Ask anyone what they look for in a flashlight and they will usually mention characteristics related to the light’s primary job, providing illumination. However, regardless of the quantity or quality of light produced, a flashlight is effective only if it can be deployed in a way that is suitable for the task or mission – whether that be taking the dog for a walk or something more tactical in nature.
Ever since a flashlight was first used in conjunction with a handgun, a number of companies have looked for ways of providing quicker deployment and enhanced grip without interfering with the user’s natural shooting position. Thyrm LLC, in collaboration with Chris Costa of Costa Ludus, is the latest such company to enter the fray with the introduction of their Costa SwitchBack tactical flashlight ring.
The SwitchBack is designed and manufactured in the USA and is available in two styles:
- SwitchBack Large – For use with the current lineup of SureFire G, P and Z series lights such as the G2X, 6PX, P2X Fury, P3X Fury and Z2X CombatLight. The SwitchBack Large is also compatible with many similarly sized lights from SureFire and other manufacturers.
- SwitchBack Backup – Made for use with the SureFire EB1 and EB2 Backup when equipped with the non-shrouded tailcap. The SwitchBack Backup is not compatible with other SureFire E-series lights such as the E1, E2, E2D, L4, etc. See the Costa SwitchBack Backup review for more information about this product.
This review will focus on the SwitchBack Large which was provided by Thyrm, LLC.
Costa SwitchBack – Overview
The SwitchBack Large is made of lightweight but strong nylon in a matte black finish. The Patent Pending design also features a pocket clip in addition to the tactical ring.
A narrow lip on the inside of the SwitchBack installs between the body and tailcap of the light ensuring the SwitchBack cannot be pulled off without first removing the tailcap. The Costa Ludus logo is prominently featured on one side.
Installation consists of removing the tailcap and simply slipping the SwitchBack over the tail threads of the light until it rests against the flashlight body. An O-ring is provided to provide additional friction, if needed, between the SwitchBack and flashlight body to prevent the ring from spinning freely around the light.
Since the body of the SwitchBack covers almost the entire tailcap, a small opening is provided inside the ring which can be used to hold the tailcap as it is threaded back onto the body.
The following video from Thyrm demonstrates the installation process on an EB1 Backup.
Costa SwitchBack – Use
The SwitchBack was designed to provide a “tactical tool that bridges the gap between flashlight and weapon-light.”
“Many of the original flashlight techniques developed by Ken Good and Dave Maynard are still relevant and we wanted a product that would work with their techniques in addition to newer methods of employment. Likewise, we have a lot of respect for instructors like Matt Graham who showed the community the benefits of additional retention features on flashlights. The SwitchBack™ builds off these techniques and enhancements, taking it to the next level of capability and durability.” – Chris Costa
The SwitchBack has two usages, first in the conventional overhand hold and secondly in a backhand hold for use in conjunction with a handgun.
In the overhand hold, the tactical ring aids in retention and keeps the light properly positioned for use.
Alternatively the light can be quickly flipped into a back-hand hold allowing a two-handed grip on the weapon. In this orientation the light is activated by pressing against the top of the ring which pushes the tailcap into the knuckle of the middle finger.
The technique is further explained in this video from Mil-Spec Monkey.
Costa SwitchBack – Fit and Function
Designed around the latest SureFire offerings, the SwitchBack can work equally well with many other lights, from SureFire and other manufacturers. A complete list of known compatible lights is provided on the Thyrm website.
As it is not feasible to test every light SureFire has manufactured over the course of its 30+ years in business, there are some older models that may not work with the SwitchBack. In the event this happens with one of the lights listed on their site, just contact Thyrm directly and they will make it right.
During the review, the SwitchBack was tested for fit and function with a variety of lights. For general use the type of switch and available output modes makes little difference with regard to the SwitchBack. However I would not recommend a light that changes modes via tailcap presses for use with a weapon.
G-Series Lights (G2X Tactical, G2X Pro, G2ZX ) – The SwitchBack works well with both the tactical and click style tailcaps and is held securely without the use of the O-ring.
