• Michael W

Review: Viridian Weapon Technologies FACT/XTL Gen 3 Weapon Mounted Camera

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

**Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article, as an independent contributor to the Articles of The Republic blog, are written as solely my own and are not intended to represent the voice of the parent webstore or any of its affiliates**


As a Law Enforcement Officer or responsible armed citizen, you are not only burdened with the knowledge that you may one day have to discharge your firearm and utilize lethal force to neutralize a threat of great bodily harm or death to yourself or an innocent third party, you are also burdened with all of the aftermath. For the sake of this article, we’ll exclude any emotional aftermath and focus solely on logistical elements.


Even in an incident were an application of lethal force is 100% within the guidelines of the law, you are still exposed to the high risk of both criminal charges and civil litigation being levied against you. You must be able to explain the timeline of the events, exactly how the threat was posed, what thoughts went through your mind, what emotions you felt and what ultimately caused you to discharge your weapon. Along with that, you have to hope to God that whatever evidence was collected on-scene corroborates your account of the events. You need to be able to prove what you say and any inability to do so can result in a very poor outcome, even if you were in the right.


Due to this, we have seen some significant advancements in the world of technology when it comes to visually documenting Law Enforcement contacts and use-of-force incidents. You can tell a story painted with the most vivid colors and full of detail but until the last handful of years, you couldn’t physically put someone in your perspective at the moment of the incident. If you can make the investigators, attorneys and even a jury see and experience exactly what you did, then the likelihood of the situation being ruled in your favor is exponentially higher.


Police on-body cameras, better known as body-cams, are available from multiple manufacturers and are an excellent tool when it comes to documenting a situation, however, they are not without their faults. Due to the placement of these body-cams, typically in the center of the chest, they are easily obstructed by the Officer’s arms or random objects. This means that if an Officer has reason early on in a contact to draw their firearm or other equipment, such as a felony/high-rish stop or active shooter response, the remainder of the contact time will very likely be visually blocked by forearms and a pistol or any other tool they would be carrying. This means that the critical split seconds leading up to the decision of discharging their weapon would not be visible on the body-cam and would be left solely upon the word of the Officer(s) on scene to explain. A handful of other companies, Axon and Wolfcom included, have developed auxiliary cameras that mount to the ear piece of your eyeglasses/sunglasses and works in conjunction with their body-cams, yet these cameras are unpopular with Officers because they can be easily knock off of the Officer's head during physical altercation and are also cumbersome and irritating to wear for extended periods of time.


Viridian Weapon technologies has found a way around this by developing a line of weapon mounted cameras that fit onto a pistol's frame in the same fashion as a conventional weapon light. This places the lense of the camera forward of any of the Officer's limbs or equipment, preventing the perspective from being obstructed and ensuring the best possible visual evidence.


Viridian Weapon Technologies’ camera line currently consists of multiple models that are split into two categories, consumer and Law Enforcement. The first consumer model is the XTL Gen 3, which features a 1080p camera, microphone and 500 lumen flashlight. The Second consumer model is the X5L Gen 3, which includes all of the same features as the XTL Gen 3 but also has the addition of a green laser aiming device. Under the Law Enforcement category, Viridian offers what is called the “FACT DUTY weapon cam”, which is available with or without the green laser aiming device and has essentially all the same features as the consumer versions but with some minor tweaks that will be covered later in this article.


For this review, I will be discussing the XTL Gen 3, as I do not particularly care for lasers on a weapon unless they are IR and many Law Enforcement agencies prohibit the use of a visible laser as an aiming device. I purchased this item solely with my own funds and as a customer without Viridian knowing in any way that I would be reviewing the product. I will disclose though that once I had already begun reviewing the camera and contacted Viridian with some questions regarding holsters, I advised them that I was reviewing the product and they did, at no request by me, extend an “affiliate discount” that took approximately 15% off of the price of a Safariland 7360 Lvl III duty holster modified with Viridian’s ECR technology, which will be explained shortly. I advised them that this discount would in no way sway the integrity of my review, which they did not seem to mind. Kevin Skalicky, the National Sales Manager, seemed more interested in me being satisfied as a customer than anything else and was very helpful in the process of purchasing the duty holster to replace my current one.


