It’s been about three years since I’ve written a review on flashlight. I mean, I’ve written posts about flashlights since then and mentioned them in other posts, but I haven’t reviewed a specific product since I wrote a blurb about the Streamlight ProTac 2L that carried for years, but retired a year after writing about it in favor of the Fenix PD35 V3.0 which I have now carried for every single day for the last two years. For the money, it is a fantastic everyday carry flashlight. However, it has a few drawbacks, but even so, it’s a flashlight worth consideration and this post will explore why.
I first heard about this flashlight from John Kochan while attending a low light shooting class at KR training two years ago. Prior to that class and John’s lecture, I knew next to nothing about flashlights nor what attributes were desirable for an everyday carry flashlight that could be useful in self defense scenarios. While I’m still not a subject matter expert on flashlights, I’ve learned a fair bit since the foundation that I built that day and even wrote a well received post on the topic of every day carry flashlights, but I digress. Given John’s praise of the Fenix PD35 V3.0, which I’ll refer to as the PD35 from here on out, I purchased one and started carrying it. Suffice it to say that I am more than happy with it. However, after using it every day for two years or so, I’ve formed a rather firm opinion of the light which is mostly positive.
There is no shortage of “tactical flashlights” available in the market. Some of which are more well accepted than others by different segments of the population for different applications. The price ranges on these products vary quite a bit and can get rather expensive. The PD35 is on the value priced end of the spectrum and I’d argue it’s not one of the well accepted ones by any population segment I can think of. That’s a bit of a shame as it is a very good light that I think would work well for most armed citizens. Especially, given the street price of $80 which includes:
- A sheath,
- a lanyard,
- a Micro-B USB rechargeable 2600 mAh 18650 battery,
- a USB to Micro-B USB cable,
- a manual,
- and the flashlight itself.
Walking the flashlight from head to tail, we start with the removable head constructed out of A6061-T6 aluminum. I’m not sure the bezel can be considered a DNA collector, but I also don’t know anyone who would want to be struck with it and as such it would probably work well as an impact instrument. The head features a Luminus SFT40 LED bulb which boasts a 50K hour lifespan. To be honest, I don’t know anything about LED bulbs so I can’t offer an opinion as to whether that’s good, bad, impressive, or run-of-the-mill. All I can say is that it hasn’t failed after multiple uses per day over two years. The bulb puts out up to 1700 Lumens with a beam that extends over 1,100 feet thanks to an impressive intensity of up to 31.9K Candela. This output and distance is dependent on which of the six illumination modes is currently active.
Behind the lens and bulb on the removable head, is the functional side switch (or button) that allows switching between the six different illumination modes or brightnesses if you will. A single click of the switch cycles through five of the six modes when the flashlight is on beginning with “Eco” mode which outputs 5 Lumens and 100 Candela, “Low” mode which outputs 50 Lumens and 1K Candela, “Medium” mode with 150 Lumens and 3K Candela, “High” with 600 Lumens and 11.7K Candela, and “Turbo” with 1.7L Lumens and 31.9K Candela. Pressing and holding the switch for half a second enables the 1.7K Lumen strobe mode. The function switch also features a battery level indicator LED that can provide the user an idea of how much juice is left in the batteries which I found to be a really useful feature.
The different modes are nice in the sense that they can extend the runtime and can reduce the disorienting effect of the light splash when the PD35 is used in doors. However, I’ve come to think that these features are better suited for a utility flashlight rather than a defensive flashlight. My reasoning for this is that the flashlight remembers the last mode that it was used in and there have been plenty of times that I was expecting a low output and was essentially blinded by turbo mode along with times that I expected turbo mode and got eco mode. The strobe mode is not something I have ever used or personally find useful. Assuming one doesn’t find themselves in a situation where a long runtime is necessary, techniques such as umbrella lighting or baseboard lighting can mitigate the disorienting effect of a bright and intense light output from a high output single mode handheld light. As such, the different modes are something I would rather live without in an everyday carry flashlight.
One final drawback of the head is that it gets stupid hot stupid fast especially when “Turbo” mode is active. This can make it very uncomfortable if not painful to put the flashlight back in a pocket after use for a sufficient period of time. Even worse, is when the flashlight is unintentionally turned on while stowed in a pocket. I’ve experienced both of those scenarios more times than I care to admit and neither is pleasant. For what it’s worth, I’ve never actually been burned by the head, but it’s still an experience that I would very much rather avoid altogether.
Following the head, we find the body which houses the battery and is also constructed from A6061-T6 aluminum. It’s worth mentioning that this flashlight can be powered by either a single 18650 rechargeable battery or a pair of CR123 batteries. I understand some folks aren’t keen on 18650s. However, the high output turbo mode is only available using an 18650 battery. The flashlight also features a removable pocket clip that is attached near the end of the body.
The removable tail cap, which is also made from A6061-T6 aluminum, is found at the rear of the light and features a push button switch. The switch can be partially pressed to momentarily turn on the PD35 until it is released. Alternatively, the button can be pressed completely down and released to power the flashlight on and off. The bezel that surrounds the tail switch works okay. However, depending how it’s oriented and what one bumps it into, it can inadvertently turn on the flashlight and lead to one of those uncomfortably hot head moments described earlier.
In terms of size, the light is approximately 5.25″ long and has a diameter of approximately 1″. It weighs a little under 3 ounces without battery. I like this size a lot for an everyday carry flashlight. It’s small and light enough to carry in a pocket all day without noticing yet. Yet it’s large enough to get a good grip on it even with large meat hooks.
Those of you who are fans of the Thyrm SwitchBack ring will be happy to know that the PD35 is compatible. I have been using the ring for several months now and have yet to be disappointed.
It’s hard to describe how “bright” the different modes really are. As such, I included a gallery of images above to help illustrate the differences. All the pictures were taken within seconds of each other from the same position while attempting to illuminate the same point. However, the images don’t really do the flashlight justice. The hot spot in the center of the beam is crisp and sharp. The flood is generous and ample. Frankly, the beam puts the Streamlight I carried before to shame and rivals the quality of the beam found on some lights that retail for three to four times more than the PD35. Granted those higher tier lights don’t suffer from the same drawbacks the PD35 suffers from. The point being that the quality of the $80 beam is notably amazing given the price point.
Another thing I was impressed by was the customer service provided by Fenix. Their products are backed by a limited lifetime warranty and I did have an incident where I attempted to use it. The flashlight “stopped working”. I replaced the battery with a freshly charged one to rule out a dead battery and when I attempted to turn on the flashlight it flickered before going dark and then nothing. I called their customer service and explained what happened. The representative indicated they were happy and ready for me to send it in for warranty work, but explained that the symptoms suggested the retention ring inside of the tail cap may have come loose. They walked me through adjusting it which ended up resolving the problem. While I didn’t have a chance to test their warranty, I was impressed by the representative’s ability to diagnose and resolve the problem. That saved me time and the cost of shipping the light to them (which they would have probably paid for).
While the PD35 isn’t perfect, it’s a very capable option for an everyday carry flashlight. In my book, it has become my go to recommendation for a value priced flashlight in the same way the Vortex Strike Eagle is my go to recommendation for a value priced LPVO and many Holosun optics are my go to recommendations for red dot sights. It simply works dependably without taxing the wallet and is backed by a company with above average customer service. So, yeah, if one is looking for a value priced handheld flashlight for everyday carry that will work for self defense situations, then take a close look at the PD35. Chances are the PD35 will fit the bill.