Best Tactical Flashlights
You often hear or see people ask what are tactical flashlights. Well, the best way to describe one is to analyze what the word “tactical” entails. In short, it is a term that gets associated with the military and with weaponry. As you know, a flashlight is a device that emits a beam of light (generally speaking).
What this means is when you see tactical flashlights, it basically means that they can function as normal light-emitting devices but also as defense weapons. These devices are typically built to not only deal out significant damage (if needed) but to also withstand inclement weather and abuse.
However, they also need to perform as they are designed to provide light to you. Not all options on the market will be suitable for your needs and you must learn how to weed out the ones that are not.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 10 hrs of research
It can be submerged in water down to two meters deep
Features a toughened glass lens
Designed with intelligent memory circuitry
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST TACTICAL FLASHLIGHTS
1. FENIX PD35-TAC
It can be submerged in water down to two meters deep
Features a toughened glass lens
Designed with intelligent memory circuitry
The tail cap is a little too easy to click
When it comes to tactical flashlights, the PD35-Tac is simply the standard-bearer. Whether you want to point to its unbelievable build quality or fantastic performance, it really does not matter.Read more
At its peak, this beast can emit 1000 lumens of light. This is on turbo mode, though, so be aware that there are other lighting modes. As for the distance, this can reach up to 200 meters away.
Yeah, let’s just say this is not cheaply built. With an aircraft-grade aluminum body, hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish, and submersion rating down to two meters, what do you think?
This is equipped with both a tactical mode and an outdoor mode. For the latter, up to six different lighting modes can be used. Additionally, the PD35-Tac is designed with intelligent memory circuits to remember your last output mode.
With the right batteries, this can actually last a decent amount of time. However, it is advised to only use premium batteries (such as those offered by Fenix themselves).
As durable and rugged as this bad boy is, it still only clocks in at 3.1 ounces. It also easily fits in the palm of your hand and can be carried in your pockets.
What more could really be said about this device? It is built to withstand intensive use, can deliver impressive beams of light, and is as portable and compact as it gets.
2. STREAMLIGHT TLR-1
Features an anodized finish
It produces a concentrated beam of bright light
It can be mounted to certain guns
It struggles to handle the recoil of a shotgun
One thing to note right away about the TLR-1 HL is the fact that it is optimized to be mounted on guns. If this is something that disinterests you then you can probably opt for different models.Read more
In addition to the fact that the TLR-1 HL produces wide beams of light, the maximum output it can emit is 800 lumens.
This is another ridiculously impressive build. This device consists of aircraft-grade aluminum that has been protected with an anodized finish. Oh, and it is also waterproof down to one meter.
As alluded to, this is meant to mount on your guns. A few users have left their remarks, though. One noted that they only received an adapter for Glock guns while another claimed this was not suited to handle the recoil action of shotguns.
Included with your purchase are two CR123 lithium batteries (they are rated with a 10-year storage life). But, they are only rated to last 1.75 hours continuously.
This seems a bit bulkier than other models out there but it is designed to mount onto guns. Still, it only weighs 4.18 ounces which is not bad at all.
For the right users, this is going to be pretty much flawless. But, it is limited when it is not used for weaponry which could end up being a game changer for you.
3. SUREFIRE E2D
The craftsmanship is literally phenomenal
Comes with a rugged strike bezel
It can be clipped to different surfaces
It only has two output modes
Not the best battery life
Good luck finding a model that is built better than the E2D LED Defender. Yeah, it is that impressive. However, it is only equipped with two different output levels, so be aware of that.Read more
The maximum 600-lumen lighting mode of the E2D LED Defender is solid. But, the lower five-lumen mode is pretty darn dim (and that is putting it lightly).
Wow, is there another word that needs to be said here? The E2D LED Defender is designed of high-strength aerospace-grade aluminum and has been protected with a hard-anodized finish. It also sports gasket sealing and a weatherproof O-ring to handle inclement weather.
