*This post may contain affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you.
On the hunt for the best tactical flashlight?
I’m sure you can recall situations when you badly needed a light source, but just didn’t have one.
That’s when you need a tactical flashlight.
Tactical flashlights are an essential tool for anyone who values self reliance and protection. The best part is that most models are small enough to include in your everyday carry toolbox.
Depending on your day-to-day work and adventures you’ll find them useful for anything from keeping yourself safe in unsettling situations to outdoor adventures to dealing with a flat tire along the roadside.
Tactical flashlights are what I consider an essential piece of gear for and I’ll always have one close by. At the bare minimum I always have a tactical flash stored several places at home and in my car, if not on me!
There are tons of great tactical flashlights on the market today and with that means choosing the right model for you. Let’s just put it this way—there is a ton of things to compare between the wide array of models.
That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the best tactical flashlights on the market and broken down everything you need to know when buying the best tactical flashlights.
In my tactical flashlight buying guide we will look at all the aspects you need to consider—brands, functions, materials—and point out all the pros and cons of each model in my product reviews. In my reviews I only include products that I would buy and carry myself!
The bottom line is that this guide will make is easier to find the right tactical flashlight for you.
Once you’ve read up on the vast scope of great pens on the market today, you can check out my top picks for best tactical flashlight in each of five categories:
- Best overall tactical flashlight
- Best budget tactical flashlight
- Best ultra-compact tactical flashlight
- Best compact tactical flashlight
- Best medium-sized tactical flashlight
So, read on to find the best tactical flashlight for your tactical gear box.
- 1 Best Tactical Flashlights 2017 Comparison
- 2 Best Tactical Flashlight Reviews
- 3 Tactical Flashlight Buying Guide
- 3.1 What is a Tactical Flashlight?
- 3.2 Uses of Tactical Flashlights
- 3.3 Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Tactical Flashlight
- 3.3.1 Intended Use
- 3.3.2 Price Range
- 3.3.3 Flashlight Size
- 3.3.4 ANSI FL1 Standards
- 3.3.5 Light Source – LED
- 3.3.6 Brightness
- 3.3.7 Lumen
- 3.3.8 Beam Distance & Pattern
- 3.3.9 Beam Color
- 3.3.10 Weight
- 3.3.11 Battery Type & Runtime
- 3.3.12 USB Charge Capability
- 3.3.13 Bezel Style
- 3.3.14 Flashlight Material
- 3.3.15 Durability
- 3.3.16 Water Resistance – IPX Rating
- 3.3.17 Switch Type
- 3.3.18 Light Modes
- 3.3.19 Style
- 3.3.20 How to Carry It
- 3.3.21 Other Things to Consider
- 3.4 Wrap Up
Best Tactical Flashlights 2017 Comparison[table “best-tactical-flashlights” not found /]
Best Tactical Flashlight Reviews
Best Compact Flashlights
The LumiTact G700 Flashlight is a tactical flashlight that received a lot of attention in the last couple years. Made from aircraft aluminum and powerful with 700 lumens of output, it’s a solid option for anyone on a budget. Get it here.
Features & Performance
Built from aircraft grade aluminum the G700 tactical flashlight is a durable light and self defense tool. You’ll notice that it does have a ridged striking bezel, so if you are looking for a more aggressive light this is a solid option.
Rated at 700 lumens of brightness it is ultra-powerful and have a beam distance of 200 meters. It’s a small size at just 5.1 inches long and light enough at 7 ounces to carry in your pocket or in a holster.
The flashlight features 5 light modes: high, medium, low, SOS, and strobe so you’ll have options when using it—whether your just walking the dog at or scanning a large outdoor space in the wilderness. It’s provides enough light power for almost all users.
A nice feature of the G700 flashlight is that it remains in the last setting when you power on and off. This is useful if you frequently use one mode and don’t want to cycle through each mode with every use.
The G700 flashlight comes either as an individual light or in a kit that includes:
- G700 flashlight
- 2 Li-Ion rechargeable batteries (includes AAA battery adapter)
- Battery dock (includes house and car chargers)
- Belt holster
- Hard storage case
- Powerful with 700 lumens
- Can use both rechargeable and AAA batteries
- Good size and power combination
- Offers 5 light modes
- Good budget option
- Some may not want strike bezel or adjustable zoom lens
- Complaints that rechargeable batteries fit loosely and jiggle around in flashlight
Who Should Buy It
The G700 military flashlight is a good option for anyone looking for a high-powered 700 lumen flashlight that doesn’t want to break the bank. It performs well in almost all areas and is useful in many situations with it’s 5 light modes.
– G700 Flashlight Specs –
Size: 5.1″ long
Weight: 7.0 oz
Body Material: Aircraft aluminum
Light Source: LED
Light Modes: high, medium, low, S.O.S., and strobe, telescopic focus/adjustable zoom
Runtime: 4-5 hours (w/ rechargeable batteries)
Battery Type: 18650 rechargeable or AAA
Special Features: Strike bezel
The Fenix PD35 Tactical Flashlight is regarded as one of the best 1000 lumen flashlights on the market. It comes from one of the most well-respected tactical flashlight brands and delivers ultra-high performance for anyone looking for a portable torch. Get it here.
Features & Performance
At just 5.5″ long and 1″ wide and producing 1000 lumens of light the Fenix PD35 no doubt gives you the light power you need in a small easy to carry package.
The design of the flashlight clearly indicates that it was designed with tactical and law enforcement in mind. It’s built tough, offers 6 light modes including strobe, and includes all the features you’d expect in a high-quality tac light.
The flashlight offers a unique feature that allows you to use both a tail or body switch for on/off action by switching between Tactical and Outdoor mode. In Tactical Mode the body switch is disabled, so you won’t have to worry about it coming into play. This makes the light incredibly versatile for anything from serious combat situations to more casual daily mundane uses, like finding you keys in the dark.
- BRIGHT with 1000 lumens
- Great build quality
- Compact and lightweight for easy carry
- 6 light modes for versatility
- Tactical and Outdoor Modes (use either tail or body switch)
- Lifetime warranty against defects
- Can get warm during extended use near the lens
- Light can be too cool white for some users preferences
Who Should Buy It
If you’re looking for one of highest rated 1000 lumen tactical flashlights on the market, look no further than the Fenix PD35. Built tough and with all the features you want in a light, it’s a solid option for any type of user.
