Our Top 5 Picks – Best Tactical Flashlight Reviews
Find the Top Rated Tactical Flashlight in 2016
Welcome to our page! If you are looking to find the best tactical flashlight, you have come to the right place!
It is a must have, especially when you are going to spend the night camping or just go on an adventure in the dark.
We have had good flashlights and ones that bailed on us when we truly needed them to work!
Our tactical flashlight review will give you all the information on our top 5 tactical flashlights, so you’ll never be left stranded.
Before we get into the review, we have had many people ask us what the difference is between an everyday household flashlight and a tactical one.
There are actually many differences, but the most common ones for the tactical are as follows:
- Made for maximum reliability and durability
- Emits way more light compared to a regular one
- Weapon-grade aluminum is very commonly used
- More compact and easier to carry around
- Textured grip
Tactical Flashlight Different Brands Comparison
In our review, we break down the best flashlight brands so you don’t have to do a ton of research selecting the one you want. Below, you will find our Top 5 flashlights that we personally recommend out of the 10 we reviews.
Top Ten Tactical Flashlight Reviews 2016
Streamlight 88040 Protac
The Streamlight 88040 ProTac is my top pick and is one of the best tactical flashlights. Not to mention, the price point is great. If you work as a police officer, firefighter or anyone in a similar job who needs a light to see when working at night, or you just simply enjoy camping or spending time outdoors, you’re going to need a quality flashlight. The Streamlight 88040 ProTac gives you the quality you need. One of the best features you will notice with this flashlight is the major amount of brightness it offers compared to others.
If you work in an environment which really needs to be illuminated to the max, the Streamlight is built with C4 LED technology. Therefore, this is my top pick and also one of the brightest tactical flashlights on the market today.
Features and Specifications
- This extreme brightness is generated by the LED Solid Power Regulation, which gives you the most efficient light output in relation to battery life. This means it will regulate its power output to ensure the battery is not overused, eliminating the risk of your battery dying when you need it most.
- Other features, such as waterproofing, make it an extremely durable flashlight.
- It’s also made of aircraft aluminum, so it won’t break easily if dropped. Tactical flashlights need to be extremely sturdy, due to the nature and environments of their use.
- It has three different operating modes, which means you can adjust it to your setting depending on the environment.
“The Streamlight 88040 ProTac offers incredible brightness from the LED bulb, which is assembled specifically with C4 LED technology in order to preserve battery life, making it an extremely reliable flashlight. Along with its sturdy aircraft aluminum body and waterproofing, it is not a flashlight that will break easily and leave you in the dark when you need it most.”
“The LED bulb for this flashlight is extremely bright, which makes it reliable for when you need it most. For the price, you are purchasing a flashlight that is superior in quality to others of the same price range.”
The Solaray Pro ZX-2
The SOLARY PRO ZX-2 is an exceptionally dependable tactical flashlight, a great product for anyone working in security, a survivalist, a hunter or camper.
I found that the best feature on this flashlight is the reliable quality of the huge lumen output. At the maximum setting, it can give out an unbelievable 1,200 lumens. This flashlight has an Ultra Bright XM-L T6 Cree Super-Silicon Carbide Single Die LED Chip, which is one of the best LED bulbs on the market
Features and Specifications
- It delegates energy efficiently to ensure a lasting lithium battery life to ensure you aren’t caught off guard and left without visibility when you need it most.
- It has rechargeable batteries which means you won’t need to spend any extra money on the flashlight once you’ve made the purchase.
- It comes with a deluxe corded lithium ion charger.
- The focus zoom lens makes it very versatile, so you can tailor its function to your specific needs in any given situation. It also comes with a bonus Mini-Pro 1 LED flashlight.
“The additional bonus of the Mini-Pro 1 LED flashlight, along with the careful packaging, make it all the more desirable for anyone planning a long camping trip, or a security guard looking for reliability.”
“This impressive flashlight comes securely packed in cardboard, foam-lined packaging with a secure, magnetic lid. You won’t receive a flashlight that has been broken in shipping. The zoom feature is brilliant and easy to use due to the ridges on the outside of the lens.”
So how about drawbacks?
A few customers have stated that the zoom feature on the large flashlight is a little more difficult to use due to the substantial amount of pressure required to twist the lens. Nevertheless, the flexibility of the zoom feature gets better with use over time. From what I hear, I is only a problem for the first few uses.
In general, the SOLARY PRO ZX-2 is a long-lasting and dependable flashlight with many added features. For instance, the zoom feature is a very versatile tool. And in addition to that, the bonus of the complimentary Mini-Pro 1 LED flashlight is an appealing addition to an already quality purchase, with a good price. Having said that, for the price, you will find it hard to locate a product of similar quality.
The Vizeri 230 is a sturdy and useful flashlight. With many different modes, all the features required for a quality tactical flashlight, this is a great tactical flashlight at a great price.
The best feature of this flashlight is the focusing lens. This lens gives you the option of fine-tuning the flashlight to fit your immediate needs. This is mostly useful when you need to narrow the beam in order to see something in particular at a distance. For a security guard who may be entering into a potentially dangerous situation, or a hunter searching out an animal, this would be an especially valuable and helpful feature.
Features and Specifications
- The flashlight comes with 5 modes: low, medium and high brightness levels, as well as SOS and Strobe.
- It is water resistant in up to 3 feet of water.
- All the components thread into the tube, as opposed to pressure fixings like cheaper flashlights.
- It includes a lamp diffuser and holster with a D ring, meaning it can be adapted into a hanging lamp, which is useful to have when camping.
- It has flexible power options. You can use low cost AAA batteries or CR123 alkaline batteries, including rechargeable versions.
“The flexible power option is incredibly beneficial, especially for someone using the torch overseas, where lithium batteries may not be accessible. The flashlight comes with a lithium-ion battery end-cap adapter as well as the AAA battery adapter, which is useful because it gives you the option of 18650 lithium batteries for a longer battery life as well as AAAs, which are very common globally.”
