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
Buy Now(Kit via Acme Tool
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Buy Now(Bare Tool via Acme)
Thank you to Milwaukee for providing the review sample unconditionally.
light pattern – other than spot light mode – and out put reminds me of the Dewalt DCL061 work light. Pivoting head – 1500 lumen LED job. sits on it’s own (with battery installed) or hang from handle etc.
So I think I’d use it most often like I’d use my DCL061. Which I use quite often it seems. I don’t know that I want or need the spot light mode but I can see a use for it. Almost wish they had left that bit out and focused more on work light uses as the spot seems a bit too much.
Otherwise however this looks to be a tick more portable than the Dewalt DCL becasue of how the handle and head are setup. I like the idea behind it.
I’m torn though because I LOVE the ability to plug the light in and use it if I want to. Which I think would be a great feature on this light.
Do you like this new Milwaukee spot/search light more than the DeWalt 20V spotlight?
I don’t have one, but from the looks of it the DCL043 might be lighter and more comfortable to use as a handheld. It’s hard to know without getting my hands on it.
I know Stuart’s done a review on it: https://toolguyd.com/dewalt-20v-led-spotlight-review/ I’m pretty sure he probably got a sample of the M18 Searchlight too. He’d be in a much better position to compare the two.
Each of the M18 tools I have purchased recently have loose battery mounts, and it’s a bit disconcerting, especially on the super hawg. So the rattle issue is probably not just particular to your tool.
I did some more battery swapping just now and have found that some tool/battery combinations have a really solid connection and some combos are looser.
I’m thinking it might be built into the spec. I’m just speculating wildly at this point, but maybe it’s to allow for thermal expansion in this design. You don’t want to have trouble sliding a hot battery out of a hot tool.
I guess in the end is it affecting the connection of the battery to the tool? If it’s not then it’s probably not a big deal.
All of my Makita tools with the exception of one have very snug fit on the batteries, and I have never had a hot battery stick in any of them. If a battery were to get so hot that they expanded their case, then something was seriously wrong an probably close to a combustible state. I did have one battery get hot enough once that I had to find a glove to remove it from the tool and the battery itself was unable to take a charge after that particular incident. Also all of my Dewalt batteries are a snug fit as well.
The problem I see with the Milwaukee batteries/tools is that there is no consistency in fit, other than all of mine have some range of looseness, and one has to wonder how the resulting wobble will affect the battery connections in the long term.
I had an opportunity to ask one of the Milwaukee reps about why they were so loose, and he could not answer the question.
I meant hot as in 120 degree Phoenix heat vs 0 degrees in international falls, not hot as in the battery going into thermal failure, but I wasn’t clear.
Maybe it has something to do with the Milwaukee’s dual spring catches on the side vs Makita’s single spring catch on the top.
As the tool housings and battery housings are generally made of similar material, would they not expand and contract at nearly identical rates compared to ambient temperatures?
The reason why Milwaukee keeps their batteries loose is for the long falls. I wondered this for a long time to, then asked my milwaukee reps they said “In our old models they stuck pretty well, but the problem was if they fell from the right distance or angle they would break the drill in half were the handle was leaving you with a broken drill thanks to the engineering of the battery…, so milwaukee redesigned their their battery to battery inlet to were if it fell from the right distance and angle the battery wouldn’t break the drill or destroy it electrically.
Forgive my skepticism, but in more than 30 years of using cordless power tools, including the Milwaukee brand, I have never once had a tool break from any fall with a battery mounted in it. If a tool is breaking from being dropped, it would seem that there is more of a problem with the internal reinforcing rib design, or the formula of the plastic, injection process, or curing issues, than whether or not a battery is being held loose or secure in it’s mount. I am more willing to believe that there were binding issues due to tight clearances and temperature shift than fall damage.
I understand your skepticism and completely agree, wobbling batteries on tools do give me a bothersome feeling but I do somehow feel relaxed that they were put their on purpose. As they were Professional Engineers who built these wobbly batteries, as a retired power tool engineer for cordless tools I now an intrigued And Fanatic with power tools I’m always fixing houses using all sorts of power tools and judging them and realizing. Oh the engineer that built this tool really thought it through…
And I know this makes sense being in the industry awhile back the main problem with the old cordless drill was the handle were if it fell it would break right in half between the drill and the battery…
Again I agree I do wish their was an alternative to the problem.
I like the dual power flood light from ryobi, it and the fan were the reason I stuck money in ryobi.
That actually seems like a GOOD price for the value that the light offers. If i was in the milwaukee line i’d buy that the second i saw it.
Compared to the price some of the lights Milwaukee sells the $99 for the search light isn’t bad.
Looks a ton better than the m12 flash light. That was a huge let down for its size. Would gladly swap it for the flood light
I like it! I think it would work well as a portable area light.
I don’t think it’s made to be extremely portable. So the fact that it is only the heavy side could be a good thing as it provide a more stable base. The pricing seem to be reasonable as well.
This light could be useful for fire/rescue folks if they already have an M18 rep saw.
I got the hex sided light as a freebe when I got the new SDS Max cordless drill kit. The hex sided light is useful when I don’t want to pull out/put up the M18 LED tower light. I got a firewood delivery a couple of weeks ago at night. Between the LED tower and the LED hex I had the firewood pile well lit.
I dun know, a cow steps on that baby and it’s all over.
I’ve got two , who knows the brand, that have been through ‘ell and back. One actually was recovered from a manure pile a month or so after it was lost. Another time I bounced it off the road because my wife couldn’t understand my hand signals while chasing Angus cows on the blacktop one dark and rainy night.
A light has to be durable is what I’m sayin’.
Anyone know how the flood mode on this compares to the hex led flood light?
I have both.
Flood on Hex light (2361-20) is slightly brighter (currently rated at 1500 lumens), slightly yellower and slightly more focused.
The search light (2354-20) is a whiter truer light, wider coverage, but not as bright over-all (1200 lumens).
So where is the penny ? ?
Straight above my right foot and just a little higher than the flashlight.
Maybe my iPad resolution is a problem.
I do not think I can see it.
Is it on edge, against some horizontal green grass in a bare patch ?
Here’s a full resolution photo: if you zoom in it’s pretty easy to see: https://goo.gl/photos/LMKRgCRfyDrqgXfF6
I could have done a better job of cropping and editing the photo I know. It was more for showing off the color and evenness, the find a coin was an after thought.
I was about to post and say that I can’t see the penny either, even zoomed in to the high resolution image from an iPad Pro. But I finally found it. Please drop a silver dollar next time. 🙂
Thanks. I see it now, and it is what I thought I saw in the lower res photo.
Although the find-the-penny was an afterthought, it’s exactly that sort of thing that is always being dropped and hiding.
Not that it matters, but it’s one of those things…
OK you convinced me! I am going to pick up one of these over the weekend at the Depot.