Flashlights can come in a variety of different types. You’ll find flashlights that you would keep under your bathroom sink (like the ones I have), and you’ll find the best tactical flashlight that you would bring along camping, hunting or in survival situations.
What is the best flashlight? This is one question that I get asked a lot. I will be honest: I am very frugal. I always try to find the lowest price for everything – even flashlights – like most people do. But people use flashlights when they’re most vulnerable. Right? Those times when the power goes out and you’re scrambling to put ice on food so it doesn’t spoil, or clamoring around the house trying to find a candle.
And this is exactly what happened to me. My dollar store flashlight didn’t work when I needed it most. My frugalness got the best of me.
So, I chose to get the best tactical flashlight on the market. Then I got another, and another until I started to realize that the best model really depends on your needs. I really like the X800 tactical flashlight, but then I also like the g700 tactical flashlight – they both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Flashlights are often great self-defense tools, especially when it comes to low visibility or if you happen to find yourself face-to-face with an attacker.
If ever you find yourself in an survival situation, what type of flashlight would you want? It’s pretty obvious that you would want the best tactical flashlight. While most people usually overlook the importance of a flashlight, it is in fact a very important device that people should always carry.
If you are looking for the top tactical flashlight, you should check out our comparison chart below, as it may help you to decide which is the most practical flashlight for you.
Since there are so many choices available in the market today, it is best to have an idea as to which are some of the best flashlights out there. Below are five honest and comprehensive product reviews that should guide you in deciding as to which gear best suits your specific needs.
The Top Tactical Flashlight Reviews
#1 Shadowhawk X800 Flashlight Review
The “world’s best tactical flashlight;” a bold claim by all means. When comparing price and functionality, that is a justification and claim I can make about the x800 flashlight. It’s powerful, able to withstand even rugged abuse (try dropping it from up in a tree. I have), and is small enough to fit in your pocket.
When I am out in the wild, the 800 tactical flashlight is always by my side.
Why? What’s the big deal?
That is the million-dollar question. I mean, if you’re telling scary ghost stories to your children in your backyard with the flashlight illuminating your chin, this isn’t the flashlight for you. The brightness will likely cause you to fall into the campfire, which no one wants.
But this is a tactical flashlight. The type of flashlight you need when camping, hiking or in survival situations.
- The X800 LED flashlight features 5 modes for every survival situation.
- The lamp offers 100,000 lamp life hours – it will last a lifetime.
- Aircraft-grade aluminum was used in the flashlight’s construction.
- Powered with three AAA batteries.
Don’t get me wrong, the battery on this flashlight is more than acceptable, but I feel a different battery source may have provided better overall battery life. This is one of the brightest flashlights I’ve used at full charge, and this is what the best tactical flashlight should offer.
X800 Flashlight Review
I’ve talked a lot about the X800 already, but now it’s time to get into the heart of the matter. Why is this an amazing flashlight? What will the X800 really offer me? These are the questions I hope to answer.
But before I do that, take a look at these impressive features and specs:
- 100,000-hour lamp life
- Aircraft-grade aluminum
- LED light
- 5 light modes
- 5 zoom modes
- 800 lumens of power
- Waterproof up to 6 feet
- Military tested
The X800 flashlight is impressive. Starting with the batteries, you’ll need to insert 3, AAA batteries into your flashlight before hitting the power button. But don’t worry, this is a rechargeable flashlight that will last for hours depending on the mode chosen (more on that soon).
Pop in your batteries, and you’ll quickly notice that the tactical X800 flashlight offers blinding light. Over 800 lumens will be emitted from the XPE LED light bulb.
What’s so special about LED bulbs? There are two very important traits offered by LED that make this technology optimal for tactical purposes:
- LED bulbs are 6 times brighter than halogen bulbs.
- LED bulbs last forever.
You’ll be buying a flashlight that offers a 100,000-hour bulb lifespan. Putting this into perspective, you can run this bulb for 4,166 days, or 11 years, without worrying about the bulb burning out. If you’re an avid hiker, biker, woodsman or survivalist, this is the longevity that you want to rely on in the wild – not some dinky bulb that will die out when you’re looking for the coyote howling near your campfire.
5 Awesome Modes
Before you switch on your flashlight, pay special attention to the modes that are available (5 in total). These modes are very important for survival, and they also have a direct impact on the lifespan of your battery.
You’ll be able to choose between:
- Strobe: A flashlight mode that I haven’t used often – if ever, honestly.
- Low / Medium / High: These modes are very important. I tend to keep my flashlight on medium to preserve battery life, and only switch to high as needed. The higher the setting, the more strain will be put on your batteries.
- SOS: A life-saving mode that I hold very dearly. This is the mode you’ll use when in a live-or-die situation. Put the light on SOS to alert survival crews, get the attention of boats or aircrafts, or when you’re merely calling for help.
A friend of mine went out to collect wood near the stream (they decided to take my X800 flashlight with them), and they couldn’t find their way back to camp. Sitting there waiting, I noticed the SOS signal in the distance, and was able to find my friends and lead them back to camp.
