Get Tactical! Best Tactical Flashlight Guide 2016 [19 Lights]

If you are a fireman, police officer, in the military, a survivalist, a hunter, a camper or hiker, you know the importance of having the best tactical flashlight. In any list of tools related to these groups or even people that focus on everyday carry (EDC) you will find a flashlight mentioned. A great flashlight is something that you do not know you need until it is too late. If you start keeping flashlights around you will be surprised at how often you will find yourself reaching for it. From looking for your lost keys to self defense a flashlight is an invaluable tool. Our goal is to educate you and help you sort through all of the options and in the end find the tactical flashlight that fits your needs best, have fun shopping.

Not Much Time? Here Is The Bullet List:

Tactical Handheld Flashlights

Tactical Pistol Light

Tactical Rifle Flashlight

Tactical Headlamp

Tactical Night Vision (IR Light)

Other Tactical Lights

**Below are our more detailed reviews. Click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Before you get started DOWNLOAD the FREE Tactical Flashlight Buyers Guide Checklist PDF. It will help you learn about and decide what flashlight you want!

I Need The Best Tactical Flashlight

The majority of violent crimes happen at night, shine light into the darkness!

The worse thing that could happen is that you or a loved one needs a flashlight and one is not available. Danger lurks in the dark. FBI statistics say that the majority of violent crime happens in the dark. You can light up the world around you by making sure that you carry a high quality flashlight. The lights that we offer here can light up an entire dark alley and make the dark parking lot much safer. These flashlights can be carried with you everyday, most can easily fit in a pocket or in a purse. They can be used as striking devices and temporarily blind somebody that might want to hurt you. They are not like your Grandpa’s old flashlight. These are high intensity flashlights.

I don’t know about you but when I was little my image of a flashlight was a big clunky plastic thing. It had a plastic switch, it took huge batteries and really didn’t put out much light anyway. We kept it in the junk/tool drawer and really it was more junk than tool. The light had huge rings and dark spots in it and the batteries ran out quickly. It worked well enough inside of the house when all of the lights were out but otherwise it was useless.

Recent advancements in lighting technology have taken flashlights to the next level. There are many new types of bulbs but LED technology specifically has taken over the flashlight market. LEDs have enabled flashlights to become smaller in size, put out more light, and use less energy. A trifecta that rarely happens in an industry. You can now carry a flashlight on your keychain that is 10 times brighter than those old flashlights we all remember. The brightest tactical flashlights are well over 1000 lumens.

The beginning of this article is intended for the complete newbie to flashlights and covers what a tactical flashlight is, the anatomy of a flashlight and how to read an ANSI FL1 chart. We will also cover some situations that you might need a nice flashlight and some quick top buying tips to help you shop if you do not have time to read over the entire article. Later in the article we will cover many different aspects of flashlights and get a little geeky for those that are flashaholics or want to learn about more specifics. Feel free to go to any other page while you are researching. Check out the best flashlights by type or take a look at our huge comparison guide with currently over 100 flashlights (and growing) or read through our reviews. Happy reading.

What Is A Tactical Flashlight?

To properly describe what a tactical flashlight is we need to first define the word tactical.

Tac-ti-cal: of, relating to, or used for a specific plan that is created to achieve a particular goal in war, politics, etc. -merriam-webster

When we are talking about tactical flashlights we are focusing on the idea of winning in a warfare/combat situation. They are made to work when you need them, when your life may be on the line. For this reason they have much higher quality standards and are built with better materials than the typical flashlight. Most use aircraft grade aluminum, are shock proof so they can be mounted to weapons, they have some level of waterproofing, and they are small. In short, they are very durable.

Tactical flashlights are usually very bright since being able to see is a key part of being able to succeed in most situations. Also, over a certain level of brightness can temporarily blind a person which is very useful for self-defense. Levels of brightness are measured in Lumens, check out our brightest flashlight article. The most common bulb used in modern tactical flashlights is the LED, there are also incandescent and xenon bulbs which have their pluses but they will be much harder to find. Some advantages to LEDs are that they are rated for 50000 hours of life which is over 5 years of continuous use and since there is no filament it is more shock resistant.

Parts of a Tactical Flashlight

Parts Of A Flashlight

Parts of A Flashlight 2

ANSI FL1 Standards

Up until recently there has not been any kind of standard in the flashlight industry, the ANSI FL1 standards even the playing field for all torch producers. Learning how to read the standards sheets put out by most manufacturers is important to help you find the best tactical flashlight.

ANSI FL1 Standard Light OutputLight Output: This is a Lumens rating that shows the total amount of light that comes out of the front of the flashlight.

ANSI FL1 Standard Run TimeRun Time: This is the amount of time it will take for light to get to 10% of its initial output. An example would be that if a flashlight started at 100 Lumens this is the length of time of continuous light that it would take to get down to 10 Lumens.

ANSI FL1 Standard Beam DistanceBeam Distance: This is the measurement in meters of the distance at which the intensity of the beam reaches 0.25 lux which is the approximated amount of light of a full moon on a clear night.

ANSI FL1 Standard Peak Beam IntensityPeak Beam Intensity: Measured in Candela this is the brightest point in the beam. Where Lumens tell how much light is coming out of the light in total Candela measures how bright the brightest point of the beam is.

ANSI FL1 Standard Impact ResistanceImpact Resistance: Measured in meters this indicates the height that you could drop a flashlight from onto concrete and it still work properly. The light can also not have any cracks or breaks in it.

ANSI FL1 Standard Water ResistanceWater Resistance: There are three levels of water resistance that are found, those are IPX4, IPX7, and IPX8.

IPX4: A flashlight with this rating has been tested to perform under the condition of splashing water.

IPX7: A flashlight with this rating has been tested to perform submerged to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

IPX8: A flashlight with this rating has been tested to perform submerged deeper than 1 meter for up to 4 hours.

Why Would You Want To Carry A Tactical Flashlight

Aside from a pocket knife, the most useful tool that you could carry is a flashlight. Even if you are never going to use a flashlight for self-defense a quality torch can be used for countless things. Here are a few situations when having a good tactical flashlight would be nice.

Self-Defense

As mentioned earlier modern tactical flashlights are designed to give someone an advantage in a combat situation. The hard anodized aluminum can be used as a striking tool, many flashlights come with crenulated bezels that are shaped in a way that would help you to both break windows and faces. Also, just holding something in your hand will make your fists more devastating. Next, the high lumens make it so you can temporarily blind any would be attacker which could give you time to escape. If you mix together the ability to blind someone with the added striking force that you get from a tactical flashlight you have a dominating combination, imagine the devastation caused by hitting somebody in the face with the Surefire P2X Fury Defender. As a small warning though, if you are not a trained fighter it is always better to use the temporary blindness as added time to get away.

Identify Things In The Dark

This is the main purpose of any flashlight. If you have a flashlight with you you will have peace of mind that any dark alley or parking lot can be illuminated. Some of the lights that we have here can illuminate things over a football field away. You no longer need to worry what might be hiding in the dark.

Emergency/Survival

Emergencies might mean that a natural disaster has knocked out the power or that someone is trying to shoot up the place. Having a light to see things in the dark or blind someone is invaluable. Also, in a survival or rescue situation the most important thing is to be found. Any kind of signal could be the difference between life and death. Some flashlights like the Eagletac D25C come with dedicated SOS and Beacon flashing modes for this specific purpose.