As with other models, this utilizes its tail cap to access different modes. But, for the record, there are only the two lighting modes that were just documented.
Being powered by a single 123A lithium battery, this is not going to last that long with one battery. In fact, it eats through them so you may want some backup batteries with you.
In addition to the compact size, this is equipped with a clip that allows you to attach it to different surfaces. But, this same clip is fixed and can’t be removed.
Where this is somewhat limited is in its lighting modes. But, for sheer build quality and ruggedness, it is tough to find a better option on the entire market.
4. SUREFIRE P2X FURY
Produces a tremendous beam of light
Features an aerospace aluminum body
Designed with an intelligent sensor
It will not accept rechargeable batteries
Really, at the end of the day, about the only thing, “wrong” with this model is the fact that it will not accept rechargeable batteries. Other than that, it is all you could ask for and more.Read more
For the record, this is the P2X and sports a maximum lumen rating of 600. But, there is also the P3X that has a brighter rating of 1000 lumens.
No matter which Fury model you go with, they both are built extremely well with hard anodized finishes and aerospace-grade aluminum bodies.
Either model has three operating modes, by the way. Also, both of them feature a tail cap switch lockout and an intelligent sensor (which will base the light output depending on your surroundings).
The P2X Fury, in specific, accepts CR123 batteries and will last for roughly two to three hours on high. Overall, this is actually not that bad when compared to other models out there.
Arguably the biggest advantage of this device is its overall size. It is as compact as it gets and will easily fit into your coat pocket.
To say the P2X Fury (and the P3X Fury, for that matter) is well-designed is a vast understatement. It is one of the best tactical flashlights out there, period.
5. STREAMLIGHT PROTAC
The O-ring seal prevents water from seeping through
Backed by a limited lifetime warranty
Designed with an anti-roll head
It burns through batteries
It can be difficult to toggle between the different settings
The ProTac HL is another example of why Streamlight is known for making extraordinary flashlights. It can deliver the goods when it comes to lighting and practicality.Read more
At its peak, this can emit beams of light up to 750 lumens in brightness. Oh, and this same light intensity can reach distances up to 270 meters away.
Thanks to the combination of the O-ring sealed glass lens and the anodized aluminum construction, build quality is not an issue with the ProTac HL. The O-ring sealed glass lens, for the record, makes this waterproof down to one meter.
This is equipped with Ten-Tap Programming which is a Streamlight staple technology. Yet, this system is not foolproof and it can actually be a little tricky to toggle between the different settings.
On high, this will only last around 1.25 hours (the device is powered by two CR123A lithium batteries, for the record). But, on low, this rating jumps up to 18 hours.
What is really neat is this comes with a nylon holster. Think of this as a nice little bonus for you.
Once again, it is hard not to be enamored with this type of tactical flashlight. And, though it burns through batteries, this can almost be expected from most of them.
It is waterproof
Comes with five different lighting modes
Built with a rechargeable battery
It is a bit large
The belt clip is flawed a bit
In addition to the five different lighting modes, this device also comes included with a charging dock. Yes, indeed, this means that it is a rechargeable option.Read more
With its LED bulb and polycarbonate lens in play, this device can emit light up to 687 lumens of brightness.
In addition to the anodized aluminum body, this is also rated to handle submersion in depths of water down to one meter for up to 30 minutes. Or, in other words, it is IPX7 rated.
With a single button, you can toggle between five different operating modes. However, a slight annoyance in this design is the fact that you have to unscrew the belt clip to remove it.
On low, it is claimed that this could be run for up to four days (and for 97 hours on max). If these claims are actually somewhat accurate then the battery life here is amazing.
At six inches in length and 6.6 ounces in weight, this is not exactly enormous but it is also larger and bulkier than other models on this list.
For certain, there are many reasons to love this design. The girth could have been reduced a bit but hey, that is not too bad all things considered, right?