Honestly, I am not sure how he got lost since he was pretty close to the camp, but it taught me a valuable lesson – SOS mode gets people’s attention.
5 Telescopic Zooms
The X800 flashlight also comes with telescopic zoom settings. What these settings allow is for you to concentrate the beam of light emitted from the flashlight. Why in the world would you want to do this?
- Zoom allows you to focus on one distinct location.
- Zoom provides more control to the user.
- Zoom is blinding, and helpful if you’re trying to run away from someone – or something.
There are five zoom settings available: 1x, 250x, 500x, 1000x and 2000x zoom.
You’ve already read that the X800 flashlight offers aircraft grade aluminum, but it’s important to stress this fact even further. You see, most flashlights break if you drop them down a mountain or even if you hit them against a boulder. But the X800 is better than that. The manufacturer has taken a no-excuse approach when developing this flashlight.
Impressive tests have been performed on the X800 flashlight that show this model being run over by a plane – seriously. A plane ran this flashlight over, and the entire flashlight from the zoom to the lens and various modes were still fully functional. Nearly indestructible, you can use and abuse this flashlight without fear of it giving out on you at your time of need. The immense weight that was put on this flashlight without it breaking was unbelievable.
Made in the United States, used by military professionals and able to save your life when you least expect it, the X800 is a priceless flashlight that every true survivalist needs. This is the best-of-the-best tactical flashlight on the market today – I would trust my life with it.
The tactical x800 flashlight is the best model on our list. Period. You’ll find that this model is very affordable ($56), and even more affordable if you buy more than one. Made with military grade aluminum, the x800 LED flashlight can take a beating without failing.
Heavily tested and ready for military use, this flashlight features:
Specs and Features
- Pure aluminum construction
- 5 different modes
- 800 lumens
- Zoom features
What We Liked
You’ll want to keep this flashlight by your side at all times, tucked nicely next to your survival knife. This flashlight features 800 lumens produced through an LED bulb that will last 100,000 hours, and five focus beams to concentrate the light with the utmost precision.
There are also five preset light options: Low, medium, high, strobe and SOS. You’ll be able to turn this model on low when trying to find a friend, high when you need protection, and to SOS if you’re stuck in the wild – it saved me a few times along the way. This is the best tactical flashlight on the list.
#2 LumiTact G700 Flashlight Review
The G700 flashlight is made from aircraft-grade material – strong, durable and exactly what you want when on a tactical mission, or when in the wild trying to avoid being eaten by coyotes and wolves.
When using the G700 tactical flashlight, you’ll have confidence in knowing that this is the longest lasting flashlight in the world. An impressive 100,000-hour bulb life allows you to use this flashlight for over 10 years – consistently – before the bulb dies. And the bulb is so long-lasting that you’ll find the G700 on the hip of military personal.
But is the G700 the best flashlight in the world?
This is the question I aim to answer, and it’s not a simple one by any means. In terms of price, power and functionality, this would be one of two of my go-to flashlights (the X800 is the other).
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the G700 flashlight before digging deeper into what this flashlight has to offer.
- The 5 modes allow for full control over the flashlight (the SOS mode is a life saver).
- The 5 zoom modes allow for control of your beam’s concentration.
- You can run the tactical G700 flashlight over with a car – it won’t break.
- Sold only online, so you can’t buy it in stores.
Think of the G700 flashlight as an exclusive item – because that is what it is. You won’t find this model in stores. But that isn’t a bad thing. You won’t find many military grade flashlights in stores because they’re often not meant for public use.
G700 Flashlight Review
Fast, efficient and built to last. When people say that a flashlight is built to last, you expect to be able to drop it from a ladder and it not break (too badly at least). But the G700 is different. This flashlight is made with aircraft-grade aluminum (the kind that won’t break easily). You can literally roll your automobile over this flashlight, and it will still work.
Drop your G700 down a small cliff? No problem. This flashlight just keeps ticking, and it has 100,000 hours of bulb life. Putting this into perspective, it’s pretty darn impressive. You won’t even reach 100,000 hours of use in most cases. This is something like 10 – 11 years of straight use.
When I say the “G700 military flashlight,” what does this mean exactly? This is the same flashlight that you’ll see military officials using out in the field. You know, missions where they need light that is powerful enough to illuminate even the darkest terrain or stun an assailant right in their tracks.
I flashed this light at myself once, and I don’t think I have ever been the same.
Packed with 700 lumens, this is a powerful flashlight that will make your ordinary flashlight seem like a toy.
Check out the specs for yourself:
- 100,000-hour bulb life
- 700 lumens
- 5 zoom modes
- 5 light modes (more on that soon)
- Beveled edge for self defense
- Aircraft grade aluminum shell
- Cree XM-L T6 bulb (LED)
- 1-inch length (no zoom)
- 16-inch diameter
Small enough to fit in your pocket yet more powerful than a stadium light. The G700 has it all, and we haven’t even gotten to the modes yet.