“Anything not to like? A small portion of buyer’s have complained about the sturdiness of the Vizeri 230. The positive is that it comes with a lifetime warranty, if anything were to arise.”
Generally, the Vizeri 230 delivers the correct balance between flexibility and ease making it suitable for anyone users. It would be difficult to beat the quality of the Vizeri 230.
Outlite A 100
The Outlite A 100 is a multipurpose and dependable tactical flashlight, with many modes to provide accommodations in almost any circumstance. It’s tremendously bright beam offers optimum visibility, making it ideal for those in the police force, military, or security. It’s also a worthy tool to have if you’re hunting or taking a camping trip.
The key feature of this flashlight is the zoom lens. This lens allows the user to focus the beam to enhance and focus the light on a particular area. This is a beneficial feature for when a narrower beam is needed to see something specific in the distance. A security guard coming up on a potentially dangerous situation, or a hunter following an animal would find this a very beneficial and valuable feature.
Features and Specifications
- The Creed XML-T6 LED bulb projects a massive 700 lumens at its highest setting. On the zoom feature, this stretches to 900 lumens.
- It takes a rechargeable 3.7V 18650 battery, which is included, or else three AAA batteries.
- It is equipped with five switch modes: high, medium, low, SOS and Strobe.
- It can stand upwards on a flat surface to resemble a candle.
“People are generally surprised at the quality of this product because of the fair price point. The huge light output and overall quality is an unexpected but pleasant surprise. Power source is very useful and versatile, as it gives the option of a rechargeable battery, which is included, or three common AAA batteries. The lightweight aluminum body of the flashlight makes it convenient and durable as well.”
“Some customers were dissatisfied at how the flashlight will automatically switch to the next lower setting when turned on. Basically, when switched off on the high setting, it would next be switched on at the medium setting. Others suggested that it was not 900 lumens by their estimation. However, the amount of lumens often is decided by the quality of the eyesight of the users.”
The benefits of a flashlight which automatically goes to a lower light setting mean that you can be sure that the batteries will be automatically preserved. Basically, the flashlight will preserve the energy it has so that you aren’t left in the dark and without a flashlight when you need it most. Many customers have noted the endurance of the batteries in this flashlight, making it a bit more steadfast than other flashlights on the market.
This makes the Outlite A 100 a consistent and sturdy flashlight that is easy to recommend. The adjustable lens allows for you to focus on specific objects or spaces, which makes it very useful for security guards, police officers and hunters.
The Surefire G2X is an exceptionally hard-wearing and dependable tactical flashlight. It has a very durable LED emitter that you can rely on, as well as many other useful features.
I believe this to be one of the most trusted brands in tactical flashlights. The convenient size of the flashlight guarantees that it won’t get in the way when not in use.
The main feature of this tactical flashlight is the almost indestructible LED emitter which is regulated to maximize the light output as well as safeguard the highest possible running time. It has a strong Nitrolon body, combined with an anodized bezel to guarantee that it will stand the test of time. This is a flashlight designed precisely with law enforcement officers in mind.
Features and Specifications
- It has a single output level of 320 lumens to maximize the quality of the light.
- It has a tactical tailcap switch for optimum accuracy.
- It has two settings: press once for a momentarily “on”, or twist for constant “on”.
- It has a precision micro-textured reflector that creates an optimized beam.
- The tough exterior of the body makes it sturdy and reliable.
“The light is incredibly strong and the flashlight overall is very strong and reliable. Many were also delighted by the quality of the light when considering the cost.”
“The Surefire G2X is an incredibly strong and sturdy tactical flashlight that makes it the ideal tool for security and police officers alike. It is built with such professions in mind. The light output is very strong, as is needed in high intensity professions.”
In addition, this flashlight is great for anyone going on an extended camping trip, due to its sustainability and all around resilience. You won’t be disappointed if you invest in a Surefire G2X tactical flashlight.
The Refun E6 tactical flashlight is a tough and long-lasting flashlight which is perfect for both leisure and practical purposes. Refun is a highly-trusted brand in the flashlight industry and the E6 is one of their best products to date.
The main feature of this tactical flashlight is the adjustable focus lens. It permits the user to focus the bezel in order to enrich and focus the light on a particular area. This is an extremely beneficial feature for when a narrower beam is required in order to see something particular in the distance.
Features and Specifications
- The flashlight has a reverse polarity protection to protect the LED bulb so it won’t burn out if batteries are inserted backwards.
- It has 5 switch modes: low, medium, high, SOS and Strobe.
- It is water resistant.
- It has a rechargeable battery that is included.
Customers love the rechargeable battery. This gives the benefit of not having to spend money over and over again in order to power your flashlight. The rechargeable battery comes with the flashlight, along with a charger. The best part is that the Refun E6 can also be powered by AAA batteries. This means that you can pack a spare set of batteries as back up.
Although the packaging advises you not to submerge it, it happens. And so the water resistant flashlight appears not to be so water resistant according to some customers.
On the other hand, there are customers who claim to use it on their boats and, although it doesn’t get submerged, the Refun does get a lot of water from waves and rain. These customers claim they have had no trouble with this, and so it seems that the Refun E6 is more splash proof than completely water resistant.
The Refun E6 is a very good product. The rechargeable batteries will save you money, and the fact that AAA batteries can be used as well makes it a very trustworthy flashlight.
J5 Hyer V Tactical
The J5 Hyper V Tactical flashlight is a quality product with a great price. It has several settings, an exceptionally bright LED bulb and a heavy-duty exterior, giving you the ability to be ready for anything when you’re out in the wilderness or working.
The key feature, making this flashlight very impressive, is the remarkably bright 400 lumen LED bulb which can illuminate objects up to 800 feet away. This is approximately the length of two football fields.