Just Finding Stuff

I don’t know about you but I lose things all of the time, under the couch, under the bed, behind the desk, behind the dresser, etc… You know what I mean. You do not even know how many times you will be glad that you had a flashlight with you. Hey, a flashlight might even make it so you are not late for work when you are looking for your keys all over the place.

Top 5 Buying Tips For Finding The Best Tactical Flashlight

For the people that do not have time right now to read all of the material on this site, here is a quick and dirty summary of the top 5 things to look for to ensure that you are getting a quality product. Some of you may have specific requirement that would make these tips change but for the general public and for the EDC enthusiast that is not a flashaholic these are some easy guidelines.

    1. Budget: You get what you pay for so unless it is a keychain flashlight or penlight most decent torches will start around $25-$30.
    2. Size: If you are buying a EDC flashlight how big can you comfortably have with you all of the time. Otherwise if you are not keeping it with you all of the time how much space do you have to store it?
    3. Power Source: Do you want disposable or rechargeable batteries? And, do you want a standard size battery (easy to find) or a special battery (more power)?
    4. How Much Light: It takes at least 60-100 lumens to cause temporary blindness.
    5. Durability: I would go with type III hard anodized aircraft grade aluminum with a LED bulb that is rated to at least IPX7 waterproofing.

Tactical Light Buyers Guide

Tactical Handheld Flashlights

Handheld tactical lights are designed to be extremely durable, as they need to stand up to some of the harshest conditions. To ensure that they can stand up to the worst conditions most manufacturers are going to use weapon-grade aluminum for the body along with a textured grip. The better grip allows you to use the light as a striking tool without worrying about it slipping out of your grasp. Top quality handheld lights are small enough that they can be easily carried around for everyday use. The smaller size also allows you to easily operate the light with one hand leaving your other hand free for other tasks.

Handheld tactical lights are some of the brightest ones out there. Handheld tactical lights need to be bright enough to light up a dark room, but they also might need to temporarily blind a potential suspect.  A handheld tactical light is something that you want to be able to depend on at all times, you want to know that your light is going to work in a life or death situation.

Best Handheld Tactical Flashlight:

Elzetta Bones

The first thing that you are going to notice with the Elzetta Bones handheld tactical light is that it is a very simple flashlight. As the manufacturer claims it is a no frills light, it is probably one of the most straightforward flashlights currently on the market. The Elzetta Bones light lives up to the performance and durability of the Elzetta line and it is quite close in comparison to the SureFire Fury P2X. Part of Elzetta’s marketing campaign shows them hamming in nails with the flashlight and the flashlight is fine. One of the big reasons that these flashlights can handle so much shock is that all of the electronics are fully potted. Although these two lights offer the bare minimum in terms of flashlights they are ones that we know we can rely on in a life or death situation. If you are not happy with the bare minimum options both Elzetta and SureFire offer other models that include more features, but they do have a higher price tag.

The Elzetta Bones uses two CR123A batteries, but can also use a 18650 rechargeable battery. The batteries provide enough power to generate a steady 650 lumens. The light features a 7/8 inch thick lens with no reflector, which helps provide the best throw and spill. The beam quality is really something that you have to see to fully appreciate. In keeping with the no frills the light is simple to use. You simply turn it on via a push button switch.

  • Weight: 6.0 oz
  • Dimensions: 5.5 inches long and 1.45 inch diameter
  • Output: 650 lumens for 90 minutes

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Best Combo Tactical Flashlight:

First Light T-Max

first-light-t-maxThe First Light T-Max is not like any other tactical light that you have seen before and it is one that we strongly feel needs to be something that more people are using. This light falls somewhere in between a handheld tactical light and a pistol light. The First Light T-Max doesn’t mount onto a pistol like a regular pistol light, but it still allows you to keep both hands on the gun at all times. How the First Light T-Max works is through a Finger Loop that is installed in a straightforward position. With the Finger Loop you simply place your index finger through the loop and your thumb is used to control the switches on top. The light is placed just below the barrel of your pistol, so your remaining fingers can aid in holding your weapon. The T-Max can also be mounted on MOLLE-equipped gear.

With the T-Max users can experience a maximum of 700 lumens of bright white light, which works rather well with the disorienting strobe mode. The T-Max also features a lock-out mode that is designed to prevent accidental activation saving your precious battery life. Constant-On mode offers users the choice between three different intensity levels, just remember the higher the intensity levels the faster the shorter the battery life. To access the different intensity levels you will use your thumb to control the cycle control button. Momentary-On is accessed via the Momentary Control button located below the Control and Cycle Control buttons. The T-Max also features a low battery indicator to alert you when the battery is running out. The T-Max will automatically limit its output level based on battery life.

  • Weight: 5.9 oz
  • Dimensions: 2.4 inches long x 3.4 inches high x 1.5 inches wide
  • Output: 700 lumens for 2 hours

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Budget Handheld Tactical Flashlight:

SureFire G2X LE

The Surefire G2X LE was specifically designed to meet the needs of law enforcement officers, making it one of the better tactical flashlights on the market. The G2X LE is an improvement on the G2X Pro as it offers a higher lumen output than the original model. The G2X LE offers two output levels: high and low. High offers a blinding 400 lumens on the first click, while low offers 15 lumens that requires two clicks. Highest setting offers users the maximum amount of light, while the lowest settings ensures a longer battery life from the 4 CR123A batteries required to power the light.

The entire light is controlled via a dual-output tailcap switch. This is beneficial for those life or death situation that law enforcement often finds themselves in because it provides instant access to the brightest light when you need it most, giving you a momentary advantage. The G2X is as durable as it is useful as it is made from a Nitrolon polymer body that offers a secure grip. The light uses O-rings and gaskets to seal against moisture and dust, so it will work in any environment. The high performance LED used in the G2X LE is practically indestructible and its parabolic reflector improves the beams reach.

  • Weight: 4.4 oz w/batteries
  • Dimensions: 5.20 inches long and 1.25 inch diameter
  • Lowest Output: 15 lumens for 45 hours
  • Highest Output” 400 lumens for 2.25 hours

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Tactical Flashlight For Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft:

Nitecore P20

The Nitecore P20 features a CREE XM-L2 (T6) LED that has a peak beam intensity of 11,000 candelas with a throw distance of 688 feet. This premium LED allows the P20 to offer users three different modes: tactical, general, and law enforcement, as well as a strobe mode. Each of the three modes provide different brightness levels allowing for this light to be effectively used in a variety of non-life threatening situations. While we do not recommend this light for life or death situations it does provide quick and easy access to the strobe mode via the strobe ready button.

As tactical lights are supposed to be easy to use Nitecore offers users a dual-switch tail cap, which is said to be ideal for tactical applications as it is designed for one handed operation. The top switch provides users with the ability to power the light on or off, as well as access the different modes. The bottom switch is the strobe ready button and a simply push provides you with instant strobe no matter what mode you were previously in. The Nitecore P20 can be powered by a single 18650 battery or two CR123 batteries, what batteries used will affect the lumen output and runtime.