When you use the G700, you’ll notice that there are five different mode options:
- Low – perfect for around the campfire or in the house.
- Medium – ideal in those situations where it’s not fully dark.
- High – the only solution when you’re in the middle of the jungle and you just know a cougar is somewhere in the brush.
- Strobe – great for alerting others or for temporary blindness.
- SOS – an alert mode that will get someone’s attention if you’re hurt, trapped or stuck.
If Tom Hanks would have had SOS mode when he was in Cast Away, he wouldn’t have had to make a volleyball his only friend. The G700 would have been enough to alert passing boats or planes.
But hopefully you’re never stuck in this situation.
The 700 lumens bulb is enough to blind someone temporarily. Think about those times when you step into the bathroom in the middle of the night and turn on the light only to be blinded for a second – and magnify this by 100. Police use this to stun assailants on the run. And you can use this against wolves, coyotes or those vicious little spiders that are worse than zombies.
And I almost forgot to mention that the G700 LED flashlight offers 5 zoom modes. That’s right – you can concentrate the light in a specific direction. For example, maybe you don’t want the radius of the light to be so wide, so you zoom in to concentrate the beam in a specific location. You’ll be able to choose between five different zoom modes: x1, x250, x500, x1000 and x2000.
I do want to state that when the flashlight has its zoom extended all the way, it’s about an inch longer in length – not a big deal. These are the major benefits of the G700, but there are more benefits offered. First, the aircraft grade aluminum allows you to use this flashlight as a weapon when needed. And there are also beveled edges which can be used for protection.
I have, thankfully, not had to use the beveled edges, but a few useful scenarios have run through my mind:
You’re out in the wild and you come across a local thief that wants your last can of food, blind him with the light and jab him in the eye with the beveled edge – really. Now, I don’t recommend trying this on a bear (it’s only 5 inches in length), but to each their own.
In all seriousness, the G700 flashlight is an amazing buy. Not only is this a flashlight that can take a true beating, but it’s built from the ground up with survival in mind. The 5 light modes can save your life, the zoom can help you navigate through the woods, and being the longest-lasting flashlight in the world, the G700 will never die on you when you need it most – something Tom Hanks can’t say for his volleyball.
The G700 military flashlight is virtually identical to my first pick, but it only produces 700 lumen. While this may seem bad initially, this actually allows the battery to last a little longer, which is a really nice bonus.
And the G700 can be seen on the belts of many police officers due to its lightweight and optimal durability.
Specs and Features
- 5 light modes
- 5 telescoping focus options (zoom)
- 100,000-hour bulb lifespan
- 700 lumens
What We Liked
The tactical g700 flashlight is another great flashlight that I highly recommend. You’ll have all of the same light modes as the X800, but the brightness level is toned down by 100 lumens. Is this a game changer? Yes and no. If you don’t mind the slightly lower number of lumens, you’ll benefit from saving on battery life, which is always beneficial.
Overall, this model is on par with the X800.
#3 Streamlight 88040 ProTac HL Review
The 88040 is a great flashlight that features a C4 LED bulb for intense brightness. This model is waterproof (I’m not sure whether the first two are), and it comes with 600 lumens of brightness. Slightly more expensive at $72.80, this flashlight is highly reviewed by others, and has an anti-roll face cap.
The battery life is also 1.5 hours.
Specs and Features
- 600 lumen
- Aircraft quality aluminum design
- 5-hour battery life
- 3 light modes
What We Liked
An amazing flashlight that may have landed higher on my list if it wasn’t for the lower lumens and the odd battery requirement. This model features 2 CR123A batteries. While the batteries are included, you won’t find them in most hardware stores.
You can switch this model to low where it will hold a charge for 18 hours, or strobe where it will hold a charge for 2.5 hours. Overall, this is a great flashlight that is powerful. It offers exceptional battery life and an anti-roll feature, so it won’t roll away if you put it down or drop it.
#4 SOLARAY PRO ZX-1XL Review
The PRO ZX-1XL is bright, and it offers a rechargeable battery with 5 different modes and a zoom lens. You’ll also be given a rapid battery charger and a small zoomable flashlight that is perfect for on-the-go uses.
Specs and Features
- Rapid battery charging
- 5 light modes
- Water resistant
- Zoom option
- Up to 1600 lumens
What We Liked
This is an overall great buy, and the brightness is very intense. The modes include: low, medium, high, SOS and strobe. This model is water resistant, but I didn’t personally drop it in water to test it out. I can say it works just fine in intense rain.
The zoom is alright (not too impressive) and the lumens max out at 1600, but I would say they remain a steady 1200 when the battery is slightly depleted. In terms of lumens, this is the best tactical flashlight to choose, but it doesn’t meet the same standards as the first two picks on this list.
#5 Fenix PD35 TAC 1000 Lumen Review
This model may have been high on this best tactical flashlight list, but it’s price ($72.95) is a little on the high-end. Aside from this, the TAC 1000 is an exceptional model that is built to last. The light has a 50,000-hour lifespan, several output models, a tactical tail switch and two different battery types can be used (I recommend the Li-Ion for the best results).