The adjustable focus of the lens permits you to focus the beam and concentrate on particular areas. This is a convenient feature when a narrower beam is required in order to see something particular in the distance. A police officer coming into a potentially dangerous situation, or a hunter preying on an animal at night would find this a particularly convenient and helpful feature.
Features and Specifications
- The J5 Hyper V Tactical flashlight comes with 3 settings: low, high and strobe.
- It runs off AAA batteries and will run for hours.
- It has a tough body that is made from Aluminum Alloy, making it extremely durable and strong.
- It’s the perfect flashlight for perfect for hunting, camping, fishing & outdoor activities
Customers love the fact that it takes either AA or AAA batteries, which are easy to find and cheap.
The one complaint that I heard of was that the flashlight automatically switches to the next lower setting when turned on, so that, when switched off from the high setting, it would next be switched on at the medium setting.
But, there were no other complaints, signifying that other than this rather small issue, it is a nearly perfect flashlight. The sturdy and tough exterior leaves you with a flashlight that won’t break easily. The remarkably strong beam is sure to help you get to where you want if lost in the woods too.
The J5 Hyper V Tactical flashlight possesses one of the brightest beams on the market, so bright, in fact, that it can be used as entertainment, with the ability to stretch across 2 full-sized football fields. The strong aluminum alloy is super durable and won’t break when put to the test.
The Helotex G2 tactical flashlight is a sturdy, high performance flashlight that stands the test of time and durability. It has an enormously powerful LED bulb to illuminate even the darkest of places. It is one of the most trusted brands in tactical flashlights. The convenient size of the flashlight safeguards that it won’t be in the way when not needed.
The best feature of this tactical flashlight is the great light output. It has a well-balanced beam with no defects, making it incredibly reliable when you need it most.
Features and Specifications
- The Helotex G2 runs on either AAA batteries or CR123 Batteries.
- It produces a huge 130 lumens of light from its CREE XR-E LED bulb
- It has 3 useful settings: high, low and Strobe
My research tells me that customers are very fond of this flashlight. The light output, they say, is more than sufficient. It is extremely reliable in any situation, from hunting to camping to fire fighting.
The Helotex G2 is an extremely strong and sturdy tactical flashlight which makes it perfect for security and police officers alike. The light output is very strong, as is needed in these high intensity professions.
This flashlight is also perfect for anyone going on a camping trip because of its sustainability and all-around durability. It is a quality product at a good price and is highly recommended.
The Olight M20-X tactical flashlight is of superior quality. The Olight M20-X-ray is one of the most sturdy and dependable flashlights on the market today. The LED bulb is extremely strong.
The best feature of this flashlight is the everlasting Type III hard anodized aluminum which offers superior scratch resistance and resilience. This flashlight was made for extreme situations, and with those encountering them in mind. It was built specifically for intense purposes, but can be used leisurely also.
Features and Specifications
- The LED super bright CREE XM-L bulb is extremely bright.
- The flashlight has three setting: high, low and Strobe.
- It has an integrated battery polarity protection.
- It is water resistant, though submersion is not advised.
During my research I discovered that many customers say that this is the best tactical flashlight they have ever owned. The chief reason for this is the toughness of the indestructible body. This makes it extremely dependable in intense situations, as well as those moments when you drop it onto a hard surface. This flashlight just won’t break. You can always count on Olight to offer you a quality product.
Some didn’t care for the feature where the flashlight automatically goes to the lower setting when turned on, meaning that, when switched off the high setting, it would next be switched on at the medium setting.
But, there were no other complaints, signifying that other than this tiny issue, it is a perfect flashlight that can be relied upon. The sturdy and hard-wearing exterior means it won’t break.
The Olight M20-X is one of the strongest flashlights available on the market today. This is a crucial requirement for an all-action flashlight that is going to stand up to the test of being thrown around and perform to its maximum ability when needed. It’s indestructible exterior means you don’t need to worry about being delicate with it, unlike many other flashlights. The strong LED bulb will illuminate even the darkest corners of the woods to ensure you find safety when you need it most.
The Nitecore EC4S is perhaps the best tactical flashlight around. It’s enormously sturdy and the LED bulb is one of the brightest. It has every feature you could possibly need, and you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way when you’re outdoors or at work.
The main feature of this brilliant flashlight is the outstanding die-cast uni-body construction. It’s made with superior structural integrity, with 200% of the strength of an ordinary flashlight that consists of three separate parts. It is only 6.03 oz. This combination of strength and lightness make it a rare tactical flashlight.
Features and Specifications
- It has superior lighting performance. The Nitecore EC4S uses a CREE XHP50 LED bulb and innovative “Precision Digital Optics Technology”, to maximize the output up to 2150 Lumens, that’s 200% of the brightness compared to CREE XM-L2 LED, 19,600CD beam intensity.
- It has the ability to shoot 280 meters of beam distance,
- The high efficiency constant current circuit offers a maximum runtime of 325 Hours.
- It has 5 brightness levels: Turbo, High, Mid, Low, Ultralow, and a further 3 concealed special modes: Strobe, SOS and Location beacon.
There are very little complaints about this tactical flashlight. With so many quality features, it’s a tool made of craftsmanship, with the user in mind. What people like most is the resilience of the flashlight. Made from one piece, it is less likely to fracture, and has a strength double to that of any of its competitors.
The only complaint I’ve heard was that it shut down after a few minutes of use. Which is a very valid criticism. Even on the lowest setting, it was purported to have shut down in order to save the battery. This is something that would deter customers for sure. You need a flashlight that will last, especially if you are far from safety.
Nevertheless, most have praised the stability of the Nitecore EC4S, mentioning the great lengths of time the power sources will last. It can last up to 325 hours, making it the longest lasting flashlight I have seen. The excellent customer service of Nitecore will always safeguard that faulty products are replaced or redeemed.