  • Weight: 3.56 oz
  • Dimensions: 5.28 inches and 1.25 inch diameter
  • Lowest Output: 40 lumens for 26 hours
  • Highest Output:  800 lumens for 4 hours and 30 minutes

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Tactical Pistol Light

A pistol light, which can also be referred to as a handgun light, is a tactical light that mounts directly to our handgun via a Picatinny or Weaver rail. Pistol lights are an excellent tool, but they must be chosen with care. As a true tactical light you want to know that you can count on your pistol light working when you need it, especially in one of those life or death situations. One thing you must keep in mind with your pistol light is that where you are pointing the light you are also pointing the pistol. With that being said these lights should only be used in situations where your gun is already out!

As a tactical light you don’t want just any old pistol light, you want something that is durable. You need your pistol light to stand up to numerous bullets being fired from your handgun; you don’t want something that is going to fall apart after only a few rounds. Pistol lights can be mounted directly below the barrel or they can be mounted onto the side via an offset mount, which one you choose will depend on you. Pistol lights often come with a tail cap switch, but high quality ones will provide you with the ability to switch the tail cap switch for a pressure switch.

Best Tactical Pistol Light:

SureFire X300 Ultra

The SureFire X300 Ultra high performance LED is powered by two high-energy CR123A batteries that will emit 600 lumens for an hour and a half. The X300 Ultra features a newer mounting system that uses a T-slot mounting system with a T-slot mounting rail and tightening screw. This newer mounting system allows users to mount the X300 Ultra to both long guns and hand guns quickly and securely.

What makes the X300 Ultra the best tactical pistol light aside from its extreme durability is its ambidextrous switch that makes activation a breeze. The switch is now wider and shorter than you have seen on previous models, but it is still located at the rear of the light to allow for easy one-handed operation. Remote activation using a DG grip for handguns or a XT tape switch for long guns is also available.

Now if you are looking for a pistol light with a laser, but you really like the SureFire X300 Ultra you need to check out the X400 Ultra as it has many of the same features as the X300 Ultra, but comes with a red or green laser. You can also check out our Pistol Light Buyers Guide for our light recommendations for different sized pistols.

  • Weight: 4 oz. w/batteries
  • Dimensions: 3.6 inches long and 1.125 inch diameter
  • Output: 600 lumens for 1.5 hours

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Budget Tactical Pistol Light:

Streamlight TLR-1 HL

The Streamlight TLR-1 HL is a shining example of the high quality lights manufactured by Streamlight. The TLR-1 HL comes in three different colors and is constructed from machined aluminum with a black anodized finish. The light itself is completely sealed earning it an IPX rating of 7, which allows it to be used both indoors and outdoors. If you opt for the Streamlight TLR-1 HL and currently have a holster that allows for a light bearing pistol you will not need to purchase a new one, as the TLR-1 HL is constructed to fit into all light bearing holsters.

A C4 LED is powered by two CR123A batteries and can emit 800 lumens with a peak beam intensity of 15,000 candelas. With a pistol light how far the beam reaches is important and with the TLR-1 HL you will be able to see up to 800 feet away thanks to the concentrated beam provided by the TIR lens. The TLR-1 HL comes equipped to mount directly to any handgun with glock-style rails, but can also be mounted to Picatinny rails. The TLR-1 Hl is designed for hand guns but Streamlight offers a kit for long guns that must be purchased separately.

For those of you that prefer to have a laser light combo and you really like what the Streamlight TLR-1 HL is offering there is good news. Streamlight makes two other models of the TLR-1 they come with all of the same features and quality as the TLR-1 HL, but they have an added laser. The TLR-2 HL comes with a red laser, while the TLR-2 HL G comes with a green laser. You can check out our Best Pistol Light article for a more detailed review of those two lights.

  • Weight: 4.18 oz w/out batteries
  • Dimensions: 3.39 inches long and 1.47 inch diameter
  • Output: 800 lumens for 1.75 hours

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Pistol Light For Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft:

Aimkon HiLight P5S

The Aimkon will fit on the majority of the subcompact pistols on the market, but it will also fit on several full sized pistols. The Aimkon HiLight P5S utilizes a quick release mount system to attach to your weapon. The P5S comes equipped with two distinct modes: constant on and strobe, as well as a red laser for aiming purposes.

While all of this might sound great we strongly discourage you from using the Aimkon HiLight P5S in life or death situations. Yes the pistol light is made to mount a on pistol, but that doesn’t mean you can rely on it for life threatening situations. The quality and durability is nowhere near the same as pistol lights made by SureFire and Streamlight. This pistol light is one that should only be used for target practice or even on airsoft guns.

  • Weight: 2 oz. w/out battery
  • Dimensions: 3 inches long and 1 inch diameter
  • Output: 400 lumens for 45 minutes

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Tactical Rifle Flashlight

Rifle flashlights are very similar to pistol lights; they are both designed to be mounted onto your weapon to provide you with light while keeping both hands on your gun. The difference between these two weapon lights is what kind of weapon they are mounted too. Pistol lights for the most part are designed to be mounted to pistols or handguns, although some of these lights feature kits that allow them to be mounted to long guns. Rifle flashlights are not designed to be mounted to the smaller guns, these lights are designed to be mounted to the longer style guns like rifles and they will typically be able to use a pressure switch.

One of the great things about rifle flashlights is that all of them currently on the market use LED emitters, so they usually exceed the minimum 50 lumens needed to disorient a person’s night vision. With lumens not being a concern the other things that you need to look at when selecting a rifle flashlight are how reliable the light is, how much output it has and what kind of beam distance it will provide, how easy it is to operate, and how small and lightweight the light really is.

Best Tactical Rifle Flashlight:

SureFire M600IB Scout Light

The SureFire M600IB Scout Light ranks as the best rifle flashlight for a variety of reasons with its IntelliBeam Technology being one of them. This technology uses an intelligent sensor coupled with a microprocessor system to constantly evaluate the area where the beam is being aimed. Based on the data collected the light output will automatically be adjusted anywhere between 100 to 600 lumens enabling you to always have the right amount of light for the job you are doing. The M600IB is made from hard-anodized aluminum and utilizes a high performance LED that is considered to be practically indestructible. The light mounts onto MIL-STD-1913 rails using a thumbscrew mount.

The M600IB Scout comes equipped with a clicky type tail-cap switch. The clicky switch can be partially pressed down to use the momentary on feature or fully press the switch to activate the constant-on feature. Full tactical mode, which is a bright 600 lumens, is activated by going from off to on again within one second of each other. SureFire also minimizes the chance of accidental activation by shrouding the switch. Now the M600IB doesn’t come with a pressure switch, but you can purchase one separately and we strongly recommend that you do. For the M600IB we recommend the SureFire DS07 Remote/Pushbutton Switch Tail Assembly.

  • Weight: 6.2 oz w/batteries
  • Dimensions: 5.8 inches long and 1.37 inch diameter
  • Lowest Output: 100 lumens for 5 hours
  • Highest Output: 600 lumens for 1.5 hours

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Budget Tactical Rifle Flashlight:

Streamlight 88059 ProTac Railmount 2L Gun Light

With the ProTac Railmount 2L you will be able to mount the light to ay Picatinny rails with its dedicated fixed mount, which is a fixed rail grabber with thumbscrew mount.  This specific light is a part of the Streamlight’s 6000 series, so like other lights in its series it is constructed from machined aircraft aluminum with an anodized finish. To add to its durability the ProTac Railmount 2L utilizes an impact resistant BOROFLOAT lens to protect the C4 LED that can emit up to 625 lumens for a period of 2 hours using two CR123A batteries. This light currently has two IPX ratings depending on what switch is used to control the light. With the tail switch the ProTac Railmount 2L has an IPX7 rating, while the pressure switch drops down to an IXP4.

