Thrunite Catapult V2 Cree XM-L (2x18650) Review: Comparisons, Runtimes, Beamshots +

Originally posted: January 3, 2011

Warning: pic heavy, as usual. :whistle:

This is the latest revision of the popular Thrunite Catapult line, sporting the new Cree XM-L emitter. The light is still designated as “V2”, likely because it shares the exact same build and circuit as the “2nd generation” SST-50-based Catapult V2.


Packaging is similar to the earlier Catapult lights (i.e. simple carboard case with cut-out foam). As before, inside you will find the light, extension body tube, warranty card, wrist lanyard, spare o-rings and extra tailcap clicky switch and GITD boot cover.

From left to right: AW Protected 18650, Thrunite Catapult V2 XM-L, Catapult V2 SST-50, Olight M31, JetBeam M1X V2.

From left to right: AW Protected 18650, M3C4 XM-L, M3C4 SST-50 (OP), Thrunite Catapult V2 XM-L, Sunwayman M40C, JetBeam M1X V2.

All dimensions given with extra battery extender in place, but no batteries installed:

Catapult V2 XM-L: Weight: 438.2g, Length: 255mm, Width (bezel) 58.1mm, Width (tailcap) 35.0mm.
Catapult V2 SST-50: Weight: 446.4g, Length: 254mm, Width (bezel) 58.0mm, Width (tailcap) 35.0mm.
Catapult V1 SST-50: Weight: 410.5g, Length: 250mm, Width (bezel) 59.0mm, Width (tailcap) 34.4mm.

As you can see, the XM-L version hasn’t changed in external appearance from the V2 SST-50. It seems to be much the same build.

Inside, not much has changed either. The overall dimensions, design, extension tube, screw threads and checkered pattern of the handle/battery tube and tailcap remain the same. These parts are interchangeable between the various versions. The stainless bezel ring and black o-rings are common among the V2 models.

Grip remains excellent – the Catapult has some of deepest-cut checkered patterning that I’ve ever seen on the surface of a light. Body walls remain extraordinarily thick – you could probably run over this with a tank without damaging the batteries. :rolleyes:

Anodizing (type III = HA) is comparable between the versions. Curiously, my XM-L version lacks any lettering, but I suspect that’s just because it is a review sample.

The light can tailstand as before (the raised ridges also serve as attachment points for the wrist lanyard). The switch has the same feel as before, and is fairly typical for standard forward clicky switch.

As with the V2 SST-50 version, there is a battery contact cap (with a spring underneath) in the tailcap, and a gold-plated spring mounted on the positive contact board in the head. Newer high-capacity flat-top 18650 cells still work fine. :)

Screw threads in the tailcap and on the corresponding battery tube remain anodized, allowing for lock-out. :thumbsup:

FYI, as before, the extender portion battery tube goes between the head and the main body tube, not between the main body tube and the tailcap (as is the case on most other lights). It’s important you don’t try to install it the wrong way, or it will interfere with battery contact (i.e. the anodized screw threads will be in the wrong place).

The V2 XM-L version is on the left, the V2 SST-50 is on the right.

The reflector looks unchanged from the previous V2 verstion, but it’s possible some minor adjustments have been made. It should throw pretty well … :whistle:

Which brings me to the white-wall beamshots. ;) All lights are on 2xAW protected 18650, about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences.

Note: The "Catapult V2" refers to the SST-50 version. The new XM-L version is so-labeled in the pics below.

The Catapult V2 XM-L definitely has impressive throw! Until the much-larger reflector in M31 came out, the Catapult V2 SST-50 was the throw-king in the SST-50 class. The new V2 XM-L definitely out-throws it significantly – which is not surprising, given the smaller die size of the XM-L (i.e. easier to focus to a point). The overall output seems to have gone up considerably as well. Scroll down for more detailed output/runtime comparisons.

Tint on my XM-L sample seems slightly on the warm (yellow-green) side of Cool White. My V2 SST-50 was definitely on the cooler side of Cool White (i.e. bluish tint).

I've recently updated my 100-Yard Outdoor Beamshot Round-up, including the latest XM-L lights. Check out that round-up thread for more details on the testing method, plus higher quality JPEG images of all lights. For now, here is an animated GIF of relevant XM-L/SST-50 comparisons:

The new V2 XM-L definitely out-throws the earlier V2 SST-50. It also seems to have a slight throw edge over the larger M31 SST-50 and M3C4 XM-L.