Specs and Features
- 1000 lumens maximum
- 50,000-hour light lifespan
- Tactical tail switch for quick on and off function
- 140 – 1-hour lifespan depending on the mode
- Tactical and outdoor modes
What We Liked
If you’re looking for modes, this is the best tactical flashlight to choose. There are two modes: tactical and outdoor. You’ll be able to choose between 1000, 500 200, 60 and 8 lumens to use this flashlight for everything from survival situations to reading. There is also a strobe function available for safety purposes.
# 6 Surefire 6PX Pro Dual Output LED Flashlight
For those who are looking for maximum performance and heavy duty resiliency, the 6PX Pro Dual definitely makes it to the shortlist of choices.
- Total shipping weight: 1.1 pounds (including batteries)
- Light Output: Up to 320 Lumens
- Battery: 2 Lithium Ion Batteries (included in the original package)
- Run-time: Up to two hours on full light intensity (320 Lumens)
- High Intensity Light Beam: This is perhaps one of the best torches that anyone can bring on an outdoor night adventure. It is fitted with high efficiency LED bulb which makes use of energy in the smartest, most economical way. This is definitely what you need to bring if you intend to be in the great outdoors for a few nights.
- Hard and Resilient Outer Shell: The sleek body of this device is made of high-grade aerospace aluminum body that is dent and scratch resistant.
- Wide Range Adjustable Light Intensity: While this flashlight can shine up to 320 Lumens, it can also go as low as 15, which is recommended for map reading and regular indoor usage. It effectively allows people to have two different flashlights- the one they use for outdoor adventures and the other for normal tasks around the house.
- There is not much drawback with this flashlight, except perhaps for its price. At $115 (although discounted in some sites), it can be a tad expensive for some people.
#7 Streamlight 88031 Protac Tactical Flashlight 2L
As far as streamlined tactical flashlights go, the Streamlight 88031 definitely warrants a second (and much closer) look, as it comes with numerous impressive features.
- Total Shipping Weight: 4 Ounces
- Item Weight: 2.5 Ounces (with batteries)
- Light-Output: 180 Lumens (Max)
- Battery: Two CR123A Lithium Batteries
- 3 Different Light Output Modes: You can choose from among three modes – Momentary, Variable Intensity, or Strobe, depending on your specific needs. Strobe is mainly utilized for emergency purposes, i.e. for when you need to be located by rescuers or your backup. Momentary and Variable Intensity if for varied outdoor as well as indoor uses.
- C4 LED Technology: This affords an impressive 50,000 hour lifetime for each bulb, which in effect is a lifetime guarantee.
- Tempered Glass Lens: This tactical flashlight is well intended to be used on rugged excursions where there is a very high probability of slipping, sliding, falling, or dropping. The glass lens is as durable as the body so you can be sure that light will be available when you need it most, despite less than ideal conditions.
- Includes Nylon Holster: The original package comes with a Nylon holster so you need not carry the flashlight in your hands the entire time.
- The design is not as aesthetically inspired as most other flashlights in its category. Its not pretty but it sure works.
#8 Nitecore SENS Mini – EDC ready
Second up in the five tactical flashlights you wish you owned is the Nitecore SENS Mini. I’m always looking for great, small, bright everyday carry lights. The Nitcore SENS Mini is the kind of light that easily fits in your pocket along with the other essentials like your knife. The only other light that’s comparable is the Fenix E15. The Nitecore SENS Mini has some very cool features including something they call active dimming technology.
Point the flashlight head straight up to activate the active dimming technology. Point the Nitecore SENS Mini at something far away and the light is adjust itself to full brightness. As you point the flashlight at something closer the light dims down. Point at something directly at your feet and the light dims even further. Point straight out again at a distant target and the light goes back to full brightness.
The Nitecore SENS Mini is 170 lumens with a maximum run time of 14 hours.
Here is a selection of ten super cheap tactical flashlights for you to review. If I can’t personally test a tactical flashlight or I don’t see a review in a flashlight forum, I turn to the customer reviews that are available where I prefer to buy my tactical lights, Amazon.com. I’ve looked for ten super cheap tactical flashlights that people are raving about. There’s much to be said for the adage “you get what you pay for.”
But, you never know when you’ll be totally surprised at just how much flashlight you can get for so little. The Cree 7W 300LM is a perfect example of a real flashlight bargain. You can read my review here. The one thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes there is a propensity for the descriptions of the less expensive flashlights to “overstate” their brightness. Is it possible to get an 800 lumens rated flashlight for $8? Maybe, but not too likely. That’s where reading the reviews carefully comes into play. I hope you enjoy looking through these flashlights.
Super bright (high lumens) tactical flashlights
These three super bright flashlights over 3000 lumens should supply enough raw power to light up just about any situation you find yourself in. Do you really need a super bright flashlight sporting over 3000 lumens? In a search and rescue situation or a home defense situation they could come in handy. Just realize most of these only run at full power for very limited times so read the specs closely before buying.