The ProTac Railmount 2L utilizes Streamlight’s TEN-Tap Programming and provides users with the choice of three different operating modes. With the ProTac Railmount 2L users can choose high/strobe mode, high mode, or low/high mode. The strobe option is ideal for signaling for help or disorienting a potential attacker. The rifle light is controlled  via a multi-function tactical tail switch that is designed for one handed operation. The ProTac Railmount 2L also comes with a dual remote pressure switch that can be used in place of the tactical tail switch, as well as remote retaining clips.

  • Weight: 5 ounces w/batteries
  • Dimensions: 5 inches long and 1.20 inch diameter
  • Lowest Output: 60 lumens for 21 hours
  • Highest Output: 625 lumens for 2 hours

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Rifle Flashlight For Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft:

Nitecore CG6 Hunting Kit

One of the first things you need to realize is that no matter how amazing this light kit sounds, we do not recommend it for any kind of tactical situations. Nitecore does make high quality lights, but we feel that the NiteCore CG6 Hunting Kit is more geared for playing rather than in life or death situations. One of the great things about this hunting kit is just how much stuff it comes with. Inside the CG6 Hunting Kit you are going to find the light that provides users with green and white light, as well as a i2 charger, NL183 battery, RSW1 remote switch, a tactical ring, lanyard, holster, car adapter, NFR40 Red Filter, weapon mount, and a survival keychain light.

The Chameleon CG6 light offers users bright and focused dual beams. The white beam can reach up to 440 lumens for a distance of 624 feet, while the green light can emit up to 185 lumens for a distance of 558 feet. The white light option offers users the choice between five modes, while the green light option comes with three different brightness levels. The CG6 offers two special modes: strobe and emergency police warning light. The rifle mounting kit that comes with the CG6 kit comes with a rail mount and a barrel mount option, as well as a high clearance scope mount and a remote pressure switch. Whether you are using the dual mode switch or the remote pressure switch the light is easy to activate and the dual beams are controlled independently. The CG6 features a power indicator light to alert you to battery power levels and will also remind you when it is time to recharge the battery.

  • Weight: 4.87 oz. w/out battery
  • Dimensions: 5.63 inches long and 1.57 inch diameter
  • Lowest Output: 25 lumens for 32 hours
  • Highest Output: 440 lumens for 1 hour and 45 minutes

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Tactical Headlamp

Headlamps are a great choice for those who are looking for 100% hands free lighting. The main purpose of a headlamp is to direct the entire amount of light to a specific area, which is why the lamp of the light is usually worn in the center of the head. When choosing a headlamp the amount of lumens is going to tell you how bright the light is, but the beam distance is what you really want to pay attention to. The beam distance is going to tell you how just how far your headlamp is going to be able to produce useable light.

Another important aspect is the beam type. With head lamps you have three basic choices: flood, spot, or adjustable. Flood lamps are ideal for close up repair work or ordinary outdoor tasks. Flood lamps are used when light doesn’t need to reach long distances. Spot lamps are best for hiking, climbing, and other similar activities because the beam is ideal for lighting up things in the distance. Adjustable headlamps offer the best of both worlds, as they provide you with both a flood and spot option, so you have the right kind of beam when you need it most. For tactical use we feel that a headlamp must have a red light since red is the best color to retain night vision and many times you will use your headlamp just to read something quickly.

Best Tactical Headlamp:

Princeton Tec Remix Pro MPLS

We recommend the Princeton Tec Remix Pro MPLS as the best tactical headlamp for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is it is the lightest and brightest in the Princeton’s series. The Remix Pro MPLS features a fully adjustable mounting system so you can adapt the light for any situation. The light comes equipped with an adjustable head strap that can be worn around the head or over a helmet. The headlamp attaches to the head strap and a MOLLE via a bracket, but also comes with a NVG adapter plate to mount the light to a helmet.

The Princeton Tec Remix Pro MPLS provides users with 100 lumens using 1 Maxbright LED, which is made up of 3 regulated Ultrabright LEDs. The light itself is powered by a single CR123 lithium battery, which comes with the light upon purchase and can be accessed without taking the light apart. As with any type of tactical light ease of use is important. The Remix Pro MPLS starts up with the red LED first, but switching to the other modes is relatively simple. Accidental activation is always an issue when storing lights, so the MPLS features a raised fence around the button to prevent this from happening. The light itself can also fully rotate inward making it impossible to accidentally turn on.

  • Weight: 2.32 oz. w/battery
  • Output: 100 lumens for 40 hours

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Budget Tactical Headlamp:

Petzl Tactikka +

With the Petzl Tactikka + you can rest assured that you are going to have the right amount of light when you need it. The Tactikka offers constant lighting, which means  the brightness of the light is never going to decrease as the batteries start to lose power. The Tactikka +can use rechargeable lithium and Ni-MH batteries, but it does require 3 AAA batteries or LR03 batteries to run. Once the batteries hit a certain point the light will automatically go into reserved mode, which will only allow for 5 lumens to be emitted. Once the batteries are pretty much drained the light will switch from a white light to a red light to conserve power.

Petzl designed this headlamp for activities that require stealth, such as hunting. The Tactikka offers both red and white light, which allows you to walk in the dark without alerting anything nearby and it ensures you don’t destroy your night vision with a burst of unwanted white light. The headlamp utilizes a mixed beam that combines a wide base with a focused component to provide you with the lighting you need based on the conditions you are in. The different lighting modes can be accessed through a push button that can even be used while wearing gloves. BOOST mode offers you temporary access to a burst of 160 lumens of white light when needed.

  • Weight: 2.99 oz.
  • Lowest Output: 5 lumens for 100 hours
  • Highest Output: 110 lumens for 2 hours

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Headlamp for Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft:

Princeton Tec Fred

The Princeton Tec Fred headlamp was designed because of the huge increase in demand for red lighting. People who use headlamps in the outdoors for a variety of activities prefer the red lighting as it doesn’t destroy their night vision when turned on. The Fred was modeled after the FUEL series of headlamps, but unlike the Fuel series the Fred swapped out a white LED for a red LED. The Fred always turns on in low mode, which is the red LED, so as not to blind you or those around you. You will have to manually switch the modes to enable the 3 white LEDS via the easy to use button. Switching between modes requires you to simply hold down the button for 1.5 seconds.

The Fred requires three AAA batteries to run, but these batteries can be regular alkaline or they can be rechargeable. These three batteries are responsible for powering the 3 White Ultrabright LEDS, as well as the Red Ultrabright LED. The Fred offers users the ability to switch between four different output modes that allow for a range of lumens and run times. While this headlamp might seem to offer everything you would need for a tactical situation it is not one we would recommend you rely on for life or death situations. The light does not rotate, as other headlamps do, to move the light you have to move our head and this light cannot be mounted to anything other than the headband it comes with.