– Fenix PD35 Specs –
Size: 5.5″ long x 1″ diameter
Weight: 3.0 oz
Body Material: Aluminum
Light Source: LED
Light modes: ultra-low, low, medium, high, ultra-high, strobe
Runtime: 1 hour and 10 minutes (low), 150 hours (high)
Battery Type: 2 x CR123A, 1 x 18650 rechargeable
Special Features: Removable clip, tail & body switch, nylon holster
As one of the most respected brands in the tactical flashlight industry, the Surefire G2X Pro is arguably their best model. This model is built ultra tough with it’s Nitrolon body which gives it a unique feel and great grip. Get it here.
Features & Performance
The Surefire G2X Pro is a dual output tactical flashlight that produces 320 lumens on high and 15 lumens on low. It’s powerful enough for almost anyone’s needs and produces incredibly an high quality beam with it’s micro-textured reflector. The balance of brightness, quality of light, and runtime is almost perfect.
You’ll either love or hate Surefire’s Nitrolon body that they use on the G2X. Personally I find it advantageous because of the superior grip and increased impact absorption. Plus it’s silent when you bang it up against something when maneuvering or moving around obstacles.
The reliable and durable LED bulb used in this light is of best quality and can be easily turned on using the well positioned dual-output tail switch. It functions by a momentary-on when pressed or a twist for constant-on. It’s powerful at 320 lumens and although it’s not the brightest tac light out there, it’s efficient and provides great runtime.
- Comes from one of the most reliable tactical flashlight brands
- Simple and bright with 320 max lumens
- Super strong LED is almost unbreakable
- high-quality micro-textured reflectors produces optimal beam
- Tough Nitrolong body provides excellent grip
- Great size for easy carry
- Lacks strobe or SOS feature
- No pocket clip
- Light can be too cool white for some users preferences
Who Should Buy It
The Surefire G2X is one of the best tactical flashlights for someone looking for a simple and durable dual output light. It’s durability and simplicity is hard to beat and will provide you a powerful light when you need it, though it lacks some extra features that are found on other high-end options.
– Surefire G2x Pro Specs –
Size: 6.8″ long x 1.37″ diameter
Weight: 4.4 oz
Body Material: Nitrolon with anodized aluminum bezel
Light Source: LED
Light Modes: high, low
Runtime: 2 hours (high), 45 hours (low)
Battery Type: 2 X CR123A
Special Features: Durable Nitrolon body
Powerful with 5 light modes the Outlite A100 is a versatile tactical flashlight for any survival or defense situation you may find yourself in. Built from high-grade aluminum it also features a serrated attack style bezel for added striking power. Get it here.
Features & Performance
Don’t let the compact size of the A100 fool you, this tactical flashlight packs a punch. It’s ultra bright with it’s CREE XML-T6 LED emitting 700 lumens on max output. However, it features 5 light modes including a strobe mode to make it versatile under any circumstance.
It’d body is built from durable, yet lightweight 6061T aluminum which helps keep the weight down. The beam can be adjusted with it’s zoom lens to give you extra power when you need it. This basically just focuses the beam power to a narrower zone, which increases the power and is useful for lighting up objects from farther distances. It’s a great option for people who frequently use their lights outdoors.
Overall the A100 is a reliable and bright tactical flashlight for anyone from outdoorsmen, law enforcement, to everyday citizens who want a EDC tactical flashlight that can be used for self defense.
- 700 lumens of output from a CREE XML-T6 LED
- Durable and tough with anodized aluminum body
- Attack style bezel for self defense
- Great value option offered at a lower price point
- 5 light modes: high, medium, low, strobe, SOS
- Adjustable focus to increase power over long distances or provide wide floodlight
- Rated as water resistant, but not fully waterproof
- Light can be too cool white for some users preferences
Who Should Buy It
The Outlite A100 is one of the best budget tactical flashlights out there. It’s offered at a lower price point, but provides a reliable and bright light that can be useful in almost any situation.
– Outlite A100 Specs –
Size: 5.4″ long x 1.6″ diameter
Weight: 5.3 oz
Body Material: 6061T Aluminum
Light Source: CREE XML-T6 LED
Light Modes: low, medium, high, strobe, SOS
Runtime: 1 hour and 10 minutes (low), 150 hours (high)
Battery Type: 1 x 18650 rechargeable, 3 x AAA
Special Features: Adjustable focus
There are tons of great tactical flashlight options on the market, which on one hand makes it great for you, but it’s also hard to narrow it down to the best model out there. That’s why we’ve put together our top picks:
Overall best tactical flashlight:
Best budget tactical flashlight:
Best ultra-compact tactical flashlight:
Best compact tactical flashlight:
Best medium tactical flashlight:
Tactical Flashlight Buying Guide
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
Tactical flashlights were first designed for use in military and law enforcement. However, because of obvious benefits over your typical household product these military grade flashlights are incredibly popular with outdoorsmen, mechanics, and tactical enthusiasts.
Designed to be smaller, lighter, and more durable than your everyday flashlight, tactical flashlights are made to be resistant against the harshest conditions and abuse.
In general a tactical flashlight should have the following characteristics:
- Ideally 100+ lumen output with pre-focused beam
- Shock-resistant bulb (LED are best)
- Solid, high-quality construction—shock and impact resistant
- Large enough to grasp firmly with a solid grip for use as a striking weapon
- Small enough for EDC
- Pocket or belt click for quick access
- Tail-mounted switch for instant on/off
A tactical flashlight needs to be powerful, small, water resistant, strong, and impact resistant.
The best tactical flashlights use high-quality materials and workmanship to create a reliable light source when you need it most. The bottom line is that they are designed to last and should not fail when you are in tough situations.
You’ve probably heard tactical flashlights being called different names, such as a tac light, tac torch, military flashlight, police flashlight, etc, however for name purposes these are all the same type of product.
Apart from providing a very bright light, a wide array of special features and functions are available on different models of tactical flashlight. These include laser pointers, extra clips, various light colors, strobe features, USB chargers, compasses and more.
