Fulton MX991/U Flashlight
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The Fulton MX991/U Flashlight (or sometimes known as a GI Flashlight, Army flashlight, moonbeam (Marine Corps) or simply MX991/U) is a model of angle-head flashlight currently manufactured by Fulton Industries which was issued to soldiers during the Vietnam War, and has since remained in service with the United States Army.
During World War II, a request was made for a type of flashlight to be developed and used by soldiers being deployed by the US military. The TL-122 series of angle-head flashlights was developed by multiple manufacturers, most notably Bright Star, and issued to soldiers. It was used widely throughout the war, and the design remained fairly consistent throughout the following years.
During the onset of the Vietnam War, a contract was offered to a manufacturer who could develop an updated version of the TL-122 series flashlights with improvements for the modern military requirements. The result was the MX-991/U angle head flashlight, and the contract was secured by Fulton Industries, and for a brief period, G.T. Price. Currently, Fulton Industries continues to manufacture the flashlight in various colors and modifications. These are available to civilians, law enforcement, and the military.
In recent years, many unnamed manufacturers from Asia have developed unofficial reproductions of the MX-991/U flashlight. Often the variants are physically and internally identical, with the exclusion of the "MX-991/U" printed into the side of the flashlight. These clones often include varying colours not available by Fulton, such as blaze orange, and also include different coloured lens in the tailcap such as yellow and green alongside the standard colours.
The MX-991/U flashlight is an inexpensive, waterproof angle head flashlight that uses two D-cell batteries (military BA-30). It uses a standard incandescent bulb, and features a high-impact plastic body, a belt/equipment clip so that it may be fastened to a belt or strap, a tailcap lanyard ring, a multi-mode switch and tailcap with a storage compartment which houses multiple colored plastic lenses which is not available on the telecommunications variant of the flashlight.
The multi-mode switch consists of three settings: Off, Signal, and On. When the switch is set to Signal, the user is able to press and hold a button located just above the switch to turn the light on, and it will switch off again when the button is released. This allows users to signal using Morse code. When the switch is moved up to the On position, the flashlight remains on without any further user interaction. The modern MX-991/U also features a switch guard which was not present in previous variants as issued in the Vietnam War. The switch guard was suggested as an improvement from soldiers during the war, and later added to prevent unintentional operation of the flashlight. This helped to prevent soldiers from accidentally giving their position away in the dark should equipment, clothing etc press the signal button or move the switch.
The tailcap consists of two compartments. The first houses the spring and keeps the batteries inside the flashlight body. Under the spring, a small plastic component houses a spare flashlight bulb. The second part of the tailcap consists of a small compartment that houses five plastic lens.
The nosecap of the flashlight has the ability to be unscrewed, and a custom lens can be fitted. The flashlight contains five lens in the tailcap, consisting of two red lens, blue lens, white lens, and diffuser lens (earlier three red and no blue-green). This enabled soldiers to send signals using different colors, or to cast the light in different methods. As the flashlight could not be focused/unfocused, the diffuser lens was used to spread the light in such a fashion that it would throw out a wide glow of light, as opposed to a narrow, focused beam.
Fulton currently manufactures the flashlight in varying color combinations, often to designate a special use or model:
- Olive Drab (The standard issue US military version which has been available since Vietnam)
- Yellow tailcap and nosecap with a black body (explosion-proof)
- White tailcap and nosecap with a teal body (telecommunications use)
- Grey (US military, usually Air Force use)
- Black (law enforcement use)
- Khaki/tan (US military use in desert conditions)
- Woodland Camo (military use or civilian camping use)
The flashlight is often sold at military disposal stores, and is popularly considered by many to be an ideal flashlight for camping or power outages, due to its low price, utility and durable body. The flashlight can also accept custom bulbs such as modern LED lamp, which greatly extend the battery life and provide brighter light than the standard incandescent bulbs. It is still widely recognized or known as a "GI Flashlight" for its military history or a "Boy Scout Flashlight" in referral to its resemblance to the brass stamped angle-head flashlights issued to Boy Scouts in the mid-century.
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