7. SMITH & WESSON MP
Includes a lanyard and a holster
Can emit 875 lumens of light
It can be mounted on weapons
Eats through batteries
It has an issue of overheating
Again, when it comes to straight-up performance and longevity, the MP 12 is yet another model that is beyond impressive. It is also another model that tends to eat through batteries, though.Read more
With a beam distance of up to 242 meters and a maximum lumen rating of 875, let’s just say that this does not suffer in the performance department.
Yet again, this model is built like a tank. It sports an anodized aerospace-grade aluminum body and a waterproof core (as it is designed with a double waterproof O-ring). Oh, and it is also built with a tempered glass lens.
In spite of the fact that the tail cap does not offer precise adjustments, it is easy to move and it allows you to toggle between three different lighting modes (low, high and strobe).
Not only does this tend to overheat if used for too long but it also eats through batteries when you need to operate it on its brightest setting.
First off, this does include a lanyard, holster, and pocket clip so that is really nice. Yet, the physical size is also ideal as it only weighs 6.15 ounces.
For extensive and continuous use, this is not the best option out there. But, tally another one as it offers brilliant performance in an extremely rugged core.
8. PELICAN 7600
Backed by Pelican’s lifetime guarantee
Sports impressive lighting capabilities
It is IPX8 rated
The battery life is weak
A few users have noted that the battery level indicator does not work
Alright, so the battery life is not that impressive for the Pelican 7600. But, boy oh boy can it ever deliver some impressive beams of light? Oh, and it is IPX8 certified for waterproofness too.Read more
On high, this can emit 944 lumens of light and covers up to 225 meters. Yeah, the specifications are pretty impressive for this little sucker.
This actually sports an IPX8 waterproof rating (which is one of the most impressive ratings there is). Additionally, the body is crafted of aluminum and protected with an anodized finish.
The basic features (such as the four different operating modes and three different LED colors) are nice to have. However, for whatever reason, the battery level indicator has not worked correctly for a number of former buyers.
When on high, this battery is pretty weak but not awful by any stretch of the imagination (it is rated to last 195 minutes). Oh, and, speaking of which, a lithium-ion rechargeable battery is included.
At just over 10 ounces in weight, this is a bit heavier than some of the other options on this list so keep that in mind.
Yes, the Pelican 7600 is flawed but it is also very impressive at the same time. It can emit bright beams of light and can withstand a beating or two.
9. OUTLITE A100
Features dual-power operation
Designed with an extra-long handle
Equipped with five different lighting modes
Longevity issues have been documented
The memory mode is inconsistent
Perhaps you are looking for a high-quality tactical flashlight at a cheaper price. Does such an option exist on the market? Well, let the A100 from Outlite answer that for you.Read more
Because the focus can be adjusted with the A100, you can alter the illumination area which is really nice. At its peak, though, it can reach up to 600 feet away.
The A100 is built well but not quite as well as various other models out there. As such, some previous users have had quality and longevity problems.
The adjustable focus is really nice to have and, additionally, you can select between five different operating modes. But, even though this is designed with intelligent circuitry, it does not really work that well.
Conveniently, this can be powered via the included lithium-ion battery or via AAA batteries. So, if the lithium-ion battery dies, you can only have a backup plan.
This is compact enough to fit into virtually any carrying bag or pocket you can imagine. So, transporting it will not be too much of a concern.
In spite of the longevity issues that have persisted with the A100 in the past, it is an affordable, practical, and convenient tool to have.
10. J5 TACTICAL V1-PRO
Backed by a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee
The focus range can be adjusted
It is very compact
The clip is not designed well
Not the most heavy-duty option
In terms of best sellers on the market, the V1-Pro may be the winner. However, its specs are not quite up-to-par with top-end options that are available. Yet, it is still a great option.Read more
The maximum lumen output of 300 is far from bad as it will light objects up to 600 feet away. Yet, at the same time, this is not the brightest option out there.
In spite of its water resistance, this is not extremely rugged or durable. It will withstand minor drops, however, so that is nice.
High, low and strobe modes are available for you to use (which is pretty standard). Additionally, you can adjust the wideness of the beam.