XTL GEN 3 WEAPON CAM: When I initially received the XTL weapon camera, I was surprised by how durable it felt. It is approximately the same size as a Streamlight TLR-1 and has a very rugged waterproof housing. It mounts to the dust cover rail of a pistol in much the same way as a conventional weapon light, using a horizontally mounted screw to engage one of the picatinny slots and bring inward tension to create a secure fit. What I found interesting is that most of the overall size of the XTL was actually battery, with the camera, light and microphone taking up very little physical space. This made me realize how far this type of technology has actually come. The overall weight of the XTL is 3.13 ounces, while the Streamlight TLR-1HL that it was replacing on my service weapon weighs in at 4.12 ounces.






The 500 lumen light on the XTL is a slight lumen downgrade from my Streamlight TLR-1HL by approximately 300 lumens (I don't have the newest 1k lumen HL model) but it has a surprisingly good spill and crisp white light that doesn’t make me feel like I am sacrificing anything at all. I believe that because the light has less of an intense "hot spot" and more of a clean and even pure white spill, it illuminates a pitch black room at CQB distances to the perfect degree. This makes your eyes have to work far less by making the room seem as though the overhead lights have been turned on.




The camera is capable of 1080p @ 30fps or 720p @ 30fps, adjustable depending on the users preference via the Viridian software, which is downloadable from the Viridian Weapon Technologies website. The software is in no way required in order to use the camera and review footage, though downloading it does enable the user to adjust a few settings on the device itself.


There is a proprietary micro USB port on the underside of the XTL, where the included cable plugs in. This cable can be plugged into a USB convertor for charging directly from a wall outlet or it can be plugged into a computer (Windows OS only) to charge and/or review footage.


The XTL is turned on and off manually by momentarily holding or fully pressing the activation buttons that are located on either side just forward of the trigger guard, like most all weapon lights. I found these buttons to have good sensitivity for momentary activation, as well as a positive and tactile click when pressed. It is extremely noteworthy that the XTL, like Viridian’s other products, is compatible with what they call an “ECR” for their “Instant-On technology”. When a Viridian product is used in combination with an ECR equipped holster, the device no longer requires manual activation. Instead, the device will automatically turn on as it leaves the ECR equipped holster and will turn off automatically as it is re-holstered. This is, in my honest opinion, the most important feature of this device. Under the immense stress of a situation dictating lethal use-of-force, an Officer or armed citizen has enough going through their mind that they don’t need to worry about manually activating a camera, nor will they have the time to do so. The Instant-On technology from Viridian completely removes that problem and allows the end user to just focus on surviving the encounter.


The small ECR device is available in an “ECR holster upgrade kit”, which allows the customer to install the ECR into their current holster in order to take advantage of the Instant-On technology. This will require some modifying to the holster depending on what materials it is made out of. I was able to install this kit on a Safariland 7378 that I use for training in approximately 15 minutes with some mild modification.



Many concealment style holster manufacturers such as Crossbreed, Sticky, Alien Gear and others, offer holster directly from their websites that have the ECR already installed. Viridian also has their own line of EDC holsters that have the ECR installed. While they offer one model of Safariland holster, the 7378, with the ECR installed for a price of $59, Law Enforcement personnel can purchase a few different models of Safariland 7TS duty holsters with the ECR installed directly from Viridian if they contact the customer service center. These duty holsters all had a price of $124, which is in the ballpark of buying a normal Safariland duty holster without the ECR anyways. Neither Viridian, nor Safariland, recommend a customer modifying a holster used for Law Enforcement duty work in any way, including trying to install the ECR kit yourself onto a duty holster since it would require heating or grinding away some of the material. I had no qualms with doing this to my 7378, as it is strictly a training holster.


An observation that I had, which was later confirmed in conversation with Kevin at Viridian, was that the XTL does not fit well in my extensive inventory of Safariland 6360/6390/6378 holsters, some not fitting at all. Kevin explained that this was due to the general manufacturing process and materials used by Safariland for those models and that the 7TS line of holsters functioned correctly because of its injection-molded design and slightly roomier fit. This motivated me to finally transition from my 6360 to a new 7360 (with their ECR), which I had planned on doing anyways.


As of this time, I have not received the 7360 duty holster from Viridian but I ordered it within the last 24 hours, so that is understandable. I do already have the 7378 that I modified to fit their ECR upgrade kit and have tested the Instant-On technology thoroughly. Over the course of quite a few sessions, I have drawn the pistol for dry-fire practice and during range use, counting how many draws were completed during each session. Upon reviewing the footage, every single draw was documented and recorded properly with no missing footage, indicating that the Instant-On technology has worked 100% consistently on my device up to this point. This was very reassuring to me, as I plan to use the XTL Gen 3 while on duty.


