CHOOSING THE BEST TACTICAL FLASHLIGHT
First of all, let’s describe what a tactical flashlight is. We all know what flashlights are, and have at least one lying in our houses somewhere. But what makes a flashlight tactical? Simply put, a tactical flashlight is a flashlight that has been designed for tactical (police or military) use, with many allowing themselves to be mounted onto a gun to help you shoot in low light. Because they are designed to be used with guns, they tend to be smaller, give out more light, and are constructed from more robust materials (such as weapon grade aluminium) than standard flashlights.
Although designed originally for the police or military, many civilians concerned with self-defence also buy these tactical flashlights, especially if they carry a pistol. A tactical flashlight can help you in a number of ways in low lighting or darkness. It can help identify your target, eliminating the advantage that a would-be attacker has when using the darkness to stalk you. Many would-be attackers will flee just by you simply shining a light on them. A very bright light shone into a would-be attacker’s eyes also has the effect of disorientating them momentarily. You could gain vital, life-saving seconds as your opponent shields his eyes from your flashlight. If you do need to use your pistol, a tactical flashlight will also allow you to see your gun sights properly – extremely important if you end up discharging your weapon. And lastly, some tactical flashlights will have toothed or serrated bezels, which can be used to strike your opponents face if he gets close enough.
There are literally hundreds of tactical flashlights on the market right now, so which one should you choose. We recommend that one of the aspects to look for when choosing the best tactical flashlight for your needs, is the size of the flashlight. The best tactical flashlight needs to be small and light enough for you to carry every day, and ideally should not be much bigger than the palm of your hand. If you plan on mounting a tactical flashlight onto your pistol, then of course you need to make sure your chosen flashlight is compatible with your make and model of pistol. Also, look at the light output which is usually measured in lumens. Lumen, usually abbreviated to lm, is a measure of the total amount of visible light to the human eye from a light source or lamp – the higher the lumen value, the brighter the light source is to the human eye. A low lumen output will not give you the advantage of disorientating a would-be attacker, so if that is important to you, you need to look for a higher lumen output. The best tactical flashlights have adjustable brightness so that you can change the output according to the situation and need.
The best tactical flashlights tend use LED lights instead of incandescent (nearly all tactical flashlights now use LED). LED’s are much more robust and can withstand being dropped, unlike incandescent bulbs which tend to break and shatter. Incandescent bulbs also burn through and use up batteries much faster than LED’s. A robust construction is vital when choosing the best tactical flashlight. You need a flashlight that you can carry every day, and will be reliable when you really need it. A tough material, such as hard anodized aluminum, will allow you to carry it every day, in all sorts of environments, without worrying that your flashlight may fail on you when you need it most. And lastly, a level of water resistance (or even better waterproof) will again mean you don’t have to worry about where you are taking your flashlight, and it failing on you when you need it most.
THE 5 TOP TACTICAL FLASHLIGHT OPTIONS
So what is the best tactical flashlight on the market today? We’ve reviewed 5 popular models. We will go through size, ease of use, luminosity, and performance.
Streamlight 69240 TLR-4 Compact Rail Mounted Tactical Light with Laser Sight
In our 5 best tactical flashlight list, this is the most expensive model. It’s made from impact resistant polymer, with the face cap made of machined aircraft aluminium which has been anodized black. It boasts C4 LED technology, and fits a broad range of weapons using a key kit (included with flashlight). It’s also extremely lightweight (weighing only 2.9 ounces) and compact (2.7 inches in length). Lumen output is at 110 lumens, it runs on one CR2 battery, and it will run for 1.5 hours of continuous use. Attaching and detaching from your weapon is fast and simple using the rail clamp. But the real draw is the integrated aiming laser, which is perfect for long range targeting. An ambidextrous on-off switch can toggle between momentary and steady beam, and there are 3 modes; LED illumination, laser only, or LED and laser at the same time.
We really liked the laser as it is bright and very distinct in the centre of the hotspot or beam. The whole unit feels very secure on a pistol, whilst being extremely lightweight, adding almost nothing to the weight. Of course, all flashlights will add to the bulk and shape of the pistol, and even with such a compact tactical flashlight, you may find that you need a new, bigger holster to fit your weapon, but we cannot fault the manufacturers for this, as this is a likely consequence of most tactical flashlights. We did find the laser adjustment screws rather stiff at first, but a little firm pressure was all that was required.
