Stuart wrote an introductory post about the Milwaukee M18 LED Search Light a few months ago. The Search Light has since been released and I’ve got my hands on one to test. So let’s dive right in!
Looking at the face of the light, you’ll see there’s one large LED in the middle, within the reflector, and four smaller LEDs at the corners.
The four smaller LEDs are used for flood lighting, or wide area illumination, and the light is very even with no overlapping shadows.
The larger LED and the reflector make up the spot light. It produces a single beam that can illuminate a target up to 700 yards away.
These LEDs give the M18 Search Light 4 operating modes:
- Flood mode: 1200 lumens, 4 hrs
- Spot mode: 600 lumens, 7 hrs
- Spot/Flood mode: 1250 lumens, 4 hrs
- Strobe mode: 1200 lumens, 5 hrs
(Runtime is for use with an M18 XC 5.0Ah battery.)
It’s water and dust resistant, with an IP54 rating.
For the above pictures, I simply let the camera select the optimum settings, and so the brightness levels shouldn’t be directly compared. The intent was to show the illumination characteristics for the different operating modes.
I pointed the searchlight at a tree that was about 45 ft away from where I was standing and cycled through all the modes. For once my photos did a really good job of capturing what I saw, in regard to both the color and the brightness of the light.
I do want to point out that the flood illumination area in the last photo of the Flood/Spot mode should be a little brighter, as bright as it was in the first photo, but the spot illumination is just too bright for the camera to automatically compensate.
The search light features Milwaukee’s TrueView Technology (a consistent beam and optimized color temperature), which they say gives a true representation of colors and detail.
I dropped some stuff I had in my pocket on the ground: a small flashlight and a penny. Unfortunately I can’t show you a large enough picture to be clear, but maybe your eyes are sharp enough to still spot the penny. It’s not really fair because it’s the same color as the leaves.
Every time you press the mode button, the light switches modes from flood, to spot, to combination, and back to flood. To access the strobe mode, you hold down the mode button for 2-3 seconds. To turn off the strobe mode, you just press the mode button once and it goes back to the mode it was previously in.
I sacrificed my sight for a couple of minutes to figure this out, but when it is in strobe mode all of the LEDs flash at once – the 4 flood LEDs and the spot LED in the middle.
The power button turns the search light on and off. It remembers which mode it was in before you turned it off and returns to that mode when you turn it back off again — even strobe mode. The search light will even remember which mode it was in when you change batteries.
Using the Search Light
In the composite picture above, I show some of the ways that the searchlight can be used.
When you hold the light by the handle, you can rotate the lamp head up or down, with a full range of 198°. You can aim the light forward like a normal flashlight…
Or by rotating the head you can aim the beam straight down to help search for something on the ground.
You could swivel the light up if you are looking into the trees, but I found it more natural just to tilt the entire light up.
This is a fairly heavy worklight. It weighs 4.75 lbs with the 5.0Ah battery and 3.1 lbs without the battery. While it’s pretty comfortable to carry, it can get tiring after a while — This is probably why the kit version includes a shoulder strap. When you need to put it down, there are still several other ways you can use the light without holding it.
It’s really handy to stand the search light upright and on its battery, and to aim the head forward or angled slightly upwards, such as when you’re working underneath a desk or inside a cupboard.
You can also rest the light on its “belly” on a table and aim the light down so you can illuminate the area underneath.
Finally, thanks to a nail hook on the “belly” of the search light, you can hang the light on a screw or a nail. The head’s 198° pivoting range is really useful in this mode because it allows you to hang the light up higher and tilt the head slightly down.
What are you going to use a light like this for? Well, it is a search light. Maybe you dropped something out of your pocket in the grass or it’s getting dark and you’re still trying to track a that buck you shot. I even posted a video on Instagram of me looking for dog poop in my back yard.
Even though Milwaukee calls this a search light, it is clearly designed to be used for more. While this isn’t going to take the place of larger are worklights like the Rocket or the Radius, it’ll still illuminate an area pretty well in a pinch and it is way more portable.
Not only is this light bright and the flood mode uniform, but the TrueView Technology represents colors very accurately. Colors look accurate, and there’s no noticeable shift toward either blue or yellow that you’d encounter with many LED and bulb flashlights.
One thing I’ll definitely praise Milwaukee for is the strobe mode activation, which they got right this time. With Milwaukee’s M12 flashlight, you have to go past strobe mode every time you want to switch from low to high modes, which can get very annoying. Holding down the mode button to activate the strobe mode is a much better way, as you never need to activate strobe mode unless you actually want to.
With this M18 Search Light, the strobe mode is there if you need it, and out of the way if you don’t.
That’s not to say it’s perfect; the Search Light is bulky and heavy, and there’s no way to dial down the brightness — it’s all or nothing, and sometimes full-on is just a little too bright. It can serve as a worklight, but might not be ideal for certain applications or close-up illumination.
I also noticed that the battery would sometimes rattle around on the mount. No matter which battery I tried, it was looser on this search light than on any of the other M18 tools I’ve tried. I know fit can vary slightly from battery to battery and tool to tool, so I don’t know if this is just the particular search light I have.
Price: $229 for the kit with 5.0Ah battery, charger, and carrying strap, $99 for the bare tool
Thank you to Milwaukee for providing the review sample unconditionally.