  • Weight: 2.75 oz
  • Output: 45 lumens for 180 hours

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Tactical Night Vision

Night vision devices are a must have for tactical situations because sometimes you just have to be able to see in the dark. Some handheld tactical light, as well as several weapon mounted lights, come with infrared modes to help preserve your night vision, but some situations call for straightforward night vision devices, such as monocular and goggles. When looking at night vision devices you need to consider the generation grade levels as this affects their overall performance. Obviously the newer the generation the better the technology is going to be, but that doesn’t always mean a Gen 3 is going to be better than a Gen 2, you always have to look at everything that the product has to offer.

In this article we only cover two night vision devices: monocular and goggles. Monoculars are night vision devices that provide no magnification and use a single eye unit. In many cases these style of night vision devices are the most versatile of them all, as they can be worn on the head or even mounted to the front of a rifle scope. How monocular devices can be used will depend on the brand and model purchased. Goggles allow for both eyes to be used when viewing, but like monoculars they do not provide any kind of magnification. Goggles can be head mounted and come in two different styles. The first style is single image tube with two eye pieces, while the other is a dual image tube with two eye pieces. One of the great things about goggle style night vision devices is how natural they feel when you first start wearing them, they don’t take much getting used to at all.

Best Tactical Night Vision Goggles (IR Light):

Armasight Nyx-7 Pro Bravo Gen 3

Before we get too involved in looking at what the Armasight Nyx-7 Pro Bravo Gen 3 has to offer we want you to know that this light meets our minimum requirements to be used in life threatening situations. In all honesty there are higher end products out there that far exceed what this one has to offer, in fact, the Gen 4 of this same model is currently the best product available. The Gen 3 meets minimum requirements for high quality tactical use at a little bit lower of a price, so we feel that it is a good fit for our review.

The Armasight Nyx-7 Pro Bravo Gen 3 is an extremely durable and rugged bi-ocular night vision goggle. The Bravo Gen 3 uses simple, but very reliable electronics and the highest grade optics to provide you with clear and bright images through night vision. The Bravo Gen 3 can be 100% hands free if worn on the included flip-up head mount, but can also be a hand-held night vision device if you need to engage in long range observation. These goggles are powered by a single CR123 or an ordinary AA battery that provides up to 60 hours of use. The goggles are water and fog resistant and come with easy to operate controls. The auto brightness feature and the built-in infrared illuminators are just an added bonus.

  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Dimensions: 6.4 inches x 4.7 inches x 2.4 inches
  • Run Time: 60 hours

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Budget Tactical Night Vision Goggles (IR Light):

ATN NVG7-2 Gen 2+

The ATN NVG7-2 Gen 2+ is a great choice for those of you that are looking for a hands free style night vision goggle. The NVG7 offers a rugged design, so you can rest assured that it is going to hold up to a numerous uses. Being that you are going to be wearing these goggles on your head the last thing you want is something heavy and clunky, so coming in at only 1.1 pounds the NVG7 offers you a lightweight design, so you will barely even realize they are there. These night vision goggles are powered by a single CR123 battery that will run for about 60 hours before needing to be replaced.

One of the great things about the NVG7 is that it can be used in zero light operations thanks to its wide angle IR illuminator. The goggles can be converted to 3X, 5X, or 10X binoculars, but you must have the optional lenses. The NVG7 features an auto brightness ability, as well as a bright source shut off. The only downfall to these tactical night vision goggles is that they are a Gen 2, which means the images that you are seeing are not going to be as clear as they would be with a Gen 3 or 4 model. However, that doesn’t change the fact that these goggles are a high quality product manufactured by a very reputable company.

  • Weight: 1.1 lbs
  • Dimensions: 6.3 inches x 6 inches x 3 inches
  • Runtime: 60 hours

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Best Tactical Night Vision Monocular (IR Light):

ATN NVM 14-3 Gen 3 Monocular

What makes the ATN NVM 14-3 Gen 3 the best tactical night vision monocular in our opinion is how versatile it is, as well as its amazing features. The NVM 14-3 can be used for a variety of different tasks, including driving and administering first aid, in addition to so many other things. With the NVM you can pretty much go about your normal daytime tasks, but in the dark. The NVM can be used as a handheld device, a head or helmet mounted device, or even mounted on a weapon. The NVM can be vertically adjusted by using the head straps; it can also offers a fore and aft adjustment. The NVM also offers objective lens focus and eyepiece focus.

The Automatic Brightness Adjustment system on the NVM 14-3 is a nice feature to have as it ensures that the IIT brightness level remains steady no matter the conditions. With the Automatic Protective System the NVM is able to control the current illumination automatically, plus the Monocular will shut off on its own if lx levels go higher than 100 to 300 lx within 10 minutes. The NVM features a monocular optical system that is made up of an objective lens, an eyepiece, and an Image Intensifier Tube. The eyepiece itself is home to a red and green indicator light. The green light warns of excessive brightness, while the red is a low battery warning and a IR illuminator indicator.

  • Weight: 9.92 ounces
  • Dimensions: 4.7 inches x 1.9 inches x 2.7 inches
  • Runtime: 60 hours

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Budget Tactical Night Vision Monocular (IR Light):

ATN Spirit MP-2 Monocular

The ATN Spirit MP-2 Monocular is a perfect choice for night vision monoculars for those who are currently working on tactical law enforcement teams, as well as elite military personnel. In all honesty the Spirit MP-2 can also be used by ordinary citizens, but it is a something that is of high quality and is made for true tactical situations. The ATN Spirit MP-2 can be attached to a helmet or even a weapon, it can also be used as a head mounted device or a handheld device and is perfect for doing a variety of daytime tasks in the dark of night.The MP-2 is powered by a single CR123A battery that will allow you to effectively use the monoculars for a period of 60 hours before needing replacement.

One thing that the Spirit MP-2 offers is Total Darkness technology. This technology comes with a infrared light emitting source that is built into the monocular itself. This technology allows you to use the device even when there is a lack of ambient light. Like many other ATN models the Spirit MP-2 also comes with LED indicator lights, automatic brightness control, and a bright light cut off. Most IR laser aiming devices, as well as illuminating devices, are completely compatible with the Spirit MP-2, which only adds to its versatility. It is the advanced technology used in the ATN Spirit MP-2 that gives you the tactical advantage when using it in a tactical situation.

  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Dimensions: 6 inches x 3 inches x 2.25 inches
  • Runtime: 60 hours

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Other Tactical Lights

Most categories of tactical lights are focused on a style of flashlight, whether it is a headlamp, helmet mount, or goggle style light; they all look and act similar to a flashlight. All of the above mentioned lights are great tools to use in a variety of tactical situations, but sometimes you need something a little bit different to get the job done. In this section we want to introduce you to other tactical lights that you might find useful to have on hand.

One thing that you might notice based on the lights that we have chosen for this article is that tactical lights provide you with advantage during tactical situations. In some cases the burst of light helps disorient an adversary while other times the infrared light allows you to maneuver through a room without giving away your position or destroying your night vision. The lights included in this category of our article are no different. These lights provide you with a tactical advantage, but what advantage they provide will vary.