Just be aware of the extra options out there and consider what will fit your needs when selecting a model.
A Multi-Functional Tool: Light + Self Defense Weapon
As the name implies, the foremost function of a tactical flashlight is to provide reliable light. In dark, and potentially dangerous, situations you need a tool to illuminate the environment. Whether it’s navigating after dark on a multi-day hunting expedition or entering a burning building on a recon mission.
Apart from being a excellent light source, tactical flashlights double as a self defense weapon. Effective at blinding a potential attacker’s vision when pointed at their eyes, they are the perfect tool for thwarting an attack without physical contact. Built super tough they are designed to withstand impacts and shocks resulting from striking, or just dropping the light on the ground during activities.
For these reasons I consider tac lights an essential EDC tool. Especially when I want to pack light because the tool can crossover as both a flashlight and striking weapon.
Who Uses Tactical Flashlights?
Tactical flashlights are used in many different professional fields such as military and police, firemen, wildland firefighters, home inspectors, and outdoorsmen or survivalists. Anyone in these situations need a powerful, water resistant, and tough flashlight to offer a reliable light source.
They can be a useful tool in basically any outdoor activity and duty where you may come into contact with extreme situations and harsh conditions. When you consider such work environments it’s easy to understand how a typical flashlight will not suffice.
Do You Need a Tactical Flashlight?
Although they have the word ‘tactical’ in the name, today’s tactical flashlights are a great option for anything that requires extra light.
Tactical flashlights are ideal for:
- Emergency flashlight in your car
- Tactical flashlight defense to deter an attacker (more here)
- Hunting, camping and other outdoor adventures
- Part of your survivalist or bug out bag
- Storing in various rooms of your house in case of an invader or fire (e.g. in your bedside table)
- Giving your children a safe a reliable tool for safety and self-defense
- Using around the garage or work space
- Any lifesaving situations, especially when darkness falls (e.g. power outages, house fire, etc)
You can quickly see that tactical flashlights can be a lifesaving tool in many situations.
Check out this video on how to utilize a tactical flashlight to deter a potential attacker:
You’ll be glad that you have one ready and on hand when a dangerous or tough situation arises and they are a small investment to provide that extra level of safety and protection.
Tactical Flashlight Anatomy
Before you start shopping for a tactical flashlight it’s a good idea to get a better understanding of the various parts of the light. There are certain design features to looks for and knows this will help you find the best tactical flashlight for the activities you will use it for.
Although not directly related to producing light, the bezel is an important part of a tactical flashlight. It consists of the metal end piece on the flashlight head that surrounds the lens. It’s function is hold the lens of the flashlight on to the body and provide protection for the lens and LED bulb against damage. To access the lens and inner workings of the flashlight the bezel will have to be removed, but always be careful not to lose it because without it your light cannot function.
For defense purposes, the bevel on tactical flashlights also serves a purpose when striking. You’ll find both crenelated bezels (a scalloped pattern on the rim) and plain bezels tactical flashlight models. The though is that a crenelated bezels provides a more damaging blow when striking, however it’s not really necessary and may only draw unwanted attention to your light during everyday use or travel.
The lens is the flat glass surface at the head of the flashlight that provides protection for the bulb. It keeps out everything you don’t want—dust and water—and protects against impact. It also serves a function to better emit and increase the brightness of light produced from the bulb.
If you want a light that emits various colors there are many lens color options available. You can simply replace the lens with a color variety and voila, you have a colored flashlight. This can be useful in different lighting situations and special uses. However, for the average user it’s not needed and the standard lens that comes on the light is best.
Light Source (LED)
Obviously very important and vital to making a powerful led torch. There are several different bulb types used in flashlights, but when we talk about tactical flashlights the bulb will almost always be LED. This is because LED bulbs have numerous advantages over other types.
The first reason is that LED flashlight bulbs have a very long lifetime. In fact the best LED bulbs are capable of running 50,000 hours (roughly 5 years) continuous use. This means that you won’t have to replace your flashlight bulb as often when using an LED.
Secondly, the light emitting diode found in LED bulbs is a super power efficient light source. It takes less power than other bulb types, which again means longer run times and less battery usage.
Thirdly, LED flashlights are extremely bright and produce an incredible amount of light for their compact size. You’ll find that the brightest tactical flashlights feature LED bulbs.
Lastly, LED bulbs are much more durable and shock resistant than other bulb types. This is due to the fact that they do not have a filament. The best tactical flashlights on the market can survive 1.5 m drops without a problem. And let’s be honest, toughness is exactly what you need in military grade flashlight.
The flashlight head (or otherwise called the LED housing) is simple where the LED bulb is installed. There is nothing special to look for when comparing models, but you will notice that the head on some tactical flashlights is wider than the body.
You’ll want to consider the width of the head in relation to the body. If you plan to store your tac flashlight in you pocket you may want to look for a version with a narrower body and bezel, such as the Streamlight 88039 ProTac.
You’ve seen this part before when you looked through the lens of your turned off flashlight, but maybe didn’t know the correct name. The reflector is typically a very shiny metal, glass or plastic parabolic shaped piece that sits around and behind the bulb.
In short this is where the light from the LED bulb is concentrated and directed into a beam, making your tactical flashlight ultra bright. Without a reflector your flashlight would emit light in every direction, which isn’t much use when you want to use your light to identify a potentially dangerous threat far away.
Think of the reflector as the part that focuses the light emitted from your flashlight. There are many flashlight models available that feature an adjustable reflector that allows you to customize the field of light. This allows you to focus the light on a very narrow field or expand it to shine over a broader field by twisting the bezel.
Although this is a great feature for casual users of tactical flashlights, anyone using the products in stressful and survival situations won’t have time to adjust the light. It can even be a drawback because the light may be stored in a very narrow focus by accident.
A quick on/off switch is very important. A tactical flashlight should have a tail switch that is mounted on the back-end of the flashlight. The placement and size of a well designed tail switch will allow momentary actuation of the light.
The placement of the tail switch allows for ultimate control of the flashlights functionality. The most functional way to hold a tactical flashlight is with your your arm in an upright position with your elbow bent close to your body. Hold the flashlight close to your neck or at eye level. You can read more about the neck index of eye index techniques here.