The Nitecore EC4S is the best tactical flashlight that I have come across. It is the most durable 3 piece flashlight on the market, and the LED bulb is extremely strong, with a really long lasting power source.
Tactical Flashlight Buyer’s Guide
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
If you are a policeman, fireman, survivalist, hunter, or in the military, you will know how important it is to have a high quality tactical flashlight.
You can’t simply grab a flashlight from your kitchen and call it a day.
The flashlight needs to be powerful, reliable, and water resistant and have rechargeable batteries, not to mention it must be sturdy.
When you have that combination, it’s called a tactical flashlight.
If you take a regular flashlight into the dark woods searching for your keys or in a flaming house searching for the exit, you will soon realize that it just won’t do.
You don’t want to be in any such situation without having a proper tactical flashlight that can take the punishment of all the elements.
In other words, it’s a lifesaving tool!
What Does Tactical Mean?
The word tactical generally refers to military tactics, which is the science and art of implementing techniques to organize military force, as well as techniques for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle, using weapons and military.
I know you are not going to use any tactical gear for that purpose, but occupations like a police officer or fireman still use tactical strategies to neutralize any threats.
Parts of the Flashlight
The bezel is the head of the flashlight. It holds the head of the flashlight onto the body and keeps the window of the flashlight in place and amplifies the brightness of the flashlight by way of keeping the microscopic lens firmly attached. Should you lose the bezel of the flashlight, it’s basically no good because it keeps the entire device intact. Beneath the lens you’ll find the torch, and depending on the model, the batteries and everything else that makes the tactical flashlight work.
The lens is more than just a cover for the torch. It amplifies the brightness and reach of the already powerful torch. A lens on a tactical flashlight is very important for the following reasons:
It is used to protect the torch, but it is also used to illuminate the area in a number of colors; red, green, blue or clear are normally the colors chosen by military groups. The different colors enhance or alter visibility in particular situations.
For example, a red lens will help to preserve night vision; blue helps in the tracking of blood trails; and green can enhance vision in light conditions.
LED (the bulb)
The LED is the bulb used on almost all tactical flashlights. The reason for this is that LED flashlight bulbs normally are capable of about 50,000 hours of constant use, which amounts to approximately five years.
They also have no filament, which makes them more shock resistant. These qualities make LED bulbs perhaps the most reliable bulbs around, which is precisely what is needed for military, police, or any other user of military tactics.
LED lighting will deliver the best possible vision no matter the conditions. The best LED flashlights are chargeable as well, meaning there is no need to carry batteries around with you.
The reflector has a parabolic shape and concentrates the light from the LED flashlight bulb, creating a direct beam. The reflector is a very important component of the tactical flashlight as it enhances the power emitted from an already powerful bulb.
Many tactical flashlight brands allow for the adjustment of the reflector to create a wider or narrower scope.
This is useful for moving in large areas of darkness, such as forestry or open land, as well as using it in more confined spaces like a building.
Commonly, they are made of polished metal, glass or aluminized plastic. Some manufacturers also use a pebbled finish on the reflector to give consistency to the beam that is being omitted.
The tail switch is basically the button that turns on the flashlight. This is found at the butt of the flashlight. Its location is not just random placement. It is precisely placed at the butt to allow for optimum control over the direction in which you are aiming the beam.
By holding the flashlight with your arm in an upright position, in a so-called “icepick” grip, you can direct the beam with the twist of your wrist as opposed to your entire arm. This is useful for stealth operations when the beam is required one moment and damaging the next. Being able to switch between high visibility and no visibility at the quick push of a thumb has aided stealth operations for decades.
The lanyard attachment is in fact a very significant part of a tactical flashlight. There comes a time when you need to put the flashlight away for fear of being detected, or to open a door, or any other time you might need your hand to be available.
The lanyard attachment permits you to keep your flashlight at the ready when your hands are free. It allows you to easily clip it to a belt or buckle and hang it by your waist or around your neck, where you can easily reach for it again when needed.
It’s just a simple clip located at the base of the flashlight alongside the tail switch: a simple but effective and essential accessory.
The Pocket Clip
The pocket clip has a similar function to the lanyard clip. It’s a piece of metal that runs down the body of the flashlight that allows you to easily clip the flashlight onto the exterior of your pocket.
This is probably more useful, in terms of easy access, than the lanyard. In a situation of high intensity when you need your flashlight, you don’t want to be fumbling with a lanyard clip.
With the pocket clip, you can easily grab the flashlight in one hand. The only downside is that if you’re moving a lot, jumping or sliding down steep trenches, the flashlight could slip from your pocket grip and fall to the ground without you noticing. This is why both pocket clips and lanyard clips are added.
The battery compartment is commonly found midway up the body of the flashlight. As the name suggests, it’s where the batteries are stored to power the flashlight.
Many modern tactical flashlight brands won’t have a battery compartment as they are chargeable, meaning they can be attached by way of a USB port to a power system and charged when not needed.
Yet, tactical flashlight brands with a battery port are more desirable by way of the virtue of not having to carry additional equipment, such as a USB charger.
Most tactical flashlights with a battery compartment will get a significant lifespan out of batteries, making the load a lot lighter, which is what you would want if on a long excursion.
The tail cap gives you grip at the tail of the flashlight when it is being held in the “icepick” grip. Grip at this part of the flashlight body is very important, as one false move and a dropped flashlight could lead to a heightened intensity situation and/or death. The tail cap also secures the battery compartment sufficiently to the body of the flashlight in order to power it. Again, it may seem like an immaterial component of the tactical flashlight, but it’s important. Grip and control are vital in high intensity situations, and the tail cap offers extra grip and control, accordingly making it an indispensable element.