You know how your mom would yell at you about staring into the sun? It should GO WITHOUT SAYING that you don’t want to shine any of these three super bright flashlights over 3000 lumens into your eyes or anybody else’s eyes. This thread on eye damage from flashlights over at the Candlepower Forums should be enough to convince you of this.
Here are three Super Bright Flashlights Over 3000 Lumens
The following specs, photos, and video reviews cover the three super bright flashlights over 3000 lumens that I was able to find. If you know of any others, feel free to add a comment with
#1 Nitecore TM26
Here are the key specs you need to know about the Nitecore TM26. First TM stands for Tiny Monster. Out of the three super bright flashlights over 3000 lumens the Nitecore TM26 is the smallest. The Tiny Monster is short and fat and fits in the palm of your hand. It’s probably the closest thing to “tactical” of all of the flashlights featured in this post.
The key specification to be aware of is the length of time you can run the TM26 at the maximum output of 3500 lumens. The Tiny Monster uses either 8 CR123A batteries or four rechargeable 18650 rechargeable batteries. If you go with the CR123A batteries the TM26 will run one hour at the “turbo mode” of 3500 lumens. If you go the rechargeable route, the Nitecore TM26 will run 45 minutes at 3500 lumens.
The Nitecore TM26 Tiny Monster flashlight also features a very nice LED readout to ensure you know what mode you are running in and how much power is left in your set of batteries. A thermal protection circuit is used to prevent the flashlight from overheating. It even has a built in camera tripod mount so you can use it as a flood light for lighting up a specific area.
#2 Fenix RC40
The Fenix RC40 is one of the three super bright flashlights over 3000 lumens that looks the most like a conventional flashlight. It would be a great “nightstand” flashlight to have in your home for emergency situations. The Fenix RC40 is an extremely bright 3500 lumens. In it’s “turbo” mode the RC40 will run 1.5 hours at 3500 lumens. It uses a 7.4 volt rechargeable battery. The RC40 has a 710 meter throw.
#3 Powertac X3000
The Powertac X3000 is a 3000 lumen palm-sized flashlight. It is powered by 3 18650 rechargeable batteries. The Powertac X3000 runtime at 3000 lumens is 1.2 hours. It is constructed of aircraft grade aluminum and of the three super bright flashlights over 3000 lumens it is also the most economical and less than $300 dollars.
Best Tactical Flashlight – Ultimate Buying Guide 2019
Find the best tactical flashlight using this Best Tactical Flashlight guide. The best tactical flashlights come with a broad array of features so determining which tactical flashlight is the best for you can be confusing at first. My hope is that by the time you’ve had a chance to review this information you’ll feel confident that you can choose the best tactical flashlight for your budget and application.
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
The best flashlight and the best tactical flashlight are two very different things. When you choose a tactical model, you’ll be getting one of the brightest flashlights on the market (probably the brightest).
If you’ve ever turned on a flashlight only to find that it simply isn’t producing enough light, you need a tactical model.
These models are meant for:
- Rugged use, and use high-quality metals for durability.
- Easy carrying, and they’re often smaller in size.
- Immense light production.
- You can think of these flashlights as being on steroids – they outperform even the best ordinary flashlight.
They’re not too expensive, and they will last for decades under normal use.
It’s an investment, and an investment that I highly recommend hunters, hikers and campers make.
Take the X800 for example, this flashlight features 800 lumens. If you were using a flashlight for reading, you would only need 20 lumens – 800 is exceptionally bright. Now, if you’re wondering what in the world lumens are, it is a measurement of brightness for a light, or a flashlight in this case. The more lumens offered, the brighter the overall light would be.
Benefits of the Best Tactical Flashlight
I’m going to be using the G700 led flashlight as an example. This flashlight (we review it later on if you want the full scoop) features 700 lumen. If you haven’t realized already, flashlight models will often include a number in them. The G700 features 700 lumen, while the X800 features 800 lumen. But, the Streamlight 88040 does not contain 88000 lumen (in case you were wondering).
Anyway, using the G700, I could use it for:
- Survival: In survival situations, you can use these lights as an alert. The G700 offers strobe and SOS light modes that can alert someone of your presence if you’re lost. An adequate source of light will also allow you to find food, water and even blind dangerous animals that are coming your way.
- Protection: Whether an animal or human is going to attack, 700 lumens will cause an immediate blinding where you have the option of running or hitting them with your flashlight. Featuring a beveled edge, you can jab the flashlight at an eye and cause serious damage as a result.
The best part is that these flashlights are very powerful, yet they’re small enough to fit in your pocket. If you’ve ever seen a police show, you’ve likely seen a tactical flashlight before. These professionals put their lives on the line every day, and only the best tactical flashlight will do. Small and compact, these flashlights can be deployed in seconds to blind an assailant and are often used when a gun is drawn for quick blinding and shooting as needed.
