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Everyone needs a flashlight. Seriously. If it’s dark, you need light to see. And we see tons of flashlights here in the Toolmonger offices, lights in almost every flavor ranging from candy coated (gimmicky) to chicken (simple and useful for everything). Over the last year or so we’ve discovered a few favorites and thought we’d share. Here’s our fourth favorite: the four-cell Maglite.

Let’s just get the jokes out of the way up front. Yes, you can easily beat the holy crap out of someone with one of these, assuming the ass-kickee isn’t a judo or ninjutsu expert who’ll just take it from you. I’m sure that’s why so many cops and bouncers carry ’em. And I’ll admit that mine (which I’ve had for at least 18 years) has seen such duty.

But that’s not why I bought it, nor why I still have it. I bought it because in those pre-LED days it was surprisingly bright — and it fit perfectly in the little space between the door sill and the seat in the CRX I drove in college. I kept it because it came in handy so many times I can’t even count ’em. I’ve pounded nails in with it. I once wielded it against a water valve that wouldn’t close. I even twisted it into a tow rope one time to shorten the rope.

This is one seriously hearty* flashlight, considering its vintage. Mine still works fine — on its original bulb, no less. Sure, more modern lights push this one aside — which is why it’s #4 on the list — but I’m still glad I own it.

Update: If you’re looking to buy one of these now, Maglite offers an LED version for around $27 (see Amazon link below, and it’s available all over). If you already own one, you can update it to LED for around the same price as a new flashlight (which is why I haven’t updated mine). Again from Amazon, here’s a sampling of the upgrade modules [What’s This?] which are widely available.

Update #2: Before any of you make fun of me for using a stock photo instead of a picture of my actual light, please understand that it’s in my truck which I’ve loaned to a friend.

*Editor’s note: And hardy.

4-D-Cell Flashlight [Maglite]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
4D Maglite Via Amazon [What’s This?]
LED 4D Maglite Via Amazon [What’s This?]


15 Responses to Our Favorite Flashlights, No. 4: The 4D Maglite

  1. Cameron says:

    In before the haters.

    You can’t go wrong with a Maglite. Well built and works great. I did go ahead and upgrade mine to an LED.

    I don’t know what kind of circulatory system yours has, Chuck, but I find mine to be more hardy than hearty 😉

  2. Jim K. says:

    Mine is sitting out in my truck as well. It’s been my vehicle flashlight for going on 20 years as well. 3 vehicles, one flashlight- not a bad performance record considering the roadside repairs, use at job sites, camping trips, and general use/abuse it’s seen. I’ve never actually hit anyone with it, but I have pulled it out at least once with that intended purpose should the person who was hassling me not back away- situation resolved itself. Yeah, there’s brighter, but I’ve definitely grown to appreciate this torch.

  3. bigalexe says:

    4D Maglite is the light I go for in a power outage if my spotlight isnt charged. It actually sits in the same cabinet as my rifles so I know where to find it.

  4. Adam says:

    I love my maglite. On black Friday of last year Lowes had the 3D cell LEDs on sale for $16. Needless to say, I picked up one of those bad boys. I kinda of wish I would’ve gotten another one. I use mine primarily around my shop. And really, you can beat the LED for battery life and brightness. I’ll be checking the black Friday ads again this year for another one.

  5. Neil says:

    Reminds me I need to see about repairing my 6D…I miss having that in the truck.

  6. Choscura says:

    I’ve seen mag lite bodies turned into sound supressors for .22’s. still not something I need hanging off my belt everywhere I go, thats why I carry a little 1 AA 80 lumen LED light. same light in a small package that can still be used as a respectable fist-load, if it comes to that.

  7. Joshua says:

    I keep the 3D Maglite in my truck as my roadside assistant. It fits in the rear door pocket of truck better than a 4D would.

  8. Tetsubo says:

    I own 2 Dcell, 3 Dcell and 6 Dcell Maglites. All have been converted to LED. It’s cheaper to buy a regular Maglite and get a Nite-Ize conversion bulb. You can also find regular Maglites at yard sales and such on occasion.

    I still prefer the Inova X5. 🙂

  9. jerry says:

    MagLight – none better! I’ve still got my old 4D that I have now had for close to 30 years! Still works perfectly. I got a 4D LED a few months back and more recently a 3D LED one. The original one actually got run over with my 35 foot motor home and survived just fine.
    The Nite-Ize conversions are top quality – I used one on my 2 AA Mag. It adds a switch at the end of the light – pretty handy addition.

  10. Scwetherbee says:

    The oldest Mag I have is a 5D from about 20 years ago, I hardly use it now, nor have I in the past 19 years. Needing 5 batteries is a pain in the neck, they come in packs of 4 or 8 usually, although I have seen “buy 8 get 2 free” bonus packs, but that’s not the problem, I have to tap the head of it most of the time to get it to light and It focuses poorly. As a matter of fact, all the Maglights in the house from the AAA Solitares and the 2AA ones, about 8 in all, focus poorly, just plain lousy optics. I won’t buy another one. I know, if I don’t like them, why so many? Almost all were gifts, to me, SWMBO, and the kids.

    I now have a couple Pelicans that are a world and a half superior.

  11. Bill says:

    I found a few 3 x AA Maglites on sale and find them to be pdg.

  12. David Bryan says:

    Jerry, you must’ve got your NiteIze conversions from a better batch than any of the several I’ve tried. I am seriously underwhelmed by them- the led’s and switches that I’ve bought have, without fail, failed.

  13. CarFix says:

    I used to have only 2xAA Mags. I’ve never had one of these big ones. I’m sure they are good from what everyone says, but Maglites smaller LED lights are terrible for everyday use. I went through 2 in a years worth of everyday using then while working on cars. You drop them more than a handful of times and the internals stop working so well. You get a flickering, unreliable light. Which is why I shy away from their other models too unfortunately.

    I only buy Streamlight Stingers and Junior LED lights now.

  14. Ted says:

    @David Bryan, I’ve got the niteize bulb-only conversion in one of my 2AA maglights, I’m not that impressed with the light output (it’s OK, nothing spectacular) but makes it a much more usable light, battery life is significantly improved over the stock bulb. Maglights are fairly durable and have great parts availability, which for me means fixing them rather than throwing them away. My 20 year old, more scratches than anodizing, 4D unit just got a $12 LED bulb the other day, and I imagine it’ll be rattling around in my trunk for a while yet.


  15. Bill from Maine says:

    The only non-LED light I have left is a 35 year old 3D Mag. I had to purchase it at a police supply store ’cause at that time you couldn’t buy them anywhere else. I got disgusted one night in the rain working on my car and the POS plastic supermarket 2D light I had literally fell apart – you gotta duck when those D cells hit the fan! Next time I was in the city I got that one and paid about $28 – in 1970’s dollars! It was and is still worth every penny. Upgrading it to LED has been on my todo list for a while I just keep forgetting to do it. It’s my truck light now and I expect someday my grandkids will still be using it.

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