Review - Princeton Tec Charge Pro MPLS
Updated: Jan 20
History of Princeton Tec
Princeton Tec is a US company that has been producing lighting equipment since 1975. Born from a diving background, the owner designed and manufactured a series of diving watches and gauges which propelled the company into the global diving market. Over the course of 40 years the team have innovated, manufactured and led the way for lighting across the US, serving the military, law enforcement, fire & rescue and customers from across the globe.
For more info - visit Princeton Tec website.
Why Princeton Tec?
As an avid fan of SEAL Team on CBS, the units' helmet setup was an important feature which rarely changed over the 3 seasons. Whilst the uniforms worn, plate carriers, boots etc varied on an individual level, helmets rarely if ever changed in their setup. One common feature seen is the tactical helmet light. A bit of Google research revealed that the light used is the Princeton Tec Charge Pro MPLS (MPLS = Modular Personal Lighting System) and is not as originally thought, the Princeton Tec Charge MPLS. Now before I dive into the Pro review, I'd like to point out a couple of differences between the two;
The Charge Pro runs on a CR123 battery providing longer light time. When mounted on the left hand side of the helmet, the battery compartment is above the rail as seen in the 1st image below. The CP has a shorter battery compartment length due to using a smaller battery.
The standard Charge runs off of an AA battery and when mounted on the left hand side of the helmet, the battery compartment hangs below the rail as seen in the 2nd image below.
For those wanting to create a SEAL Team accurate setup, you'll require the Charge Pro so that it mounts correctly above the rails on the left hand side of the helmet as shown in the pictures below. Of note is that that the team do in some episodes utilise the standard Charge MPLS. After additional research and cross referencing multiple pictures I am confident to say that the CPs used by Bravo are mounted with velcro attached to the main body of the CP. This obviously allows quick removal or attachment of the CP to the helmet without requiring tools.
Herein lies the product description from the website;
CODE CP-3-BK / CP-3-OD / CP-3-TN
POWER 55 Lumens
LAMP 1 Maxbright LED (regulated) & (dimmable), 3 Ultrabright LEDs
BURN TIME 40 hours
BATTERIES 1 CR123 Lithium
WEIGHT 1.67oz / 47g
WATER RES. IPX7
What does it actually mean?
So to cut through some of the lesser known details above I've pulled out the parts that may be of interest;
Lumens - these relate to how bright the torch is. As expected this helmet light is for close quarters work to allow the operator to deal with things close to themselves ie opening doors, checking hatches, sorting admin, reading maps etc. There's no requirement for a 1ml lumen torch to light up themselves and everything for miles around, especially if in a tactical environment.
Lamp - 2 variants available (Mil/LEO) and civilian;
Mil/LEO - Red/Green/IR, Red/Blue/IR and Red/White/IR.
Civ - Red/Green/White and Red/Blue/White.
Burn Time - LED time active on 1 battery;
White 6.5 hours
Red 40 hours
Blue 24 hours
Green 24 hours
IR 40 hours
IP - this is the International Protection regarding protection of equipment from water, dust, electromagnetic interference etc. Further details for IP can be found on Wikipedia. For the Charge Pro, the code stands for;
IP - International Protection.
X - no data available to specify a protection rating with regard to this criteria.
7 - immersion proof up to 1m (3'3"). Tested for 30 min duration.
The exterior of the box provides you with all the confirmation that you need about this being a sensible and worthwhile purchase. The front of the box has a transparent window to the Charge Pro, a small pictogram of the model variant on the left hand side (in this case R/B/IR) and ancillary information on the bottom. The left hand side of the packaging proudly displays the fact that the Charge Pro contains US made parts and some non US parts. The right hand side of the packaging houses the barcode and the model 'CP-RBI-TN' = Charge Pro - Red / Blue / IR - Tan. The rear of the box shows the configurations available and the accessories included within the box. You're not just purchasing the Charge Pro, you're getting a number of mounting extras too.
The accessories included allow the user to configure the Charge Pro location to suit most requirements. These accessories are wrapped up within a plastic bag in the box along with an instruction manual.
1) CP mounts directly to the ARC rail.
2) MOLLE mount fitting 1" webbing.
3) Helmet mount compatible with 3 bases;
3A - ACH & MICH
3B - Above rail mount
4) EXFIL rail adapter mount
5) Picatinny mount
6) Headstrap mount
With the available accessories, the user can wear the CP on their helmet, body armour or just use it as a headtorch. The CP is versatile and therefore usable in both a left or right hand configuration.
