Instead of a chrome sprayed plastic piece, the TACMIII's reflector is a machined metal alloy, with a super fine polished inner surface.
The Universal Mount for the TACMIII is designed for shotguns, long guns, the Ruger Mini 14, and paintball guns. At a retail price of $23.95, it consists of two clamp halves that attach in the center with a pair of 10-32 screws. The illustrations in the TACMIII literature show the flashlight installed on an Indian Springs Thundercat. We test fitted it on a number of paintguns, including an Autococker, and Model 98. The only one where barrel mounting presented a problem was a SuperNova ET, due to the barrel shroud. Thinking around the problem, we found a suitable area on the 'guns regulator that provided perfect alignment for the light. Self adhesive Velcro strips allow the pressure switch to be mounted almost anywhere. On paintguns where the light was easily mounted near the rear of the barrel, the switch could instal on the grip for thumb access. On the Model 98 which was equipped with a Flatline barrel, the switch was installed on the barrel shroud's foregrip for access by the fingertips of the bracing hand.
On the field
The bottom line is of course how the light handles on the paintball field. Field testing took place during the Aurora Borealis scenario game at Wayne's World of Paintball. After a few minutes of use, activating the light can become a reflex. At distances of 20 to 30 feet, the bright center of the light acts as a fast sighting system. Kick on the light, shine it at the target, and fire! While no indoor testing was done, this fast aim would be very effective at the close ranges of indoor paintball.
Colored lenses are available for the TACMIII, and red is a great option for a flashlight to provide illumination without knocking out the "night vision" of the human eye when it is adjusted for low light.
Taking things a step further, the TACMIII has an optional infra red filter. At $34.95, this filter looks like it blocks the lens of the flashlight completely. It is held in place with a flexible guard that attaches to the flashlight with a small loop and leash, so it can be flicked off quickly for normal light use, and not lost. With the naked eye one can barely detect a faint red glow through the lens. However, to a person using night vision equipment, the TACMIII throws a very powerful, very visible beam, illuminating the scenery.
Inexpensive second generation night vision gear often includes a weak, short range illuminator, and still needs a fair amount of star and moonlight to see clearly. Combined with a strong infra red light source like the TACMIII it can provide clear vision rivaling what the much more expensive generation III night vision systems can provide. The drawback is of course, that the more expensive night vision gear doesn't need an illuminator to get that clarity. Any infra red light source, whether it is the blinking LED on a Talkabout Radio, the brilliant IR beam of a TACMIII, or a built in night vision illuminator, will stand out like a beacon to anyone who is using night vision gear.
The TACMIII flashlight and accessories
are available manufacturer direct, or through dealers who can also buy
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