The bottom line is that on a tactical flashlight the tail switch is there for pure functionality. You can move the light easily with s twitch of the wrist and actuate the power instantly.
The tail cap is the cap at the butt of the flashlight that seals the battery compartment. It’s important because protects the batteries from water and other elements by creating an air tight seal. This piece much be of high-quality construction as it needs to stay tight and secure day-in-day-out.
The tail cap also provides increased grip of the tactical flashlight. It may have ridges or a textured edge along the surrounding for optimal grip when using the tool for striking. And with tac lights, the more grip the better. Whether you are just using it for everyday use or in a dangerous life-or-death situation, the last thing you want is to drop your torch.
The battery compartment is just that, where the batteries are housed. The batteries are generally stored within the body of the flashlight and accessed via the tail cap.
Again, high-quality construction against the elements insures that you get optimal usage of your batteries. You will always want to make sure that you insert the battery in the correct direction (+/-) to not damage the flashlight.
Many brands also produce rechargeable tactical flashlight models which allow you to recharge via a USB cable. This can be a convenient and money saving option for everyday users, but for someone needed a reliable power source 100% of the time they are better off carrying extra batteries.
Most modern day tactical flashlights have a either a built-in or removable pocket or belt clip. This small piece of metal is normally attached around the body just below the head and extends towards the butt of the light.
The function is purely to provide a convenient way to carry the tactical flashlight. It can be clipped to a belt or the edge of your pocket and allows for easy access. For circumstance when I need easy and quick access I prefer using a pocket clip over a lanyard. With my light clipped on my side I can easily grab it with one hand and engage the power.
The drawback of using these is that that flashlight can come loose and fall to the ground during heavy movement and jumping.
With tactical flashlights, storage and easy access it vital. That’s why they come with both a pocket click and lanyard—both of which should be removable.
The lanyard is a small, heavy-duty string that attaches to the butt of a tac light flashlight. You can then attach the light to your pack with clips or hang it around your wrist.
With the combination of the pocket clip, lanyard, and flashlight holster options available, the way you carry your torch are unlimited. Ultimately with use you’ll find what works best for you.
What’s the Difference – Tactical Flashlight vs. Household Flashlight?
There are key important differences you’ll find between a tactical flashlight and household flashlights. In general a tactical flashlight will be more durable and water resistant than your run-of-the-mill household flashlight. Tactical flashlights are designed to withstand impacts and abuse that a normal flashlight will not be designed for.
Tactical flashlights are built to be extra powerful, yet small and light. It’s important for tactical flashlights to be easy to carry and portable, yet provide a super bright light source. In most cases, since they are normally just stored in a cupboard, household flashlights don’t need to be built super small and with high-quality lightweight materials. However, tactical flashlights are a breed apart because they offer high performance in a small package.
Tactical flashlights also typically come with multiple light modes, which enables them to be used in self defense and emergency situations. A strobe light function can be utilized as a self defense tool to confuse and disorientate a would-be attacker. You’ll also find that some tac lights come with a SOS or beacon mode, which can be used to signal distress if you find yourself lost of in an emergency event.
Lastly, tactical flashlights are built with extra features that normally don’t come one household flashlights. This includes a unique tail switch for easily turning on the light, a lanyard and/or pocket clip for storing the light on your body, and a hard flashlight body that enables the light to be used for striking.
Uses of Tactical Flashlights
Police & Fire. Tactical flashlights (or police flashlights) are an essential piece of gear for the police force. They provide a useful tool to search for suspects in dark or low-light environments. Police officers rely on bright light to hinder would be attackers ability to visually see, making it almost impossible to accurately target a police officer.
The small size of a tac light also gives police officers the ability to hold a gun in one hand and a light in the other. This makes it possible to both provide light and keep your gun pointed at all times. In addition, unlike a gun-mounted light, a hand held police light can be used to scan the surroundings without moving the gun.
Many of the tactical flashlights you’ll find in this guide also double as the best police flashlights on the market.
Military. As the name in implies, tactical flashlights were originally designed for military tactical use. Military tactical gear needs to be high-performance and reliable, and that’s just what military tactical flashlights are designed to do. In order to remain safe and make quick decisions, military personal need extremely power flashlights to identify objects and threats from far distances.
Many military tactical flashlights have special light features that afford visibility under special extreme situations. These include colored beams and infrared lights to be used in conjunction with night-vision technology.
Everyday Use. Due to their performance and durability tactical flashlights are incredibly popular with everyday citizens alike. Many people have adopted their use because they are more reliable and brighter than your typical flashlight.
You’ll find that people use them around the house, during outdoor activities such as camping and hunting, and keep them in their cars in case of emergency.
Improvements in LED technology and an increase in the number of manufactures offering high-quality tactical flashlights have made these product much more affordable in recent years. Many models only cost a fraction more than a normal flashlight, but provides protection against water and impact, which makes them a great choice for just about anyone.
Hunting & Survival. Durability and water resistance is key for rugged outdoor adventures. The last thing you want is a dead flashlight due to wet conditions. Anyone heading out into the wilderness for hunting or bushcraft will value the benefits that tactical flashlights offer. Safety and self reliance is a must during hunting expeditions and hands-free lighting provides just that when you just need to get the task done. By clipping the device to head wear or chest backpack straps I’ve found that tactical flashlights are a great alternative from headlamps when I need a more versatile light source and want to pack light.
Self defense. Tactical flashlights are an excellent self defense tool. Not only does a light increase your awareness, but makes you appear more assertive. An attacker don’t want that, they want an easy target.
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation that requires combat, a bright flashlight can be used to blind and disorient an attacker. Used a force-multiplier you can create an opportunity escape or use as a striking weapon similar to a tactical pen or kubotan.
Search & Rescue. Different from police and military, search and rescue workers often simply need the brightest flashlights for nighttime operations. A 2000 lumen flashlight will do the job. Search and rescue missions don’t end at dusk and every hour counts when searching for a lost person in cold or dangerous conditions. Tactical flashlights provide the power needed and can be attached in various ways to allow for hands-free maneuvering in the forest or mountains.
Hiking & Camping. For many outdoor enthusiast that hit the high-country during the weekends, lightweight and compact gear is a must. Some of the best small flashlights are in fact tactical flashlight models. Plus, you get the added bonus of water resistance and durability.
