Everyone needs a good tactical flashlight, probably a few. I am not talking about a torch here, a proper, good quality, high powered tactical flashlight. What is the difference you might wonder? In a word, massive. The brightness and light you get from a proper tactical flashlight cannot even be compared to that of a torch. Plus, they are way more durable and have a host of other features.
Initially, they were the domain of the professionals, law enforcement, military, search and rescue personnel as well as hunters and serious outdoor enthusiast. Today, they are a necessity for anyone to have at home, in the car or anytime you venture outdoors.
The problem is there are so many really great ones on the market, as well as a few not so hot ones. If you do not have much experience in buying them, the choice can be a bit overwhelming. But do not worry as we will guide you through the process and help you decide on the best one for your needs. Firstly, we will tell you about some of the features and what to look for in a tactical flashlight and then, based on extensive research, we will give you our top 10 recommendations.
The first thing you need to think about is your reason for needing one, that will help to determine which one is most suitable. Decide if you need it for occasional home use, regular outdoor use, a more intense purpose such as hunting or hiking in the wild or a professional purpose such as law enforcement or military-type use.
The reality is, we all need one and you do not want to be caught in a situation where you really need one and you are, quite literally, stuck in the dark. So read on, we have all the information you need to make a perfect choice.
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
The name sounds rather impressive and rightly so. Tactical flashlights are, as we said above, not your run of the mill torch. What makes them superior comes down to a number of factors. Firstly, the brightness, measured in Lumens, is phenomenal. They are super bright and can light up an area so well you would think it was a bright, summer’s day, not a pitch dark alley or mountain trail. Secondly, they are highly durable. The casing is generally made of military or aircraft grade materials and most use LED globes which are not only brighter but can handle a good knock or drop and last a lot longer. The vast majority of them have some degree of weatherproofing so a bit of rain or a drop in a puddle will not cause them any harm. Bottom line is that they are top quality, ultra bright, super strong and extremely useful. I am not going to go into all the reasons you need one, they are self-evident, you need to have one.
What to look for in a Tactical Flashlight
Lumens are the measure of the brightness of the flashlight. The higher, the brighter. This is a bit of a trade off as the higher the lumens, the more battery power you will consume. This goes back to my earlier comment, think about the intended use of your flashlight and this will guide you in what will suit your needs best. Cost also becomes a factor as the higher lumen flashlights tend to be more expensive.
For basic home use, you can get away with around 40 to 50 lumens. For more serious outdoor activities 200 to 300 lumens are recommended and for actual tactical type use where you intend to blind a threat, 500 plus lumens is what you want.
Many of the better tactical flashlights have the ability to select illumination levels to suit the situation. No need to blast it at 500 lumens and use a lot of battery power when 200 lumens would be sufficient at the time.
Lumens are not the only consideration with regards to light output. You also need to look at temperature and beam distance.
Temperature refers to the color of the light. Without getting too technical, there are three main types. The first is a warm light which has a similar yellowish color to incandescent light bulbs. Second is neutral white and lastly cool white which is predominantly white with a slight bluish tint.
Beam distance is how far the light will travel, a very important factor, depending on your desired use. Some throw the beam of light much further while others have a shorter range but illuminate a wider area in front of you. Many of them are adjustable giving you the best of both worlds.
Modern tactical flashlights use LED globes as a light source and these have numerous advantages over older standard bulbs. LEDs are a lot more durable and can handle a large amount of impact and they last a lot longer. The light produced from a LED is significantly brighter and they consume less power than traditional bulbs.
Another important factor to consider is the durability or strength of the flashlight. You want one that will withstand the intended use. If it just for emergency home use, you can compromise to a degree but if you will be using it actively and carrying it around, you want one that can stand up to a bit of rough use. Some are made of quality plastic but aluminum or anodized aluminum is best. Aluminum is strong and lightweight and anodized aluminum gives an extra layer of protection.
Stainless steel is also very durable but then it does make the flashlight a bit heavier. Titanium is a great choice as it is very durable and lightweight. The downside to titanium is that it is more expensive.
Water resistance also forms a part of durability as you do not want one that will be damaged in heavy rain or if it gets dropped in the water.
It is generally measured with an IPX rating, the higher the number, the more water it can resist.
IPX4 is really just resistant to a bit of a splash so it will be able to handle rain but not much more. IPX7 is a lot more water resistant and can handle a depth of up to a meter for about 30 minutes which is suitable for most people’s use of their flashlight. IPX8 is the highest rating and can be submerged without harm for over 4 hours and can handle depths greater than a meter.
It is really important to consider the size tactical flashlight you would be comfortable using. They range from small, pocket-sized models to much larger ones. The weight is also a big factor, especial if you will be using it for extended periods.