Our main issue was the polymer material. It’s not as robust as we would like, and some other users have even found that the polymer clip sides can snap right off if not handled carefully. Now, of course you need to take care with your tactical flashlight, but considering this is meant to be a flashlight for use with a weapon, we would expect the materials used to be a bit more robust. After all, if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance where you need to use your weapon for self-defence, careful handling is going to be last of your concerns. We do wish the manufacturers made both clip sides metal instead of polymer to make this a more robust tactical flashlight, especially for the price. Also, there is no mention of how resistant this tactical flashlight it to water, and we would advise against getting it wet. However, if having a laser to help your aim is at the top of your list, then this is the best tactical flashlight for your needs.
Orion H40-W 500 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight with Pressure Switch and Rifle Mount
This Orion tactical flashlight made it onto our best tactical flashlights list because of the sheer brightness of its output (500 lumens – runs on two CR123A batteries), and its robust construction that make it reliable in the harshest of environments. It has a virtually indestructible LED emitter, and is recoil proof, ensuring that even if your pistol has quite a harsh recoil, this tactical flashlight will not budge. The body is also made from high strength aluminium, which has been hard anodised, making it durable in all environments. Add to that an IPX-7 rating, which means that this tactical flashlight can be submerged in up to a metre of water for up to 30 minutes, and this is one tough flashlight!
It can be mounted to most pistols but can also be mounted to rifles using the Picatinny or Weaver Rail mount. At 500 lumens, this tactical flashlight is ideal if you need something to momentarily disorientate a would-be attacker. It’s reasonably compact at a length of 5.2 inches and weighs 3.4 ounces (without batteries). You can choose between a constant beam (by pressing the constant button), or there is a pressure switch for momentary light.
We really liked this tactical flashlight, despite being a little bulky. We loved how the brightness of the beam does not dip, even when your batteries are running out, Instead of the usual slow dimming of light, it remains at full beam until the battery has almost run out, and then it goes to super dim. The only issue we could find with this tactical flashlight is that when we tried mounting the pressure switch we found there was no adhesive, and the backing was raised in places, which creates a non-flat surface. However, if having a startling beam that will disorientate attackers, and complete reliability in all environments is high on your priority list, this is definitely one of the best tactical flashlight options around.
Monstrum Tactical 90 Lumens LED Flashlight with Rail Mount and Detachable Remote Pressure Switch
This flashlight makes it onto our best tactical flashlight list for being one of the most inexpensive flashlights available, and yet still being robust. It is made from aircraft grade aluminium, which makes it tough and yet still light (weighing only 2.5 ounces). It is also very compact at only 3.7 inches in length. It uses a rail mount to mount onto pistols, and can mount onto any Weaver or Picatinny rail. Output is at 90 lumens and it uses one CR123A battery.
We liked how simple and robust this flashlight was for its small price. However, at 90 lumens, remember his flashlight is not really bright enough to disorientate an attacker. Also, the pressure switch does not plug in. It actually replaces the rear of the flashlight. In other words, you need to choose between the option of the pressure switch or the button, you can’t use both. And there is also no mention of how this tactical flashlight fairs with water, so we would advise to keep moisture away from this unit. Having said all that, for the price, this is one of the best tactical flashlight options for anyone on a budget.
CISNO New T6 LED 1000LM Tactical Flashlight Light With Mount+Pressure Switch For Picatinny Quad Rail Rifle
This also makes it onto our best tactical flashlight options list for being a fantastic budget option, but also for its incredible light output at 1000 lumens. It is made from aluminium alloy, and is powered by one 18650 battery. It is a slightly big tactical flashlight at 5.2 inches, but it boasts the ability to absorb shock, and is also waterproof (however, there is no IPX rating, so we do not recommend submerging this tactical flashlight in water – it should be fine for use in the rain, however). There are two modes; a toggle pressure switch and a button switch. It comes with a 20mm rail mount, and can also be installed on a standard weaver rail.
We would have preferred the flashlight body to have had a flat black finish instead of being shiny, for tactical reasons, and we did find the pressure switch a little flimsy, with some users finding the wires disconnect from the housing after a while, but for the price, and the sheer power you get, this deserves to be on our list of best tactical flashlight options.