SOFTWARE:

Reviewing footage recorded by the Viridian XTL is no harder than opening a video saved onto a thumb drive. You simply plug one end of the cable into the XTL and the other end into your Windows OS computer. When you look at your computer’s “devices and drives” section, you will see “XSERIES” listed alongside the C, D and E drives. Simply clicking on it will open up a folder of all of the videos recorded onto the XTL’s internal memory. Each video can be viewed using whatever video player software you choose and can be deleted just like any regular file.


If the customer wishes to be able to adjust some settings on the XTL, they will need to download the user software from the Viridian Weapon Technologies website. A small sheet with directions on how to do this is supplied inside of the product packaging and it takes all of about 2 minutes to do. It is a very basic and simple software that just allows you to adjust a handful of important settings, nothing more and nothing less.


Here is a straight forward walk through of how simple the Viridian software is to use.


After downloading the software from the Viridian website and plugging in the included cable to the XTL, clicking the Viridian logo on your desktop will open up the software.






Clicking on the "Sync with PC time" button will automatically sync the XTL's onboard computer's date and time to that of your personal computer.





The "Overwrite" drop down bar selects either on or off for the internal memory of the XTL camera. If "on" is selected, the Camera will start recording over old data once it reaches full capacity. If "off" is selected, once the internal memory is full then the Camera will stop recording. I prefer to leave this on, as I do not want to potentially go without recording a critical incident. There is a decent amount of memory in the Camera and any past incidents would've already been downloaded to a hard drive if they were critical.



The "Time Stamp Display" option simply allows you to choose if you want the previously sync'd date and time to be super imposed onto the upper right corner of any footage recorded. I prefer to leave this option on, as seen below.


The "Video Resolution" drop bar allows you to select between 1080p @ 30 fps or 720p @ 30 fps. Just like any other type of digital storage, higher resolution takes up more space on the internal memory so you will get slightly less video time but most critical incidents would require maybe a few minutes at most of gun-camera and the internal memory seems to average about 40 minutes of record time. I prefer to leave it on 1080p.



Finally, clicking the "Open File Folder" button takes you to a standard document type folder, where all of your individual recordings will be located. They can be deleted from this memory directly or copied and saved to your computer, just how you would delete or save any file off of a standard thumb drive. See below.


The software is so simple to use that an elementary school student could literally figure out how to use it in a minute or less.


XTL GEN 3 vs FACT DUTY LE MODEL:

After purchasing the XTL Gen 3, I spoke with Viridian's National Sales Manager Kevin Skalicky about the differences between the consumer version of the light/camera and the LE duty version. According to Kevin, aside from the model insignia on the side, the main difference between the two is the activation of the light and how the camera operates. On the consumer model, you pre-program if you prefer the light only (high, low or strobe), camera only, or camera and light combined. Then when you either manually active the XTL or draw it from an ECR Instant-On holster, it will be in your preferred mode. If you choose to hit the power buttons, it will turn off. This means that if you choose to use the light/cam combo, turning the light off during an encounter will also end the recording. On the FACT DUTY model, the camera cannot be turned off or deactivated and will be on if the firearm is out of the holster but the light can be independantly turned on or off as needed. I see this as a very minor difference and unless you plan as a civilian to do some crazy light throwing tactics, this feature is kind of useless. For the Law Enforcement world where a department would be purchasing the cams and implementing data retention policies, the FACT DUTY's system of never turning off the camera would definitely make more sense to increase accountability and mitigate liability.


In conclusion, I firmly believe that the XTL Gen 3 Weapon Cam and Light by Viridian Weapon Technologies is an outstanding product and the future of use-of-force evidence documentation for Law Enforcement and armed citizens alike. While the MSRP of $399 may seem a little high to some consumers, the ability to instantly shut down a claim of criminal misconduct or civil liability, saving you lengthy legal battles and the attached legal fees, is well worth the price of a single case of ammunition. I highly recommend this product, especially for Law Enforcement personnel.


(Video footage can be found on Youtube to show the quality of video recorded by the Viridian Camera. I will be completing a Youtube review of this product in the coming week and will update this article at that time with the link.)


Author:

Michael is a lifelong Arizona native, avid hunter and unwavering supporter of the Second Amendment and all of this great Nation’s founding documents. He is currently employed with a County Government Security Department within the state of Arizona, with prior work experience in the Judicial field, as well as private sector security contracting. Michael currently holds multiple certifications and licenses related to Firearms Instructing. He has a degree in Administration of Justice, with aspirations of attending law school.

He may be reached at

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