Best Tactical Light Ball:

Brite Strike RID-3

The Brite Strike RID-3 is not a replacement for a flashbang, but they were designed by police officers to be a distraction and disorientation device. Brite Strike RID-3 doesn’t require any special training to use and they are an excellent alternative to flashbangs. One reason why they are such a good alternative to flashbangs is they can be used to gain entry into an unsafe room that contains flammable material.

Brite Strike RID-3s are small, lightweight ball balls that are expertly weighted to ensure they spin and wobble when they are tossed into a room. As the ball rolls across the floor or when it first hits the floor it will spin and wobble with its two white LEDs shining brightly. Once the ball stops wobbling and spinning the light will be facing up allowing the person in the room to be perfectly backlight. The spinning and wobbling light distracts the person in the room, giving you the perfect opportunity to make your move. Brite Strike RID-3 does not feature a strobe option, as you don’t want to be blinded by the strobe when you walk into the room. The spin and wobble feature works similar to a strobe without having any disorientating effect on you. Note, these do not strobe.

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Hands Free Reading:

QuiqLiteX (Red/White)

The QuiqLiteX is probably the smallest, yet brightest concealable hands free light in the industry. At only 3 inches long and with a diameter of 0.9 inches this light will easily fit into most shirt pockets. Lumen output is often a concern with smaller lights, but the QuiqLiteX emits anywhere from 20 to 75 lumens. When first activated the light will only produce 20 lumens as to not destroy your night vision, but if you need more light the X boost button will increase the white LED to 75 lumens.

Like other QuiqLite models this light comes equipped with an anti-glare visor and a 10 minute auto shut off feature. The removable magnetic clip rotates a full 360 degrees, while the adjustable arm light is adjustable up to 180 degrees, but is always aimed down to keep the light away from your face.

The QuiqLiteX features dual LEDs that are independently activated. The Red/White configuration is perfect for concealing your current location, while maintaining your night vision. The white only configuration is for normal reading when light output is of no concern, while the red LED is ideal for up close work at night. The light features four distinct modes: normal operation, tactical mode, super bright mode, and strobe mode.

  • Weight: 1.4 oz. w/batteries and clip
  • Dimensions: 3 inches long and 0.9 inch diameter
  • Lowest Output: 20 lumens for 15 hours
  • Highest Output: 75 lumens for 5 hours

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Flashlights 101 – Introductory Course

So, you are thinking “I need a flashlight!” If you are seriously shopping for a tactical flashlight before you start looking at reviews and comparison guides it might be good to be educated about flashlights. check out this really great video that outlines the key parts of a flashlight. Then we will go into a checklist of options and considerations that you need to make in order to find the tactical flashlight that will best fit your needs. Please take the time to download and print our free tactical flashlight buyer guide checklist so you can follow along. This guide was specially designed to help you make your decisions.

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What is your budget?

There are handheld and mountable flashlights that range in price from $10-$500. You need to first decide on how much money you want to spend. In most cases you get what you pay for with flashlights. If you are looking for a penlight or a keychain flashlight you can find decent quality under $25 dollars but the majority of the other torches will require you spend a little more to get the quality you are looking for.

In our comparison guides you can filter or sort by cost ($)

$ means less than $40

$$ means $40 – $80

$$$ means $80 – $120

$$$$ means $120 – $160

$$$$$ means more than $160

What Type of Flashlight Do You Want?

There are three main types of flashlights. Each type of flashlight is made for a specific purpose and way to carry. There are the standard handheld flashlights, headlamps, weapon lights. Some manufacturers make adapters that can change one type of light into another to increase the value of their products.

Handheld Flashlight: These are the flashlights that we all think about when we think of flashlights.

Headlamp: Headlamps are light that you wear over your head that allow you to be hands free. For things like camping an hiking these flashlight are ideal. It is much easier to use the restroom in the middle of the night with a headlamp on as opposed to a handheld light, and you really wouldn’t want to use a weapon light for this.

Weapon Lights: This other type of flashlight is specifically designed to be mounted to a pistol or a long gun. An example of a dedicated weapon light is the SureFire X300 Ultra. The two main types of mounting rails are the Weaver rail and the Picatinny rail. The Picatinny rail is the new of the two standards and typically Weaver accessories will fit on a Picatinny rail but not vice-versa. The other type of mounts that are used for shotguns and rifles without a rail system simply squeeze around both the barrel and the flashlight by tightening a screw.

Hybrid/Mount Adapter: A few handheld flashlight manufacturers like Nitecore blur the lines between these two formats by making mounting adapters that perfectly fit their handheld lights.

Just like any product, dedicated weapon lights fulfill the job a better than handhelds matched with an adapter but they are also single task devices. You might want the flexibility of a flashlight that can serve both purposes. One thing that I would stay away from are none manufacturer mounting adapters or general purpose mounting adapters that claim to work with all flashlights. With all of the stress and movement that happens with guns you want something that fits completely flush and has no wiggle room.

What Kind Of Light & How Much Do You Need?

Currently on this site we only cover flashlights that use LED bulbs. As we expand we will have incandescent options. Incandescent bulbs are both replaceable and give off better color but currently most manufacturers are making new flashlights with LEDs due to their lifespan and the fact that they are mostly shock proof.

Light Color Temperature: By what kind of light we are talking about the color of light, some manufacturers give options for slight tints in the lights that they sell. Scientifically this is called the color temperature of the light which is measured in Kelvin. The lower spectrum of 2600 K to 3500 K has a “warm white” color (light yellow tint) like what would be found in an incandescent light bulb. Between 3500 K and 5000 K we call “neutral white” since neither yellow or blue dominate the color of the light. The higher range 5000+ K is “cool white” and they have a much whiter appearance and may have a slight bluish tint. The majority of tactical flashlight producers make use cool white LEDs since they are more efficient light producers, to produce the yellowish warm tint the LEDs are covered with yellow phosphor which means that light is blocked and therefore not as many Lumens can be produced with the same amount of power. If you want a LED flashlight with a warmer tint you are going to have to do a little searching for it.

There Are Three Ways To Look At How Much Light…

  • ANSI FL1 Standard Light OutputLumens are how we measure luminous flux which is the amount of light energy or power of the light in total that comes out of the face of the flashlight. High Lumens means that you have a powerful LED and a powerful battery. Flashlight producers like throwing the word Lumen around everywhere but it is not really as useful of a measure of light as Candela or Beam Distance for how the flashlight will perform. The most powerful tactical flashlights have really high lumens but it is dependent on the reflector on whether the light will shine a long distance or if it will light up the area close to the light.
  • ANSI FL1 Standard Peak Beam IntensityCandela is the peak beam intensity or in other words the brightest point of light produced. Without changing the amount of Lumens the Candela can change dramatically since they are dependent on the beam angle which is controlled greatly by the reflector. The smaller the beam angle the greater the peak brightness with be (Candela). So you could have flashlight with a much less powerful LED producing a higher beam intensity and having a longer beam distance because it has a smaller beam angle.
  • ANSI FL1 Standard Beam DistanceAs mentioned earlier when we described the ANSI FL1 standards Beam Distance is the distance in meters that a light can go until it reaches 0.25 lux which is the amount of light output by the full moon on a clear night. Just like Peak Beam Intensity/Candela the Beam Distance is very dependent on both the type of LED used and also the reflector. Flashlights can be designed to throw a long beam like a spot light or to light up a whole area like a light bulb in your house. Later we will talk about throw vs flood.

