We spent endless hours testing popular tactical flashlights on the market to come up with the top three. Spoiler alert; the Streamlight 88040 Pro Tac is the best tactical flashlight on the market all things considered. Before getting into the detailed review of the top three picks, it’s worth mentioning our criteria for narrowing down the endless options to come up with only three. The major areas we looked at are; Features, Lumen power, energy source, size, battery life, material, and throw or flood.
You’ll notice that price doesn’t feature on the list and for a good reason. We compiled all these essentials before factoring in the price. The main concern about price is value for your money. A little digging and you’ll soon discover that there are some tactical flashlights that are on the higher end of the price range but don’t justify the cost in features and all the considerations above. There are also some lower-priced options that offer full value regarding the above criteria.
Some background information may be useful before jumping into the ‘meat’ of the review. Although we do not discourage that you do your own research, it may be unnecessary since we put in the hours and used our expertise to narrow down the choices of the best tactical flashlight to three. It is our sincere hope that you will find this review useful. We have also included a guide, so you don’t have to take our word for it. This buyer’s guide is for you to get a full sense of what you should be looking into when choosing a tactical flashlight.
Without further ado; below are our top three picks of the best tactical flashlights on the market.
Top 3 Picks
1st Place: Streamlight 88040 Pro Tac
A good place to start with the Streamlight 88040 Pro Tac is recommended for the police for so you know you are getting something truly special. One of the striking points is the lumen power. This model uses C4 LED technology (geek for very bright) with an output of up to 750 lumens. It has three output levels so you can select the most appropriate light output for the situation.
The Streamlight 88040 Pro Tac is made from aircraft aluminum, so there are no issues with durability. This solid construction makes it adaptable to virtually any environment which is always useful for an outdoorsy person.
The technical flashlight has a rechargeable battery which is nothing unique except the model has Solid Power Regulation. This basically means that the flashlight regulates power to conserve the battery, especially when using it at maximum output for long periods of time.
Probably the most neglected but useful feature is the strobe light which you can use to disorient an attacker or signal for help. It’s small size, and the removable pocket clip makes it very portable and convenient to carry.
Finally, we liked that it’s waterproof (30 minutes at a depth of up to 1 meter) so it stands up well to poor weather and anytime you might find yourself submerged in water. One last thing; you can operate the flashlight with just one hand because the on push button is located at the tail of the flashlight.
2nd Place: SureFire G2X Series
The SureFire G2X Series may not be the brightest tactical flashlight on the market, but there is a good reason why it made it to the top three on this list. For one, this model is virtually indestructible. It made from Nitrolon polymer meaning you could take it to a construction site and you would be just fine. The bezel is constructed from hard-anodized aluminum which is hard enough to give an attacked a concussion if you find yourself in a situation where you have to use the flashlight for self-defense.
The flashlight has a 320 lumens maximum light output which is enough to see your surroundings and definitely blind and attacker. The battery life is also very decent, standing at two and a half hours at the consistent maximum light output and up to 45 hours at the minimum light output (15 lumens). The battery is of course rechargeable.
It is worth noting that this is one of the smaller tactical flashlights on the market, so portability is a great advantage in this case. The parabolic sports a high-tech design to guarantee a strong bream and great quality light flood.
As a parting shot, we heard that this flashlight is bomb proof, a fact that we were unable to test independently largely because we have a healthy fear of incarceration.
3rd Place: Olight M20SX
The Olight M20SX Javelot Tactical LED Flashlight is yet another virtually indestructible tactical flashlight that impressed us with its sheer solid construction and practical features. The flashlight is made from hard anodized aluminum (Type III) making it scratch resistant and virtually resistant to any kind of damage you would be concerned about. It is also water resistant so you can use it in any weather.
This is a true tactical flashlight, so it’s a bit of an overkill if your only intended use is to look for change behind the couch. The three setting illumination includes a strobe and low and high-intensity beam.
The flashlight uses a CREE XM-L bulb which very highly rated for its brightness and beam control. As a bonus, this flashlight is so simple to use a child could figure it out. This ease proves practical in high-adrenaline situations when you need to get your flashlight to work in an without having to “go through the motions.”
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
A tactical flashlight is what it sounds like. It’s a type of flashlight designed for and used by the disciplined forces (such as police and military) and is typically used in combination with firearms. These flashlights are extremely reliable and have features that you wouldn’t get in ordinary flashlights, making them attractive to the general public. Note that the flashlight doesn’t have to be used together with a firearm. In fact, most civilians who buy these flashlights don’t intend to use them with weapons.
