Lightning Strikes

by Ernst Schneidereit

Lightning Discs is a longstanding member of the disc golf manufacturing community. In the late eighties, their discs with a war plane theme were my first upgrade from a Frisbee. The Texan (now the Rubber Putter) and the original Lightning driver replaced my all-purpose Ultimate disc and I used just those two for many years.

While the aircraft designations are now a footnote for Lightning, their line of discs are worth prominent mention. All of the drivers profiled in this review feature internal grip lines on the rim of the disc. This adds considerable assistance to your drive. If you have trouble hanging on to discs when applying lots of throwing speed (perhaps due to small hands or lower hand strength) you should consider the Lightning product. In this review we consider two discs from both the Standard and the Pro line. We also feature two Discraft drivers for this review: the veteran XL Elite X (signature model) and the newer Crush Elite Z. All discs were 170g or slightly higher.

Some noteworthy features are characteristic of all the Lightning discs tested. All were late fading, holding a straight line for most of the flight distance (the #1 Slice the least so of those reviewed). Each line also has special color options. In the Pro and Standard line, you can request glow-in-the-dark models from Disc Fly at no extra cost. For the Pro Line, tie-dye colors are also available for an additional $2 extra).

The Lightning Pro D1, or #1 Driver Pro Style, is an intermediate to pro level disc, like most of the Pro line. While the D1 provided the least distance of the Lightning drivers tested when thrown backhand, it was a great sidearm flyer, notching the best average distance for this throwing style. For right-handers it flies overstable (right-to-left) with either driving method, with about half the fade when thrown sidearm. This is a good driver for beginners moving up to intermediate level.

The Pro HX-1 or #1 Helix Pro Style, is slightly more overstable than the D1 and performs in the standard fashion when thrown sidearm, reversing its flight characteristics. The shape and size of the HX-1 reminds me of the Innova Archangel, and is a great driver for defeating the wind. Its S-shaped flight pattern gives it the Helix name and is tremendous fun to watch. While not a distance winner with either throwing style, it was the most predictable of all the discs thrown.

The #1 Flyer comes from the Standard line and was the average distance winner for backhand throws in this test and also would have won our last test. Very beginner friendly, Lightning also claims that this disc is slightly superior to the #1 Driver for use with a tailwind. This disc is a straight flier when sidearmed and mildly overstable when backhanded.

The #1 Slice is very similar in its characteristics to the Wham-O Bank (featured in our last driver review). Big and understable, it prefers going left-to-right for backhanders, but you can also shape its throws if you want without much practice. It is slightly more difficult to throw than the Bank, and a little more understable, but gives better distance backhand. Unlike the Bank, it does not tend to roll when thrown sidearm. This disc is guaranteed to float at weights below 170g.

The Discraft XL Elite X is a disc, much like the XL Elite Z, which both pros and beginners can agree on. Predictable, with good distance using either throwing style, it flight is similar to the #1 Flyer as a slightly overstable disc. When it becomes worn, I quit using an XL for sidearm throws, but the Z plastic holds up very well to tree-dings compared to the X. The Juliana Bower model tested for this review seemed to perform better than my former Elite X model, but it may be that the sexy pearlescent color was affecting my memory. I recommend this disc highly for beginners as it grows along with their ability.

The Elite Z Crush is different from most discs due to its wide internal rim (at least triple that of the average). I found that it tended to leave my hand early whether thrown with a three- or four-finger grip backhand. The four-finger grip worked best for this disc. I found it very overstable with both sidearm and backhand throws. This disc is not for beginners and I would not advise players with small hands to use this disc. You need to hang on tighter than normal to get it to perform well and give it lots of spin (much like a Discraft Elite Z XS). Practice and experience will clue you in on how to toss this driver. It is extremely tough to dent and would likely be a lifetime disc unless you play amongst lots of rocks (or water!). If you need a big, curving driver, the Crush will work for you.

If you have limited yourself to the bigger disc companies, Lightning deserves your attention. They likely have a disc that will fit a spot in your bag. All their offerings are durable and I find their product descriptions to feature the least amount of hype and reasonable accuracy. In addition, they feature a number of floater discs for those of you who play around ponds and lakes (a quality I can attest to in the #2 Driver). Our next review will feature more from Discraft and a look at selections from Millennium discs.

This table provides percentage comparisons of the discs reviewed against the Innova Eagle. Selected ratings are similar to those used at, although they did not contribute to these ratings (except for the Eagle ratings, which are taken from their website and used as a benchmark). Distance and Fade are on a 1-10 scale, Skill, Predictability and Durability are a 1-5 scale.
Disc Distance Fade Skill Predictability Durability
Lightning Pro D1 8.5 8.5 3 2.5 4
Lightning Pro HX1 9 9 3 4.5 4
Lightning #1 Flyer 9 3.5 2 4 3
Lightning #1 Slice 8.5 2 3.5 3 3.5
Discraft XL Elite X 9 5.5 2 4 3.5
Discraft Crush Elite Z 8 10 5 3.5 5

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