Finding the best tactical flashlight for your needs isn’t easy and there is no one size fits all solution. It is surprisingly difficult to compare flashlights. There are many different factors and specifications to consider. When you throw in the fact that with tactical lights, your very life might depend upon having a reliable and well-functioning light, it is clearly something worth putting time into thinking about. We have done the research for you to come up with a list of well-respected lights for the tactical, everyday carry, or backup needs you might face.
Apart from being a necessary part of home defense, tactical flashlights have a wide array of uses. They’re generally made to be withstand high-impact stress, because many of them are intended to be mounted on a firearm. Most are also waterproof to some degree. This type of flashlight also generally has a textured grip, which makes it much easier to hang out to than your standard flashlight (which depending on the situation may be a literal lifesaver).
Having said that, here are the most important criteria to consider when purchasing a tactical flashlight:
- Distance – First, think about the range that you need the flashlight to be effective in. The generally rule of thumb is to think about the longest distance you will need the flashlight for in your use case, and double that number to find the beam rating that will be acceptable for your use.
- Lumens – Lumens are a way to measure total light output. However, this is not to be confused with brightness.
- Candela – This measure the brightness of a light. Keep in mind, more is not always better. Extreme candela often is too much for close quarters battle or home defense. Think of it just like in a photograph where too much light flashburns the subject and ruins the photo. You really want to choose an appropriate flashlight lens for your environment to have the beam cover the distance you need with the optimum amount of light. As an example, think about a stadium lights versus a spotlight. While both are bright, the intensity of the respective beams varies. When you choose your lens for your tactical light, think about if you want an intense concentrated beam or a wider field of light with a less intense beam.
- Durability – Obviously, in a tactical flashlight, you need extreme durability. It needs to be tough as nails so that it can withstand hits with no problems. Also, this allows it to serve as a weapon if your hold it in your hand and strike with the light.
- Runtime – How long do you need the light to be continuously in use? Will this be a everyday carry that is used constantlyAlso, think about what type of batteries that will power your light. You may be in a part of the world where lithium ion batteries are hard to come by, so perhaps it is wiser to go with AA batteries. Also, with batteries, think about the shelf life of the batteries you choose. You always want your light available when you need it.
- Tint – If you need to be able to see shades of color as you do in the natural sunlight, consider the tint so that you can differentiate colors. However, there is generally a tradeoff in output and ability to see true tints as you would in sunlight.
- Momentary on/off functionality – If your choosing a tactical light, think about what you need it for. Some people feel adamently that the momentary on is the only functionality they need, and that may be true if you are solely looking for a weapon mounted light and have training around that method. However, others may need a firm click on or strobe or SOS capabilities in their handheld lights.
- Weight – Anything you consider adding to your regular loadout, weight can easily become a limiting factor. Generally, there is going to be a tradeoff with lumens and/or candela and the weight and size of the light.
- Form factor – What do you need it for? Do you anticipate this as an everyday carry light that will always be clipped to your pocket or will it be mounted to a weapon? How do you prefer to turn on the light? Do you need a momentary on or a permanent click to activate the light? Do you need a crenulated bezel in the event you need to strike someone and use the light as a weapon? Remember, form always follows function. Think about how the flashlight will be dedicated, even if it is pulling double duty.
- Price – Consider what your ideal light features are for your needs and prioritize them according to your budget.
Thankfully, the industry has self-adopted a standard to help consumers accurately understand the flashlight specifications. Approved by the American National Standards Institute, the FL1 Standard serves as a way to standardize criteria for evaluating flashlights. It includes:
- Peak Beam Intensity
- Beam Distance
- Impact Resistance
- Light Output
- Water Resistance Rating
- Water Proof Rating
- Submersible Rating
Each flashlight company that participates in this rating system conducts their own quality control testing and information reporting according to very specific guidelines. We highly recommend looking for a the icons associated with these ratings if the manufacturer provides them. For full details about the tests, reference this presentation.
Top 5 Tactical Flashlights
Weapons lights are must haves for defensive weapons. Bad guys don’t always strike at high noon under optimal lighting conditions. For those reasons, a tactical weapon light is a must have for a defensive weapon. Whether you are looking for the best tactical light for an carbine like the AR-15, a pump-action shotgun, or a handgun, we got you covered.
