If the feedback I've been receiving since I published the Let There Be Light article is anything to go by, then it seems a lot of shooters are taking an interest in the current crop of high performance LED torches. The latest offering I was sent to review is the Zeus Q5 Fox Hunter from Zeus Industrial Tools. The torch arrived in a very nice presentation box with a custom fitted foam liner for all the items and it is a complete kit with everything required to charge the torch or mount it to your rifle. The torch looks to be well made and is manufactured in the USA and rated at 250 Lumens using a Cree Premium 7090 XR-E LED with three digitally regulated modes of high, low and strobe. The modes are selected by momentarily pressing twice the on/off tailcap switch whilst the torch is on, and the selected mode is remembered even if the torch is switched off. A single 18650 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery is included as is a 240V charger, tailcap pressure switch, mounting brackets and a nylon pouch. A couple of spare O rings for the battery compartment were also in the kit.

     I was asked recently why I don't comment much on the advantages of a regulated torch v the disadvantages of an unregulated one in my reviews, so I will answer that here. I have found that in the real world any perceived advantages or disadvantages don't amount to a whole lot. A regulated torch will typically list in the specifications the length of time (run time) a certain power level is regulated for. What this means is the torch beam intensity will not diminish as the batteries are drawn down for a specific length of time, after which the beam will simply go out or the torch reverts to unregulated mode with a diminished beam. Now an unregulated torch will generally have longer run time in it's specifications but the beam intensity will diminish as the batteries are drawn down, how noticeable this will be is dependant on the batteries used as alkaline and NiMh batteries have very different discharge characteristics. The regulated torch also provides over current protection to the LED (diode), this is true and good to have with the higher voltage rechargeable batteries but once again hardly an issue if using 1.5V AA/AAA power cell platforms that most unregulated torches use. And so in summing up, in my opinion a torch that needs regulation will usually have it and a torch that doesn't won't. In actual use one platform will give you a great light for a set time but no warning of a low battery, and the other will give you a good light for longer with plenty of warning of a weakening battery.

(Photo courtesy of Zeus Industrial Tools)

     The Fox Hunter kit includes an Allen key for the two torch mounting brackets, one for a slim rifle barrel  and the other for mounting to a shotgun or heavy barrel. The mounts are the common figure 8 type with two Allen head cap screws in the middle providing the clamping force. The mounts are made of steel and will mark the finish of your barrel unless a lot of care is taken mounting them. If frequent mounting and removal is on the cards then this is something you need to consider.

     I initially tried mounting the larger bracket around the scope tube of my CZ 452 in the mistaken belief that this was what the bracket was intended for, however the bracket is too low and would not allow mounting of the torch over a Leupold VX-II with 1" maintube and 40mm objective bell. The head of the torch would foul on the elevation turret and the winged nut on the body of the torch would foul on the scope eyepiece. After checking with Kris at Zeus Industrial Tools, it was explained to me the larger bracket was also a barrel clamp and not intended for scope use at all. Nevertheless I'm sure it would fit the smaller objective lens scopes with a little fiddling.

     The smaller barrel mount on the other hand fitted well and placed the torch in close to the bore of the rifle for a very neat installation. I found the brackets somewhat fiddly to set up and a captive threaded section for the two cap head screws would be a better solution. Whilst I had it mounted on the barrel of my CZ 452 American, I installed the tailcap tactical switch and fixed the pressure switch to the forend with a bit of double sided tape & Velcro.
     The system worked very well, though the barrel mount altered the point of impact on the free floated barrel of the CZ, by shooting low. This would not worry me if it was a permanent mount as I'd simply adjust the scope for the change in POI. It seems some rifles are sensitive to having anything clamped to the barrel whilst others are not. I guess I'm just lucky but every one of my rifles shows a change of impact if the barrel is interfered with in any way, so I decided that a scope mounted solution is the way forward in testing this torch.

Barrel mount is a good close fit to the bore

Zeus Q5 - Fox Hunter 250 Lumen Tactical Torch

     A closer look at the Fox Hunter reveals a main body of just under 1" diameter, with a wing nut type anti roll device incorporated into the body. This is both a blessing & a curse, it stops the torch from rolling off smooth surfaces but it also complicates mounting of the torch in some applications and also means you need to fully dismantle most brackets to fit the torch into it as you can't just loosen them and slide the torch in. The torch body and head assembly itself are made of a reasonably heavy grade of alloy but the tailcap is of a lighter construction.

     As is popular these days, fighting teeth are also incorporated into the head of the torch and the lens is of the fixed focus type utilising a dimpled reflector. This reflector gives a nice even spill light superior to smooth reflectors but at the cost of a little less distance from the beam. The beam itself is very well focused, round and even.

Fox Hunter mounted on CZ 452 American

     For the field testing phase, I decided to mount the torch using my own TPS ring to rail adapter and a standard 1" Weaver scope ring. This provided a nice compact and quick release mounting solution that requires no tools whatsoever. All that was left to do was wait for dark, and so I placed the Lithium Ion battery in the supplied 240V charger and had the green fully charged indicator glowing in a couple of hours.

1" Weaver ring & TPS ring to rail adapter set up

A nice compact & low mount

     The first night out on the rabbits proved this torch is a great match up for small game and the .22 rimfire. Sweeping the creek banks with the Fox Hunter quickly brought me on target with the main beam to any rabbits caught in the spill light, and I shot half a dozen out to 65m or so before moving onto the more open paddocks above the creek. The spill light is almost like a reduced power halo around the main spot offering very good peripheral illumination of nervous game. I'd left my headtorch back at the car and had to rely on using the Fox Hunter whilst walking around the creek banks. It's been a bit warm lately and quite a few snakes around at the moment, so I was glad for the nice even light from the torch.
     Sitting off a warren on the bigger flat paddocks had me stretching the .22's range as most shots were in the 75+ metre range and I could confidently say the torch easily outran the .22 rimfire, with the Leupold VX-II allowing me to sight on distant rabbits and wishing I'd bought the .17 HMR along instead.  I would rate the torch as a genuine 100m spotlighter, and I should quantify that by saying I could see eye reflections easily with the naked eye to just over 100m or so and had no trouble positively identifying what they belong to through the scope and what was behind them either. And on this subject, I've found the Lumens rating to be a pretty inaccurate method of assessing any torch's spotlighting potential, as they all make a different beam and use various methods to focus the beam. The Fox Hunter produces a very useful beam for general shooting, well focused and beautifully even circular light thanks to the dimpled reflector design and with a great secondary circle of spill light that aids in fast target acquisition.

Grainy photo taken under torchlight  - no flash

     Battery run time is a claimed 2 to 3 hrs on the maximum output level and I'd used the torch for a good 2 hours non-stop, both shooting and walking around without any sign of the battery going flat. I then left the torch on for the 20 minute drive home and it was flat when I got home. Later I recharged the battery, reinstalled it, turned on the torch and dropped it in a sink full of water for half an hour to test it's waterproof claims without any ill effects. And so in the overall scheme of things the Fox Hunter does not produce the longest ranging beam I've seen but it is smack bang in there with the competition and does come complete with all the accessories you'd normally have to purchase in addition to the torch with it's competitors. For the asking price of $145.00 including Australia wide delivery, I think it represents good value and I'd be very happy to clamp this torch on my rimfire any day....or night.. My only real criticism is the supplied figure 8 mounts are a little fiddly to set up and I'd like to see a dedicated scope mount included in the kit and I believe this is being looked at as I write this.

Australian Hunting Net 2009