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.
Short On Time? Here Is The Bullet List:
Tactical Handheld Flashlights
- Best Handheld Tactical Flashlight: Elzetta Bravo
- Best Combo Tactical Flashlight: First Light T-Max LE
- Best Budget Handheld Tactical Flashlight: Armytek Dobermann Pro V3 XHP35 Hi
- Best Tactical For Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft/Play: Olight M2T Warrior Tactical
Tactical Pistol Light
- Best Tactical Pistol Light: SureFire X300 Ultra
- Best Budget Tactical Pistol Light: Streamlight TLR-1 HL
- Best Pistol Light For Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft/Play: Aimkon HiLight P10S
Tactical Rifle Flashlight
- Best Tactical Rifle Flashlight: SureFire M600DF Scout Light
- Best Budget Tactical Rifle Flashlight: Streamlight ProTac Rail Mount 2
- Best Tactical Rifle Flashlight For Play/Airsoft: MCCC Tactical Rifle Light
- Best Tactical Headlamp: SureFire Maximus
- Best Budget Tactical Headlamp: Fenix HL60R
- Best Headlamp for Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft/Play: Nitecore NU32
Tactical Night Vision (IR Light)
- Best Tactical Night Vision Goggles (Infrared Light): ATN PS15-4 GEN 4 Night Vision Goggle System
- Best Budget Tactical Night Vision Goggles (Infrared Light): ATN PVS7-3 Night Vision Goggle
- Best Tactical Night Vision Monocular (Infrared Light): ATN NVM 14-3 Gen 3 Monocular
- Best Budget Tactical Night Vision Monocular (Infrared Light): FLIR Sirius ID MG Gen 2+
Other Tactical Lights
**Below are our more detailed reviews. Click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
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.
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
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.
Light Output: This is a Lumens rating that shows the total amount of light that comes out of the front of the flashlight.
Run 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.
Beam 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.
Peak 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.
Impact 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.
Water 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.
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.
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.
- Budget: You get what you pay for so unless it is a keychain flashlight or penlight most decent torches will start around $25-$30.
- 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?
- 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)?
- How Much Light: It takes at least 60-100 lumens to cause temporary blindness.
- 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:
One thing that makes the Elzetta Bravo one of the most popular Elzetta models is its Crenellated Bezel Ring. Other features that make the light a popular choice include the High Output AVS head and the High-Low Tailcap. These three features come together to create an excellent tactical light that most find convenient for every day carrying as well. Powered by two CR123A batteries the Elzetta Bravo offers automatic voltage sensing technology and fully potted electronics.
The Crenellated Bezel offers scalloped edges that are smooth enough to prevent injury during normal use, but rough enough to be used as a striking implement during an emergency. Underneath the bezel is a 7/8 inch thick durable optical lens that withstands various striking levels while providing an excellent beam quality. The standard lens offers a decent throw and spill balance with a distance of 617 feet making it an excellent choice for long-distance illumination. The High-Low Tailcap offers a click-style switch that powers the light to the full output of 650 lumens. To reduce output to 15 lumens simply loosen the cap, no clicking involved.
- Two output levels
- Mounting ability
- Cannot focus beam
- Weight: 6.3 oz
- Dimensions: 5.6 inches long and 1.45-inch diameter
- Highest Output: 650 lumens for 90 minutes
- Lowest Output: 15 lumens for 60 hours
Best Combo Tactical Flashlight:
The First Light T-Max LE version is similar to the T-Max, but this version has been engineered for use by Law Enforcement. One of the biggest differences between the two versions is the LE version offers red/blue/green LEDs and the beacon strobe feature is red/blue/white. With the First Light T-Max LE users will enjoy the use of 13 LEDs with 12 of them being colored, while the main LED is white. The light offers a white-light tactical strobe along with a safety beacon that flashes white/red/blue. The secondary red/green color mix only adds to the ability of the light and makes it an excellent addition to any law enforcement’s utility belt.
The lightweight First Light T-Max LE version offers 700 lumens of bright, white light for up to 2 hours. Made from aerospace-grade aluminum the light is powered by two CR123 lithium batteries and is considered waterproof. Most tactical lights pride themselves on being weapons mountable, but the T-Max LE light is not able to be mounted to any weapon, but that doesn’t affect law enforcement officer’s ability to use the light while still drawing their weapon. With the First-Light T-Max, LE officers will enjoy the retention system finger loop. The light also comes with a MOLLE-compatible retention clip.
