Skilhunt Defier X3 (High Output, XM-L) Review: BEAMSHOTS, RUNTIMES, DETAILED PICS+

Originally posted: June 16, 2011
Last revised: June 17, 2011

Warning: pic heavy, as usual.

Skilhunt is a new flashlight maker on the scene. They have come out with a distinctive-looking set of models, built around the high-output Cree XM-L emitter. I have recently reviewed the 1x18650/2xCR123A-class Defier X1. This review is of the high-output, 2x18650-class Defier X3.

Manufacturer's Specifications:

Packaging is high-end - in a snazzy, plastic presentation-style carry case with cut-out foam (reminiscent of the high-end Olight lights). Carefully packaged inside you will find the light (removable clip installed on my sample, but not the grip ring), battery extender tube, clip replacement cover, good quality wrist lanyard, good quality holster (adjustable for multiple models), o-ring lube (reminiscent of Liteflux), extra o-rings and tailcap cover, and manual.

Skilhunt also included as a gift with my sample a hand-made paracord wrist lanyard. This is high-end lanyard, with a lot of attachment points.

From left to right: AW Protected 18650, Skilhunt Defier X3, Lumintop TD-15X (with one extender), Thrunite Catapult V3, Olight M30, JetBeam M1X V2

From left to right: AW Protected 18650, Skilhunt Defier X3 (with one extender), Lumintop TD-15X (with two extenders), Thrunite Catapult V3, Olight M30 (with one extender), JetBeam M1X V2 (with one extender)

All dimensions are given with no batteries installed:

X3: Weight: 251.8g, Length: 193mm, Width (bezel): 44.1mm
X3 with one extender: Weight: 269.2g, Length: 226mm , Width (bezel): 44.1mm
BC40: Weight: 226.3g, Length: 224mm , Width (bezel): 48.5mm
Catapult V3 XM-L: Weight: 434.8g, Length: 254mm, Width (bezel) 58.0mm, Width (tailcap) 35.1mm.
TD-15X (no extender): Weight 150.3g, Length 147.3mm, Width (bezel) 37.8mm

As you can see, even with the battery extender, the Skilhunt X3 overall size is toward the low-end of the 2x18650-class of lights (i.e. ones with the batteries in-line). Its overall length is comparable to the Jetbeam BC40, but the width of the head is the second smallest in this class to date, below the TD-15X.

Styling is of course quite distinctive on these Skilhunt lights. Those of you who have been around long enough may remember NiteCore's RaidFire Spear, which had a similar cut-out showing the heatsink:

From left to right: AW Protected 18650, Skilhunt Defier X1, NiteCore RaidFire Spear, Skilhunt Defier X3.

The Skilhunt lights are not as beefy as the Spear, which had a thicker and heavier build.

First, a few comments about the holster:



The holster is common on all Skilhunt models. It is versatile, and can accommodate a range of light sizes given the attachment points and elastic bands.

Personally, I think it best fits smaller lights in this 1x18650/2xCR123A size (i.e. like the X1 shown above). To use longer lights like the X3, you have open the bottom flap, which leaves the end-bit clip of the holster dangling somewhat. Although creative, this is one case where one size does not really fit all (or at least, not all equally well).

The overall body tube build of the X3 (design, quality, machining) is very reminiscent of Olight. I seem to recall making similar comments about the Lumintop lights. The X3 head is of course unique, and the front output control switch reminds of the early Lumapower lights. However, the switch in this case is smaller and has more of an electronic feel (although it does have a definite click).

While smaller than I expected overall, construction feels solid. Black anodizing (manufacturer claims type III = HA) is slightly glossy on the smooth areas. Knurling is not very aggressive, although there is more of it than typical on these sorts of lights. With various bundled extras (i.e. clip, grip-ring, etc.), overall grip and hand feel is good. Lettering is bright - clear and sharp. The included clip feels rather weak, and isn't as sturdy as the typical Olight/4Sevens-style clip.

Screw threads are square-cut and anodized at the tailcap, to allow for lock-out.

Of course, the most distinctive aspect of the light is the cut-out regions of the head showing the gold-plated copper heatsink. Ostensibly, these sorts of cut-outs are supposed to improve airflow over the heatsink (but I suspect they are really to show off the gorgeous gold-plated heatsink ). Either way, it makes these Skillhunt lights quite stylish in the modern flashlight world.

Note there is no spring at the positive contact surface in the head, but all my flat-top cells worked fine in the light.

Tail switch is a forward clicky, and the tailcap comes in two options across the models. The default option on the X3 is the flared one shown in the first pic above. If you want the straight tailcap (default on the X1, as you will see in that review), you have to order it as an optional accessory here. Both tailcaps allow tailstanding, but I find it easier to access the switch on this flared tailcap version. Boot cover is yellow to match to heatsink.

The spring on the inside of the tailcap has what looks like a gold-plated cover.

As mentioned above, the head switch (which also with a yellow boot cover) has more of an electronic feel, but with a clear and audible click.

The X3 uses a Cree XM-L emitter (well centered on my sample), with a smooth reflector. Although the reflector is not as large as the other high-output 2x18650 XM-L lights in my collection, it is fairly deep. As such, I would expect throw to be pretty good, certainly on part with a number of lights in this class.

And now 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.

As expected, throw looks reasonably good for the X3. As you can see above, the hotspot is clearly defined, with relatively little corona.

I have posted a new 100-yard round-up beamshot review for 2011, showcasing all my current "thrower" lights. Below are a few animated GIFs showing some relevant comparisons for the X3. Please see that round-up review for additional pics of other lights, taken under the same conditions.

