Happy post-Thanksgiving and welcome to another installment of Friday Night Lights. Today we will take a close look at a relative newcomer to the MFAL (Multi-Function Aiming Laser) market – Phantom Hills’ CTF-1. Friday Night Lights is sponsored by ATN Corp, manufacturers of night vision and thermal optics like the THOR LT. As with all of our sponsored series, Friday Night Lights will continue to bring you unbiased news and reviews from a variety of companies.
MFAL @ TFB:
Entry Level & Budget Minded MFAL CTF-1
Phantom Hill has come out with a budget-minded MFAL. Well first let’s explain what an MFAL is. It stands for Multi Function Aiming Laser. This typically means an aiming laser with an illuminator and the CTF-1 fits this definition. The CTF-1 is designed to be a rifle aiming laser that is low profile and budget friendly. Most MFALs like the ATPIAL PEQ-15 or DBAL series are well over $1,000. And many of them do not have a white light built in. The CTF-1 has an infrared aiming laser and offset IR illuminator as well as an offset white light all in one unit. How much is the CTF-1? It is just $800, well below other civilian laser offerings. And the CTF-1 features an inline aiming laser that is centered over the bore of your gun, assuming you mount it at 12 o’clock which is Phantom Hill’s intention for their laser.
Having a laser centered over your bore is definitely better than an offset laser like most other MFAL. It makes shots easier because you do not have to compensate for an offset laser. A centered laser like the CTF-1 is now like your red dot. You only have to compensate for the ballistic drop. This also makes zeroing the laser easier. You can simply have a converging zero. Move the laser to where your red dot is zeroed while looking at something 200 yards away, or whatever your zero is. The further the better.
The CTF-1 controls are very simple. The left button is for the visible white light. The right button is for IR laser and IR illuminator, you cannot activate the IR light or laser independently. Since the controls are centered on the rail, it is easy to reach the buttons with your support hand thumb. There is a ridge segregating the buttons so it is easy to feel which button you want to press in the dark.
The CTF-1 is easy to activate even if you are left-handed. You just have to reach over for white light but IR activation is easier for left-handed shooters.
Each side has its own battery compartment and they each take a single CR-123. The white light is only 380 lumens while the IR illuminator is 1120mW/SR. The IR laser is eye-safe at 0.7mW or less. They do not take 18650s or 18350s.
You can see how low profile the CTF-1 is on this LMT handguard.
The CTF-1 weighs 10.2 oz. Not that bad considering other alternatives and it has a white light.
The mount is built into the CTF-1 to keep it as low profile as possible.
At the moment, the CTF-1 has proprietary LEDs for white and IR. If you unscrew the heads you can see the LEDs. Phantom Hill is planning to offer different reflectors in the future to shape the lights to the user’s preference.
Running And Gunning With The CTF-1
I decided to use the CTF-1 on a PSA AK-V that I am reviewing. The AK platform is rather limited to adding white light and lasers and the AK-V came with a railed gas tube cover. Even though the handguard for the AK-V is very tall, I was still able to activate the CTF-1. The front sight of the AK-V was not an issue with the inline laser.
The CTF-1 works well for close-range use like USPSA distances. I equate it to the Streamlight TLR-VIR II but the CTF-1 has a better illuminator and white light. The CTF-1 is 380 lumens vs the 300-lumen TLR-VIR II. The IR illuminator on the Phantom Hill laser is 1120 mW/sr whereas the Streamlight is nearly half of that at 600 mW/sr. Also, the CTF-1 has a battery for each side. So the white light is independently powered from the IR side. This adds a little more weight but increases the run time for both and if one side goes down, the other side is not affected.
Final Thoughts On The CTF-1
I think Phantom Hill has a decent product but it could be better with later revisions. The CTF-1 as it stands now is an adequate MFAL for close-range use. But everyone likes modularity. While Phantom Hill is planning on offering different reflectors, it would be better to make a more universal version that takes SureFire Scout Light or Modlite heads. I would offer a CTF-1 without any heads and let the end-user mix and match whatever heads they want which would simplify some logistics for Phantom Hill and hopefully bring the cost down even more. One thing I would like to see on the CTF-1 would be a constant-on mode. The buttons for the white light and IR modes are momentary only. I would prefer clicky switches so if I needed constant-on, it is available. Or program it so a double press is constant-on like with ATPIAL and DBAL lasers.
The CTF-1 that you see in this article is the final product. Even though this one is a low serial number they are all the same. The dark gray metallic body is actually a 3D printed metal body using a sintering method. At the moment Phantom Hill is only offering the CTF-1 in this style. black controls, black bezels and black battery caps on a gray aluminum body.
The only thing the CTF-1 is missing is a visible laser but in reality, you don’t need it. I rarely use a visible laser and I rarely use white light but it is nice to have. Some people like having visible lasers for zeroing their IR laser but that only works if the laser is slaved. I never found the need to use a visible laser since I always use a converging zero and use night vision goggles to adjust the IR laser to converge to my red dot at distance. I do not think you will find yourself wanting more or lacking if you know where the CTF-1 performs well. It worked great for the night matches I used it in.
At the time of this article, Phantom Hill is sold out of their lasers but check out their website for when they restock.