A small 500 lumen flashlight is perfect for anything from setting up camp after dark to cave exploration.
EDC. A tactical LED flashlight is an essential piece of tactical gear for your EDC (Every Day Carry) toolbox. A well-equipped EDC selection should include tools and gear that will enable you to not only tackle, but excel in anytime of situation. This can include anything from searching in the darkness for your keys along the trail to staying safe during natural disasters. Some may call this ‘prepping’, for others others it’s just your average everyday readiness.
Home Inspectors. Home inspectors need to crawl into the darkest, dirtiest and sometimes wet places of a house in order to give a thorough inspection of the homes condition. Having a reliable flashlight that can keep out dust and water is a necessary tool. That’s why many home inspectors choose to carry a tactical flashlight on the job.
What Makes the Best Tactical Flashlight?
What you should look for…
- High-quality aluminum flashlight body
- Finished with type III Hard Anodized coating
- High-power batteries: CR123A, RCR123A or 18650
- LED bulb with at least 200+ lumen output
- IPX rating of IPX7 or higher
- Well-trusted brand – I recommend buying a light from a company that has been in the business for years and stands behind their product.
- High average review score on Amazon – this is one of the best indicators of a high-quality product. If the product have 1,000s of positive reviews you can almost bet that you’ll be happy buying it.
- Made in the USA
What you should avoid…
- Cheap knockoff brands
- Low-quality materials
- Low average review score on Amazon, or many lower scores reporting issues with the product
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Tactical Flashlight
When you are searching for the best tactical flashlight there are certain aspects to consider. Use this guide to help you choose the right light for your everyday use and outdoor activities.
When it comes to choosing the optimal tactical flashlight for your needs, firstly ask yourself:
How will you use the flashtlight?
There are a variety of different light options depending on what activities you plan on using the flashlight for.
If you will needs your hands free to maneuver or climb over obstacles a headlamp may be a better option. The good news that tactical flashlights are very versatile and can be outfitted with mounts and adapters to be integrated into a weapon or used as a headlamp.
The biggest thing to consider before buying is how you plan to use your light: handheld, as a headlamp, or weapon mounted. Depending on this you may find a model that fits your needs much better than others.
An obvious important factor when purchasing and piece of gear is the cost. Before you start browsing products first set an budget range on what you want to spend on a tactical flashlight.
But, first ask yourself how often will I use the tactical flashlight? And under what kind of circumstances?
- If your answer is everyday or includes life-on-the-line situations, invest in one of the best models on the market.
- Just looking for an above average light for your outdoor activities, consider opting for a more moderately priced option.
In general I’ve found that tactical flashlight are offered in four general price range categories:
- Budget = Under $30
- Mid-range = $30 to $80
- High-end = $80 to $120
- Ultra-high = $120+
The most important thing is that you want a quality product—the last thing you want is to compromise your safety.
Like most gear I’ve found that with tactical flashlights, you get what you pay for. Certainly you can purchase one for $10 on Amazon, but likely it won’t even compare or hold up over time compared to a higher priced and higher quality model.
If you don’t need an ultra-refined survival tool then you can likely get away with spending less. This especially holds true for someone looking for multiple lights to just stock their house or cars in case of emergency. And you certainly don’t need a high-end tac light for taking fido out for a walk during the night.
However, if you are likely to frequently find yourself in survival or combat situations then now is not the time to cut corners on a cheap tactical flashlight.
There are a various of tactical flashlight sizes on the market today. Depending on what you’re need the light for you may want to go for a super small flashlight model or opt for a more powerful option.
The brightness of the flashlight is ultimately determined by it’s size. To built the brightest flashlight, the LED size and lumen output increases, which in turn needs a larger reflector to achieve optimnal beam size and intensity. Also, the larger the LED, the more power is need. This means more batteries to enable the light to longer runtime at high intensity levels.
When selecting the best tactical flashlight you need to consider the balance of light output and practical flashlight size.
Ultra-compact – Under 4″
Ultra-compact tac lights are typically smaller than 4 inches in length and powered by only one battery. They are small enough to carry with you everyday, day or night, to provide a useful light source when you need it. When it’s inside or clipped to your pocket no one will even notice that you have it on you.
At this size-range, most are large enough include all the features you want in a tactical flashlight including a powerful and efficient output, durable construction, pocket clip, and ergonomic design.
Lumen output on most ultra-compact models is under 500 lumens.
Compact – 4″ – 7″
Because of their size and length, compact flashlights are a perfect EDC tool. Small enough for concealed carry, yet extremely powerful as both a light source and personal defense weapon.
As the most versatile option out there, you’ll find the majority of the top tactical flashlights fall into this range.
Compact flashlights generally run 4 to 7 inches in length and are very bright, producing up to 1,000 lumens. The larger size of these models enables them to hold 2 batteries to efficiently power a larger LED over longer time periods.
The benefit of a larger body and length also carries over for self defense. You’ll find that compact sized flashlights are better equipped for a self defense striking tool than ultra-compact models.
Medium-Large – Over 7″
Medium to large flashlights are generally anything over 7 inches in length. Designed to be longer in length and slightly wider body and bezel they can house larger LED bulbs and batteries. Most are powered by up to 4 batteries.
If you are searching for the absolute brightest flashlight with massive output, you’ll want to go with a larger model. These searchlight worthy models are extremely powerful, producing 1,000 to 4,000 lumens with long runtimes.
Of course, with increased size you’ll lose some portability, but you’ll gain functionality of use as a striking weapon for self defense. The good news is that many of these models are still narrow enough to fit into a flashlight holster.
Looking something even smaller? Take a look at some of the best keychain flashlights. These little gadgets can provide enough light for simple everyday situations when you are searching for something on the street or around the house.
ANSI FL1 Standards
The ANSI FL1 Standard is a set of flashlight performance guidelines published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and National Electric Manufactures Association (NEMA).
The introduction of these guidelines helped to ‘normalize’ flashlight performance by using a common set of indicators. This way you can compare apples-to-apples when shopping for the best flashlight (you can read a more in-depth explanation here). With all these measurements the flashlight is tested with same new or unused batteries as packed with the light.