What to Look for In a Tactical Flashlight
As previously mentioned at the beginning of this guide, the criteria used for picking the top three tactical flashlights is the same as you would when looking to buy one:
The features that would prove useful entirely depend on how you intend to use your flashlight. If for example, you are looking for a flashlight to use with your hunting rifle, a top or bottom mounting is logical. For general use, however, a choice of light intensity and a strobe option would be useful in any situation you might find yourself in.
A flashlight is primarily used to illuminate, so it makes sense to pay attention to how much light the product emits. The light is measured in lumens. As a general rule of thumb; more lumens means more powerful light or intensity. Higher lumens don’t always mean best as you will discover in the next point.
Throw or Flood
Flood simply means the radius that the light covers while throw means how far regarding distance the light travels. Again, which is best entirely depends on your use and personal reference. It is worth noting that all the options described here offer the best of both worlds.
Flashlights typically use batteries because of their portable nature. The type of battery, however, does matter. For one, you need rechargeable batteries. These are convenient since you don’t have to replace your batteries every time they run out. You also have a choice between lithium and alkaline battery. The subtle differences don’t matter if you use your flashlight every once in a while, but they do play a significant role for regular use.
Generally speaking, lithium batteries offer better performance, are more durable and more dependable.
Carrying on with the energy source, you also need to pay attention to the battery life. This factor is often known as running time which simply means how long the flashlight can illuminate before the battery dies. Again, this is not a big issue if you only use your flashlight every once in a while. If, however, you intend to use it on a camping trip or other situation where you need constant illumination, pay attention to the running time.
Note also that the setting in which you use your flashlight has an effect on its running time. For example, using your flashlight at the highest light output for an hour will drain the battery much quicker than when using it at the lowest output. These details are offered in the product descriptions on Amazon and have been touched on here as well. It may be worth buying an extra rechargeable battery just so that you have a back-up.
Size may not be a big issue if your flashlight primarily sits in the glove box or a drawer at home. You may want a smaller size if you carry the flashlight with you on your person regularly. The tip here is to get just the right balance between a small size and useful features.
Size also goes hand in hand with weight. You may have to trade weight for high-quality construction in many cases. Some of the materials used in constructing these flashlights are heavy in nature so you may not be able to get around the weight issue. The options mentioned in this review, however, score well in the size and weight department.
Most of the tactical flashlights you see on the market are made from airplane-grade aluminum or other similar material. These materials are extremely durable, impact resistant and well suited for extreme environments. The material also contributes to the weight. Most of all, the material has a direct relation to the durability of the flashlight so pay close attention to this factor before you buy one. The materials have been covered here in each of the three options.
Finally, a tactical flashlight wouldn’t be complete if the product wasn’t waterproof. Note that just because the flashlight is waterproof doesn’t mean you should submerge it unless in unavoidable circumstances. The idea here is to have a flashlight that you can use in any weather including during a snow storm or heavy rainfall. The level of water resistance certainly depends on the conditions you foresee yourself using the flashlight.
Tactical Flashlight FAQ’s
Do I need a tactical flashlight?
Only if you are concerned about your personal safety. The tactical flashlight has a powerful light output that illuminates better than any standard flashlight. The flashlight is also a self-defense tool to blind or disorient an attacker. It is also heavy enough to use as a weapon if all else fails.
Is a tactical flashlight legal?
Yes, it is legal to carry a tactical flashlight on your person as a civilian. The main difference between this and an ordinary flashlight is its construction and light output.
Is a tactical flashlight difficult to use?
Most models are manufactured with the end user in mind. Manufacturers are well aware that civilians also purchase tactical flashlights and design them accordingly. The most basic use includes choosing a brightness setting which is very easy to figure out.
Which is the best tactical flashlight?
The top three tactical flashlights are the Streamlight 88040 Pro Tac, SureFire G2X, and Olight M20-X respectively.
Buying a tactical flashlight shouldn’t be difficult as long as you know what to look for. We have done the hard work to make a choice as simple as possible. Some of the factors that we considered when compiling this list include battery life, features, energy source, size, materials, and lumen power. Most of all make sure you buy your flashlight from a trusted vendor to ensure you get all the features and benefits highlighted here. As a bonus piece of advice; look for free or discounted shipping and warranty.