A few months back I came across an article that mentioned private contractors using Glowrings. At first I was puzzled, “what the heck is a Glowring?” I had never heard of such a thing. Being the gear geek that I am, with a very inquisitive nature, I asked the author what it was. When I got the answer I decided I had to have one, but tracking them down proved difficult and explained why I had never heard of them before then.
Tritium Glowrings are small glass tubes filled with a radioactive gas called Tritium. These tubes are then encased in a solid plastic housing. Typically the Tritium filled tubes are about an inch in length and, depending on the manufacturer, 1/16″ in diameter. The plastic casing adds about 1/8″ to the top, bottom, and either side. One end of the plastic casing usually has a hole through it that some form of lanyard can be run through. What you end up with is a small glowing object that a can be attached to anything you want to locate in low light or total darkness.
The neat thing about Tritium is that it glows without a power source for roughly 10 years. It does not need to be charged by light or powered by batteries. The light emitted is not to a level you could read by, but it is enough to easily see from thirty feet or more.
Don’t worry, the levels of radiation (weak beta radiation) given off are considered to not be harmful from the quantities of Tritium you are likely to come in contact with; such as Tritium Glowrings or any of the other products. I will cover the other products in a larger upcoming article. The gas IS dangerous if you somehow manage to break the casing and glass tube housing the Tritium. If you break the casing, you should immediately open a couple windows, leave the room, shut the door, and stay out of the room for at least one hour. This is the best advice I could find, but I could not validate this 100%.
Buying Tritium Glowrings can prove to be a pain. As it was loosely explained to me by a manufacturer, they are classified as gadgets and under this classification can not be imported into the US. As far as I could tell, there are no US based manufactures of them. Whether it is an error by shipping clerks or an oversight by customs officials, small quantities can be brought in. I know this because as an experiment, I ordered a couple from two different places, and a week or two later I received them in the mail. One of the places I received three from was the same manufacturer that told me over email that they could not be imported when I contacted them about buying them wholesale.
As an experiment I put one on my keys and threw them 40 feet into a grassy field at night. I was able to find them with minimal effort – thankfully. Green is the brightest, followed by Blue, finally Pink. The size of the glass rod containing the Tritium is directly proportionate to how bright the Glowring will be; the smaller the rod and the less Tritium, the less light emitted.
In total I ended up with five of these trinkets. Three from Nite and two from DealExtreme. The two from DealExtreme were of lesser quality, came individually in the mail, and I am still arguing with them about the third I ordered, but have not received. The three from Nite came in as quickly as you can expect the postal service to deliver internationally (a little over a week). When they arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find them of a higher quality than the DealExtreme Glowrings. The fit and finish was better and the diameter of the glass rod containing the a Tritium was slightly larger. This produced a brighter Glowring. The Nite brand also came in Green, Pink, and Blue variations were as the Deal Extreme only come in Green and Yellow. Prices from either company was about the same as was shipping.
So what did I use mine for? One went on my keys, one on my BOB, one on my girlfriend’s BOB, and the last went on my sister in-law’s keys. Over all I have been happy with the purchase and found them useful. All said and done, I would buy the Nite Glowrings again and will be buying a few more. I will probably never buy anything from DealExtreme again. Are they a necessity? No, but they are neat and are handy.
Yes, in a tactical situation they could be a give away, but I am not likely to ever be in that position. If I am they can be quickly removed.