Author Topic: CR123A Lithium and Rechargeable 18650 Batteries  (Read 9315 times)

Offline scuzzy

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CR123A Lithium and Rechargeable 18650 Batteries
« on: Dec 03, 2010, 03:23 PM »
Without going into too much detail, there are a lot of mistakes people can make when purchasing lithium batteries for high-power LED flashlights. In my personal experience and research, I stick to the following brands:

  • Titanium Innovations CR123A lithium, available here (BatteryJunction.com)
  • AW Protected 18650 rechargeable lithium, available here (Lighthound.com)

The Titanium brand CR123A lithium batteries perform as well or better than everything else, and they are available in single, double, and triple packs. I recommend that they be purchased in large quantities to save on shipping. For example, you can buy 1 double set for $2.00 + $9.07 S/H. Or you can buy 10 double sets for $20 + $9.07 S/H. If you only order 1 double set, it will cost $11.07. If you order 10 double sets, it comes out to $2.90 per set. Since they have a shelf life of 10 years, it pays off to make the larger purchase. For comparison, go to your local Wal-Mart and see what the cost is of buying 20 each CR123A batteries.

I really like that Titanium's offering is available in double and triple sets. It's dangerous to mix old/new lithium batteries, and their method of shrink wrapping the batteries together greatly reduces that possibility. Plus, it makes them very convenient to carry and use.

Note that there are many other very good CR123A lithium batteries available, such as the well known SureFire brand, but you'll pay a premium for the name. You'll get equivalent performance from the Titanium brand for much less $$$.

AW's protected 18650 rechargeable batteries are available in various "mAh" (milliamps per hour) options. The higher the mAh, the longer the cells last, and the higher the cost. Be aware that 18650 batteries are available in "button top" and "flattop". Generally, the high mAh models are only available in flattop. The LED flashlight you purchase might not support a flattop cell. Modifications can easily be made, but it's generally best to check before making your purchase.

Note that "unprotected" 18650 cells are available, but I strongly recommend that you avoid them. A lithium battery that drains too quickly has great potential to cause fires and serious injury. A protected cell will shut down the cell if the demand on it exceeds safe levels. It's a bad idea to even consider unprotected cells.

A single 18650 battery will replace two CR123A batteries, although at a lower voltage (but much higher amperage). However, the 18650 is a wider cell and will not fit into a flashlight that is designed strictly for the narrower CR123As. Most modern tactical LED lights are designed to use a single 18650 or two CR123As, but it's best to check before dropping the cash. I primarily use an 18650 in my Fenix TK11, and I carry a CR123A double pack for emergency backup.

Different LED flashlights have various battery configurations available. Some are designed to run on 3ea CR123A batteries, which means 18650 batteries are not an option. There are various options to go up to 4ea CR123As or 2ea 18650, as well as other configurations. The choices are endless, as are aftermarket modifications.

[EDIT] The charger I use for the 18650 is the Pila IBC, available here (Lighthound.com). For 18650 batteries, this is widely recognized as the best consumer charger available. I used to recommend the UltraFire WF-139, but I have since learned that it can overcharge lithium batteries. This can cause 18650 batteries to become potential "miniature TNT sticks" and can greatly reduce their lifespan. The IBC is currently the only consumer charger that follows the proper charging algorithms recommended by lithium battery manufacturers that truly terminates the charge at the end of the charging cycle. This is very important, as trickle charging a lithium battery is a big no-no that leads to overcharging.[/EDIT]

For way too much information, check out this excellent, very informative post at CandlePowerForums.

Offline Mark H

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Re: CR123A Lithium and Rechargeable 18650 Batteries
« Reply #1 on: Dec 03, 2010, 07:47 PM »
Very informative. Thanks for poasting. It is always better to hear from people that have used the products you are considering.

Mark H
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Offline scuzzy

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Re: CR123A Lithium and Rechargeable 18650 Batteries
« Reply #2 on: Dec 03, 2010, 08:34 PM »
Thanks, Mark. It's somewhat of a pain to become knowledgeable in this area. There's too much to know when buying a high tech LED flashlight. They are not all the same.