Last year I reviewed the Streamlight TL-Racker shotgun light. I really like the light, but I have some problems with the TL-Racker as a forend. Fortunately, it can be improved upon.
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The Problem with the TL-Racker Shotgun Light
I have had the TL-Racker shotgun light on my 870 since I received it in early 2020. There’s a lot of love: it’s a great light, it’s easy to actuate, and it’s robust. Unfortunately it kind of sucks as a forend. Namely, it’s too big and hard to use with a good, push/pull technique.
The gripping portion of this forend is massive. It has a very large, built-in palm swell. With small hands it’s hard to get a great grasp on this. Even with large hands I’m imagine it’s somewhat difficult to get an ideal grasp on this big ol’ stick. It’s also kind of slick which exacerbates the problem. It has a little texture but it’s not the best.
Being able to shoot the shotgun well is arguably more important than having a light on it, though both are pretty important to me. I spent some time trying to correct this issue. I considered all the alternatives… Excuse me, the alternative, and it didn’t really satisfy.
The Shotgun Light Market
There aren’t many shotgun lights to work with out there. There are basically two integrated forend lights: TL-Racker and the SureFire lights. You can also mount pistol, rifle, and handheld lights on some other forends but I wasn’t interested in this options after some problems last year.
I strongly considered buying a SureFire DSF-870 forend. The two things that held me back were cost and weight. The TL-Racker shotgun light goes for about $125 online. The SureFire DSF-870 goes for $350-375, or almost three times the cost. That’s a lot of dough for a weapon-mounted light. Fortunately the high price really made me pour over the specs of this light before committing.
I was considering paying the name-brand premium until I noticed the weight of the SureFire. It’s heavy. Real heavy. I complained about the 11 ounces of the TL-Racker in my review. The Surefire comes in at an advertised 17.8 ounces – almost half a pound heavier than the TL-Racker! Oh…and it only puts out 600 lumens to the Streamlight’s 1,000.
Improving the TL-Racker Shotgun Light
The three options were basically the Streamlight, which is too big and slick to shoot well, the SureFire which is half a pound heavier and costs 3x, and various odd-and-end mounting situations. The fourth option is no light at all, which doesn’t appeal to me.
The TL-Racker shotgun light is really attractive for a lot of reasons. It’s brighter, lighter, and cheaper, and doesn’t seem to sacrifice any durability. I sat around for a long while really wishing Streamlight would call me out of the blue and ask me what I thought about the TL-Racker. They didn’t (of course) but thinking about what I’d tell them did lead me to a solution.
Step 1: Thin the Grip
I would tell them to remove some material in the grip area…then I realized, “I can do that myself!” So I got a couple packs of sandpaper and got to work.
Step 1 was to actually remove some material. Since the swell of the grip surface is the biggest issue I decided to just narrow it down a bit. With some 150-grit sandpaper this was pretty quick work. I wrapped a piece of sandpaper around a small wooden block to keep things nice and flat. With 30-45 minutes of determined work I was able to flatten out one side. Repeat on the other side.
Just thinning the grip out made a pretty big difference in the feel of the forend. I probably reduced the side-to-side dimension by 1/4 to 1/2 an inch. Unfortunately it also made it fairly slick (and left it really ugly), leading me to step 2.
Step 2: Stipple the Sanded Surface
Using a wood-burner I stippled the raised surfaces. I’ll be honest: this is my first time stippling anything. I watched a couple YouTube videos and got busy. It didn’t turn out too badly to my eye, but I doubt many of you are going to be sending stippling projects my way anytime soon.
It might not be the prettiest, but it is grippy. I thought it was going to be too rough for comfort on longer range sessions, but so far, so good! If your grip ends up too aggressive you can always knock it down with some light sanding.
The Streamlight TL-Racker shotgun light (also available for Mossberg models) is really a winner. It’s inexpensive, tough, bright, and even though I complained about the weight in my original review, it’s not that heavy. Unfortunately it is not the best forend. While my improvement hasn’t made it the “best” forend, its definitely much better than it was.