Charge Pro in detail
The CP is lightweight weighing only 1.67oz / 47gm (including battery). The design is moulded to be water resistant, allowing water to easily run off of it, partly aerodynamic if attached to a helmet when jumping from an aircraft and fulfils the requirement for it to be operable using one hand, potentially whilst the operator is wearing gloves. The black screw as seen in these pictures is used to attach and tighten the CP to the mounting mechanism ie the EXFIL rail adapter, ensuring that no knock or bump will dislodge the CP from the mount or helmet. The design is sparse as intended and features a large black 'push to activate' silicon button which is used to cycle through light modes.
Installing a battery
The installation of a CR123 3v battery is simple. At the rear of the battery compartment is a small tab that can be opened using one finger (a fingernail gets better purchase) and lifting the tab upwards (if mounted on a helmet) popping open the compartment and a battery can be installed or removed. The interior of the battery cap has a slimline o-ring to prevent water entering the compartment and also to keep dust and fine particles out. The battery cap can then just be pushed shut. Success equals a small clicking noise as the tab locks shut.
There are 4 modes of LEDs to utilise; Red, Blue, IR and a white MAXBRIGHT LED.
An initial press of the button will activate red light, designed so if accidentally pressed this is the least glaring option available. Pressing the button quickly will switch to the blue light. Another press will turn the light off entirely. When either the red or blue light is active, holding down the button for approx 2 secs will activate the bright white LED. Holding down the button will firstly decrease the white LED brightness and if still held will then increase the brightness. To activate the IR light, when the unit is powered off completely, holding the button for 2 seconds will activate the IR. Additionally, the boom is flexible yet resistant allowing the user to point the light where it's needed.
Mounting on an adapter
There are two interesting features of the CP when mounting it to an adapter. On the underside of the CP, the main moulded base block (containing the wiring and circuit board) has a small mounted ball bearing installed (green circle in above images). In the second picture the adapter can be seen on the bottom and two vertical notches have been cut through the adapter at each end (green circles). This is designed so that when the CP is slid into the rail guides, the ball bearing will compress when moved along horizontally, and then decompress into one of the vertical notches. This ensures a solid fitting to the adapter and stops the CP moving forwards or backwards. Additionally the main body of the CP as covered in the above section has a screw to aid in securing the CP (orange circle on CP). Looking at the adapter on the top left and bottom right (orange circles), two notches can be seen which again are part of the design. Once the CP has been slid into place and the ball bearing decompressed in the slot, the user can tighten the screw that fits into one of the notches, further securing the CP and preventing any movement.
Mounting on helmet using Above Rail Mount (ARM)
The supplied ARM allows the user to mount the CP above the rail which saves rail real estate and keeps the CP from protruding out from the side of the helmet too far. A quick measurement shows that the CP protrudes approx 28mm. In this position it also allows the boom to be moved around providing ample lighting for the operator in most directions. For ease, it is worth fixing the CP to the ARM before fitting the ARM on the helmet. To fix the CP, you're required to unscrew the helmet rails, thread the bottom hook of the ARM into the inside of the helmet and underneath the rail. Once in place, the helmet rail can be screwed back in place which in turn places pressure onto the ARM holding it firmly in place.
The CP can be dismantled to check for damage and / or wear and tear without invalidating the 1 year warranty. On the rear of the CP, there are 5 screws (red circles) which can be removed allowing the CP to be split into two parts. When new, one of the screws in the centre section will have a sticker over it to identify if after production the CP has been taken apart. A steady hand and a fine flat head screwdriver means you can carefully remove the sticker without causing any damage to the body or sticker. The instruction manual does state that issues could arise if water gets into the battery compartment, LED head or the main block.
Thoughts and opinion
The Charge Pro MPLS is an awesome piece of equipment. It's select in that you'll be using it on some occasions periodically and at others times, you'll be constantly using it. When not in use, rest assured that wherever mounted, it's there, it's ready to go and it's secure. The LED variants and cycle ability ensure that it can be used for high or low light when required, and when zero overt light is needed, the IR comes into its' own. Used in conjunction with NVDs (Night Vision Devices), this boosts visibility range and picture clarity. With an outward reach of approx 28.6m this is ideal for any close work. The lightweight nature and flexibility of where it can be mounted is a huge plus and the extended battery run time helps if operating for long periods without battery replenishment. I run the CP on my helmet setup and would likely use it there and nowhere else so to some it may be limiting for example mounting on the helmet requires the user to unscrew, fix arm in, fix CP to arm and screw rail back. If needed to quickly change gear it might be a hinderance. Altogether I would recommend the CP to those who want SEAL Team accurate kit and a reliable, sturdy and well designed light, though this does of course come with the price tag.
I am not paid for my blogs by the manufacturers or companies that I purchase my items from. I am not offered freebies to promote a product. These blogs are purely written from my own experience in truth to help advise and inform others who may wish to purchase the items or understand more about them. If I am sent a freebie to review this will be stated at the beginning to make you aware.