And they’re constructed with military grade materials to ensure they survive the must rugged survival moments.
How to Choose a Tactical Flashlight
The best tactical flashlight (the X800 in my opinion) requires you to know a little more about your desired flashlight. You’ll need to know a lot of information to make a good choice, and it’s not as simple as you would think.
I have tried over a dozen different models in the last few months. And I am always on the lookout for even more great flashlights that I can keep in my arsenal or share with my readers.
A few of the points that I personally use to choose the best tactical flashlight include:
- Lumens: The amount of lumens is a metric to measure light output of a flashlight. This is the intensity or brightness of a light, and lumens can also lessen as a battery wears down and needs recharging.
- Lamp Hours: Some models will mention lamp hours. Lamp hours are a way to determine how long the bulb will last. The longer, the better.
- Modes: The best tactical flashlight for the money should come with modes. If you’re just planning on keeping your flashlight tucked away, modes might not matter, but if you get stuck on the highway, you’ll want a flashlight that has an SOS mode, so you can get the attention of other vehicles or help.
- Beam Distance: Refers to how far the beam will go. This is important if you need to see far in the distance, or if you’re signaling for help. Some models use “zoom,” while others list a distance that the beam can travel.
- Battery: The battery type is negligible as long as the light works, but I do recommend a model that can use rechargeable batteries to save on future costs.
- Bulb: It is hard to find a model that doesn’t offer an LED bulb (they’re superior in virtually every way), but they do exist. Florescent and incandescent bulbs cannot reach the same brightness level as an LED light.
These are just a few of the criteria that I will be discussing in our tactical flashlight reviews. Now that you fully understand what you should be looking for in the best tactical flashlight, it’s time to see which models (I mentioned two already) are the best options for your money.
What to Look for in a Tactical Flashlight
Listed below are some of the best and most practical guidelines on how to find the best tactical flashlight, as well as a few suggestions on which are the best products on the market today.
#1 Output and Range
Since flashlights are devices meant for illumination, it only makes sense that you should look for a unit that has the best output. When comparing various models and brands, it is necessary to examine the intensity of light generated by the specific flashlight. This is a very important factor to consider, especially if you intend to use the device for outdoor purposes, i.e. camping, hiking, hunting, etc.
The unit of measure for light intensity generated by flashlights is Lumens. Most average consumer-grade torches range from between 20 to 40 Lumens, which is acceptable for indoor use. However, high-grade tactical flashlights can generate up to 200 Lumens or more, depending on the specific model and/or brand.
Also a relevant factor that is inextricably linked to light output is range, which is the measure of distance that the flashlight can provide adequate illumination. Range is usually measured by feet or meters, so it is very important to check the product specifications for this particular figure. Some units today can illuminate up to 100 feet, which can be quite useful especially when negotiating underground spaces, i.e. sewers, manholes, etc.
#2 Adjustable Intensity
While tactical flashlights are expected to be very powerful, there are times when you need just a bit of light instead of a burning beacon. Variable intensity is another factor to consider when looking for the best tactical flashlight because you would certainly want a device which you can control based on your specific needs. Since it is quite reasonable to assume that you will need a regular flashlight as just as much as a tactical torch, it is best to be partial to units that can be easily adjusted as far as light intensity is concerned.
Buying a flashlight with a variable intensity feature will save you a lot of money since you will not have to purchase a regular flashlight for common usage (i.e. checking the fuse box, changing light bulbs, and other light handy work around the house).
#3 LED Bulbs
Most first generation tactical torches are made with incandescent bulbs, which work fine but are becoming progressively rare due to the advent of LED bulbs. When scouting for a heavy duty flashlight, LED bulbs should definitely be on the top of your list because they are more power efficient. This means you get more life out of the batteries with LED flashlights compared to when you opt for a unit that is fitted with incandescent bulbs.
In addition, LED bulbs are known to produce more intense light and emit far less heat than that from incandescent bulbs.
Size and weight are definitely relevant factors to consider when deciding which flashlight to purchase. For one thing, it can be a terrible burden having to lug around a huge lighting device especially when you are exploring the great outdoors. Compact and lightweight units are always favorable, especially when they are packed with the same illumination power as most bulky flashlights. Most manufacturers these days realize the importance of mobility when it comes to lighting gadgets, so they find new ways to make smaller and more powerful flashlights for the most discerning customers.
#5 Body and Casing
Any heavy duty equipment is expected to not only perform well but also be able to withstand wear and tear. The best tactical torches are those that are made of solid and sturdy materials, especially the outer body, which is subjected to bumps, scratches, and accidental drops. Hardened metal alloy and/or reinforced plastic are the two most popular materials used for casings since they are known to be most resilient and durable. Reinforced plastic usually makes for a lighter unit, but there are a few next generation models that are made of special metal alloy that is extremely light and twice as resilient.