You’ll find these specifications on the packaging of most flashlights on the market today. Here is a review of what the ANSI FL1 Standard includes:
Light Output – lumen
Light output refers to the measurement of luminous flux, or lumen, which is a measurement of energy. Think of lumen as how much energy is giving off in the form of light from the flashlight.
Beam Distance – reported in meters
Beam distance is measured in meters and is defined as the distance the flashlight will project to a 0.25 lux (equivalence of a moon on a clear night). Okay, this may seem kind of ambiguous, but think of just as how far the flashlight beam travels to light of an object to the same degree as the moon on a clear night.
Peak Beam Intensity – reported in candela
Peak beam intensity refers to the luminous intensity of the flashlight that does not vary with distance. This is measured in the direct center of the flashlight beam, or the brightest point. The units of peak beam intensity are candela, which is a measurement of energy.
Water Resistance – IPX Rating
The IP rating system (or Ingress Protection Rating) refers to how resistant the flashlight is to water entering the body. This standard helps to clarify vague marketing terms such as ‘waterproof’ by giving it a rating number.
For most outdoor activity requirements a IPX-7 rating is enough. With this rating your tactical flashlight will even survive being submerged underwater for a short time.
For flashlights there are three ratings used:
- IPX4 – water resistant against splashes from any direction
- IPX7 – waterproof against submersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes
- IPX8 – extremely waterproof, suitable for continuous submersion at depth greater than 1 meter (depth specified by manufacture) for 4 hours.
Impact Resistance – reported in meters
This measurement shows exactly how resistant the light is to impacts and drops. It is measured by dropping the flashlight from a specified height onto a concrete surface.
Runtime – reported in hours and/or minutes
Runtime is measured in hours and refers to the amount of time the flashlight can run until output falls below 10%. For simplicity sake, this measurement is rounded to the nearest quarter hour.
Although the factors included in the ANSI FL1 Standard are important, it’s not everything that goes into creating the brightest and most useful light. That’s why you’ll need to read more below about type of light, spread and throw.
Light Source – LED
LED bulbs are the clear winner when it comes to bulb type used in tactical flashlights. They are bright, durable, and have a long lifespan. Some LEDs can even last upwards of 50,000 hours of continuous operation.
Some high-powered flashlights run on a halogen bulbs, however a drawback is that they are less durable and have a very shot life expectancy.
LED bulbs are the most reliable, durable and longest lasting bulb type for tactical flashlights.The benefits of going with LED include:
- High durability
- Power efficiency
- Long lifespan
- Wide beam color range
For these reasons LED bulbs are a proven and reliable bulb type to use for tactical flashlights. They can survive drops onto hard surfaces, whereas a incandescent bulb would break its filament. for the same lumen output they require 10% of the energy, which means longer lasting battery life. And lastly, they can produce a wide range of color temperatures, of which a neutral white around 4,000 K seems to be used most often by manufactures.
Brightness is a combination of lumen, or total light output, and candela, the brightest area of the beam. You have to have a balance between the two to produce a high-quality and functional flashlight.
There are clear advantages of having a brighter tactical flashlight, but it always comes at a cost—battery life and size. It’s possible for small flashlights to be ultra-bright, but their runtime will be short becuase they cannot house a larger battery. On the other hand, if you want a bright light with long runtime, then you’ll have to opt for a larger size in order to house the battery.
All-in-all it’s finding the right balance between brightness, runtime, and size.
What is a lumen? When we talk about measuring how powerful a flashlight is, we are talking about lumen or luminous flux. In general, the higher the lumens, the more powerful the flashlight. However, this is not the whole picture, because the flashlight also needs a good reflector and light pattern to produce high-quality light.
How many lumens do you need?
- Under 100 lumen flashlight – Provides enough light for searching around smaller spaces, but not enough for outdoor use.
- 100 – 300 lumen flashlight – Enough light for most users, useful in self defense and outdoor situations.
- 300 – 700 lumen flashlight – Extra-powerful, yet small. Can easily illuminate an entire area outside and blind an attacker. A great middle-ground for power and size.
- 1000 lumen flashlight – Incredibly bright, more than most users will need. Great for expansive outdoor areas, search and rescue scenarios.
- 2000 lumen flashlight – Ultra-powerful, true search and rescue flashlights. Will light up the whole campground, however will also disturb wildlife at night.
Beam Distance & Pattern
How far the flashlights beam illuminates is obviously an important factor of a useful tactical flashlight. It’s measured in meters and is defined as how far the flashlight can illuminate an object to the equivalent of a of a full moon.
Beam distance goes hand-in-hand with total lumen output, candela, and beam shape. You may also recognize terms such as flood and throw. This basically comes down how wide and how far the flashlight beam travels.
You’ll want to consider where you will be using the flashlight. If you will be using the light mostly indoors or in confined spaces, beam distance will be less of an issue and a wide throw may be more ideal. However, for outdoor use and expansive spaces, you’ll a flashlight with a longer beam distance and a considerable throw.
Another aspect to consider is beam color. LED bulbs can emit a range of color temperatures, which is measured in Kelvin (K). A general range of colors can be divided into these categories:
- White light (about 6500K) – more blue colored light
- Neutral white (about 4000k) – more white colored light
- Warm white (about 3000K) – more yellow colored light
Depending on whether you will be primarily using your tactical flashlight indoors or outdoors, a warmer or cooler color may suit you better. For outdoors, generally a warmer color beam will work better and allow the light to penetrate hazy or foggy conditions, whether is smoke or water vapor.
However, the warmer the light the lower the brightness and runtime. Too cool of a beam temperature with a blue tint and it is hard to render objects in natural settings.
The best all-around option is a balanced neutral white beam that gives you both the benefit of longer runtimes, brightness, accurate color and shape rendering ability and penetration.
Obviously having a lighter weight flashlight makes it easier to carry around, however often at the expense of power and runtime. You want to go for a model that balances size with light output and runtime.
A larger flashlight body allows for a larger LED, which in turn needs more battery power. There are clear advantages of having a brighter light, but you don’t want to be carrying around extra weight if you won’t need it. This is also a reason to invest in several different sizes of tactical flashlights. I’ll always have my EDC flashlight on me, which easily does the job when it’s needed, however I would never consider carrying around a larger model for everyday carry.
