The S18 is by far the largest light so far in the Maelstrom line. The S18 looks like an X10 or S12 on steroids. The body is designed the same, and the knurling is very similar, though it is much larger than the X10 and S12 so it looks more aggressive. The stainless steel bezel gives it a great look and surely makes the head much stronger. Certainly an impressive looking light to see and hold.
The S18 is no small light and is pretty hefty, maybe even alittle heavier than it appears to be, but this makes it feel like its built like a tank. I don’t have any personal experience with lights that use 6 CR123A cells, the only other main one I can think of is the Surefire M6. If I were to guess, the Maelstrom S18 is a decent bit larger than the M6, but it also has more features such as multiple output levels, SOS and strobe. I believe it is also brighter than an M6.
I like the design of the S18 body and knurling, just as I did with the X10 and S12 lights. It provided plenty of grip in any situation. I don’t want to say that you need large hands to hold the S18, but it is a handful and has a fairly large diameter body due to using 6 CR123A cells. The light does feel well balanced though considering its size and weight.
The output modes are selected my rotating the end of the tailcap, but not the tailcap itself. I make a point to say this because if you do not tighten the tailcap itself on properly and leave it loose, you can end up accidentally making it rotate loose when you are turning the selector ring portion of the tailcap. This wasn’t a big problem though, it only happened once when I didn’t really have the tailcap on very tight. The selector ring feels very solid, and has some resistance when turning it. This is why its possible it could rotate the entire tailcap also. Normally I would not like this much resistance on a rotating selector ring like this, but on a light this large I think it suits it. This prevents the light from accidentally being switched to other modes.
The modes are clearly marked on the circumference of the tailcap and there is a click/clunk to the selector ring as each mode is engaged. This gives you a pretty good tactile feel to changing the modes.
The tail switch is very large, but proportional to the rest of the light. There is no rubber boot, it is simply a metal button switch. This gives it a different feel from what you might be used to in a typical rubber boot covered switch. There is a bit of wiggle and play to it, and there is quite a click/clunk as you press it.
My main complaint about this light would have to be operating the switch. The light is too large to comfortably operate it like you normally would a light with a tail switch. If you grip the light at the end of the body so that your thumb reaches the switch, the light feels very front heavy and just makes it feel a bit awkward to press the switch and you may not feel like you have a really good grip on the light. I found it easier to hold the light a bit differently so that I was operating the switch with my index finger. Not a big deal, the switch is at least easy to press down, its just a bit more cumbersome than a typical tail switch given the lights size and weight. I would have liked to have seen a side switch on a light this large. I find that much easier to operate and hold. I think the team at 4Sevens was trying to keep this like designed around a tactical frame of mind, hence the tail switch. Plus if the switch was moved to the side I would think it would make sense to move the selector to the head end of the light. Both of which I figure would add a bit of extra bulk and length to the light, so that may be a reason the light is designed as it is.
The Maelstrom S18 seems to be built like a tank. Its very stout and I have no doubt you could bludgeon someone to death with it. The tail switch is the only part that even hints to being lesser quality, but as I said above I think that’s mainly to due with the fact that it is so large and does not have a rubber boot, it simply has a different feel to it.
The battery holder seems to be well made also, it holds the cells in place very tightly. Its not the easiest light in the world to load, but that’s to be expected when its packing 6 cells. The battery carrier is also permanently attached to the tailcap. it comes out with the tailcap as you unscrew it and remove it from the light. I would have really liked to have seen a different battery option. perhaps 3 18650 cells. I am not a fan of using primary cells, especially 6 of them at a time. There may be an issue with the amount of current the light draws to prevent it from using a lower voltage battery configuration like that though.
The S18 has 3 output levels, SOS mode and Strobe mode. All these modes are selected by rotating the selector ring on the tailcap to the corresponding marked position. The strobe mode is pretty ridiculous with a light this bright. Would certainly get anyone’s attention, or make them want to run away.
The S18 is a pretty powerful light, rated at 1200 lumens OTF (out the front) on high. I would say its a pretty good thrower but at over 80 yards its not a super tight beam. I would say in between a super throw and a medium hotspot type of beam. At 80+ yards you notice the hotspot open up a good bit, not what I would call a doughnut hole effect, but you notice the center of the hotspot start to loose it punch. Still, in my testing it was lighting up a hill side at about 200 yards with ease.
For example, as you can see in the beamshots when compared to the Olight SR51, which is rated at just 900 lumens, the S18 barely out throws it due to having more overall lumen output. The SR51 has a tighter beam, but the S18 is lighting up more area.
I like the fact that they thought to give the S18 at least the 3 output levels. Too often a high output light this size only has one or 2 levels. I feel that giving the light a few lower levels can really make it so much more useful. The 400 lumen setting is really nice for general outdoor use. It can easily light up things across an average yard, over to your neighbors house, etc. The 80 lumen setting is great also, even though the S18 is way larger of a light than you would want to use if you only needed 80 lumens, its nice to have the option. You could easily use it to walk around camp or on a hiking trail without ruining your night adapted eyes as much.
Well spaced usable output levels
Built like a tank
Stainless steel bezel
Balanced when held toward the head
Forward clickie switch capable of momentary on
Head heavy when held in order to operate switch
Switch difficult to operate one handed due to size and weight of light
No rechargeable battery option
The Maelstrom S18 is certainly a big aggressive step in the Maelstrom lineup from 4Sevens. There are not many lights that fall into the same category as far as having this sort of output with these features. At least none that I have seen that are built this beefy. Though you pay a price for that in weight. The S18 doesn’t feel too bad in general use but I did find the tail switch a bit hard to operate. I guess a light of this size serves a certain purpose and you would not be turning the light on and off all that much, but still. I cant really complain about it because it is designed and setup rather well, its just that with any light of this size and weight, some things are going to be a bit awkward or cumbersome. I would have really liked to have seen some sort of rechargeable option for this light. I see it as a good competitor to the Surefire M6. The S18 is nicer in many ways, but with so many people out there begging for a rechargeable M6, the S18 could have been the answer to that. I don’t know the specifics behind the circuitry and current draws involved though, so its possible that any rechargeable setup would have made the S18 much larger.