User Interface

The UI is unchanged from the V2 SST-50 version – twist the head tight for Hi, loosen slightly for Lo. Turn on/off by the forward clicky switch (press-on for momentary, click-on for stay on). There is no strobe mode. :kiss:

As before (on the V2 SST-50), you can run the light in 2x18650, 4xCR123A or 2xCR123A/RCR configurations. But 2xCR123A/RCR should only be run on Lo, due to the excessively high current demands of Hi (i.e. Hi would exceed the safe discharge rate of 2xCR123A/RCR).

The light also has a thermal sensor, and will cut-out if the temperature exceeds 120C. A good safety feature, especially when running 4xCR123A on Hi. The internal resistance of those cells can result in a lot more heat being generated when placed under a high load.

No PWM/Strobe

There is no sign of pulse width modulation (PWM) on the Lo mode - I believe that the light is current controlled, as before. :)

There is no strobe mode.

Testing Method:

All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for any extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.

I have recently devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lighbox values to Lumens thread for more info.

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

Effective November 2010, I have revised my summary tables to match with the current ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see for a description of the terms used in these tables.

The Catapult V2 SST-50 throw-king is dead, long-live the new Catapult V2 XM-L throw-king! :party:

The new XM-L version has considerably more throw than the earlier SST-50 (consistent with the smaller die size of the XM-L). Output has also increased considerably.

Output/Runtime Comparison:

Note: Effective January 2010, all CR123A runtimes are now performed on Titanium Innovations batteries. You can compare the performance of these CR123A cells relative to the Duracell/Surefire cells used in my earlier reviews here.

Here’s how the new Catapult V2 XM-L compares to the earlier SST-50 versions:

And here’s how it compares to other lights in its class:

The new XM-L lights certainly have an advantage over the earlier SST-50 and MC-E-based lights in terms of overall output and runtime efficiency. :thumbsup:

My V2 XM-L was able to run continuously on 4xCR123A on Hi without the thermal cut-off kicking in (as shown on my V2 SST-50). Nevertheless, I recommend you be careful and limit yourself to brief periods on Hi when running on 4xCR123A.

Potential Issues

As with many lights of this class, the light is heavily driven on Hi - so I recommend you run it in 2x18650 configuration in this mode. 4xCR123A is acceptable on Hi, but thermal cut-off may occur if the batteries/light get too hot. 2xRCR/CR123A should only be used on Lo, due to excessive discharge rates on Hi.

The light has only two modes, and lacks a true low or any sort of the strobe/beacon.

Make sure you insert the extender battery tube between the head and primary tube (otherwise, the light will probably not light up).

The Catapults are heavier than most lights of this class, and no holster is provided.

Preliminary Observations

The only real difference between this new XM-L edition and the previous Catapult V2 (SST-50) is the emitter. Everything else about the light – from its robust build to circuit design - remains the same.

So how significant is this emitter upgrade? To put in a nut-shell: you get ~30% more output (estimated lumens) and throw (as measured by beam distance). :ooo: That is significant when you consider that the original SST-50-based V2 was the class leader for throw before the release of the larger-reflectored Olight M31. The XM-L also seems to be more efficient at the lower output level. :thumbsup:

As an aside, don’t get fooled by raw lux at 1m values (i.e. 46,000 lux for the XM-L vs 26,500 lux for SST-50). Center-beam lux is a non-linear scale (i.e. drops with distance according to an inverse square law). Beam distance is the appropriate measure to compare the “throw” of lights (i.e. 429m vs 326m). For the time being, the Catapult V2 XM-L retakes the crown as the furthest throwing 2x18650 light in my collection. :thumbsup:

Please see my earlier Catapult V2 SST-50 review for a discussion of the build. It certainly has the advantage of stable and mature platform. It is as solid as a tank, with a substantial feel and good grip. The flexibility of 4xCR123A/2x18650 is also good, and the light can even run on 2xCR123A/RCR (on Lo only, due to the high current drain on Hi).

At the end of the day, the Catapult still has all the characteristics that made it a leader in the SST-50-class – excellent output, superb throw, and remarkably smooth beam and hotspot. But the Cree XM-L upgrade has turned a good light into an even better one.


Catapult V2 XM-L provided by Thrunite for review.

To follow the online discussions for this review, please see the full review thread at CPF.

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