Your intended use for the tactical flashlight will help you determine the ideal size and weight. The bigger ones will have more battery power and usually higher lumens.
Power supply is a very important consideration and there are a number of options. It is obviously no good having a good flashlight that only lasts a few minutes and then dies on you. Battery replacement cost is another factor to consider. We will run through the advantages and disadvantages if the various options available.
Disposable alkaline batteries are the ones we are most familiar with and many flashlights use AAA, AA, C, and D batteries. The benefit is that they are convenient and easily available but do not offer as much power as other options.
Disposable lithium batteries are much like the above but the superior technology provides more power, size for size. This comes at a price so they are more expensive.
Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries are a very good option, particularly if you use the flashlight regularly. They are expensive and you will have to buy the chargers as well but you will not have to keep buying new ones like with the above disposable types. In the long run, they will save you money. You can carry disposable batteries as a backup if you are without electrical power for a while.
Some tactical flashlights come with an integrated rechargeable battery pack that is specific to that flashlight. Again, they are handy and cost effective if you use your flashlight often and they will come with a charger that connects to a mains socket or a USB cable. The only downside is if you are away from an electrical power source for extended periods you will not be able to recharge.
As within any purchase, you will have to give some consideration to budget. You do not want to buy a cheap and nasty one that will not perform well or last very long. Generally, you get what you pay for but you do get some really good deals on well priced tactical flashlights. Have a budget in mind when shopping around and rather spend a little more to ensure you get a good quality tactical flashlight that will perform well and last a long time.
Our Top Ten Tactical Flashlight Recommendations
We have really done our homework on the top selling tactical flashlights on the market. We inspected and tested them to see them in action first hand. We then read up on the specifications, features and benefits and then also read countless reviews from people that had purchased and used the various models. Based on all of this information, we can strongly recommend the following options. They are all good quality and will do a great job but there are differences. It will come down to your personal needs and preferences as well as your budget.
Our Top Pick – Best Tactical Flashlight
Based on the criteria we discussed above, the brightness, durability, features and value for money of the Streamlight 88040 came up tops. It is a very popular choice and the feedback from those that have purchased and used it was extremely positive.
Streamlight 88040 ProTac HL 750 Lumen Professional Tactical Flashlight
This flashlight uses C4 LED technology for brilliant brightness of 750 Lumens. It has 3 settings, low, high and strobe and comes with 2 CR123A batteries. It is extremely energy efficient for extended battery life. The LED Solid Power Regulation means that it is both bright and energy efficient. It is also very reasonably priced for the quality that you get.
It is made from aircraft aluminum and waterproof making it tough and durable.
This is a great value for money option, offering optimum brightness, battery life and durability.
J5 Tactical V1-PRO 300 Lumen Ultra Bright Flashlight
One of the most highly rated tactical flashlights is the mighty J5 Tactical. It is a good, practical and versatile tactical flashlight for general purpose and outdoor use. It is compact, lightweight and the aircraft grade aluminum casing is highly durable and has a good firm grip. It weighs 3.5 ounces including the battery. Best of all, it is extremely well priced.
It provides 300 Lumens that will cast a beam a good 600 feet. You can focus the beam according to your requirements. It offers a high and low setting as well as a strobe mode if needed. It will give you good run time with a 14500 Rechargeable or single AA battery. The company also offers a money back guarantee which is reassuring.
Other features include a sturdy belt clip, a tail switch, a strike bezel and the unit is water resistant.
In its price range, it is a superb option being rugged, bright and lightweight. The build quality is outstanding and it is a very practical tactical flashlight.
NiteCore EC4S 2150 Lumens XHP50 Flashlight
The super powerful Nitecore EC4S provides an amazing 2150 lumens and over 300 yards visibility. It is one of the top selling tactical flashlights and was highly regarded by people that have bought it. The incredible brightness is thanks to the CREE XHP50 LED bulb and their own “Precision Digital Optics Technology”.
You have 5 brightness options as well as strobe and SOS modes. It comes with a Lumentac Battery Organizer, lanyard and a holster. It requires either 4x CR123A or 2x 18650 batteries.
It has amazing strength due to the unibody design and quality die-cast construction. The result is a tough but lightweight flashlight. Total weight is only 6.03 oz. It is also extremely efficient with an impressive maximum runtime of 325 Hours.
Overall, the Nitecore EC4S clearly rates as one of the best tactical flashlights on the market given its amazing durability and superior brightness.
Olight M20SX Javelot M20-X 820 Lumen LED Flashlight, Black
Olight M20-X is IPX-8 (the highest rating) water resistant and provides brightness ranging from 25 to 820 lumens. It uses a customized CREE LED to form a precise beam that has a great range up to 1214 ft. It is easy to flip from one option to the next and it includes a strobe mode.