The Head or LED Housing
The head, or LED housing, is the compartment in which the LED flashlight bulb is stored. This is a key component of the tactical flashlight as it provides protection to the bulb.
With tactical flashlights, the head will be exceptionally strong in order to give optimum protection.
ANSI FL1 Standards
In August of 2009, the American National Standards Institute approved a standardization specification for flashlight performances. This was developed by a committee of flashlight manufacturers known as the Flashlight Standards Committee of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The standards fell under 10 headings. They are as follows:
Light output is the measurement of luminous flux within the sphere and is essentially a measurement of energy.
Run time refers to the nearest quarter hour of output before it drops to below 10%.
Beam distance is the distance from the flashlight to the illuminated object or space equivalent to moonlight.
Peak Beam Intensity
Peak beam intensity measures the intensity of the light at the mid-section of the flashlight beam. It’s also a measurement of energy.
This tests the durability of flashlights dropped from certain heights onto concrete with batteries included.
Water resistance is measured using an IP Rating System. It comes in three categories:
- IPX4 is water resistant or splash proof from all directions.
- IPX7 is waterproof and resistant to 1-meter submersion for 30 seconds.
- IPX8 is waterproof for a submersion of 4 hours.
Why Carry a Tactical Flashlight?
Whether you enjoy camping or other excursions or you work in the fire department or police force, a quality tactical flashlight is an indispensable survival tool.
Should you or someone you know, or don’t know, fall in a dangerous place at night and you don’t have suitable lighting, you could be in big trouble. If you need to tackle any kind of obstacles during the night, it will be made substantially easier with a tactical flashlight.
In military situations, where everyone you encounter is armed with an assault rifle, there are times when you will come across a stranger in the dark of night, and you will need to identify them. This is safer with a quality flashlight.
In the case of being in a burning building, you just won’t be able to find an exit without a powerful flashlight. Smoke and debris will block out most of your senses, and the least of which you will need is your vision. As an excursionist, losing anything relatively small in the dark is potentially dangerous; be it keys, a water bottle or even your tent, you can become disorientated and lost. A tactical flashlight will help you find what you’re looking for.
As a self-defense device, a tactical flashlight makes walking home at night all the more safer. With a tactical flashlight, an offender will be disorientated and temporarily blinded by the LED beam shone in their face as they approach you. In addition, because of their toughness, should an intruder catch you off guard, a tactical flashlight will also serve you well as a weapon. A swift blow to the head will knock just about anyone out.
If you are a collector of gadgets, a tactical flashlight is at the summit of electronic technology, the proficiency and craftsmanship that goes into the making of a tactical flashlight is extraordinary. No stone has been left unturned and no scenario has not been thought out when considering the many uses and benefits of owning a tactical flashlight. They are multipurpose tools for excursionists and soldiers alike.
Do You Need a Tactical Flashlight?
It depends upon the activity you’ll be looking to use it for. Although, a tactical flashlight can be useful in any circumstance or excursion.
As a member of the force, a police flashlight (tactical) is a must-have. Entering unknown buildings at night, chasing offenders or even as a last resort of self-defense, having the best flashlight is going to be extremely useful and may even save you or someone else’s life.
In the fire department, your job is frequently going to involve you entering a burning building in order to save someone’s life. However, you also need to think about your own life. Finding your way to somebody trapped in a burning building is tremendously difficult without suitable lighting, so you should prepare yourself with a tactical flashlight. A lost life should not be the result of insufficient visibility, be it theirs or yours.
As a hunter, you will find yourself on weeklong excursions, following your prey. This means tracking at night, which can be unsafe for many reasons. If you can’t see sufficiently, you can easily put your foot into a hole and break a leg, leaving you stranded and alone in the wilderness. Also, if you have wounded your pray, a blue lens will help you track the blood trail.
On the other hand, if you need your hands free at all times; if you’re the runner in your field of work, or if you’re caving or climbing, maybe a headlamp is a better option. As a tactical flashlight isn’t that small or light, it might become something of a burden, despite its apparent and numerous uses.
You will need to consider a few things when purchasing a tactical flashlight.
First, you will need to consider your budget. Is it going to be used in a survival situation or for a camping trip?
Bottom line is – You can’t put a price on your survival.
If purchasing a tactical flashlight as a tool of survival, you will need to spend a good amount of money on it and should not cheap out.
For leisure, you can spend a little less. You won’t find yourself provoked by an enemy wielding an assault rifle. It will most likely be useful for finding the keys to the car if you lose them during the night, or finding the tent when you wander off from the campfire for a bathroom break.
What will you use it for?
There are a number of activities it can be used for. The possibilities are endless.
If you need to use your hands a lot, such as for rock climbing and climbing through caves, you should choose a headlamp as opposed to a handheld flashlight. In addition, if you are taking on an activity in which you are moving a lot, or running, your hands won’t be able to stay steady and aim correctly, limiting your vision and rendering you disorientated.
However, if you need more control and accuracy with the aim of the flashlight, you should elect to use a handheld flashlight. If it’s a slower-paced activity, like hiking, hunting or camping, you will need a handheld flashlight for aim. Handheld flashlights will provide you with a wider scope of vision, which will profit you significantly in those conditions.
As a hunter, you might also need a weapon mounted flashlight. Not only will this improve your vision, and therefore your aim, but also with a tactical flashlight, you may daze the animal and prevent it from running, then making for an easier shot and consequently a quicker kill.
Mount & Hybrid Adapter
Finally, you’ll need to consider whether you want a mount or hybrid adapter. A mount adapter attaches the flashlight to a rifle or other instrument, making the use of two tools at once an option. Hybrids come attached to the weapon and so can only achieve the single purpose. You will therefore need to consider whether you want a multipurpose or single purpose. Keep in mind that not all manufacturers of adapters make products to fit all flashlights or weapons.
What Size Flashlight?
