Sean McCauley – Cloud Defensive – With the recent launch of the Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 Micro, we thought it would be a good time to catch up with Cloud Defensive CEO Sean McCauley to discuss what his company has been up to in the two years since we last spoke about his company’s lights.
In this article, we talk about Cloud Defensive’s growth, how to know when the time is right to launch a new light, why an expensive light like the Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 is worth it compared to less expensive options, the launch of the Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 Micro, and more.
Q: Sean, congrats on the recent launch of the Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 Micro. We last spoke in 2021. Can you walk us through the changes that have occurred with your Cloud Defensive weapon lights since that time?
“The Rein 1.0 was our first traditional form factor weapon-mounted light. We took a lot of the really robust features of the OWL, like the tool steel bezel ring, and pushed that over to the Rein 1.0. We then integrated a number of other critical features which we have kept to this day, including our battery jack that supports the battery and hardens the entire system against recoil.
We have a plug at the back end of the light that can also be totally removed from the light so you can upgrade or swap out the switch without needing a new tail cap. We thought that was really important. We also wanted to make sure it was able to be compatible with M-Lok and other mounting systems. We know that everyone has a different build and a different setup up and we need to be able to play nice with them.
With the 2.0, we listened to the most prevalent criticism of the 1.0, and that was just that the bezel diameter was too big. This coincided with us also simply learning how to build better lights. We learned how to make it smaller while also increasing candela, and that’s exactly what we did with the 2.0. When we rolled it out, there was a very substantial performance increase.
Going up over 70,000 candela for the first time was a pretty big thing. It was fairly soon after the 2.0 that, while we were still learning that we could do better lights, we also saw that we could take it to over 100,000 candela if we were willing to make the light around 1/10 of an inch bigger in outer diameter. We did that, and the result was the Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0. So, the 3.0 was basically a 2.0 on steroids.
Q: Is there a concern about putting out the 2.0 and 3.0 so closely together?
Sean McCauley – Cloud Defensive – One of the criticisms had been that we were iterating too quickly because people would get invested in the system, and then in a year or less, here came the next one. That’s an absolutely fair criticism, but if we’re going to be blunt, across all industries, the next generations of products are always rolling out. That’s a good thing because the customer wins and always has access to the best gear.
Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0
Q: How do you know what to focus on next after something like the launch of the Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0?
Sean McCauley – Cloud Defensive – It’s a lot of gut instinct. We’re shooters. We love to get out there and train. It’s a case where listening to what the world wants is a major piece of that recipe. However, that’s only one piece. It’s also about keeping your pulse on the technology, where it’s at, what is able to be made, and that keeps improving.
LEDs and batteries are getting better. Simultaneously, Cloud Defensive is learning how to make better, more efficient lights. We’re learning how to deal with heat better, and that’s a big thing when it comes to developing a small flashlight. It’s really a case where Cloud Defensive is growing up as a company in parallel to where the technology is scaling, in parallel with what the world wants. What our team has to do is keep our finger on all three of those pulses.
It’s really easy to get scope locked on what you could do, instead of what you should do. Candela is a great example of that. People will ask, ‘why don’t you put an LEP in it?’ and give them 300,000 candela. Well, of course we could, as the technology is there, but if it is not properly executed, it is a huge detriment if it is hanging off of your rifle. It’s a liability in CQB, or anything close in. Anything outside of shooting a coyote at 600 yards, you’re going to wish you hadn’t used that. Just because we can, does not mean that we should. It’s a case where we default to our gut instinct and the training and exposure that we get out there in the world actually running those rifles. It shapes our product around user feedback, much of which is ourselves.
Everything we do has the goal of positioning a Cloud Defensive customer to have more success. That’s where the rubber meets the road for us. If something does not make a meaningful improvement downrange to the guy who is actually using it, we’re not going to do it. That goes for rifles or handhelds. It’s the same approach. I want the next product that we do to bring more to the party. For us, that’s it in a nutshell. It’s exciting. It’s difficult. One thing I didn’t understand at the beginning was the pace and the expectation within the market to keep performing.
There are certain parts on a rifle that have been made basically the same from day one. If you need one of those parts, it is what it is. However, when it comes to optics, lasers, and lights, it’s more like a space race. The companies who are involved in making those products are trying to one-up each other perpetually. There’s only so many ways you can execute a buffer spring well. Some companies do that really well.
I am not taking a shot at anyone. I’m just saying that I don’t perceive a space race with buffer springs or bolt carrier groups. Companies are always trying to improve them systematically, as they are all working towards that ideal, but when it comes to optics, lasers, and lights, that is where seeing is really believing. If you look through better glass on an optic, you recognize it. You can absolutely identify a superior IR laser.