The good part is that almost all quality models are built with high-end, lightweight materials, such as aluminum. This helps save weight and keeps quality of the light high.
Battery Type & Runtime
There are several battery types you can go with to power your flashlight. Having the right battery type will provide higher performance and power. You also have to consider the convenience factor of finding the battery, some are easy to find (AA, AAA), while others you may have to track down or order online.
The easiest and most common batteries to find are disposable lithium or alkaline batteries. These are available in standard battery sizes (AAA, AA) and are widely available, most probably even keep some stocked at home.
Lithium batteries offer more power and are lighter weight than alkaline batteries, but today most flashlight manufactures build their lights to perform well with both. Lithium batteries also have a much longer shelf life than their alkaline counterparts.
Lithium Ion, or Li-Ion, batteries are rechargeable and come in a several different sizes. You can also find NiMH rechargeable. A tactical flashlight that uses rechargeable batteries offers several benefits, including saving money over the long-term, being more environmental friendly, and providing higher power output.
Most high-performance and EDC lights will use rechargeable batteries for two reasons—they offer higher performance benefits (higher lumens and longer runtimes) and allow you to simply recharge when drained.
The bottom line is that rechargeable batteries for EDC tactical flashlights will save you money over time and offer higher performance benefits. Having a EDC torch that can utilize both common disposable and rechargeable batteries is the most versatile setup.
If you want the best performance, look for RCR123A, 18500, and 18650 cells. These all offer superb performance as well as a long lifespan.
USB Charge Capability
Some may find it beneficial to buy a flashlight with USB charge capability. This models have an built-in rechargeable battery in the flashlight and all you need to do is connect the light via USB cable for a recharge.
However, if you are not close to a computer or USB port this doesn’t really help you. It’s not really built for survivalists that need to have backups on hand in the field, but it can be useful for keeping a torch around the house. Plus, you’ll have to wait for the battery to charge while connected.
Certain tactical flashlight models come with a so called strike bezel, or ridged bezel. This is designed to increase the damage done when using the tac light for striking in self defense situations. This may be the type of bezel style your are after if you want the utmost dangerous weapon from a flashlight.
However on the other hand, it can draw unwanted attention to your flashlight. Especially when traveling through the airport. I tend to opt for a normal style bezel on most of my flashlights, since they are still fully functional as a striking weapon and I don’t really want my flashlight to look like a weapon.
There are several options when it comes to what material the tactical flashlight body is constructed of. Of course the material used directly influences the flashlights weight, durability, and grip.
In general tactical flashlights are made from the following materials. To help you decide what is best for you I’ve included some benefits and drawbacks of each.
Anodized aluminum. Aluminum makes a great flashlight body for several reasons, and this is why it is found on many of the best tactical flashlight models for sale. Not only is it durable, but it lighterweight than many other metals. The purpose of anodizing aluminum is to form a layer of aluminum oxide, thus protecting the aluminum layer beneath it. The aluminum oxide layer is much more resistant to corrosion and abrasion resistance than aluminum. To get the right level of durability, you should look for at least a type II or type III anodized aluminum.
Stainless steel. Although strong, stainless steel is much heavier than aluminum. It may still be a good option if you are looking for a durable tac light and are not worried about weight. On the flip-side of course, with increased weight the flashlight improves as a striking weapon.
Rubber. A newer material used on some tactical flashlights is rubber coated metal. This technology makes the flashlight ultra-grippy and waterproof. Having a rubberized body is also advantageous if you will be packing your tac light in a bag with other items you don’t want banging around together.
Composites (or plastics). Composited may also be used, but are typically less strong and durable than metal models. My personal preference is to steer clear from composite or plastic tactical flashlight models.
Durability goes hand-in-hand with flashlight body material. The stronger the flashlight body, the less prone it will be to dents, scratches, and damage. Also included in the durability aspect is the flashlights ability to withstand impacts. The light needs to be well designed to safely protect the inner electronics and bulb against impacts.
Most high-quality tactical nightlight models are designed to survive a fall of 1.5 meters. This is a factor included in the ANSI FL1 standards, so you can compare specs between models. Adding a rubberized coating on the outside of the flashlight body also adds to it’s protection against impacts.
Water Resistance – IPX Rating
Flashlights are rated for water resistance using the IP rating system (IPX standard). The IPX standard helps provide a clear-cut number of how water resistant your tactical flashlight is. Before this standard was introduced manufactures used ambiguous marketing terms.
In short the IP Code gives a rating of how protected the flashlight is against the intrusion of dust, water, and other solid objects. A flashlight with tighter and better casings and seals protecting the electrical parts will have a higher IPX rating.
The range is from IPX0 to IPX8, however for outdoor electronic gear, including tactical flashlights, a rating of IPX7 or above is more than enough. A flashlight with a rating of IPX7 is considered waterproof and can survive temporary submersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.
If you are going to be using your tactical flashlight on the job (military, police, search and rescue, etc) or in outdoor survivalist situations, inevitably your going to run into wet conditions. Having a flashlight that won’t die after water exposure is an important feature of tactical flashlights. After all, you need your light to work when duty calls.
Typically there are three different switch types used on tactical flashlights: tails switches, twist action switches, and body switches. Each has their benefits and drawbacks and you’ll want pick a flashlight that has the style you want.
The tail switch is the most common and often the best switch design for tactical purposes. The tail switch is located at the butt of the flashlight and can be quickly switched on or off with your thumb. The main advantaged is that you can maintain a solid grip on your flashlight while you turn on and off the light. It also allows for holding the flashlight in a position where you can strike from and rotate the light at the flick of a wrist. The Streamlight 88040 is an example of a tac light with a tail switch.
This in useful in combat or police situations when it is necessary to hold the light in combination with a gun. This allows police officers to keep aim while using the flashlight to scan the room just by moving the wrist.
An added benefit of the tail switch type for everyday scenarios is that it is less likely to be pressed on when it’s in your bag or pocket.
Twist Action Switch
A twist action switch can either be located at the head or tail of the flashlight. To turn on or off the flashlight the user needs to twist the head or tail. Some lights that have different light modes will have different clicks as you twist to enable power levels. While popular in many models of flashlights, this design is not ideal for tactical purposes.