Micro flashlights are less than 2 inches and usually fit onto a keychain with button cell batteries.
Mini flashlights are under the 3 inch mark. Any flashlight from 2 to 3 inches opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of battery sizes, from AA to AAA. Some flashlights this size achieve 252 Lumens.
Small flashlights are under 4 inches, so they can’t really fit a second battery, but they do frequently offer more features, such as a deeper reflector or a tail switch.
Medium flashlights are 4 to 6 inches and can frequently fit 2 batteries, extending their run time. The best LED flashlights will have bulbs that can put out high Lumens. Increased size will also offer you a more significant tool for self-defense.
Large and jumbo flashlights will be anything over 6 inches. A large will still have a small diameter bezel and will fit in a holster. A jumbo will have a larger bezel and thus a broader diameter of illumination. Police officers frequently carry large or jumbo sized flashlights, which can certainly be used as a weapon for self-defense.
Choosing the correct batter for your flashlight is essential and will affect its general performance. Disposable alkaline batteries are the common AAA, AA, C and D batteries. They don’t offer a great deal of power, but they are very easy to find. Those in the prepper or survival industry will often opt for a flashlight that uses standard sized batteries because they know they are easily accessible.
Disposable Lithium Batteries
Disposable Lithium batteries should not be confused for Lithium Ion batteries. Disposable Lithium batteries are almost the exact same as disposable alkaline batteries except they’re more powerful, store more energy and are lighter. They will last longer as well. These are favored by survivalists for these reasons. Though, they are more expensive.
Rechargeable cells come in a variety of sizes. Specialized sizes for tactical flashlights include 18500, 18650, and RCR123A. They offer a good output and the capability of recharging makes them more environmentally friendly. Though, rechargeable flashlights are more expensive and require the purchasing of a good charger as well.
Integrated Rechargeable Pack batteries are expressly made for particular tactical flashlights. They are either rechargeable or you just plug the whole flashlight in to recharge. They can be very valuable, but it can be annoying when you run out of power and have to wait while it recharges.
The kind of material that you choose for your flashlight will have an effect on its strength and its weight. Tactical flashlights come in three different materials.
- Plastic or composite flashlights are usually of a lower quality, although Pelican is a good company for producing quality flashlights and they use plastic and/or composite materials.
- Anodized aluminum is the most common material used for quality flashlights. Be sure to have at least type II anodizing, but type III is the best.
- Stainless steel is a strong and durable material, but it is heavy.
Type of Light
There are many considerations when choosing the light for your flashlight.
Color and light spread are biggest ones.
First, the color depends on what type of activity you are using it for. Kelvin Temperature is the measurement of the color of light, precisely the tints, which are measured in Kelvins. The lower end of the spectrum, from 2,600K to 3,500K, commonly give off what is called a “warm white” coloring.
Between 3,500K and 500K offers a “neutral white” coloring. The higher range of 5,000K and up will give off a “cool white” color that typically has a blue tint to it. These are the most popular because of the effective light production they offer.
You also must consider what kind of bulb you want. Incandescent bulbs contain a wire filament that is heated to high temperatures by electricity in order to illuminate it. Some higher-powered incandescent flashlights use halogen lamps, where halogen intensifies the power of the bulb. Notwithstanding these being replaceable bulbs, they have a short life expectancy; perhaps just a few hours.
This makes them less reliable than LED bulbs for a tactical flashlight because they are also more fragile than LED light bulbs. If you drop your flashlight onto a hard surface, the filament might break or come loose, leaving your flashlight unusable. The best color you will get out of an incandescent light bulb is around 2,500K.
Flashlight LED bulbs have a longer lifespan and electrical productivity than most other bulbs, such as incandescent bulbs. They can produce over 100 Lumens for every watt, as opposed to the 8 to 10 Lumens fashioned by an incandescent bulb. They have a considerably longer battery life than incandescent light bulbs, using about 10% of the energy of an incandescent.
They will produce a range of colors, from a “warm white”, about 3,800K to 4,000K, to a “cool white”, about 5,500K to 6,500K. This makes them the ideal choice of light bulb for a tactical flashlight; you will want a range of colors at your disposal, as well as not wanting your tactical flashlight to cut out when you need it most, such as in a high intensity situation. Combined with a reliable battery, or a fully charged one, you’ll be safe with an LED bulb in your tactical flashlight.
You much also consider the light pattern spread that you’re going to get from your bulb. Contemplate the setting in which you will need it. A burning building will have considerably different needs than a forest.
Most tactical flashlight brands come in two variations when considering light pattern spreads: flood and throw. You’ll need to make a compromise on these. A flood will spread light upon a wider space, but it won’t reach far. On the other hand, a throw will reach far but in a concentrated and thinner line of space. You’ll get a long and defined beam, but your overall brightness won’t be great. Different flashlights and lights are made to lean more to one side than the other.
It comes down to the design of the reflector and the LED being used. In general, flashlights that are more floody are best fit for close and isolated inspections of objects. Flashlights that are more throwy are better for closer up inspections of things, or for lighting up a greater area. Before you make the decision, you’ll need to consider the activity you’re undertaking and think about when and why you will need your flashlight.
Battery life and brightness are things you will need to consider here. Do you need a flashlight that will maintain its maximum brightness for 30 minutes and then dim significantly? Or do you need something to maintain its maximum brightness for 3 or 4 hours?
Battery life vs. brightness is one of the chief disputes surrounding flashlights, but it’s really an individual matter, and solely reliant on the activity you need it for. Many smaller flashlights can yield a huge amount of Lumens but, due to their small size and therefore smaller battery capacity, they won’t last very long. Larger flashlights can fit more and stronger batteries and accordingly can produce a higher level of Lumens and will last longer.