LiteXpress SET-KOMBI89: LXL448001B Led Aluminium Flashlight X-Tactical 105 with 2x CR123A/ 550 Lumens (ANSI) + LXA101 X-Fire Remote Pressure Switch incl. Picatinny Rail Mount and Screwdriver
This has to be one of the best tactical flashlight options when it comes to versatility. Made from aluminium, it boasts a light output of up to 550 lumen, using two CR123A batteries, and has a six mode operation; high for dazzling brightness to disorientate, low ‘candle’ mode for reading, camping etc, SOS flashing mode, and three detachable colour lenses (red for night vision, green for reading maps, and blue for differentiating blood and other fluids). It is however our bulkiest and heaviest tactical flashlight on our list, weighing 7.4 ounces and measuring 6.4 inches in length. It comes with a LiteXpress X-fire remote pressure switch. This is the best tactical flashlight for someone who expects to use not only for self-defence situations, but find themselves often in environments were they need light, and need something robust enough to handle their busy lifestyle. The manufacturers back this flashlight with a 5 year warranty.
We really liked the mount on this flashlight as it was rubber gripped so it does not scratch or damage the finish. Drawbacks include the momentary switch, which is a rough diamond pattern, which does not stick to the pump of the pistol very well, and the screw that tightens the mount to the rail is a bit flimsy. Also, the spiral cord for the pressure switch is a little too long for our liking. And of course, it is rather big compared to other tactical flashlights. Also, we would have liked an IPX rating for water resistance, which the manufacturers do not mention. However, for someone with a very outdoorsy, active lifestyle, but who also wants a tactical flashlight with the ability to disorientate, this is definitely one of the best tactical flashlight options available.
Our best tactical flashlight choice:
Our reviewed flashlights range from the cheapest at under $18 to just under $121, and your choice will ultimately come down to your budget, as well as what you plan on using your flashlight for. Let’s quickly recap on the 5 best tactical flashlight options:
The Streamlight 69240 TLR-4 Compact Rail Mounted Tactical Light with Laser Sight is made from impact resistant polymer, and weighs 2.9 ounces. It is 2.7 inches in length. Brightness is at 110 lumens. The main draw for our most expensive flashlight on our best tactical flashlight list is the aiming laser. The polymer body material is not as robust as we would like, and this tactical flashlight cannot come into contact with water.
The Orion H40-W 500 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight is made from hard anodized aluminium, is 5.2 inches long, and weighs 3.4 ounces. Output is at 500 lumen, and it has a waterproof rating of IPX 7. The only issue we could find was difficulty in mounting the pressure switch.
The Monstrum Tactical 90 Lumens LED Flashlight is our cheapest flashlight on our best tactical flashlight list, and is made from aircraft grade aluminium. It is 3.7 inches in length and weighs 2.5 ounces. Light output is at 90 lumens, which we feel is rather low for a tactical flashlight. Also, this flashlight cannot come into contact with water.
The CISNO New T6 LED 1000LM Tactical Flashlight is made from aluminium alloy and is 5.2 inches long. It has the highest lumen factor of all of the flashlights featured in our best tactical flashlight list at 1000 lumens. It is also rain resistant. The only issue we could find was that the pressure switch is rather flimsy.
The LiteXpress SET-KOMBI89: LXL448001B Led Aluminium Flashlight is made from aluminium, is 6.4 inches in length and weighs 7. 4 ounces. Output is at 550 lumen and this is truly the most versatile item on our best tactical flashlight list, with 6 different modes. However, this flashlight should not be used around water, and there are issues with the momentary switch.
So which do we think is the best tactical flashlight?
The best tactical flashlight choice depends on what you want the tactical flashlight for. For true versatility, you cannot beat the LiteXpress SET-KOMBI89: LXL448001B Led Aluminum Flashlight, but it is bulky and, unless you are a real outdoorsy person, we doubt you will appreciate all the different modes. And if you love the idea of an aiming laser, then the Streamlight 69240 TLR-4 Compact Rail Mounted Tactical Light with Laser Sight will be the best tactical flashlight for you. However, our favourite was the Orion H40-W 500 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight. A robust, truly waterproof tactical flashlight, that is also reasonably compact. And if you are budget conscious, then the CISNO New T6 LED 1000LM Tactical Flashlight is perhaps the best tactical flashlight choice for you. Boasting an eye watering 1000 lumens and rain resistance, it cannot be beaten in this price range.
What Do You Think – What Is The Best Tactical Flashlight?
What do you think is the best tactical flashlight? We know there are many tactical flashlight options out there and different people with have their own opinion on what they think the best tactical flashlight is. If you have some thoughts on the topic, please share it in the comments section below!