#6 Batteries and Run-time
This is where most people get stuck when trying to decide which flashlight to purchase. For novice shoppers, it might seem like flashlights that require fewer batteries are always the best choice. On the contrary, the number of batteries required cannot always be equated with lesser power requirements. Some flashlights are notorious power guzzlers that you will be required to carry a few extra rounds of batteries just to last the entire trip.
When comparing seemingly similar products, be sure to take a closer look at the run-time projection on the product specs page. Some tactical flashlights come with rechargeable batteries, in which case you should ascertain how long the light would stay on with one full charge.
Most newer models usually run on AA, AAA, or CR123A (rechargeable) batteries.
#7 Other Features to Consider
For those who have very specific flashlight needs (i.e. outdoorsy folks or professional explorers), there are other functions and features that may come in handy and thus should be included in the list of things to look for. Here are some of the additional functions:
#8 Water Resistant
Your flashlight needs to work no matter the weather so choosing one that is water-repellent is crucial.
#9 Emergency Signal
Some models are designed with strobe modes that can be used for emergency signaling, i.e. Morse Code. This can be especially beneficial if you happen to get trapped somewhere far (high up or underground) and you need to call for backup or help from rescuers. You have a better chance to be found if you have this feature on your gear.
#10 Wrist Straps/Holsters/Belts
For long distance walking in the dark, you would certainly want a flashlight that can be holstered to your shoulder so there is no need to carry it by hand the entire time. You certainly would not want your hands cramping in addition to having sore feet.
What is a tactical flashlight?
In general, what makes a flashlight “tactical” is a set of common features (or at least a subset of these features). 99% of the time a tactical flashlight is black, made of aluminum, multiple power modes, multiple lighting modes, water resistance, and at a minimum 100 lumens. In my opinion, any flashlight that is primarily plastic isn’t tactical.
Anatomy of a tactical flashlight
To choose the best tactical flashlight for your use it is important to know what to look for in the flashlight’s construction and features. The following section highlights tactical flashlight anatomy and the common features you need to be looking for. I’ll reiterate that every tactical flashlight is different, but the features highlighted in the next section are important ones to look for.
An example of a common tactical flashlight feature is a tail cap switch. In the “everyday carry” tactical flashlight (ultra-small pocket flashlights) many lack a tail cap switch. It doesn’t make the flashlight less tactical but in that class of flashlight manufacturers eliminate some common features to maintain the flashlight’s small size.
Common construction features of a tactical flashlight
The common construction features of a tactical flashlight are shown in the photos below:
#1 Understanding common tactical flashlight specifications
To pick the best tactical flashlight you’ll need to read the flashlight specs to make sure it has all of the features you need for your particular application. Here are some of the more important ones to be aware of.
This is probably the spec that everyone looks for first. You want to know what your maximum flashlight brightness will be. Since the light will have more than one mode, it’s good to know how many different modes you have and what the lumens rating is for each mode.
#3 Flashlight run time
This is the run time of the tactical flashlight at the lowest lumens setting. Run times are incrementally reduced by higher powers. Some lights do use a “beacon mode” that allows you to use your light as an emergency signal at highest power but lengthens run time.
#4 Waterproof rating
The best tactical flashlight will make use of o-rings in its construction for water resistance. Tactical flashlights will almost always have a rating for the depth of water they can be submerged to without water breaching the o-ring seals. A true tactical flashlight should have an IPX rating which will help you understand exactly how water resistant your flashlight is. The IP code is the “ingress protection” rating for the flashlight. In general, most tactical flashlights have an IPX rating of at least 7 (meaning the flashlight is water resistant to 1 meter deep). Nitecore has a page that can give you even more info on IPX ratings which you can see here.
#5 Type of construction
A tactical flashlight will be made of anodized aluminum. 99% will not use plastic in the construction (accept for switches). If the flashlight is plastic it’s hard to classify it as tactical.
#6 Drop rating
Durability is one factor in selecting the best tactical flashlight. The flashlight should have a drop rating. For example, in the image above you’ll see that the tactical flashlight’s drop rating is 1.5 meters.
Why you need a tactical flashlight
To be honest, you probably need more than one! Tactical flashlights are designed for specific applications (although there are some that do a great job for multiple lighting applications). To choose the best tactical flashlight you need to think about the way you plan to use the flashlight, where you plan to use it, and the features that are “must-haves.”
#1 Home security
I always have a variety of tactical flashlights throughout the house. The most important one is the “nightstand” flashlight. The bottom line is that when the power goes out you need a dependable flashlight. Tactical flashlights help you move around safely in the dark when the power goes out and detect threats on your property.
Obviously, tactical flashlights are very important to law enforcement, firefighters, and the military. So what if you sit in a cubicle all day? I do. I’ve used my little Fenix E15 EDC flashlight numerous times at work. It works great for lighting up dark spaces when you have computer cables to hook up. Are you a mechanic, carpenter or someone that works with their hands. I’m sure you can think of plenty of applications for a good tactical flashlight.
