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Viridian C5L Light/Laser Combo and TacLoc ECR Retention Holster Review


This review is kind of all over the place since it encompasses a whole system of lights, lasers, and holsters that all go together.

Several years ago I bought a Viridian light/laser combo at the NRA show.  Along with the light/laser, I also got the compatible Tac-Loc holster, which is really just a Blackhawk Serpa CQC that's been modified to make use of Viridian's Enhanced Combat Readiness (ECR) feature that we'll get into below. 

The Viridian C5L Light/Laser Combo

The Viridian C5L is the compact little brother of the full-size X5L tactical light/laser.  I went with the compact version since there are relatively few full size pistols in our carry stable that would accommodate the larger version.  The C5L is sized just about perfectly to fit on compact handguns like a Glock 19, Taurus PT111, or Springfield XDs.  The length is right on these pistols, and the width is a great match for the doublestacks, but some parts of the unit are wider than the slim singlestack.

The Laser
To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of lasers on handguns.  I feel like people too often become reliant on them as a substitute for good shooting skills and practice.  They do have a place, however; lasers can be useful for people who have trouble focusing on sights, they can aid in shooting from retention or from non-traditional positions, they can be a good training aid, and, right or wrong, some people like lasers because they think it will have some psychological effect on a bad guy.

As far as lasers go, the C5L's laser performs fine.  It's a 5mW beam that opens up to 1/2" at 50 feet.  The standard C5L has a 532nm green beam that the company claims is visible at 100 yards in daylight and 2 miles at night.  The C5L-R model has a 635nm red laser that they claim is visible at 25 yards in daylight and 1 mile at night.  There isn't much to dispute laser claims, it's physics... the light comes out and goes in a straight line until it hits something.

If lasers aren't your thing, Viridian offers a light-only model CTL.

The Light
Unlike the questionable usefulness of lasers, I think lights are a fantastic addition to a CCW setup.  Unless they have super powers or carry around NVGs, most humans can't see in the dark.  As turns out, with very few exceptions, it gets dark every single day and that is largely when bad guys operate.  Debates on weapon-mounted or off-weapon lights aside, if you expect to be able to defend yourself with a CCW, planning to be able to see in the dark just makes sense. 

The compact size of the C5L, and the smaller CR2 battery means a compromise in output of 100 constant lumens or 140 on strobe versus its big brother XL5 (with a CR123A) that puts out 178 lumens (224 on strobe).  I don't think that level of output is necessarily a bad thing.  For a concealed carry handgun, any engagement is failry unlikely and, if one does happen, chances are it will be at close quarters - in a parking lot, alley or indoors.  Retina-scorching ultra-bright lights have their place but indoors and at close quarters, too bright of a light can wash out what you're trying to see and ruin any natural low-light vision for several minutes.  Stalking around the halls and rooms of GunLink HQ and patrolling the property and fence-lines, we found the C5L brightness to be plenty to illuminate surroundings to identify friend or foe without splashing back and blinding the user.

Another nice feature is what they call their "Radiance technology" that focuses the light into a wider beam instead of a standard circular pattern.  This keeps more of the bright light where it is useful - in front of you and to the sides - instead of being wasted on the ceiling and at your feet.

Light/Laser Modes and Operation
The Viridian units have a push-button on each side, right where your index finger would rest when you don't have your finger on the trigger (your finger is off the trigger until you're on target, right?).  The ambidextrous button placement makes it easy to reach and press the buttons for right or left handed users. 

The buttons, when pressed one at a time, toggle the unit on or off.  When powered on, the unit enters the last output mode that it was in when it was turned off.  By pressing both buttons at the same time, the user can cycle through the six available modes:

* Light only, constant
* Light only, strobe
* Laser only, constant
* Laser only, strobe
* Light constant, laser strobe
* Light strobe, laser constant
Enhanced Combat Readiness (ECR) Feature
Viridian has incorporated an instant-on feature into their products that they dub Enhanced Combat Readiness, or ECR.  When used with an ECR-compatible holster, holstering a weapon with the light/laser turned ON will turn it OFF.  From this condition, when the weapon is unholstered, the unit will automatically turn back on (in the same mode it was already in) without having to press any buttons to activate it.

How does it work?  Magnets.  How do they work?  Magic.