- Multiple light color options
- No rechargeable battery option
- 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
Best Budget Handheld Tactical Flashlight:
One of the greatest things about the Armytek Dobermann Pro V3 XHP35 HI is it’s both bright and affordable when compared to other tactical lights. The Armytek Dobermann V3 utilizes a CREE XHP35 High Intensity LED that offers a warm white light with a 5500K tint. The LED offers users the ability to emit a maximum of 1580 lumens for a brief period of time. A bonus to the Armytek Dobermann Pro V3 is users no longer have to deal with fluctuating brightness levels, as the light has the ability to offer constant brightness even when the batteries are almost fully discharged. The Armytek Dobermann Pro V3 offers nine different modes to choose from, including a strobe mode that is all controlled and accessed via the tailcap switch.
The Armytek Dobermann Pro V3 has multiple power options. Users can use a single 18650 lithium-ion battery, two R123 lithium-ion batteries or two CR123A batteries making it easier to find batteries when you need them. The light’s 1-inch diameter makes it easy to mount on most weapons, as it’s not too bulky to where it will hinder your ability to use the weapon. The durability of the Armytek Dobermann Pro V3 allows it to hold up to9 most gun recoils and has been impact tested up to 30 meters. The waterproof ability of the light allows it to work for 5 hours in 50 meters of water. A lanyard and stainless steel pocket clip adds to the carrying options of this tactical light.
- Tail standing
- Momentary on
- Multiple battery options
- Can grow hot to the touch
- Weight: 4.06 oz w/out battery
- Dimensions: 5.5 inches long and 1.34-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 0.15 lumens for 200 days
- Highest Setting: 1400 lumens for 1 hour
Best Tactical For Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft/Play:
If you are in the market for a tactical flashlight that is ideal for non-life threatening situations or one that looks like something law enforcement would use but isn’t exactly built to stand up in the heat of the moment the Olight M2T Warrior Tactical is an excellent choice. Powered by a single 18650 battery or two CR123A batteries the Olight M2T Warrior uses a CREE XHP35 HD CW LED and has the ability to emit a maximum of 1200 lumens. As with other lights with multiple power options, lumen output and runtimes will be different based on what batteries are used with the light.
The Olight M2T Warrior offers 6 brightness levels to choose from ranging from a low of 1 lumen to a high of 1200 lumens. After a short period in its highest setting, the light will step down to a lower level of lumens to prevent damage from overheating. The Olight M2T Warrior offers a three-in-one tail switch design that allows users to choose from momentary-on, constant on or off, and momentary strobe. What mode is selected depends on how deeply the switch is pressed. The tail switch is thumbnail-sized which allows for easy operation, plus it offers a silent design to allow users to stay concealed as the button makes very little noise. The tail cap is also designed to allow for natural operation, no more looking at the light to use it correctly.
- Detachable pocket clip
- 3-in-1 tail cap design
- Faster strobe frequency
- No lockout mode
- Weight: 4.73 oz
- Dimensions: 5.12 inches and 1-inch diameter
- Lowest Output: 1 lumen for 30 days
- Highest Output: 1200 lumens for 2 hours and 10 minutes
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:
The newly updated SureFire X300 Ultra is an enhanced version of the original model, which also happens to be SureFire’s best selling model. The new version offers a special high-performance LED paired with a custom TIR lens to allow for a maximum of 1000 lumens with a far-reaching high-intensity beam that delivers a larger center spot than before. The light is powered by two CR123A batteries with a runtime of 1 hour and 15 minutes. These enhanced abilities allow users to spot a threat from a further distance plus it improves peripheral illumination for better awareness. The rail-lock system allows for quick attachment or detaching from Universal or Picatinny rails.
As with the previous model, the updated SureFire X300 Ultra offers an ambidextrous switch that allows for one-finger control. Flip the switch up or down for constant-on activation or press to one side or the other for the momentary on feature. The light offers optional DG grip switches or a pressure activated XT07 tape switch so the light may be activated without alerting a potential threat to your weapon. The SureFire offers extreme durability thanks to its high-strength aerospace aluminum body with a Mil-Spec Hard Anodized finish and an IPX7 rating. You can also check out our Pistol Light Buyers Guide for our light recommendations for different sized pistols.