With flashlights, when you turn on our light next to someone else’s, there is going to be a winner and a loser. I’m going to be able to put light farther down range with one over another. I am going to gain more situational awareness because there is more spill or flood with one light over another. The intensity that comes with this, I will say at the beginning (laughs), I did not anticipate. It makes it fun and it certainly keeps you on your toes.
Q: How much does what the competition doing affect you?
Sean McCauley – Cloud Defensive – It doesn’t. I would have to go and dig into what they are doing and what is available. I don’t pay much attention to the other guy. It’s not a shot at them. If they make great lights, they are going to have plenty of sales. I have no problem with competition. I love America and the free market, baby…let’s go. (laughs). We are just really, really focused on what we do under our roof. We’ve built an amazing team, and there have been a lot of business development things that have happened with Cloud Defensive over the last 12 months that have positioned us for the future. That’s very important. At the end of the day, I just trust our team implicitly. I just know they are going to execute at a high level.
Q: How do you convince someone that they need to spend 300-400 dollars on a light? It would seem that for a serious weapon light, it’s a piece of kit you’re potentially betting your life on, just like an optic.
Sean McCauley – Cloud Defensive – It’s a very valid question. Globally, the flashlight market is huge, and it is overwhelmingly massively dominated by lights made in China. Those lights go all over the globe at a very low price point, which is appealing to a lot of people. I will say in some cases, it could be appropriate to use lower quality lights, but if you’re betting your life on it, those are the words you just used, I think that elevates you to a different level where you have to start considering things differently.
If you are going to carry a tourniquet, are you going to buy the knock-off, or are you going to buy the good one that you know won’t fail when you really need it. There are just certain times in life when you can’t cut corners and save some money. There are times in life when things are non-negotiable. Yes, there are cheaper options, but Cloud Defensive is going to give you a very good reason to buy our lights.
The fact that they are made in the U.S.A. is something that is super critical to us. Durability, performance, lifetime warranty…we stand behind our customers more than most anybody. I am a little bit biased (laughs). I think there is a lot of value there and a lot of value after the sale. At the end of the day, it’s a case where everyone is going to make a decision based on their own circumstance. If they cannot afford a Cloud Defensive light and they still need a light, please go buy something that is less expensive. I’ll be the first one to tell someone to buy a light from somebody else if they need something that we don’t offer and we don’t fill that need for them. You still have to see in the dark.
From our development side, I want to continually bring more and more to the table and hopefully maintain the best value possible for the customer. One of the things we are doing better now is making lights while bringing our costs down as much as we can within the overall economic environment to make sure we are not pricing ourselves out of the market. I know there is a ceiling. There are only so many dudes who want to pay huge money for a flashlight. That’s not what we’re trying to do here. Our goal is to make these accessible to as many people as possible. We want the highest quality tool in as many people’s hands as we can get them.
Q: I’ve heard that you might have some new switches in the works. What can you say on that right now?
Sean McCauley – Cloud Defensive – We’ve teased pictures of some new switches that we have coming. We took all of our knowledge up until this moment and just went back to the drawing board and did it all over again. We have a whole lineup of switches that will be dropping hopefully pretty soon, and they will fit all of the pre-existing generations, so if you want to upgrade your switch or have a different switching interface, you will be able to do that.
We will have momentary-only and constant-only switches. If you want a more traditional momentary/constant, we’ll have that. We will have a light/laser combo with a visible laser override feature. We will also have a momentary-only laser lead switch. All of those are coming. We listened to everybody and made a better lockup for it, while maintaining our cable control feature and lowering the profile as much as we could. We made the switches more responsive and increased the amount of actual surface area on the button itself.
Q: Finally, let’s Talk about the Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 Micro.
Sean McCauley – Cloud Defensive – This was a lot harder than it was supposed to be. Honestly, it was a case where we thought we had it and it worked, but we looked at the run times and they were just not good out of the gate. We were originally going to launch the Micro alongside the 3.0. We were ready to go, but then we got the runtime data, which we expected to be substantially better than what we saw. It was a bit of a bummer. We couldn’t put something out into the world that had a run time that was trash, to be honest.
It took months to get it right. There were a lot of electrical changes on the board that were annoying to do but were required. Now that the electrical system is refined, we are able to provide a 3.0 Micro with really, really good performance (95,000 candela) in a tiny package with a 40-minute runtime. We did it, it just took longer than we had hoped.
The Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 Micro is really, really nice on the short guns where railspace is at a premium. The one thing I would say is that if you are a guy who is doing a lot of shoothouse work or protracted work, you want a full-sized Rein. No matter how awesome our Micro is, the battery is still only half the size of the full-sized. It’s a smaller gas tank, so you are going to get less performance and milage out of it. I would always encourage people to calibrate what they are doing with their weapons and then make their choices accordingly.
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