There are a number of holsters that can be ordered with ECR functionality built in.  The ones available directly from Viridian (and the one that came in the light/laser/holster package we bought) is the TacLoc C-Series holster, which we'll review below. 

Viridian seems to have some sort of arrangement with GALCO, as they also produce a number of factory ECR-equipped holsters, including the Stow-N-Go, King Tuk, and Paddle Lite lines.

If you make your own holsters, have a favorite custom holster maker, or already have a holster that will fit your C5L-equipped pistol, you can add the ECR functionality to just about any holster with the url=]ECR Upgrade Kit[/url], which is essentially a magical little button that you put inside the holster to activate the magnetic switch.

Our C5L has found its way off of our carry guns and onto a bump-in-the-night house gun, so we can't speak from experience as to how it holds up to the punishment of years of everyday carry - being sat on, frequently holstered/unholstered, banged into things, getting rained on, sweat on, etc.  It looks reasonably well constructed, but it isn't perfect. 

The C5L weighs a scant 2.4oz including the battery, right about half of what a TLR-2 weighs.  The more comparable X5L still weighs in at just 3.3oz.  That weight saving is largely achieved by extensive use of polymer in the construction. 

It isn't that polymers are necessarily bad, per se.  Lots of great stuff is made out of polymer, but there are some applications where it might not be entirely appropriate.  Threaded parts are one of those applications.  While the mounting rails have metal inserts for the metal screw to tighten down on, pretty much every other metal component that screws into something is screwing directly into the polymer body.  While we have not experienced any issues stemming from this, there have been reports of cross-threading or over-tightening causing threads to strip (including those on the water-tight battery cover).  While Viridian is quick to take care of these issues, this might not be the type of thing you want to stay up at night worrying about if you are the type to mash screws into their holes with abandon.

I don't worry about the ruggedness of the polymer C5L housing, I think that it will hold up fine to just about anything I would throw at it, but I do wonder about the long-term durability of the rubber button covers on either side of the unit.  We have not had any issues with our light/laser, but I have seen similar rubberized button covers on industrial equipment that have, over time, worn through from frequent use.  I can see how these might have the potential to eventually wear through after years of pressing and riding in an abrasive holster.  Again, however, this is just speculation - we haven't seen any such wear on our unit.

The Viridian light/laser that we have has operated flawlessly in the nearly three years that we have had it.  It isn't exorbitantly priced, as far as these types of gadgets go.  They are available in a variety of configurations size, brightness, battery type, red lasers, green lasers, lights only with no laser, lasers only with no lights, and as stand-alone units or in a package deal with a holster like I bought - which is also available in green or red options.

We have been perfectly satisfied with the unit and I would certainly put Viridian into consideration if/when I need to shop for my next weapon light/laser.  Given that they are well priced and that Viridian backs up their products with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and a 7-year warranty, I can't come up with much reason not to.

Viridian TacLoc C-Series ECR Holster

The TacLoc C-Series holsters are a line of level 2 retention holsters specially designed to work with pistols equipped with Viridian lights/lasers.  They are available as stand-alone holsters or in a package with the light/laser, which is how we got ours.

What makes the TacLoc line special is the built-in compatibility with Viridian's instant-on ECR feature described above.  This allows you to holster your firearm with the unit turned ON, which turns it OFF.  Then, when you draw the weapon, the unit automatically turns back ON, allowing instant use of the light/laser without having to push the power button. 

Given the construction, materials, retention mechanism, and parts compatibility, I'm fairly certain that the TacLoc holsters were made for Viridian by BLACKHAWK!, since they appear to essentially be a Viridian light-bearing Serpa CQC Level II Retention holster with the ECR magnet built in.  That suspicion is reinforced by the fact that the auto-lock mechanism is similar to the new BLACKHAWK! Omnivore universal holster that we saw in January at SHOT Show 2017, which also achieves level II retention by locking onto a rail-mounted component.

Rather than locking onto a part of the firearm, such as the trigger guard, the TacLoc locks directly onto the Viridian light/laser unit.  Once locked in, the pistol cannot be drawn unless and until the lever on the outside of the holster is pressed, preventing a would be gun-snatcher from taking your carry piece.  As with regular Serpas, the TacLoc release button is placed where the wearer's index finger naturally falls during the draw and, after the weapon is drawn, the index (trigger) finger can remain straight and rest on the front of the trigger guard or along the frame above it.