- Weapon mount
- Good battery life
- No strobe option
- Weight: 4 oz. w/batteries
- Dimensions: 3.6 inches long and 1.125-inch diameter
- Output: 100 lumens for 1.25 hours
Best Budget Tactical Pistol Light:
If you are in the market for the best tactical pistol light but need an option that is a bit more affordable consider the newest model of the Streamlight TLR-1 HL. This tactical light features a C4 LED that has the ability to emit up to 800 lumens with a peak beam intensity of 12,000 candelas. The beam offers a 245-meter distance and the light will run for up to 1 hour and 45 minutes before the two CR123 batteries require replacing. The Streamlight TLR-1 HL offers a tethered battery door with a latch mechanism to prevent losing the battery door when replacing batteries. The rail clamp system for this mountable light is designed to rapidly attach and detach from your weapon. The clamp system doesn’t require any tools nor will you have to place your hands in front of your weapon’s muzzle.
The LED is considered to be impervious to shock and is paired with an optic lens that has been engineered to elicit a concentrated beam with excellent peripheral illumination. Current regulation is provided with this light to ensure a consistent illumination level. The ambidextrous switch provides quick access to a momentary/steady on and off power switch. The programmable strobe has the ability to be enabled or disabled based on user preferences. The 6000 series machined aircraft aluminum body offers an anodized finish that can withstand high temperatures. The light is made to fit a broad range of weapons.
- Fits various weapons
- Laser options
- Does grow hot to the touch
- Weight: 4.18 oz w/ batteries
- Dimensions: 3.39 inches long and 1.47-inch diameter
- Output: 800 lumens for 1.75 hours
Best Pistol Light For Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft/Play:
The Aimkon HiLight P10S might not be recommended for use in life-threatening situations, but it still makes an excellent choice for those who are involved in airsoft or similar types of play. The light utilizes a CREE XM-L@ LED with the ability to emit a maximum of 500 lumens. Powered by a single CR123 battery, which is included with the light, the Aimkon HiLight P10S offers two distinct modes: high and strobe. The strobe mode is possibly bright enough to be able to disorient an attacker. The Aimkon HiLight p10S is said to be twice as bright as similar model of lights.
The lightweight aluminum alloy body of the Aimkon HiLight P10S is weatherproof, making it an excellent choice for being used in outdoor sports. The rugged and durable body of this weapon-mounted light offers a quick release/attach mount system that allows you to assemble the light onto your weapon quickly with no additional tools. The P10S fits most regular and compact size pistols, while the P5S model works well for pistols and handguns that require a smaller version of the light. The light offers a quick sliding switch to turn the light on for the first press, while the second press activates strobe.
- Quick mount and detach
- Strobe function
- No lockout mode
- Gets too hot
- Weight: 2.8 oz. w/ battery
- Dimensions: 3.06 inches long and 1.1-inch diameter
- Output: 500 lumens for 55 minutes
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:
One of the greatest selling points of the SureFire M600DF Scout Light is the LED emitter, which the manufacturer claims are nearly indestructible. The emitter has been designed to maximize both the runtime and output of the light. The SureFire M600DF Scout is powered by either SF123A batteries or an SF18650 rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The light comes with the SF123A batteries, while the rechargeable is purchased se4pertaley. For maximum output of 1500 lumens, you must use the SF18650 battery, with the SF123A batteries maximum output is only 1200 lumens. The shape of the TIR optic lens offers a versatile beam that is great for up close and longer range work.
The lightweight and compact design of the SureFire M600DF Scout makes the light an excellent choice for a weapon-mounted light. Its rugged design offers an internal thumbscrew clamp for quick attachment to any MIL-STD-1913 rail. The light is controlled via a Z68 tailcap and a simple press activates a momentary-on feature, while a full, deep press allows for constant on and off mode. The body of the light is made from aerospace aluminum with a hard-anodized finish. The SureFire M600DF uses O-rings to seal the light and protect it from the elements. The M600DF is built tough enough to withstand combat without affecting or scarifying your weapon.