With all of that said, we will play by the manufacturers rules and decide how much light we need by Lumens. But, now that you are educated you can take the other ANSI measurements into account while searching for the best tactical flashlight.

1 – 14 Lumens: Any kind of flashlight will do, you mainly just need a small light to get around dark rooms. Something to help you find your way to the restroom in the middle of the night or help you read a map. This level of light will not completely destroy your night vision.

15 – 59 Lumens: This is enough light to completely illuminate a room in the event of a power outage but it is not enough to see very far outdoors. This is also not enough to temporarily blind a would be attacker but still enough to mess up your own night vision.

60 – 149 Lumens: Now we are getting to enough light to see outdoors. This is the level of light you would want if you were going for a walk at night through your neighborhood. There are conflicting numbers but in the dark above 100 Lumens should produce temporary blindness, you will need higher Lumens if you are in a more well lit place.

150 – 299 Lumens: With this level of light output you could easily light up a large room, your entire backyard and be able to see pretty far out of a campsite. At 150 Lumens you will be able to cause temporary blindness even in a well lit place at night and at close to 300 Lumens you would be able to cause temporary blindness in an indoor daylight situation.

300 – 699 Lumens: These are some serious Lumens. Most small flashlight require a burst mode to reach these high of lumens. You will typically only get into these lumen levels with specialty batteries. You could come close to lighting up an entire football field and would have no problem illuminating a campground.

700+ Lumens: This is getting really serious. This is the level of power you want if you need maximum brightness for your job but still need a small handheld light. Search and rescue teams or people that just want to show off get these kinds of lumens. There are handheld flashlights that go up to 7000+ Lumens these insane flashlights can make a tree 3-4 football fields away as bright as a christmas tree.

What Size Flashlight Do You Want?

Carefully consider how big of a flashlight you want depending on what you plan on doing with it. Remember, if this is for everyday carry you need a torch that will not get in the way. Finding a balance of size and power is for your needs is key. If you are unsure about size download our free tactical flashlight buyers guide checklist that has a size chart for both length and bezel diameter.

Micro Flashlight: A micro light is under 2 inches, they are the small keychain flashlights that usually use button cell batteries. There are a few super small serious flashlight that run on a single CR2 or CR123A battery that manage to be under 2 inches in length but not many.

Mini Flashlight: We will say that a mini flashlight is under 3 inches in length. From 2 inches to 3 inches you open a whole world of single battery flashlights including the standard AA and AAA sizes. There are flashlights that are this size that manage to put out 252 Lumens on burst mode with a single CR123A battery. Tactical flashlights that are less than 3 inches are difficult to use as a striking tool since most peoples hands will completely cover the flashlight.

Small Flashlight: A small flashlight is under 4 inches in length. Between 3 and 4 inches you can not really fit in a second battery but you are able to have single battery flashlights with more features. In this size you will find more options with tail switches and the lights can have a deeper reflector so they can throw their light farther. Also, at 4 inches these flashlights will be able to be used as a striking tool.

Medium Flashlight: A medium flashlight will be between 4 and 6 inches. In this range we have my lights that run on two batteries and you also start getting flashlights that use 18500 and 18650 specialty batteries. With the the availability of more power because of size these lights will have the top end LED bulbs that can put out very high Lumens. Again, with this size you also increase your ability to use your flashlight as a self-defense tool.

Large Flashlights: Here we will consider anything over 6 inches that still has a small diameter bezel and can be held in a holster. Police usually buy flashlights in this size range since they can be used as a club and are definitely an extra weapon. Like the previous section these tactical flashlights can output huge amounts of Lumens but with the extra added size these flashlights may have a few more features than the slightly smaller lights.

What Kind of Power Source Do You Want?

We all want to help the world be a cleaner place and we like the idea of rechargeable batteries, but there are many scenarios where disposable easy to find batteries are the best option.

Disposable Alkaline: These are the standard size batteries that you are used to seeing AAA, AA, C, and D batteries. These batteries do not offer as much power as some other types of batteries but they are very easy to find. Often people in the prepper/survival industry like flashlight that will work on standard size batteries so they know that they will have access to the batteries. Alkaline batteries have a shelf life of around 2 years.

Disposable Lithium: Do not confuse these batteries with Lithium Ion batteries! These batteries are in almost every way the same as alkaline batteries except they have more power, can store more energy and are lighter. Lithium batteries have a shelf life of around 10 years so they are a favorite of survivalists. On the flipside they are quite a bit more expensive than alkaline batteries. Some specialized batteries that fit in this group are the CR123A and the CR2 which are often used in tactical flashlights.

Rechargeable Cells: Rechargeable Li-Ion cell batteries come in many different sizes. Some specialized sizes that are often used in tactical flashlights are 18500, 18650, and RCR123A. They offer great power output and the ability to recharge. The downside is that the batteries are expensive and you need to buy a nice charger to go along with them so you do not destroy them.

Integrated Rechargeable Pack: Lastly you can find tactical flashlights that have specially designed battery pack that is made just for that flashlight. sometimes these are removeable or sometimes you plug the whole flashlight into the wall. Often times these offer great benefits but if you run out of juice you need to wait awhile to charge back up.

Flood Vs. Throw

Flashlight Flood vs ThrowThese are two terms that you will hear about all of the time if you do much research in flashlights. A flashlight the has a lot of flood will illuminate a very large area but not very far. There will not be a defined beam but on overall brightness in the whole area. Torches that have a long throw have a very definite beam and you can light up something many yards away. Different lights are designed to be more floody or throwy, it is dependent on the design of the reflector and on the LED that is used. In general flashlights that are floody are better for close up activities and flashlights that have a long throw are for lighting up thing that are far away. You need to decide how far away you want to be able to see something and this will change the flashlight that you will want to buy.

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What Kind Of Battery Life (Run-time) Do You Need?

Do you need a flashlight that will be able to be on max brightness for 30 minutes and then be done, very bright for a short amount of time. Or, Do you need a flashlight that will stay very bright for 3-4 hours? Many small flashlights can produce huge Lumens but they do not have enough battery to keep it going for very long. Knowing how long you need your flashlight to last for is very important. If you need a flashlight that can be bright for hours on end you are going to need a larger flashlight that can hold the batteries to support you.

What Kind Of Switch Type Do You Want?

Tactical flashlights come in three main switch types. They are the head/tail twist switch, the body switch, and the tail switch.

Head/Tail Twist: This type of switch is very common on super small flashlights since it does not take any more space to develop a flashlight that changes its electrical contacts based on how much the head or tail is screwed on. Many people do not like these switches because they find that the head or tail sometimes comes completely unscrewed.

Body: The body switch was the most popular style and is like what you would find on a Mag-lite. It allows certain types of grip that you would not be able to do with the other two types of switches.

Tail: The tail switch is the most popular and usually the favorite type of switch for a tactical flashlight. Having the button on the bottom of the torch allows an overhand grip that is already in a fist position, which allows for better self defense with easy flashlight usage. Also, our most preferred method of using a flashlight with a gun really is much easier with a tail switch.

How Many Brightness Levels Do You Want?