While some people tout the benefits of lights disorienting your enemies, the primary objective of a weapon mounted light is target identification.
If you are considering a tactical flashlight purely for defensive purposes, think about buying a mounting system for your weapon. It is infinitely easier to use a weapon mounted light with a firearm than a handheld tactical light. If you’re interested in defensive tips in a low light environment, watch this great video from Larry Vickers, a Special Forces veteran and tactical specialist.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even if you do have lights on attached to your rifles and handguns, it is a good idea to have a tactical flashlight. When you are in a low light environment, it is nice to have a light that is not attached to a weapon so you don’t have to pull out your gun to inspect something.
SureFire was founded by Dr. John Matthews, who is arguably one of the most important names in the laser industry. He developed a host of patents that were among the first to make lasers viable in a commercial setting. He was also the first to successfully market a laser weapon sight, though its initial use was by Police Departments in heavily urbanized areas exclusively. However, he did kick off an incredibly important trend in the modern history of firearms. The company was also the first to market a commercially viable weapon mounted light.
A fun fact about the company is that it was originally called Laser Products, with SureFire being a sub-division that handled weapon based lights and laser sights exclusively. However, as SureFire’s products became more popular the entire company rebranded as SureFire LLC.
SureFire is one of the most important manufacturers of gun accessories in the world, and they’ve remained an important force in the market since their inception. The SureFire M Series offers a great value to any firearm enthusiast, though be sure to continue reading to make sure that it’s a good fit for your situation.
The first thing to note about this review is that it covers a series of lights, so there’s going to be some variation from model to model. We’re going to try to cover everything you’re going to need to know, but be sure to double check that the model you’re most interested in has all the features you’re looking for.
For example, the majority of these lights produce at least 200 lumens. However, the exception to this is the M600 Intellibeam, which adjusts the amount of light produced (from 15 to 600 lumens) depending on the environmental lighting.
Every light in the series comes with a thumbscrew mount, which depending on your preferences may or may not be a good thing. It does offer a bit more flexibility because you have more control over the tightening mechanism, but on the other hand it is another step you have to go through to properly attach the light.
The lights are also made out of aerospace-grade aluminum. Though aluminum may not be thought of as the most durable material available, it aerospace-grade aluminum does offer a light and durable yet affordable option. Different materials may perform better, but there aren’t many alternatives that would keep the series very affordable.
An important feature of the M Series is the TIR lens, which helps to provide a more focused beam. The tempered window and O-ring seals also help to increase the durability of the lights, which is a great feature if you tend to be hard on your weapon lights.
Lastly, there are also two battery configurations available for the series. You have the option to either purchase a scope that utilizes AA batteries (with lithium being the recommendation), or A123 batteries.
Though their products may not be the ideal fit for everyone, SureFire is one of the most reliable companies in the industry when it comes to quality assurance. Every product they produce is as durable as could reasonably be expected, and so long as you don’t abuse it the lights should hold up for several years.
SureFire also has a “no-hassle” guarantee on their website, which claims that any product they produce will be replaced no questions asked so long as there is a verifiable manufacturer caused error. However, rechargeable and hearing protection products fall under a 90-day warranty. A nice bonus is that if you happen to damage your product through modification or misuse (be honest, everyone has done this at one point or another) they will offer you a quote to repair it before you send it in.
Just as any other SureFire product, the M series is a batch of high quality gun lights that just about any gun owner would be lucky to have.
The SureFire M300 Scout light is terrific is close quarters. The light is more than bright enough for most home defense rifles, coming in at 300 lumens. The CR123 battery will run the light for 1.3 hours. The real beauty here is the light is reliable, bright enough for close quarters, and light. The SureFire Mini Scout comes in at 4.8 ounces including the single CR123A battery, which is great.
When you are adding weight to the end of a rifle, we can’t emphasize enough how much we prefer to keep the swing weight lighter toward the end of the barrel. The mini scout is also small in terms of package size. It is 4.1 inches long and has a 1.125 inches bezel diameter, so this flashlight is a lot of capability in a manageable package. If you want a solid weapon light without all the bells and whistles but that will always do its job, this is your light.