- High output
- Constant and Momentary Modes
- Light gets hot
- Mount itself is not removable
- Weight: 5.15 oz w/ batteries
- Dimensions: 5.55 inches long and 1.125-inch diameter
- Output: 1500 lumens for 1 hour and 30 minutes
Best Budget Tactical Rifle Flashlight:
If you are looking for something that has the ability to stand up to most gun recoils due to its shock-proof technology, look no further than the Streamlight ProTac Rail Mount 2. This lightweight and compact tactical light offer a rail clamp system designed to quickly and easily attach and detach from various weapons using the MIL Standard 1913 Rail and is available at an affordable price. The light also offers a fixed-mount option for Pictanny Rails. The Streamlight ProTac Rail Mount 2 features a C4 LED with a 50,000 hour lifetime. The LED is paired with a TIR Optic for optimal peripheral illumination and a concentrated beam.
Powered by two CR123A lithium batteries the Streamlight ProTac Rail Mount 2 has the ability to emit a maximum of 625 lumens. The light uses Streamlight’s TEN-TAP programming to provide users with three different operating modes: high only, high and strobe, and low and high mode. All three modes use a solid-state current regulation to provide users with a consistent illumination level. The body of the light is manufactured from a durable 6000 series aircraft aluminum with an anodized finish. The Streamlight ProTac Rail Mount 2 offers a standard button switch for control or an optional remote pressure switch. Opting for the remote pressure switch lowers the IPX rating from a 7 to a 4. As a durable light, the ProTac Rail Mount 2 will work in operating temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pressure switch may have issues
- 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
Best Tactical Rifle Flashlight For Play/Airsoft:
If you need something that can stand up to realistic play while lighting up the darkest alleys, look no further than the MCCC Tactical Rifle Light. The light is a Rail Mount LED Rifle Light that features a CREE XM-L2 U2 LED and provides up to 500 lumens of pure white light. The MCCC Tactical Rifle Light offers four lighting modes: strobe, high, medium, and low. All four of these modes are controlled through one of the interchangeable tail switches. With the MCCC Tactical Light, you have two switch options the standard tail switch or a remote switch. The Remote Switch offers a basic on and off button or users can opt for pressure activation.
The MCCC Light offers a lightweight design and is constructed from a tough aluminum alloy. The body and lens are water and shock-resistant making it a durable choice for using outdoors in various elements. Powered by two CR123A batteries, which come included with the light, the MCCC Rifle Light easily attaches to any standard picatinny rail.
- Easy to use
- Constant and strobe modes
- No lockout mode
- Weight: 4 oz. w/out battery
- Output: 500 lumens
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 number 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 headlamps, 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:
For the best hands-free lighting option, consider the SureFire Maximus headlamp. The SureFire Maximus utilizes a high performance LED that is paired with a custom reflector to produce an optimized beam for a person’s natural field of vision. The LED emitter is practically indestructible and is regulated to ensure optimal performance and runtime. The light assembly, when attached to a headband, has the ability to rotate 90 degrees both up and down for the perfect lighting for any situation.
Thanks to the no-chafe headband with a Breath-O-Prene pad located along the forehead section of strap, the SureFire Maximus is comfortable to wear and the moisture-wicking ability of the pad is another plus. The SureFire Maximus has the ability to produce 1 to up to 1,000 lumens of light as it is a variable output LED. These lumen choices allow you to select just the right amount of light for the task at hand. Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the light comes with a wall charger for all AC outlets and a 12 volt DC charger for vehicles. The headlamp is constructed of a lightweight, but durable magnesium and features a battery gauge to alert users to current battery levels.
- Variable output
- SOS beacon mode
- Grows hot to the touch
- Weight: 5.1 oz. w/battery
- High Output: 1,000 lumens for 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Lowest Output: 1 lumen for 550 hours
Best Budget Tactical Headlamp:
If you want an amazing tactical headlamp for hands-free lighting, but are working within a budget consider the Fenix HL60R. The HL60R features a CREE XM-L2 U2 Neutral White LED that is able to emit a maximum of 950 lumens on its Turbo setting. The LED also offers some of the best color renderings you will find on a headlamp making it an excellent choice for a variety of nighttime activities. Maximum beam distance with the high powered LED is 381 feet on the highest setting, beam distance decreases as lumen output decreases. The Fenix HL60R offers five brightness levels of pure white light, plus an additional red light mode to preserve night vision.