A Lumen is a unit of luminous flux and the measurement used for the total quantity of light that is visibly produced by a source, such as a bulb. A flashlight’s Lumen measurement is referring to the flashlight on its highest setting with new batteries or fully charged. Although the Lumen is a good tool for comparing flashlights, it does not tell the entire story behind the brightness.
For example, the Fenix PD35 TAC is considered to be one of the best 1000 lumen flashlights on the market today. If you find other 1000 lumen flashlights, you’ll be hard pressed to find one better than the Fenix.
Beam distance is measured in meters and should not be ignored. This will measure the distance the light expelled from the flashlight will reach before it lessens to the equivalent of the light that comes from a full moon, which is largely considered to be safe to travel in outdoors. Clearly, the distance varies depending on the setting. But depending on the location of your activity, distance may or may not be of great importance, so you should consider this before you make a purchase.
Candela refers to the intensity of a Lumen (ie, 1,000 lumens). It is similar to radiant intensity, the chief difference being that instead of linking the contributions of each wavelength of light within the spectrum, it is weighed by the luminous function, which means it is measured by the human eye, basically.
The ranges of lighting are an important factor to consider, which are from 1 to over 700 Lumens. This will fluctuate depending upon the battery and bulb being used. It also comes down to the vision of the person using it. But any quality tactical flashlight will come with a brightness adjuster or multiple brightness levels. These usually comes as one of either a head/tail twist, a body switch or a tail switch.
A lot of tactical flashlights have a simple on/off switch, which only gives you the option of one brightness level. These are usually the small flashlights, because they don’t have the capacity to contain the needed setting for brightness adjustments. If purchasing one of these, you should confirm that the level of Lumens are suitable enough for the activity you are undertaking.
More advanced or larger flashlights will have 2 settings: high and low. The lower setting will use less battery but emit a lower level of Lumens, resultant in reduced visibility. High settings will emit the maximum level of Lumens and use up much more of the battery life, so you should save the higher setting until natural light has reduced dramatically.
Better tactical flashlights will have 3 or more settings from low to high. This gives you more variation when deciding on which the best light to suit the moment is and also which one will give best lighting while conserving the most amount of battery as possible. You can change the lighting to the amount of natural light you have available in order to save battery.
In generally, tactical flashlights will come with 1 of 3 different types of switches. You should consider the activity you will be conducting prior to choosing the switch that is most suitable for you.
The head/tail switch is common on very small flashlights because it doesn’t take up more space in order to develop a flashlight that changes electrical contacts, which are based on how much the head or tail is screwed on. These aren’t too reliable as sometimes the head or tail becomes entirely screwed off and you lose it. Having said that, a flashlight with this setting is usually going to be cheap and appropriate for leisurely use, such as a family camping trip.
The body switch is more popular because it allows you a variety of grips on the flashlight while also being able to switch it on or off. In the case of a flashlight with several light settings, you normally switch once for on, twice for setting one, three times for setting two, and so on. This is suitable for casual use. It will not dramatically enhance or hinder your use of the flashlight in self-defense.
The tail switch is the most popular and most common. With the switch at the base of the flashlight, you can alter the lighting with the “icepick” grip, allowing for better accuracy and self-defense. It is the preferred grip and switch for using a flashlight with a handheld pisto, such as when police officers use a flashlight and a gun, as it allows you to aim with ease while keeping the flashlight in a position ready to strike a possible attacker.
Special Light Modes
Many tactical flashlights offer special light modes. There are 3 special light modes that come with a tactical flashlight.
The Strobe light mode is not meant for a dance party. It was designed to disorientate people. It is a very fast flashing at the brightest level which changes patterns to confuse people. It’s a feature that has many uses, but most notably, police officers would consider it very important when making raids.
The strobe light causes what is known as the Bucha effect (also known as A Lumen), whereby the person experiences dizziness and confusion when exposed to the strobe light. Dr. Bucha grasped this in the 1950s when asked to explain why there had been an increase in helicopter crashes.
Survivors of the crash had explained that they had become dizzy from the strobe-like effect of rotating blades of the helicopter. This was later incorporated into the tactical flashlight, among other things, to disorientate and confuse suspects during a raid.
The SOS or Morse code mode is important and useful. It’s used for emergency purposes. Originally a naval term for “save our ship”, it became known as the distress signal. Morse code transmits text as a series of tones or flashes that can be understood to anyone who knows Morse code.
In the 21st century, there are, clearly, few under the age of 50 who can interpret Morse code. Luckily, any tactical flashlight that offers the SOS or Morse code mode will be able to signal the globally recognized “SOS” signal in order to attract the necessary attention. Even if you don’t know SOS, it is a rather distinct signal of seemingly random intermittent flashes, or beeps on a radio, that will be assumed as a call for help.
The Beacon mode on a tactical flashlight mimics a lighthouse; it blinks beautifully in the darkness at full level brightness indicating a distress signal, or a warning signal if you assume the position of a lighthouse. It’s a survival feature, just like the SOS mode. It’s more useful than the SOS mode for when you’re in a locality closer to civilization. The Beacon mode will alert nearby aid, as opposed to the SOS which will reach further distances.
Water Resistance Ratings
Some people don’t think to consider water resistance when buying a tactical flashlight, but if you’re a survivalist, in the military, a policeman, or a fireman, you are without doubt going to be put to the test in wet conditions, whether it is rain, swamp, or fire hose, there is going to be water in the way at some point.
You need to be prepared. Coming unprepared to a fight or flight situation, the last thing you need is a flashlight that is water damaged; fail to prepare, prepare to fail. The water resistance of a flashlight comes in three grades: IPX4, IPX7 and IPX 8.
IPX4 means that your flashlight is water resistant at the most basic level; splash level. This may be all well and good for some instances, but it’s not going to help you when you’re lost in the wilderness for days, searching for the way back home.