P-Series Lights (6PX, P2X, P3X and their variants) – With the “Pro” versions of these lights, the click-style tailcap is able to fully tighten against the SwitchBack ensuring it stays firmly in place and allowing the switch to operate normally. Tactical version tailcaps will also operate normally but will allow the SwitchBack to spin freely around the light body unless used with the provided O-ring. When used with the O-ring, the switch operates normally in momentary mode but is unable to tighten fully to activate constant-on mode.
P1R Peacekeeper – The SwitchBack fits and works with both versions of the Peacekeeper – The P1R-A Peacekeeper Tactical and the P1R-B Peacekeeper (dual mode version).
Z-Series Lights (Z2X, P2ZX) – As with the P-series lights, the tactical switch will allow the SwitchBack to rotate freely unless the provided O-ring is used, thus losing the ability to operate in constant-on mode.
“Original” SureFire Tactical Lights (6P, 9P, C2, C3, D2, D3, M2, Z2, Z3 and any other light using the Z41 tailcap) – Fit with the Z41 tailcap is quite snug and although the SwitchBack won’t spin freely, it will turn the tailcap, possibly inadvertently activating constant-on mode or locking the light out. This issue is resolved with the use of the provided O-ring which will sacrifice constant-on mode.
“Original” SureFire “Clicky” Lights (6P Defender, L5 or any light using the Z58 or Z59 tailcap) – The SwitchBack is held firmly in place with the provided O-ring and the switch operates normally.
SureFire AZ2/AZ2-S – The SwitchBack works very well in momentary mode with the 2-stage tailcap of the AZ2. Constant-on mode does not work.
Elzetta – The Elzetta Rotary, High/Low, and “Clicky” tailcaps all work with the SwitchBack but do not prevent it from rotating around the body of the light. The included O-ring is too thick and prevents the switches from operating properly but with a very thin O-ring the switches should work well. Overall the High/Low and Clicky tailcaps are better suited for use with the SwitchBack as they require less pressure to activate, especially when used with the Charlie body. The SwitchBack also works with the smaller Alpha body.
Malkoff – The SwitchBack fits and functions fine with the Malkoff MD2 and is securely held in place by the tailcap. However, the shrouded Malkoff tailcap interferes with operation in the backhand orientation. This is easily remedied by replacing the stock Malkoff tailcap with a SureFire Z41 or Z59.
The SwitchBack will not work with older SureFire G-series lights due to their slightly wider tailcaps. This can be remedied by replacing the stock Nitrolon tailcap with an aluminum Z41 or Z59 tailcap.
Costa SwitchBack – Conclusions
The SwitchBack is comfortable to hold and provides a very solid grip when using the light in an overhand grip. Over the course of testing with over 20 different light/tailcap combinations the tailcap switch was always easy to access and operate.
Transitioning to the backhand hold was much smoother and operation was easier than I expected. I had incorrectly assumed that “click” type switches would not be suitable for this hold, due to the possibility of accidentally latching them into constant-on mode. However, I learned that it is nearly impossible for this to happen when the light is pressed against the knuckle. Of all tailcaps tested, the newer SureFire tailcaps (tactical and click), SureFire Z59, Elzetta Click, and Elzetta High/Low tailcaps seemed to work the best. The Elzetta Rotary tailcap and at least some of my older SureFire Z41 tailcaps require more force to operate and would be difficult to use for a prolonged period of time.
With one of the primary design considerations being speed of deployment, the built-in pocket clip is intended to keep the light, or more accurately the ring, properly positioned for rapid access. Although the clip does not provide rock solid retention it keeps the light where it is supposed to be within a pocket or pouch.
Positioned opposite of the tactical ring, the clip also prevents the ring from “winging out” away from the user and causing snags.
The SwitchBack is ready to work, straight out of the package, with any of the newer SureFire lights as well as several others. When fitment issues do arise, I believe many of them can be resolved relatively easily with a different O-ring or minor modifications. The loss of constant-on mode with some of the tactical tailcaps is typical for any clip that installs between the body and tailcap.
Overall, my impressions of the SwitchBack have been positive. With a price under $20, it incorporates some of the best elements of previous flashlight grip aids and adds its own new twists. All in all it’s a nice offering from a brand new company and I will be watching for what they come up with next.
Visit the Thyrm website for more information about the Costa SwitchBack. Also, be sure to share your thoughts, questions or experiences with the SwitchBack in the comments section below.