The body is expertly made, crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum body and used top of the range anti-scratch type III hard anodizing. This puts it up these amongst the toughest tactical flashlights in the market. It also features a stainless steel striking bezel and a pocket clip as well as integrated battery polarity protection
Ultra strong, very bright and highly reliable, the Olight M20-X comes highly recommended.
Helotex G2 CREE LED Tactical EDC Flashlight
You can often get amazing deals on this very practical and well priced tactical flashlight. It operates with either cr123 or AA batteries and which will give you 130 and 120 lumens respectively using a Cree XR-E LED. It has a high or low mode as we as a strobe option.
Helotex is a well known and trusted brand of tactical flashlight and the G2 is a durable, compact and very convenient option.
Customer feedback was very positive and many commented on the brightness, durability and the great value for money.
Surefire G2X Pro Dual Output LED Foliage Green Flashlight 320 Lumens w/ 2x
SureFire is also a very popular, well-trusted brand and the G2X is made from a rugged Nitrolon body with an anodized aluminum bezel. It is weatherproof and includes 2 Panasonic CR123A batteries as well as an Alliance Gadget Battery Case.
It has two brightness options and a powerful, reliable LED. It is compact and comfortable to use while still being bright enough for most applications. The precision micro-textured reflector forms a concentrated beam maximizing the 320 lumen output.
This high-quality tactical flashlight is very popular with both professional and leisure users and is highly rated by them.
Vizeri LED Tactical Flashlight with Focusing Lens, Cree XML T6 or XRE Q5, Military Quality
Tough and bright are the first two words that come to mind when describing the Vizeri LED tactical flashlight. It uses a CREE T6 XML LED which is optimized with precision focusing to create a powerful light source. The military grade aluminum and hardened anodized finish ensure a strong and durable flashlight that won’t even notice the bangs and drops as it is used.
It has 5 modes, low, medium, high, SOS and strobe. It is also water resistant and can handle depths of up to 3 feet. The beam is adjustable according to your requirements.
You can choose from a range of power sources, depending on circumstances, from AAA or CR123 alkaline batteries, rechargeable if you prefer, or inexpensive rechargeable 18650 Lithium-ion batteries.
There is a range of accessories available for various mounting options and, remote switches and diffusers. It comes standard with a lamp diffuser and holster with a D ring so it can be used as a practical hanging light source when camping or working on something in the dark.
It comes with a lifetime warranty which shows the manufacturers confidence in the product.
SOLARAY PRO ZX-2 Professional Series Flashlight Kit – Bright Tactical LED Flashlight
This flashlight is a very popular issue for many branches of law enforcement and medical, fire or security professionals which speaks to the quality and effectiveness of the product. It is very bright, at 1200 Lumens and has a zoomable focus lens, is rechargeable and water resistant. You can vary the focus for close up or long distance lighting.
With great battery life, superior brightness and an ultras strong design, this tactical flashlight is designed for regular use under extreme conditions.
Outlite A100 Portable Ultra Bright LED Handheld Flashlight
Using a Creed XML-T6 LED bulb, the A100 produces a worthy 700 lumens which can be pushed up to 900 lumens using the zoom feature. The zoom lens is one of the main features and allows you to concentrate the light on a specific area. You can use either 3 AAA batteries in emergencies but is comes standard with a rechargeable 3.7V 18650 battery.
The adjustable focus makes it highly versatile for wide or long range illumination and features 3 brightness levels as well as SOS and strobe modes.
It is constructed from a super-light and strong aluminum casing for great durability. It is a popular seller that was well-rated by customers with many positive reviews.
Refun E6 (2 pack) High Powered Tactical Flashlight
The Refun E6 is again, a very highly rated tactical flashlight from the many people that have purchased it and the feedback was extremely positive. It comes as a 2 pack making it very cost effective and ideal to keep one in the car and one to carry with you. It is extremely bright, has an adjustable focus and is water resistant.
The bulb is rated to last in excess of 100,000 hours and Refun offer a 100 percent satisfaction and money-back guarantee. It features all five modes, being high, medium, low, SOS and strobe.
It is shock and water resistant and made of air-craft Grade aluminum and can also withstand extreme temperatures. The E6 is extremely compact at just 5.4 inches L x 1.6 inches wide yet it packs a lot of power into the small size making it very practical for a wide range of applications. The lens can be focused for short or long range use or focused in on a specific area.
It is powered by either 3 AAA batteries in emergencies or the included rechargeable 18650 3.6v/3.7v battery.
This is highly recommended, compact and strong tactical flashlight that is great value for money.
As you can see there is a wide range of top quality, powerful and durable tactical flashlights available. Give some thought to what your requirements are and how you intend to use the flashlight. With the knowledge you have gained from this article, you will be able to make an informed choice, ensuring you bet the best possible tactical flashlight for your purposes.