IPX7 is a bit more reliable and is up to 1 meter of submersion water resistant. You can rest assured that if a flashlight of IPX7 is lost on the ground at some point, it will survive the morning dew. This is a more dependable flashlight overall.
It will even survive the persistent spray of a fire hose if it happens to come into the direct line of fire. This is a much more dependable level of water resistance.
IPX8 is the most reliable water resistance level. If can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for over 4 hours. This basically makes it totally waterproof. The length of time in the water is not truly of concern, but the pressure created by the depth is. Spearfishing at 8 meters for 20 minutes would give the same results as 1 meter for 4 hours, and so a tactical flashlight with an IPX8 marking is going to be an enormously reliable flashlight in the water.
Special Features and Options
Tactical flashlight brands will often come with an assortment of special features and modifications, possibly 2 or 3, to suit your specific needs.
Light filters are placed over the top of the lens to change the coloring of the light beam. Changing the color of the light offers a different function depending on the color. For instance, red is useful for night vision, which is often used by the military and SWAT teams advancing upon the enemy. Hunters tracking an animal over long distances through the night also use night vision. Blue and yellow light filters are used for tracking blood.
These colors will illuminate the red of blood in dark conditions, making it easier for hunters to track a wounded animal. Police also use this method for tracking a wounded criminal who has been shot but escaped. Green is a useful light filter that is frequently used by hunters.
Green does not scare animals, so you can preserve your location and vantage point while maintaining a track on them. Green cannot be seen from peripheral vision either, which makes it useful for military purposes as well. Usually, only the best police flashlights will have these filters.
Dedicated RGB LEDS
Dedicated RGB LEDs come built into the flashlight, as opposed to offering the same functions as above from a light filter. You may require that the light filter be incorporated into the flashlight. The only downside to the dedicated RGB LEDs is that the level of brightness will not be the same as if from a light filter attached to the head of the camera. The advantage of dedicated RGB LEDs is that, because they’re incorporated into the flashlight, they won’t come lose in action and fall off.
Pocket or Belt Clips
Pocket or Belt Clips are beneficial for keeping your tactical flashlight in a convenient and easy to reach position. In any given situation you will need your flashlight at sporadic moments. You don’t want to be packing it into your packback or forcing it into your pocket every so often, only to need it again moments later. A pocket or belt clip removes this problem. Some flashlights have much better clips than others. The Sunwayman Mr. Elfin M11R has a deeper pocket clip than most, which safeguards that it is totally secure and won’t come loose during high activity, such as crawling across the ground or down trenches.
Likewise, holsters offer you a quick reach of your flashlight. These are more uniform and are regularly used by police. A holster will attach to the belt to be used when a flashlight is too big to be stored in your pocket. This is why many bigger flashlights, often used by police, will come with a holster. Most holsters will come with a Velcro flap to guarantee that the flashlight is kept firmly in place.
Strike Bezel (self-defense)
A strike bezel is designed with jagged edges made to hurt an attacker if struck with the flashlight. Some flashlights come with these built on, but usually they are bought separately, because they turn the flashlight into a weapon, offered as a crenulated bezel add on. Typically they are advertised as a means of breaking windows in an emergency, such as those that a firefighter or police officer might encounter. Police officers will often have a strike bezel to use for smashing windows and/or as a means of protection. For this reason, you should be careful if confronted by security at an airport or elsewhere, as they may consider a flashlight with a strike bezel as a weapon.
A mounting bracket permits you to attach your flashlight to a gun. Some flashlights come built explicitly to be attached to a gun, while others come with adaptors to attach them to the gun. Those made explicitly to be attached to a gun are more secure with less movement. But a mounting bracket has a more adaptable function and is cheaper. Mounting brackets are useful for hunters and police officers. A mounting bracket combined with a red light filter will make for optimum vision when tracking and aiming at an animal. Likewise it would be useful for police and military forces for keeping aim on a target in dark conditions.
A pressure switch is another tool for mounting your tactical flashlight to a weapon. Mounting your flashlight to a weapon may require you to move the on/off switch to a different position. Many manufacturers of tactical flashlights will offer a pressure switch that exchanges the tail switch of a flashlight with a pressure pad, permitting you to move the on/off switch to anywhere you want on the weapon. This is useful for long weapons such as a rifle, so that you can keep the switch comfortably next to your hand as you aim. Therefore, you don’t have to break your focus in a high pressure moment, such as taking aim on an animal when hunting, or covering a military or police partner as they enter dangerous territory.
A headlamp adapter is used in a comparable way to the mounting bracket or lanyard in that it allows you to keep your hands accessible when you need them free. These are most useful for small flashlights, as larger ones would be too heavy and fall out of place. Zebralight and Foursevens offer dynamic and versatile headlamp adaptors for many of their products. A headlamp adaptor essentially gives you another option when you may need it most. Otherwise, some would put the flashlight between their teeth, but this considerably hampers your ability to communicate, which can be dangerous for both you and those around you.
Knurling refers to the grip on the handle or body of the flashlight. Some prefer a smooth, ergonomic handle while others prefer the surface of the flashlight to be knurled for extra grip. Your preference should be based on the activity you are buying it for and the environment in which you will be. Wet conditions will favor a knurled handle, as a smooth surface will become slippery when wet. But generally, knurling really just comes down to personal preference and will not disturb the flashlight’s functioning.
Made in the USA
Finally, you should consider whether or not you want tools built 100% in China, or whether you would rather have a 100% American made tool. Tactical flashlights used by the United States Army and police use 100% American made tactical flashlights, but China does offer equal quality tactical flashlights. It’s a matter of preference, and deciding where you want your money going; back into the US economy or into China’s.
Tactical flashlights are made down the whole percentage scale of 100% made in China to 100% made in America. You will have many that are partly made in one country and partly made in the other. As far as quality, this really should not have a big impact on your decision because a quality tactical flashlight is a quality product, irrespective of where it has been made.