#3 Self defense
Tactical flashlights are great tools for self-defense purposes. The bright light that they emit can be used to disorient an attacker (particularly the strobe mode). For example, if you conceal carry using the flashlight will help you more easily detect the level of the threat, blind the perceived threat plus make it hard for that threat to see you draw your weapon if that is something you need to do.
A tactical flashlight is great defensive tool for people that feel uncomfortable carrying a weapon or work in an environment where no guns or knives are allowed. A well built-higher lumens rated tactical light combined with a bezel and/or tail cap design meant for striking will not only disorient an attacker but can be used inflict physical injury. A great example of that type of bezel and tail cap stand design is seen in the Brite Strike brand of tactical flashlights:
#4 Hunting and camping
Choosing the best tactical flashlight for hunting and camping is easy. It needs to be bright, durable, and good on batteries. It also has to have one very important feature. It needs a beacon mode. Unlike a strobe, a beacon mode will emit a bright flash of light every few seconds. In the event that you become lost this is a feature that helps preserve battery life while making you really visible from the air. Some lights allow you to do the same thing by simply pressing the tail cap switch intermittently. In the event you were injured or doing something that required your attention the beacon mode would let you go hands-free.
Another feature that is important for hunting would be a flashlight with either colored LED’s or filters. Red helps preserve your night vision while green helps you see quite a bit of detail and the lowest power modes of the flashlight.
Tactical flashlight accessories
To select the best tactical flashlight you need to consider what types of accessories the flashlight has available. In the following sections I’ve highlighted the mosy common tactical flashlight accessories.
#1 Weapons mount
If you need to put your tactical flashlight on a shotgun or tactical rifle you’ll need a weapons mount which will allow you to attach it to an accessory rail. I prefer a tactical flashlight model that has a dedicated weapons mount to ensure the flashlight is held securely. The last thing you want is the light rattling off while you are shooting so if you choose a tactical flashlight with a dedicated mount you should hopefully avoid this problem. My experience has been that buying a tactical flashlight and then an aftermarket weapons mount has not always been a good option because of fit issues.
#2 Pressure switches
If you plan to run your tactical flashlight on a tactical rifle you’ll want one that allows you to add a pressure switch. If this accessory exists for your flashlight, you’ll be removing the tail cap switch and replacing it with the pressure switch.
#3 Clips and lanyards
Most larger tactical flashlights come with a wrist lanyard while smaller everyday carry lights sometimes come with some sort of pocket clip.
Best tactical flashlight Lighting Features and Modes
While going through the process of choosing the best tactical flashlight, you’ll want to consider the various lighting features that are available in each model. The following are two features I like to see in a flashlight.
#1 Strobe modes
The strobe mode of a tactical flashlight servers a couple of primary features. The most important (in my opinion) is that a strobe is a great self-defense tool. The strobe is very disconcerting and makes it hard for a threat to focus on you. The strobe is also a great attention getting device as well.
#2 Beacon modes
If you are buying a tactical flashlight for hiking or hunting I highly recommend getting one with a beacon mode. A tactical flashlight with a beacon mode will emit an extremely bright flash of light every three to five seconds. Many tactical flashlights will allow you to simply depress the tail cap switch lightly and accomplish the same thing so why is the beacon feature really that important? If you are in a situation where you are lost you can simply put the tactical flashlight in beacon mode, set it on the tail cap stand and go back to starting a fire, building your shelter, etc.
#3 Everyday Carry
The title “everyday carry” (aka EDC) says it all. EDC flashlights are small, pocketable, and lightweight. In general, you can get a great everyday carry tactical flashlight for under $30. I personally carry the Fenix E15 and also carry a super cheap, yet serviceable Cree 7W 300LM Mini LED:
In Conclusion To Best Best Tactical Flashlights
The bottom-line is that the best tactical flashlight for you depends largely on what you need the gear for and how much you are willing to spend for such a gadget. So now it’s up to you to select a flashlight that meets your needs, using the guidelines I’ve outlined above. As a general rule, it is better to invest in a flashlight that is slightly expensive but can be expected to last a very long time.
As you can imagine, manufacturers, new and old, are developing new flashlights all of the time. So as new tactical lights are released to the market the list above will be continually updated to stay up-to speed with the latest in flashlight technology.
Have we failed to mention your favorite flashlight? Do you feel that it should be added to the list? Share your favorite with us by leaving a comment below.
The Final Verdict
I’ve given you a lot to consider and think about. When I was out camping and my $5 flashlight didn’t work, it could have been a life-threatening situation if my camping buddy wasn’t an avid collector of tactical flashlights.
We were way out in the mountains, you know the places where black bears skitter away and grizzly bears see you as food.
Maybe I am impartial to the Shadowhawk X800 because of this night, but it is my absolute favorite tactical flashlight on the market today, with the G700 flashlight a very close second. These flashlights are the two that I would face the apocalypse with.
But I also keep the ProTac HL, PRO ZX-1XL and the PD35 TAC 1000 close by as all five flashlights have their place.
Again, you need to choose the best tactical flashlight for your needs, budget and usage requirements.