The TacLoc holster that came with our C5L had a paddle attachment to make it relatively easy to put on and take off the holster.  "Relatively" easy because the paddle features a big hooked tooth on it that snags the wasitband, making it almost impossible to accidentally pull the entire holster off when all you want is the pistol.  If paddles aren't your thing, standard BLACKHAWK mounts work with the TacLoc hole pattern to allow for belt loops, MOLLE mounts, etc.  This hole pattern is also what allows for adjusting the cant angle of the holster.

With some exceptions, I am generally not a big fan of OWB carry, particularly for concealed carry.  Exceptions include OWB holsters that keep the pistol pulled in nice and tight to the body so that it conceals better, is more comfortable, and doesn't bang into things like doors, chair arms, and seatbelts.  The TacLoc is definitely not that type of OWB holster.  This type of holster is better suited to duty carry or open carry because it is so thick that it will create an unmistakable bulge even under jackets and coats, let alone shirts. 

As an OWB retention holster, the TacLoc performs as well as it's Serpa cousins do, which is fine for some roles but is certainly not my cup of tea.  On the few occasions that I did wear it, I was almost guaranteed to knock it into at least several door frames throughout the day.  Its thickness also caused the grip of the firearm to stick out far enough that shirts and jackets would frequently get caught on it and bunch up above it.   

If OWB carry in tucked-in shirts is your method of carry, this type of holster should suit you fine for your Viridian-equipped pistol, but it just did not work well for my carry style.

In our review of the Viridian-branded Blackhawk Serpa above, we wrote "...the TacLoc performs as well as it's Serpa cousins do ... but is certainly not my cup of tea ... If OWB carry in tucked-in shirts is your method of carry, this type of holster should suit you fine for your Viridian-equipped pistol, but it just did not work well for my carry style."

Since then, we have been searching (albeit, half-heartedly) for a better Viridian C5L holster - either off-the-shelf, custom, or even DIY since we did buy the ECR Holster Upgrade Kit with the unit.

The black disk is about 3/4" in diameter and is the magnet that pulls on the reed switch to activate the auto on/off feature of the C5L (or other ECR WML). We tried "upgrading" holsters around GunLink HQ, but the C5L is so fat that getting the blocking right ended up being more trouble than it was worth.

We thought about getting an appropriately sized IWB hybrid or clipless holster, which would help with the issue of banging the OWB on door frames and furniture, but worried about the soft material allowing the button to be inadvertently pressed, turning the unit on and draining the batteries in the holster. It was then that Sticky Holsters got in touch with us on social media and told us that they make ECR-compatible holsters.

Before long, Sticky had the new ECR compatible holster inbound to GunLink HQ and we got to try it out for ourselves. Granted, the style and intended use of the Sticky (small, IWB, concealed carry) and the Serpa that we bought with the Viridian (big, OWB, duty or open carry, retention), but for our applications, the Sticky Holster is leaps and bounds better.

At first I thought that they forgot to add the ECR feature because I didn't see a big scar across the side of the holster or feel the insert. It turns out that the Sticky crew is just really good. I eventually found the clean stitching on the inside of the holster where they hid the insert, which is much sleeker than the big, fat button that came in the Viridian upgrade kit.

Like the other stack of Sticky Holsters that we have, this one keeps the firearm in place inside the waistband at various positions in all but the loosest of garments, keeps the pistol within reach when used for car carry, and protects the trigger and keeps lint and other junk out when carried off body in a bag or, like we often do, when setting the pistol somewhere nearby while working out or lounging around the ranch if we aren't wearing it.

The ECR feature works exactly as intended, turning the activated WML off when holstering and back on when removed from the holster.  Check out our Instagram videos of the WML on a Glock G19 being holstered and unholstered and another video that makes it clearer what is happening from the outside of the holster.

Sticky Holsters did a great job on this holster. It looks great, the addition of the ECR insert is clearly not a hack job or afterthought, and it has the usual benefits of Sticky's clip-less holsters but give the ability to use the Viridian WMLs with peace of mind that you won't be running down the batteries lighting up the inside of your pants.

To see what else Sticky Holsters offers, visit them at


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