In any industry, there’s a sharp divide between the products intended for professionals and those intended for hobbyists. Professional quality products are almost always made to the highest standard, intended to be used day in and day out while holding up to the rigors of whatever is required of them.
However, there are companies that are the exception to this rule. There is a collection of great companies making weapon lights and tactical flashlights that market some of their products to professionals (generally law enforcement or government agencies) and bring what they’ve learned from working in a professional market to hobbyists.
A good example of this is INFORCE (a subsidiary of Emissive Energy Corp.), who designs weapon accessories for law enforcement, homeland security, and private citizens. In addition to being a popular choice for North American gun enthusiasts, the products produced by the company are distributed worldwide and issued by every branch of the U.S. Military.
Given that the company produces products for one of the most powerful military forces on Earth, it’s no surprise that the INFORCE WML x, Weaponlight, Gen 2, Black Finish, Primary White Light is as good of a gun light as has ever been made. The question is, is it worth the price?
The Inforce Weapon Light features a rating of 700 lumens for its white light mode, and a rating of 400mW in infrared mode. To put this in perspective, a 100W incandescent bulb (which can easily light an entire small to medium sized room on its own) produces 1600 lumens. Given that the beam is also more focused than a light bulb this results in a very large amount of visibility when the light is engaged. According to the sight the light can function for two hours (total runtime) in white light mode, and four hours of infrared modes.
The light features an integrated MIL-STO-1913/NAR rail. So ideally for most manufactured firearms you should be able to easily mount the light to your weapon without requiring any tools. The activation switch is also a nice touch, and the ergonomic countered design makes it a breeze to either engage the light or disengage it. Switching between the infrared and white light modes may be a bit more challenging, though we wouldn’t necessarily call it difficult. All of the switches and hardware feature non-slip surfaces, which makes it easier to use the various switches and mechanisms in a variety of different conditions.
The reinforced polymer body offers a high-impact resistance, which helps to ensure that your light won’t fail under normal conditions. The light also utilizes patented heat dissipating vents which helps to manage the heat produced by LEDs. The light is waterproof up to 66 feet (however there is not a time frame given for how long it can maintain this depth).
Lastly, the light runs off of two lithium 123A batteries (which are included with the initial purchase). The head of the light removes for battery replacement.
The general consensus of the INFORCE Weapon Light is that it’s one of the lightest lights available for consumer applications that isn’t overly susceptible to breaking from stress. There were complaints of Gen 1 models of this light cracking where the bezel screws into the body, though this complaint has been addressed with the Gen 2 model. It should be noted that because this was an error on the part of INFORCE they did replace the lights.
The only complaint that consistently pops up is that the INFORCE Weapon Light goes through batteries too quickly, though that’s a relative complaint. It really depends on your usage and what you’re using the light for, because for the majority of you it should present a very large issue since most people wouldn’t use this light for more than two hours in one session.
INFORCE products also come with a comprehensive warranty that protects the purchaser of the weapon from manufacturer defects for the lifetime of the original owner. However, for countries with specific limitation on warranty time frames the company has a 10-year warranty. As with most companies, the warranty does not cover damage caused by modification or misuse.
The INFORCE WML x, Weaponlight, Gen 2, Black Finish, Primary White Light does require a high initial investment, but it validates its cost with an ergonomic design and a host of great features.
Unlike a lot of other companies which research new products by taking “inspiration” from other designs, Streamlight has a more hands-on approach. For more than 40 years the company has been performing research by getting out and actually using their products. Members of the staff go through firefighter’s training, they’ve taken courses in low-light shooting, and they take part in outdoor activities. Actually camping, fishing, and shooting with their products allows them to stay a relevant and innovative force in the industry.
If that doesn’t impress you, Streamlight heavily invests into their customers. The company holds focus groups where customer concerns are addressed, and they keep customer feedback in mind when revising or creating their products. The customer service team is also one of the best in the industry, with each member of the team being an expert in their section of the market (they all go through extensive training with the products, which includes working on both the assembly line and the factory service center).
Given the company’s dedication to quality, it’s not surprising that the Streamlight 69260 TLR-1 HL High Lumen Rail Mounted Tactical Light has quickly become one of the premier tactical flashlights in North America.
