We've been in a bit of a shotgun craze at Primer Peak. Dan, Sean, Sara, and I have all been about the scattergun for a while now, and have been covering the defensive uses for the gauge. Every gun needs a WML, which is where the Streamlight TL Racker comes in. There's been a debate between the "integrated WML" crowd, and the "non-integrated WML" crowd. The TL Racker is a WML integrated forend, so how does it stack up?
What is the Streamlight TL Racker?
The TL Racker is Streamlight's integrated WML shotgun forend. It came out back in 2019, and we actually were pretty hyped up for it at SHOT that year. It has a 1000 lumen, 20,000 candela output via two CR123A batteries, and features ambidextrous pressure pads for light activation. Streamlight also advertises that the Racker has enhanced ergonomics, and a rougher texture, for ease of use. The TL Racker is available for both Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 pattern shotguns, and I got one for my old 870 for testing.
Streamlight doesn't have an MSRP for the TL Racker, but I've seen them run from about $120 to about $140. Before hopping into the good and bad of the TL Racker, how did it fair on the range?
Shooting With the Streamlight TL Racker
During the testing period, I put about 600 rounds through my shotgun with the TL Racker attached. My 1970's vintage 870 Wingmaster has a Magpul SGA stock on it, and the Racker replaced the Magpul forend I had on prior.
Initially, I was not impressed with the forend on the range. I found that the shape of the hand groove made the push-pull technique uncomfortable, and that forend receiver overlap bumped into my sidesaddle. Additionally, the "rough" texturing wasn't really all that grippy, which lead to some knuckle slap during recoil.
Prior to the next range trip, I moved the location of the Esstac sidesaddle to be further back on my receiver, as to not impede the pump. While this solved one of my issues, the discomfort under recoil remained, and another issue came up. When properly gripping the pump, the pressure pad was clicking on, without conscious effort to press it in. Well, that ain't good. This issue persisted throughout the testing period, and was a part of my finalized opinions on the TL Racker.
I can report that the TL Racker survived my shooting period, which included some magnum loaded 12G, and a steady supply of turkey loads, buckshot, and slugs. The shotgun was knocked around a fair bit in my travels too, with the forend none the worse for wear.
The Pros of the Streamlight TL Racker
I gotta keep it on the level here, there aren't many pros for the TL Racker.
The best part of this forend is the WML. The output is excellent, with the beam pattern and throw being quite good for a shotgun light. 1000 lumens at 20,000 candela blows all of the other shotgun WML forends out of the water.
Durability on the TL Racker is great too. While the forend itself feels kind of cheap, it held up quite well during my testing period. Streamlight generally makes a quality product, and the TL Racker is no different (for the most part). Could you break it eventually? Sure, but I didn't.
The (Many) Cons of the Streamlight TL Racker
Oh, where to begin?
The shape and texture of the forend both suck. The ledge for your hand positions your digits in a spot to accidentally hit the pressure pad while pumping the forend, and still manage to bang your knuckles under recoil. The corn-cobb part of the forend is not textured roughly enough, and the gaps within it lead to a slippery feel. The forend feels passible with dry hands, but with wet hands, it really blows.
I absolutely hate the receiver overlap that the forend has. I don't know why Streamlight made the forend so long, but the overlap impedes proper location for a side saddle, while providing nothing for ergonomics.
Last, but certainly not least, is the pressure pad. It is easily one of the worst, if not the worst, pressure pads I've ever used. Streamlight is known for bad pressure pads, and the this is no exception. Some parts are really stiff, some are squishy, but it altogether feels horrid. The middle of mine was the easiest part to actuate, which makes sense, since it would kick on while shooting. Maintaining good light discipline with your WML is important, but with this forend, it really cannot be guaranteed.
So the texture and ergos suck, the pressure pad sucks, and the forend overlaps the receiver. I think you can see where this is going.
I cannot recommend the Streamlight TL Racker. It is uncomfortable, has a poor pressure pad, and impedes mounting a normal 6 round side saddle. The output is great, but if the delivery system sucks, then it doesn't matter. I'll be returning to the Magpul forend, and slapping a TLR-1HL on that instead. It's a shame, as I really wanted to like the TL Racker. The price is right, and Streamlight has the ability to make good WMLs. What a shame.
For more info about shotgun accessorizing, check out Dan's article on the subject.