Every person wants something different out of their flashlight and every flashlight manufacturer has their own idea of what the best way to provide light is.

On/Off: There are no modes or brightness levels, just full power. Many flashlights that are designed for tactical use actually prefer this because when you push that button you know exactly what is going to come out. Some people feel that all of brightness levels and modes can confuse and just get in the way.

Two Brightness Levels: High and Low, these lights do not offer anything fancy except the ability to have a long battery life on a low setting aside from just having max power all of the time.

Many Brightness Levels: There are flashlights that have up to 10 different brightness levels and some even with dials that support continuous change. Obviously the brighter the light the lower the run-time so having just enough light for what you are doing is a huge benefit. Rather than having not enough or having too much and having your flashlight die out very quickly.

Flashlight Different Brightness Levels

Do You Want Any Special Light Modes?

There are three special light modes that a flashlight come with. They are Strobe, SOS, and Beacon.

Strobe: Strobe is designed to disorient somebody, it is a very fast and super bright blinking light that is usually in a changing pattern to really confuse people. This is a feature that many police officers would consider a necessity.

SOS: SOS or —…— in Morse code is used for emergency purposes. It is originally a naval term for save our ship. This would be useful for anybody that was out camping or stuck in a survival situation.

Beacon: A beacon is like a lighthouse, it blinks at full brightness every few seconds. The purpose of this mode is for survival. You would use this when you want to get seen. Blinking every few seconds conserves battery life as long as possible.

What Do You Want Your Flashlight To Be Made Out Of?

The material that flashlights are made of has is important to the durability and the weight of the flashlight. The following are the most commonly used materials.

Plastics or Composites: There are not that many high quality tactical flashlights for sale that use plastics or composites but one company that is making good composite flashlights is pelican.

Anodized Aluminum: This is the material that most flashlight manufacturers are using in flashlights today. You want to make sure that you have at least type II anodizing but Type III (hard anodized) is better.

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is a very strong and durable material but it is heavy.

Titanium: Titanium is kinda the best of both worlds, very strong like stainless steel and pretty light. The downside to titanium is the cost.

Do You Need Water Resistance?

You may of may not think that you need water resistance. I suggest at least getting IPX7 water resistant lights as you do not want you flashlight to stop working in the event of an accident.

IPX4: This basically means that the flashlight is splash resistant. This should not be submerged in water or it will probably get in.

IPX7: This is submersible but only to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes according to the specification.

IPX8: This is the highest level of waterproofing that you will see in most flashlights, it is submersible to more than 1 meter for up to 4 hours.

Do You Have Any Special Needs For Your Flashlight?

You can find flashlights these days with all sorts of extra modifications for sale that fit particular needs. Take a look at some of the more common features that manufacturers offer to see if any of these might be useful to you.

  • Light Filters
  • Dedicated RGB LED’s
  • Pocket/Belt Clip
  • Holster
  • Lanyard
  • Strike Bezel
  • Mounting Bracket
  • Pressure Switch
  • Headlamp Adapter
  • Knurling
  • Made In USA

Light Filters

Some flashlights come with light filters that you can put over the top of the flashlight so it will shine another color. Red is popular for night vision, blue and yellow are popular for seeing blood, and green does not spook animals while hunting and can not be seen from the side so you can preserve your location.

Green Filter For FlashlightDiffused Filter For FlashlightRed Filter For FlashlightBlue Filter For Flashlight

Dedicated RGB LEDs

You would use red, blue, and green led flashlights for the same reason as above but for some reason you might want them built into the flashlight. Having the built in LEDs makes it so you do not need to search for filters all of the time, but you will not be able to get the same level of brightness as you would in a light with a filter.

Flashlight Multi-color LED

Pocket/Belt Clip

The reason for this is obvious. You want to hold the flashlight on you pocket or belt. Some flashlights have much better pocket clips than others. For instance this Sunwayman Mr. Elfin M11R has a very deep pocket clip to ensure that the flashlight does not go anywhere.

Tac Flashlight Deep Pocket Clip

Holster

Some people like to carry flashlights is a separate holder on their belt, and some flashlights are too big to fit in a pocket. For this reason there are flashlights that come with holsters. Most flashlight holsters have a belt loop and then a Velcro flap that goes over the head of the flashlight.

Flashlight Holster

Lanyard

Do you want to hang this thing off of you neck or wrist? Size and weight are important for this one. Some flashlights have an option to connect to a lanyard so you always know that it is hanging around your neck. This is a useful feature for hikers and other times when you want to be hands free.

Flashlight Lanyard Kit

Strike Bezel

Some flashlights have jagged bezels that are designed to hurt somebody when you hit them. There are a few that actually come with these built in but many companies offer crenulated bezels as an add-on. Most of them are advertised as a way to break windows in the event of an emergency but I wouldn’t want to hit a window too hard with a flashlight. If you have one of these on your flashlight you need to be aware that some law enforcement or the airport security might consider it a weapon.

Flashlight Crenulated BezelFlashlight Strike Bezel

Mounting Bracket

Do you need to put your light on a gun, some lights are dedicated gun lights and some handheld flashlights have adapters that will attach them to a gun. A light the is meant designed to go on a gun will fit more secure and have less movement, but having an adapter for a handheld light is both more versatile and cheaper.

Streamlight TLR-2Flashlight Weapon Mounting Bracket

Pressure Switch

If you want to mount your flashlights to a weapon some lights offer different types of switches. Many manufacturers offer pressure switches that replace the tail switch of a flashlight with a pressure pad so you can move the on/off button to almost anywhere else on the gun. These are particularly useful for long weapons so you can put a switch right next to where you would comfortably keep your hands as opposed to feeling around for the button on the flashlight.

Flashlight Pressure Switch

Headlamp Adapter

You can buy a stand alone headlamp or some of the smaller handheld torches come with headlamp adapters. Zebralight and Foursevens are two companies that a constantly thinking outside of the box and creating products like this. Just as with the mounted lights for weapons having an adapter option adds versatility and is cost effective.

Flashlight Headlamp Adapter

Knurling

Do you want the surface of the flashlight to be knurled for extra grip or do you want it to be smooth. Knurling is when a pattern is put into the metal surface of the flashlight. Many people like the knurling in the metal but some do not and prefer smoother ergonomic features to increase grip.

Steamlight ProTac HLSureFire Fury

Made In The USA

Do you care if your flashlight is made in the USA? Some manufacturers are 100% china made and it runs the whole percentage scale all of the way to 100% made in the USA.

Made In The USA

So, What Is The Best Tactical Flashlight?

If you made it this far, wow! That was 5000+ words. The answer to this question is completely based on your needs, it isn’t necessarily the brightest tactical flashlight. Anyway, we hope that you learned something through this article and that it will help you decide what the best tactical flashlight is. If we helped you at all, you liked the free checklist, or you just enjoyed the read please give us some social love via facebook, pinterest, tumblr, twitter, etc…. We Appreciate It! Also, we make all of the money to support this site from affiliating with amazon on flashlight sales, so if you are really shopping for a flashlight please go though one of our for sales links to get to the amazon store where you can buy a light. From here I recommend reading through our best of articles and checking out our massive flashlight comparison table that allows you to filter and sort through all of the different specs. Thanks again.

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