The most important feature of this light is its shock mounted glass lens. This lens features a TIR optic, which results in a light that’s incredibly focused. The more focused your light’s beam is the brighter it’s going to be.
This light is designed to be flexible in its attachment mechanism, which allows it to be placed on a variety of different firearms. This flexibility is great, because it allows you to switch the light to different guns depending on your needs. If you’re out hunting and you need a light you can take this off your home defense gun for the duration of your trip then replace it when you get home, or you can use it for different trips which require a different gun.
The rails are guaranteed to work with Glock-style firearms, Picatinny, Beretta, S&W 99, and S&W TSW. The Streamlight attaches directly onto any weapon which uses Glock-style and Picatinny rails.
The light also has an ambidextrous switch, which is an all too often ignored feature considering that roughly 10% of the population is left-handed. The light also utilizes a one handed snap-on and tighten configuration, which will come in handy if you find yourself consistently frustrated by stiff or difficult to use mechanisms. This also works to keep your hand away from the muzzle when attaching and detaching your light.
Lastly, the Streamlight is waterproof up to 1-meter (roughly 3.5 feet) for 30-minutes. The light is guaranteed to work from -40 to +120 degrees Fahrenheit. The Streamlight is powered by two included 3V CR123A lithium batteries. There’s also a user programmable strobe light, which can be enabled or disabled separately. The light is also serialized in case of theft and to activate the limited lifetime warranty. Even better, the battery door is also tethered to the light so you won’t ever have to worry about it disappearing on you.
The Streamlight 69260 isn’t built like a tank, tanks are built like the Streamlight 69260. This tactical flashlight is made from aircraft-grade aluminum. It’s the sort of light that if you were to drop it on the floor you’d probably be more worried about your floor than the light itself.
There is also a limited lifetime warranty with all Streamlight products, the terms of which are completely reasonable for this type of product. If you have any concerns about this, we would recommend finding the full warranty on their site (it’s clearly labeled and easy to find, unlike some other sites).
The Streamlight 69260 TLR-1 HL High Lumen Rail-Mounted Tactical Light offers a great value for those of you looking for an incredibly durable and reliable tactical flashlight. If you want a proven dedicated weapon light that constantly receives praise and comes in at a good price for the performance, this is it.
While there’s definitely not a shortage of company’s making high-quality flashlights on the market, there is a shortage that provide an affordable, powerful, and ergonomic product. Flashlights used to be a simple affair, something that was thrown up on a kitchen counter and then forgotten about until the power went out or someone needed to find something outside when it was dark out. It wasn’t a product that most people ever put a lot of thought into, as the utility of various flashlights generally didn’t extend very far.
However, among the many benefits of the internet is that it allows just about any company to exist while filling a niche market. Business ideas that wouldn’t have been commercially viable pre-internet have become fixtures in modern life, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
A good example of a company that probably definitely would not have been as widespread as it currently is without the help of the internet, Fenix Lighting has been producing some of the most powerful yet affordable tactical flashlights on the market for years. Their products have received rave reviews, and they’ve consistently been one of the most popular flashlight manufacturers on various online retailers for years.
No exception to this trend, the Fenix Flashlights FX-PD35TAC Flashlight presents a great value to anyone looking for an astoundingly bright and durable flashlight that won’t break the bank.
The most notable feature of this tactical flashlight is that it packs an impressive 1000 lumen rating in a very diminutive package. This is almost obnoxiously bright for most purposes, so it’s a great choice for someone who spends a lot of time outdoors at night (such as joggers and those of you who go camping or hunting frequently).
The light also allows users to switch between a simple on/off mode and a tactical mode. Switching into tactical mode allows user to select a turbo, strobe, or low output lighting mode. This is an incredibly useful feature, as there are times where a high-output light mode just isn’t necessary. For most indoor applications 1000 lumens of power is going to hurt your more than it will help, because it’s bright enough to be uncomfortable. The FX-PD35TAC features a digital output regulator, which maintains a consistent level of brightness between the various modes. There’s also a digital reminder which will notify you when the battery is running low, which is arguably one of the most useful features on the light.