The battery life is not great but it is not awful either. On high, this can last up to two hours. But, frustratingly, this only jumps to four when used on low continuously.
Okay, so the integrated clip is unnecessarily tight. However, this clocks in at just over three ounces (making it one of the lightest options available).
At this price range, you can only expect so much. With that said, this is a best seller for a reason.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This is all about the brightness folks. What else would you expect from a flashlight?
When it comes to lighting sources, it is all about the lumens so you need to become comfortable and knowledgeable of that term. To briefly explain what a lumen is, it is a unit of luminous flux. In other words, it signifies how bright any light source can emit light.
But, when it comes to tactical flashlights, how many lumens do they need to have to be effective? Well, this is a two-part question really because you need to look at the peak brightness and also the other achievable brightness settings. Top-end models on the market will be able to reach 1000 lumens of light (which is insanely bright). Yet, at the same time, you may not always need this much light (and this will drain the battery, also) so assess what the lumen ratings are for the other output modes.
However, what about the beam distance? This is another specification that you will stumble upon and it goes hand-in-hand with lumens. As the name suggests, the beam distance of any one model refers to how far it can cast a useful amount of light on a specific target. Typically, you will see top-end models be able to cast light at targets close to 300 meters away.
Let's just say that most models out there will be built like tanks.
This is where most models really shine, quite frankly. But, there is a lot to cover here so let’s not waste any time rambling.
First off, most tactical flashlights will be made with aluminum bodies. However, the aluminum utilized is typically not normal. Top-end models will oftentimes be made out of aircraft-grade aluminum. For the record, this grade of aluminum is in reference to the 6061 T6 alloy.
This alloy not only contains aluminum but also silicon and magnesium. All in all, it is one of the best aluminum alloys out there. Past this, nearly all models will be protected with a hard-anodized finish. Anodizing itself is actually an electrochemical process and it is essentially used to transform the surface of the metal into a highly corrosion-resistant and durable finish. Oh, and as for the lens, look for tempered glass instead of regular glass as this is basically a toughened version of safety glass.
Past the sheer durability of tactical flashlights, most of them are also designed to be waterproof or at least water-resistant. Most will achieve this with the use of a weatherproofing O-ring. Either way, you can always assess the IP rating of any one model to assess its waterproofness. For the record, the second number references the protection the device has against moisture (with the higher numbers representing enhanced protection).
In addition to different operating modes, there are some other features to look out for.
For such small and compact devices, tactical flashlights typically will be built with several features. For starters, most of the options on the market will sport multiple brightness and operation modes. This can be useful as you may not always need peak intensity at all times.
Generally speaking, the average model will come with three operation modes (high, low and strobe). Now, others will implement more (such as medium and emergency modes) and it all comes down to how versatile you want yours to be. Clearly, the more lighting modes there are the more you can optimize the light for your specific needs.
Past this, some models will be equipped with intelligent circuitry and sensors. Oftentimes, these models will be able to remember your last output mode or may even be able to select a lighting mode based on your surroundings. And, of course, you can’t talk about this section without bringing up the fact that some tactical flashlights will be able to be mounted on your guns. For those who this concerns, search for options that are optimized for it.
While most models will not last that long on high, you still may want to prioritize the battery life.
Oh boy, you could argue that this section is where these types of flashlights are limited the most. For the most part, the standard model is probably going to utilize one or two CR123 lithium batteries. These same batteries will probably only last one or two hours when you use the flashlight at its peak intensity continuously.
Even top-end models will be limited in this regard. However, this section remains important regardless. Of course, you can also optimize the battery life a little bit by limiting the amount of time you use it at its peak intensity (as this will clearly drain the battery much quicker).
Something else to talk about, though, is whether you want to buy an option that utilizes rechargeable batteries or not. Some will accept both rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries but some of them will only accept non-rechargeable batteries. The benefit to those that can be recharged is that you do not need to replace them every time they run out of juice.
In spite of the impressive performances and builds, most models will be compact and portable.