The rechargeable Fenix HL60R is powered by a single 18650 battery with the ability to charge directly through a micro-USB port. The HL60R also has the ability to accept two CR123A batteries, but runtime and output levels will vary. An anti-dust cover protects the battery and light from dust and allows the light to receive an IPX8 rating. The good news is if the anti-dust cover is left open it will not affect the light’s waterproof ability. The bright headlamp is controlled via a single switch located on the side of the light. The single switch operation is easy to use and allows for one-handed control.
- Multiple battery options
- Activation sequence could be improved
- Weight: 4.3 ounces w/out batteries
- Dimensions: 2.18 inches long
- Lowest Setting: 5 lumens for 100 hours
- Highest Setting: 950 lumens for 48 minutes
Best Headlamp for Non-Life Threatening/Airsoft/Play:
The Nitecore NU32 is an amazing headlamp, as you get a ton of features for an affordable price. The NU32 utilizes a CREE XP-G3 S3 LED for its primary white light. This LED offers a maximum of 550 lumens that can reach up to 408 feet. The second LED is a red auxiliary LED that allows you to easily preserve your night vision and allows you to track things in the dark without alerting them to your presence. The Nitecore NU32 offers four brightness levels to choose from, in addition to the red auxiliary mode. For up-close tasks, users will enjoy the CRI Auxiliary LED that provides excellent flood style illumination.
Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Nitecore NU32 has a runtime of 330 hours on its lowest setting. The power indicator light alerts users as to when the battery needs recharging through the direct micro-USB port. Coming in at 3.51 ounces with the battery, Nitecore claims this headlamp weighs 50% less than similar ones on the market making it comfortable enough to wear for extended periods of time. The headlamp is constructed from polycarbonate. The housing is waterproof up to 7 feet and impact resistant up to 3 feet. Controlled through a dual-switch on the top of the body, users have easy access to all brightness levels and auxiliary modes, which include a lockout mode, location beacon, and SOS mode.
- Lockout mode
- Power indicator light
- Multiple light options
- Strap can be tricky to install
- Weight: 3.51 ounces w/battery
- Dimensions: 2.5 inches long
- Lowest Setting: 1 lumen for 330 hours
- Highest Setting: 550 lumens for 1 hour
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 is 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 a single image tube with two eyepieces, while the other is a dual image tube with two eyepieces. 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 (Infrared Light):
The ATN PS15-4 GEN 4 Night Vision Goggle System is designed for use by law enforcement and professionals alike. He best part about these lightweight goggles is they allow you to see perfectly clear even after the sun goes down. The goggles use intensifier tubes that are considered high-performance image tubes as they provide clear and crisp images even under total darkness. The dual tubes allow for better depth perception and amazing clarity for optimal vision in the darkest of nights. A built-in illuminator allows for map reading and similar functions in dark, conditions.
One thing that makes these night vision goggles one of the best for tactical situations is all of the features they come with. The ATN Ps15-4 GEN 4 system doesn’t offer SMART Technology, but with everything, it does offer that seems small in comparison. The goggles are fully waterproof and include flip-up headgear. The ATN PS15-4 GEN 4 offers a 64 to 72 lp/mm resolution with a 1x magnification. The lenses are coated and offer a range of focus from 0.25, to infinity with a diopter adjustment of -6 to +2. The goggles offer an automatic shut off and brightness control and include a bright light cutoff. Powered by two AA batteries or two CR123A batteries the low battery indicator in your field of vision alerts you as to when power is running low.
- Lightweight and compact design
- Direct controls
- Cannot adjust distance between tubes
- Weight: 1.54 lb.
- Dimensions: 4.7 inches x 2.7 inches x 4.5 inches (WxHxD)
- Run Time: 40 hours
Best Budget Tactical Night Vision Goggles (Infrared Light):
For those of you that are looking for a more affordable goggle option, check out the ATN PVS7-3 Night Vision Goggle System. These goggles are a multipurpose option and can be worn on your head, are able to be used as a handheld device or can be mounted on a helmet. Thanks to their lightweight design they are comfortable to wear and use for extended periods. The PVS7-3 is a dependable and high-performance night vision system that is identical to the AN/PVS-7 model that was adopted as standard military issue to provide reliable. The ATN PSV7-3 offers a full U.S. MIL Spec body with goggle assembly and comes complete with a fully adjustable head strap, soft carrying case, head mount assembly and three brow pads, front lens cap, neck cord, shoulder strap, sacrificial filter for objective lenses, lens tissue, and front lens cap.
