We spent endless hours testing popular tactical flashlights on the market to come up with the top ten. 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 ten 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.
Tactical Flashlight Comparison
|Lumens||35 – 750||15 – 400||15 -300||300 – 800||150||15 – 200||17 – 500||60 – 1,000||1 – 1,000||1 – 3,000|
|Candela||900 – 18,300||375 – 10,000||375 – 7,500||7,500 – 20,000||3,750||5,000 – 12,533||100 – 2,912||800 – 13,500||13 – 13,500||13 – 40,500|
|Range of Light (meters)||270||140||183||305||90||224||150||200||232||200|
|Runtime (hours)||1.25 – 18.00||2.25 – 45.00||2.00 – 10.00||2.00 – 10.00||0.68||6.45 – 25.00||2.00 – 10.00||1.10 – 140.00||1.15 – 520.00||1.10 – 140.00|
|Warranty (years)||Limited Lifetime||Limited Lifetime||1||1||2||Limited Lifetime||Limited Lifetime||2.5||5||5|
Tactical Flashlight Buying Guide
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.