In all my years of being issued this or that, I rarely ever sought out any of the gear I was issued for a private purchase. Here and there, I found a thing or two I liked, but one item I aggressively sought out after my time in service was the Streamlight Sidewinder. Uncle Sam gave me a Sidewinder right before my first deployment to Afghanistan. As far as reviews go, this might be the most long-term user review I’ve ever written.
I carried a Sidewinder throughout my first deployment to Afghanistan and then my second with the 22nd MEU. It’s seen use in more than a dozen different countries, ranging from the barren and scorched deserts of Djibouti to Fort Pickett, Virginia’s frigid winters. I was a fan of this light from the get-go, and it and I became good friends. I knew once I was out, I had to have one.
As an enthusiastic outdoorsman, I recognized the utility and versatility of the Sidewinder.
Breaking Down the Sidewinder
A Sidewinder is a type of snake named for the way it cuts its way through the desert. Our Sidewinder flashlight is named because of how the rotates both backward and forward and at every angle in-between.
The Sidewinder’s odd square shape is an interesting choice but does allow the light to stand on its own and be easily attached to various mounts. This includes helmet mounts, rifle mounts, MOLLE mounts, and more.
A polymer body keeps things nice and lightweight, as well as keeping the light rather affordable. Streamlight designed the light to have four different beams. You have a standard white light, a red light, a blue light, and an IR light only visible under night vision. Two double A batteries power the light, and we are graced with a reversible clip for easy carry.
Massively powerful 1,000-lumen lights dominate the current market, and that’s great, but that isn’t the Sidewinder. Those 1,000 lumen lights are great for tactical use, but their short battery life is a turn-off for admin use. If I have to clear a room, I want a 1,000 lumen light. If I have to set up my tent, dig a fighting hole, read a map, dress a wound, clean my weapon in the dark, or a dozen other non-tactical tasks, I want the Sidewinder.
I want a light that doesn’t strain my eyes for extended use. I want multiple color options, and I want long battery life. The Sidewinder delivers all of that. Each beam has a low, medium, and high mode and the brightest in the 55 lumen white light.
At 55 lumens, the Sidewinder has a battery life of 200 hours. With lower settings and different beams, battery life is extended even longer. Having a red and blue beam is also superbly handy. The red beam is perfect for doing tasks in the dark, where light discipline is a must. It allows you to undertake these tasks without killing your night vision and not revealing your location to the world.
The blue beam offers a similar design, but the blue beam causes blood to glow and be easy to find. It’s perfect for treating wounds under fire and not making yourself and your patient a giant target.
Being able to rotate the head 185 degrees is also quite handy when paired with the squared-up shape. You can set the light on a surface and direct the light to a particular location in a hand-free means. This design makes it easy to wear the light on your plate carrier in a multitude of ways or your helmet.
Oh, boy, is this thing durable. I subjected my Sidewinder to numerous abuses. It lived a life in a Lance Corporal’s cargo pocket for much too long. The Sidewinder sat in that pocket as I crossed the Helmand River over and over again. It is waterproof and rated for submersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. That’s the official rating, but I certainly submerged it deeper than that without issue.
It’s also been exposed to both fresh and saltwater. It lived in that pocket for every ship-to-shore adventure I went on during my time playing amphibious commando. Also, we can’t forget dust storms, beach sand, and beyond.
It’s gone up mountains in Spain and Djibouti with me, sat in the cold snow of Fort Pickett, and never even flickered. The Sidewinder is an absolute beast that keeps on trucking after tons and tons of abuse.
Sidewinder and You
The Streamlight Sidewinder is a competent and versatile light. I used one extensively for years in my military service, and now I use one for my everyday life. It sits on my nightstand and has been called into service for numerous events. From power outs to raccoons in the trash can, the Sidewinder is a worthy companion. Let’s not forget my adventures into the wilderness where the Sidewinder still takes its place in my cargo pocket. It’s a worthwhile light at a great price. I hope the Marines still issue it, and if not, I’d suggest snagging one.