It is almost somewhat amazing that this section follows all of the rest. After all, after talking about how powerful, durable, and rugged some models can be, you would think that the average one would be pretty large in size. Well, that is actually the opposite of what is true as most tactical flashlights are optimized for portability. It makes sense because most of you will be using them on-the-go.
But, what you need to look out for is both the length and the weight of any given model. For the former, you probably do not want anything past six inches and for the latter, keep it under 9 to 10 ounces. It almost seems petty to worry about a few inches or a few ounces but this can really make all the difference in the world (even if you still do not believe it).
Oh, and another thing, some options will be equipped with clips, lanyards, holsters, etc. All of these items and accessories can change the game, as well, as they can provide versatility to the manner in which you carry around your flashlight.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
What exactly is a flashlight designed to do? Oh yeah, it is designed to emit a beam of light so that must make this section important then, right? All sarcastic nature aside, this section can dictate which model you ultimately end up going with. But, when you go to assess the brightness of any given model, you need to prioritize the lumen rating and the beam distance. These two specifications mean everything.
They do not call them tactical flashlights for nothing. Let’s just say that most models are not made out of plastic and secured together with Scotch Tape. On the contrary, most will be made out of special aluminum alloys and protected with anodized finishes. Of course, they will also almost always be either waterproof or at least somewhat water-resistant. This can allow them to combat inclement weather and such.
Would it surprise you to know that most of these devices will be packed with features? They will not function as CPUs or anything like that but most of them will at least come with different operating modes. Additionally, some may sport intelligent circuitry and others may even be weapon-mountable. But, this section is really all about you and what you desire so shop based on your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why should you carry one?
You will often see people recommend this type of flashlight for defense purposes. After all, one does make a terrific defense weapon. However, that is not the only reason you should buy one. As you have seen throughout this guide, there are many of them out there that can emit impressive beams of light. Oh, and the likelihood of most of them breaking down quickly is minimal due to their impressive materials and overall builds. So yeah, there are many reasons to why you would want to buy and carry one around with you.
q: What is the difference between candela and lumens?
The term “Candela” was actually glossed over purposely. For the record, this is a worthwhile specification as it references the peak beam intensity of light. As for how it is different than lumens, lumens measure the entire output of the light and not just the peak intensity of it. That does not mean that the candela rating of a model is not important but you also should not prioritize it over the lumens. Really, it is all about finding a good balance.
q: Can you manually perform any repairs?
This is a difficult question to answer because whenever you are talking about repairs to any type of device or product, the user’s expertise will come into play. Think of it is this way, if you literally know nothing about the internal componentry of a flashlight then you will probably not be able to make many manual repairs. At the same time, if you do, you may have a better chance of doing such. Either way, some issues you simply will not be able to fix on your own. If this happens, contact the seller or the manufacturer to see what they recommend.
q: Are they legal to carry?
Without question, these are legal to carry. Now, it is easy to see why someone would think otherwise given the fact that these are often advertised to be lethal defensive weapons. But, at the same time, they are not the same as firearms or knives. They still function as flashlights and can be used as useful devices during emergencies and situations where you need bright light.
q: Are larger ones brighter than smaller ones?
Yes, they will be, moving on. All joking aside, you really should know the answer to this question. No, the physical size has nothing to do with how bright a specific flashlight is going to be. If that were the case then none of the models that appeared on this list would be very bright. Remember, it is all about the lumens and the beam distance (and also the candela).
And, if a larger model is brighter than a smaller model that merely means that the aforementioned specifications are superior. Of course, it is fair to say that larger models can implement larger LED bulbs (which can make a difference in the diameter of the light).
q: How do you use them?
For the record, this question is in reference to how you use a tactical flashlight in a defense situation. And, what is a bit ironic is that even though it will dish out a great deal of physical damage, your best bet is to firstly use the brightest setting to blind your attacker (this also means you need to become accustomed to turning it on quickly). After which, you can flee the area quickly. Of course, if this does not work, you could then use it to deal out damage.