The Fenix Flashlight comes with reverse-polarity protection, which helps to ensure that the light won’t be damaged should you happen to accidentally place the battery in backwards. As another “smart” feature, the light has a memory lock. The memory lock retains the last setting used with the light, which if you find yourself consistently using the light for the same thing is sure to save you a lot of time and hassle.
The grip of the light is also heavily textured, making it incredibly hard to drop and very unlikely to slip from your hand. Though it may not be a necessary feature for the overall durability of the light, the type III hard anodized finish utilized helps to keep the finish looking new for much longer than just about any other similarly priced product. Apart from the finish, this tactical flashlight is made from aircraft-grade aluminum. While aluminum may not be thought of as an incredibly durable material, it actually does offer a great combination of strength and low weight. The low weight of the light is sure to be a plus if you carry a flashlight every day, as constantly walking around with a heavy and cumbersome tactical flashlight can quickly become tedious.
Fenix Flashlights all come with a limited lifetime warranty, which guarantees against any defects when purchased from retailers. However, normal wear and tear is not covered under this warranty. As always, the warranty does not cover errors made from misuse or modification.
The Fenix Flashlights FX-PD35TAC Flashlight offers a great value for those of you looking for a tactical flashlight that’s both light and easy to maneuver.
SureFire is a living testament to the power of innovation, and the benefits of hard work and determination. The company’s story begins in 1969, when engineer Dr. John Matthews founded the Newport Corporation. Dr. John Matthews had Ph.D. from Cal Tech, and he decided that the future of illumination technology lay in lasers. In order to capitalize on the coming trends he founded the aforementioned Newport Corporation, which developed a series of patents which harnessed the properties of lasers for a variety of different industrial applications.
Though John’s commercial interests centered around lasers, his true passion was firearms. He eventually decided to combine his hobby and his career, and in 1979 he combined a firearm’s site with the laser technology that he pioneered. This was the first time these two technologies had been combined, and the product would quickly go on to become adopted by the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT Team to enhance the force’s security potential during the 1984 Olympic Games.
In the following years the company continued their trend of innovation, paving the way for devices such as weapon-mounted flashlights and commercially viable laser sights (though early laser sights were adopted by law enforcement it was sometime before they became affordable for the general public).
Due to the company’s history, it’s not surprising that the SureFire G2X Series LED has become a quick hit. The question is: How does it stack up to the competition?
The SureFire G2X Series LED Flashlights With Tough Notrolon Body encompasses four different styles. So the price and features vary depending on the exact model. However, each model features at least a 320-lumen rating. The Law Enforcement model features 400-lumens.
Another notable model is the CombatLight, which is intended to be both a tactical flashlight and a self-defense weapon. Be incredibly careful should you choose to purchase this model, and be sure to look up local legislation in your area. Some places have strict regulations on what you can and can’t have for self-defense, so in some situations if you were to defend yourself using this model of the flashlight you may be looking at serious charges.
Apart from the distinctive features of the two aforementioned models, the four lights in this series are generally pretty similar. They all have a textured grip to prevent slippage, a reflector to focus the light’s beam, and a function button (either to turn the light on or to switch it to different modes) located on the flashlight’s butt end. All of the lights also feature a Nitrolon polymer body and an anodized bezel for enhanced durability. The flashlights are all also powered by two SureFire 123A Lithium Batteries Lastly, they’re also waterproof with an O-ring and gasket sealing.
This series of flashlights are aimed more at a mid-tier market. They’re by no means bottom of the barrel cheap, but they don’t have the diverse features or utility of more expensive tactical flashlights. However, according to all reception we could find they have been very well received on their own merits.
All SureFire products come with a “no questions asked” warranty for all non-consumable and non-rechargeable products. The warranty also does not cover normal wear and tear, damage caused from excessive misuses, and any damage caused from alteration and/or unauthorized repair. Essentially, if the error is caused by someone besides the owner from the sounds of their warranty they will most likely cover it.
The SureFire G2X Series LED Flashlights with tough Nitrolon body present a great value to anyone looking for a no-frills yet durable flashlight.
Remember, no matter what method you choose for your tactical needs, practicing with it is key. It is critical that you train with your lighting methods if you expect to use them effectively.