With the ATN PVS7-3 users will find the infrared illuminator has been incorporated into the design along with a continuous on and momentary-on functions. Inside the user’s field of vision are a low battery indicator and infrared operation indicator alert. The goggles are powered by either two AA batteries or a single BA-5567/U Battery. The night vision goggles are waterproof and will operate within temperatures ranging from -60 degrees up to 120 degrees. The ATN PSV7-3 offers a 40-degree field of view and with water and fog-resistant lenses.
- Combat proven
- Low battery indicator
- Depth perception is a bit tricky
- Weight: 1.5 lbs
- Dimensions: 6.375 inches x 6 inches x 3 inches
- Runtime: 60 hours
Best Tactical Night Vision Monocular (Infrared Light):
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 offer 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. 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 an IR illuminator indicator.
- Multiple mounting options
- Steady brightness levels
- No elevation adjustment
- Weight: 9.92 ounces
- Dimensions: 4.7 inches x 1.9 inches x 2.7 inches
- Runtime: 60 hours
Best Budget Tactical Night Vision Monocular (Infrared Light):
For those who are looking for an excellent monocular night vision system, look no further than the FLIR Sirius ID MG Gen 2+ as it offers excellent performance with many high-tech features that you won’t want to pass up. The FLIR Sirius ID MG Gen 2+ offers flexibility when it comes to mounting, as it can be mounted onto various weapons, may be worn on your head or mounted onto a helmet. These flexible mounting options improve mission capability as you can literally adapt the goggles for the task at hand or based on the users preference. Available magnifying lenses and extra long-range infrared illuminator lenses enhance the clarity over longer distances.
Powered by a CR123 Lithium or a single AA battery the FLIR Sirius ID MG Gen 2+ will run for up to 60 hours before batteries need replacing. For those of you that prefer rechargeable batteries, the night vision goggles will accept any AA or CR123 rechargeable batteries with voltage ranging from 1.2V to 3.7V. The feature-heavy night vision system offers users manual gain control, bright light shutdown, and an onboard infrared illuminator to protect the intensifier tubes and optimize a user’s vision. The system comes with a 1x standard magnifying lens, but you can purchase a 3x or 5x magnifying lens option.
- Low battery indicator
- Automatic brightness control
- No wind or elevation adjustment
- Weight: 1 lb.
- Dimensions: 7.2 inches x 2.2 inches x 3.1 inches
- Runtime: 60 hours
Other Tactical Lights
Most categories of tactical lights are focused on a style of a 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 an 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 advantages they provide will vary.
Best Tactical Light Ball:
The Brite Strike RID-3 is not a replacement for a flashbang, but it was 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.Learn More On Amazon
All QuiqLite flashlights are designed to bring flashlights into the modern age, but the QuiqLite X2 offers a newer design than previous models. The newly designed light is small, but quite powerful and fits perfectly inside shirt pockets, on visors, etc. The QuiqLite X2 offers a true hands-free option and improved safety. With the new design, there is a light diffuser attachment included, which allows you the option to use it or not. Using or not using the diffuser attachment allows you to dictate when you will be seen. This small portable light is ideal for law enforcement and civilians alike as it can be used for writing citations, checking pupil dilation, and so much more. The light easily fits inside MOLLE webbing, belts, hats, etc or it can be stuck magnetically to any metal object.
Offering aluminum housing with an anti-reflective anodized finish the QuiqLite X2 is extremely durable and can withstand all kinds of abuse. The compact and concealable light offers four brightness modes to choose from ranging from 20 lumens to 200 lumens. The extra-wide flood light arm is fully adjustable allowing you to focus light where required. The QuiqLite also offers a safety strobe, and a white and red LED function. The light is adjustable up to 160 degrees and comes with a clip that provides 360 degrees of rotation. To recharge the light, plug in a USB to the charging port.
- Removable clip
- Hinges are a bit weak
- 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: 200 lumens for 5 hours
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.
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…
- Lumens 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.
- Candela 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.
- As 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
These 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.
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.
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
- Strike Bezel
- Mounting Bracket
- Pressure Switch
- Headlamp Adapter
- Made In USA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.