Firstly, a twist action switch is far less fail proof and there seems to be more problems going wrong with them. They can break or come loose, making your flashlight not only useless, but worthless. Obviously this is a huge liability for anyone who relies on their light for survival or combat situations.
On the flip side of things, if you just need a flashlight for around the house or camping, this style switch can work fine.
A flashlight with a twist action switch is the Maglite Mini PRO.
A body switch is the most typical on/off switch found on household flashlights. As the name suggests, it’s located on the side of the flashlight body. It can either be a button or a slider that allows setting the light on various power levels.
These are useful for everyday situations as you can hold the flashlight in a comfortable grip while turning on and off the flashlight. However, again for tactical purposes they are not ideal. You’ll compromise your striking ability and grip strength holding a light in these positions.
These types of switches can also be a problem when storing the light in a bag or backpack as they can get turned on accidentally and kill your battery life. Again, something you don’t want to happen when you rely on a your light for security.
Here is an example of a body style switch light.
You can opt to get a tactical flashlight that comes with special light modes, such as SOS, beacon and strobe functions. These functions are likely not something that you will use often, save emergency situations. Therefore some flashlight owners feel it s a good function to have in case the function is needed.
Here is a quick review of the most popular special light mode types and what they are used for.
Moonlight or Firefly Mode
This is a nice option to have when you just need a small amount of light. Say for instance, when you are just searching for something you placed around camp or need to read something from a close distance at night.
It’s a great option to help save your battery by not using a powerful light mode when you don’t need it. A example of a model that offers this is the Olight S1 Baton EDC Flashlight.
Strobe is the most common special light mode you’ll find on modern tactical flashlights. It’s incredibly useful l and effective in personal self defense situations. Shining a high-powered strobe light into an attackers eyes is incredibly disorienting and debilitating. It not only stuns the would-be attacker, but it makes it almost impossible to see in the darkness after their retinas have adjusted to a bright light source.
Both police and military know the value of a strobe light feature. It is an important strategy used in raids when they need to disorientate and confuse the suspect by inflicting temporary blindness. But this also means you can use it as a powerful self defense tool on the streets and have a powerful deterrent at your fingertips.
SOS is taken from Morse Code, and although may seem outdated, it’s can be a important light mode to have on your tactical flashlight. Adopted as a universal distress signal, SOS is represented using Morse Code by a series of dots and dashes, and this is exactly what your flashlight will emit when in this mode. Your light will emit 3 short flashes, three long flashes, and again three long flashes. Anyone who knows Morse Code will be able to identify this signal from a long distance
Although, hopefully you won’t use this function (ever) it can be a useful and potentially life saving function. Plus, there are not really any drawbacks of having this function on your flashlight. If you ever find yourself in a situation of distress or potentially lost in the wild, this function could be a great survival tool to signal searchers from far away.
As the name implies, the beacon function on a flashlight is designed to attract someones attention from a distance. Think of it as a locator or signaling device, if you need to let your buddies know where you are from a long distance, the beacon mode is just for that. It can be used so members of your group can keep an eye on a location or be used for a reference point if you or others in your group become separated.
It is a series of long bursts in slow repeating intervals, similar to a lighthouse. This makes it different than SOS, and useful in situations when you are closer to civilization or not in need of sending out a distress signal—although it can double as this if you do not have an SOS function on your light.
Depending on how and where you’ll be carrying your tactical flashlight, you may want to lean towards one with a particular style. The reason I say this is that if you plan to have a EDC tac light you’ll want to go with a more discrete looking light. The last thing you want is for the TSA to be questioning the attack style bezel you have on your light when you are flying.
I personally like to have several tactical flashlights in my collection and my EDC choice is always more of a ‘plain Jane’ style that no one would think twice about. I like to think of this as ‘walk quietly, carry a big stick’.
On the other had, if you are going to be using it purely in the field, for work, or in survival situations, this will play less of a role in deciding.
How to Carry It
How do you want to primarily carry your tactical flashlight? Most, but not all models will come with a pocket clip and/or lanyard for easy portability. By keeping the light in your pocket or on a lanyard you can access your light almost instantly and switch it on quickly.
If you prefer a more secure carry method, consider buying a model that comes or purchasing additionally a flashlight holster. These can be attached to your belt and provide a study way to carry your light. One of my favorites is this UltraFire holster with 360 degrees rotatable clip.
Other Things to Consider
There are tons of options out there. These are just some options to consider when choosing the best tactical flashlight to fit your needs.
Buying a bundle or kit can be a great option, especially if you are buying your first tactical flashlight. This will get you setup and ready out of the box. You’ll have everything included—the flashlight, batteries, charger, clips, lanyards, carrying case, and possibly even adapters or mounts.
Now days there are even some tac lights offered in various colors, this as well could be another thing to consider. Personally I think black lights look the best, but there are also some matte grey options out there that look nice. Heck, you can even buy your female friend a pink tactical flashlight.
You can get specialized light filters that fit over the end of your flashlight lens to emit a different color light. Each color has it’s specific function and they are easy to switch in and out when your in the field.
- Red filters – used for nighttime activities, particularly with the use of night vision.
- Green filters – primarily used for hunting, as it does not scare wildlife
- Yellow and blue filters – useful for tracking blood
Some tactical and police flashlights have built-in color LED bulbs, typically in colors red, green, and blue. These serve the same function as light filters, but are installed within the flashlight itself. This makes sense if they will be used during day-to-day police, military, and hunting activities.
And there you have it. My complete guide to finding the best tactical flashlights. If you ended up reading this far I hope that it helped you decide on what to look for when your shopping.
Tactical flashlights are considered an essential EDC gear item for many, and rightly so. They are incredibly useful in so many situations. From finding your lost keys in the dark to protection yourself in self defense situations. Certainly they are a tool you should consider owning and using for your everyday light needs.
If you want a quick recommendation for a few of the best tactical flashlights out there, look no further than these models.
The bottom line is that there are tons of great tactical flashlight options available from a wide array of manufactures. In my reviews I’ve included what I think are the best options and think that you can’t really go wrong with any of them. I only list products on my site that I either personally own or would personally buy for myself.