IP Rating and Flashlight Performance: What Does It Mean to You?


The floods, power outages and tragedies of the Southwest are painful reminders that Mother Nature can unleash her fury at any moment. Hurricane season is taking a siesta, although the notice will be short when it wakes up. If your gear isn’t built to weather this storm, there are more problems on the horizon.

A fully charged flashlight in your vehicle and several at home are solid first steps in preparing for the unthinkable, and selecting builds that can survive has never been easier. Manufacturers and a variety of industry organizations have worked hard to create a system to help you make the right choice the first time. Unfortunately, a lot of confusion surrounds IP codes and flashlight performance.

IP translation
IP is the industry shorthand for Ingress Protection. The number directly behind the letters is a relative measure of a unit’s ability to keep solids — like dust and grime — from penetrating and disabling interior electronics. The second number reflects the performance against water.

It is important to note that the rating is not affected by the amount of moisture that enters during testing. It is entirely based on the ability of the light to function after the prescribed test whether it is damp inside or not.

When the letter X appears, it indicates that the tests have not been carried out for this specific criterion. An IPX6 flashlight, for example, scored a 6 against the effects of water, but the ability of dry particles to stop its operation was not rated.

The baselines for water protection are relatively simple, although the testing procedures are anything but simple. Assuming no results are available for dry particles, they are as follows.

  • IPX0—no protection against water.
  • IPX1-when held upright, survives 10 minutes of vertically dripping rain at a rate of 0.12 inches per minute. To give you an idea of ​​the stringency of the test conditions, it must also be driven on a turntable at 1 rpm during the procedure.
  • IPX2— works after exposure to the same flow of dripping water, at four different angles of 15 degrees from the vertical position.
  • IPX3—works after being sprayed with water.
  • IPX4—works after being splashed.
  • IPX5—not succumb to the effects of low pressure (15 psi) water jets.
  • IPX6—survives stronger jets (150 psi).
  • IPX7—fully immersible for 30 minutes at 1 meter depth.
  • IPX8—can survive depths greater than 1 meter, time and depth usually given by manufacturer.
  • IPX9K—works after exposure to very high pressure jets, steam cleaning, etc., from different angles.

The standards provide a solid foundation for flashlights, although things get stricter for items that carry life-threatening voltages around the home and at work.

Laboratory tests?
The Portable Lights American Trade Organization (PLATO) was established in 2013 to “serve the interests of companies that manufacture and sell flashlights, lanterns, headlamps, and other portable lighting tools.” Members include some of the major players in the firearms industry including SureFire, Streamlight, Armament Systems and Procedures and many more. He developed a series of easy-to-interpret icons that his members now use regularly on marketing materials and packaging.

We asked PLATO Executive Director Andy Skoogman how and where the highly technical testing is done. “Some of our members do their own testing in-house – some of them are now starting the process to have their labs certified by UL under our new certification program,” he explained. “Right now, most manufacturers send their lamps to be tested by UL or another certified lab.”

Products bearing PLATO icons often have additional hurdles to overcome. A good example is the organization’s FL7 rating. Those that qualify are fully submersible in water to the stated depth for 30 minutes, however, “If this test is performed, it must be performed after the shock resistance tests have been completed to ensure water tightness under real conditions.”

That’s a pretty good measure for bumps and bruises from a storm, or during the stress of a home invasion. But what about those late-night news stories that claim their lights are not only bright enough to signal Pluto, but still “tight” despite the galactic heat?

Skoogman respectfully declined to name companies that routinely inflate the performance of their products, but admitted, “…I will say that there are still misrepresentations from misleading manufacturers. This is one of the reasons PLATO exists: we stand up for the integrity of all honest manufacturers in this industry.

55 and over
The ANSI/PLATO FL 1 2019 standard, which also covers light output, beam distance and more, is relatively new, but IP ratings for flashlights and electrical components were originally launched in 1967 by the Commission international electromechanical. It has undergone changes since then, but its mission of combating inflated marketing claims like “waterproof” and/or “dustproof” is unchanged.

Think twice before buying a gunlight, flashlight, or tactical light without any kind of waterproof rating. Widely accepted standards should be listed on the website, included in marketing materials, or appear on the box, although placement is often not possible due to limited space.

Also keep in mind that there are variables that can confuse seemingly scientific ratings, even those determined by reputable manufacturers and verified by an independent lab. Two dominant smartphone makers, for example, received hefty fines from regulators in Italy and Australia a few years ago. These seals do not always react the same way to salt water or falls from heights.

Don’t let the pests sting
Old school tungsten flashlights were extremely inefficient compared to today’s LED versions. They did, however, come with a decisive advantage. The circuit was simple as a caveman – turn off the switch and the batteries completely disconnect.

It’s more complicated to activate an LED. Energy flows through almost all versions today, even when turned off and stored, in what the industry calls “parasitic drainage.”

Remedies include loosening the tail cap, removing the batteries, or going old-fashioned and placing a piece of paper between the contacts. None are ideal for home defense, and the issue is significant enough that Coleman has introduced a new BatteryGuard range that completely protects batteries from leakage.

Until this technology finds its way into the firearms industry offerings, check your batteries early and often, and replace them if necessary. It won’t stop the clouds on the horizon from gathering, but if they do turn into a storm, at least you and the family have emergency lighting.


Comments are closed.