Consistent with the white wall shots, the X3 throws similarly to the JetBeam BC40, but with less of a corona around the hotspot. Beam pattern is pretty good for this class of light, IMO.

My apologies - I seem to have been a little off in aiming the X1. As you can see above, the Defier X3 is much more focused for throw (i.e. the X1 has a smaller OP-textured reflector).

User Interface

Turn the light on by pressing the tailcap clicky (press for momentary on, click for locked on),

Basic output operation is controlled by front switch located at the based of the head. Press and release (i.e. click) to advance modes, in the following repeating sequence: Hi > Med > Lo

Thoughtfully, strobe is not part of the main sequence. To access strobe, press and hold the front switch for >2 secs. Click it again to return to the constant output modes.

Light has a memory mode, and retains the last setting used.


Like the X1, the X3 uses visible PWM for its Lo/Med modes, at a common frequency of 196 Hz. This frequency is a little disappointing, as I personally prefer visually-undetectable PWM (i.e. kHz range). While noticeable, it is not as distracting as low PWM (i.e. <120 Hz).

Strobe on the X3 is a typical fast “tactical” strobe at 9 Hz. Note the more general-purpose X1 uses a slow signaling strobe of ~2 Hz.

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.

Overall output of the X3 is a bit less than the other XM-L lights in this 2x18650-size class. Typically, it is more in keeping with many of the recent SST-50-based lights in my collection.

Skillhunt informs that the X3 LED is driven at 2.3A. That would explain the slightly lower output here, as most of the XM-L competition are driven at 2.5-3.0A. I imagine this drive level was chosen to provide a good balance between output, heat and runtime.

BTW, in case you were wondering, here are the tailcap current draws for a number of my XM-L lights (all on Max on 2xAW 18650, measured ~5 secs after activation):

Defier X3: 1.27A
Eagletac M3C4 XM-L: 1.72A
JetBeam BC40: 1.55A
Thrunite Catapult V2 XM-L: 1.52A
Thrunite Catapult V3 XM-L: 1.64A

Throw is pretty good for the overall level of output, thanks to the deep and smooth reflector. Despite the reflector/head not being as wide as most of the competition in this XM-L class (and overall output being a bit lower), the X3 still throws at least as well as the TK35 and BC40 (and better than the TD-15X).

Output/Runtime Comparison:

Thanks to the slightly lower max output, runtime on Hi is slightly greater on the X3 than the other XM-L competition. As previously mentioned, the X3 Hi mode is closer to the max output of a number of SST-50 lights. As you can clearly see above, the X3’s XM-L emitter is more efficient than those lights on Hi (i.e. longer runtime).

As observed on the X1, relative efficiency seems to drop somewhat on the Lo/Med modes on the X3. Simply put, at the Med level, overall X3 efficiency is closer to the SST-50 lights (rather than the other XM-L lights). At the Lo level, efficiency drops to below a typical SST-50 light. While lower in relative terms, I imagine most will find these runtimes perfectly acceptable in absolute ones.

Potential Issues

The light uses visible PWM on the Lo/Med mode, at a visible frequency (196 Hz).

Light lacks a true Lo mode (i.e. it's Lo level is noticeably higher than the min output levels of other lights in this class).

The cut-outs showing the heatsink are distinctive looking, but they may complicate cleaning the flashlight if you drop in the mud.

Preliminary Observations

As mentioned in my Defier X1 review, Skilhunt certainly impresses with the design, build, and styling of their lights. Everything about these Defier series lights indicates quality and attention to detail. The level of extra "goodies" is also impressive, especially for the price.

Overall body tube build is very reminiscent of Olight/4Sevens/Lumintop, but with a lot of extra design features here (especially around the head). Personally, I really like the design elements and styling of the head (especially the distinctive cut-outs for the gold-plated copper heatsink). Hand feel and ease of use is good, and the flexibility to run on 2x18650/4xCR123A or 2x18500/3xCR123A battery sources is appreciated (i.e. with or without the included battery tube). The copper heatsink should provide excellent cooling.

The dual control switch interface design works well here, and I found both switches worked reliably. I am glad to see strobe is "hidden" and not on the main sequence (although still easily assessable by a sustained press and hold). A thoughtful interface.

Beam profile is excellent – the X3 throws a fairly tight hotspot, but is still reasonably well balanced between spot and spill. Max overall output is a little lower than the other XM-L lights in the class (i.e. closer to the recent SST-50 lights). But Skillhunt informs me that was a conscious decision to provide the best balance between output, heat and runtime efficiency on Hi.

Like the X1, the focus for the circuit design was clearly around the Hi mode. Lo/Med modes unfortunately use visible PWM (196 Hz, like the X1). While I find this minimally acceptable (and not distracting in use), I would prefer higher frequencies that are not visually detectable. Also like the X1, relative efficiency of the Lo/Med modes drops somewhat, compared to most other lights in this class. But in absolute terms, I imagine most will find the runtimes perfectly acceptable. Here again, I think current-control would be a better idea for controlling the lower outputs.

And that's the only real issue I can identify with the light. In every other regard, I think the X3 is well thought-out, designed and executed light. Frankly, these lights are remarkable first-offerings from a new manufacturer. I'm very impressed with build and bundled extras included with the light, especially for the price.

I know Skilhunt is still working on developing dealer relationships, but I think the X3 will be a very strong contender to consider alongside the Fenix TK35 and JetBeam BC40 in this space.


Defier X3 provided by Skilhunt for review.

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Page last updated on June 17, 2011 - selfbuilt (at) sliderule (dot) ca (replace the "at" and "dot" labels with the appropriate symbol for e-mail)
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