5 Best Tactical Flashlights and What to Look For When Buying One
BOOM. You’re nap in the woods lasted a little longer than expected and now it’s “suddenly” dark and thunder storming. But no worries, you brought your handy da
ndy El-Cheapo flashlight! Too bad it doesn’t work in pouring rain, and with the bears closing in, you are well on your way to becoming someone’s dinner. One thing that would have saved you a lot of trouble would have been a quality tactical flashlight.
Now maybe the above situation is less likely to happen to you than losing Fido in the night, or managing your way through a power-outage, but in any dark situation you’ll be happy to have a high quality tactical flashlight on-hand.
So, what is the difference between our El-Cheapo and a tactical flashlight? Well, tactical flashlights are most often designed for police, security, and military and have a few main considerations:
The distance and width of the beam usually shown in lumens
Impact threshold or if they’re built to inflict blunt force on an attacker
Battery life and battery type (although this still depends on the brand)
This isn’t an exhaustive list. Many people find they constantly need different modes or levels for different tasks, but generally you’ll want to ensure it has a decent water-resistance rating and produces a strong enough beam of light to blind a would-be attacker.
When choosing the best tactical flashlight for yourself, first you need to figure out what exactly you’ll be using your flashlight for. Most people who don’t work in a risky environment such as security, won’t find much use for self-defense features of many of the best tactical flashlights.
However, flashlights made for these environments are often more resistant to impact in order to strike an attacker (or falling onto concrete), are brighter, and are a bit easier to handle because of their larger size and better construction. On the other hand, survivalists, EDC, hunters, and hikers, are likely going to find more use for a compact high-powered flashlight that can be easily held in your mouth (which I promise you will find yourself doing) and packed away easily in your pocket.
In either situation the build of the flashlight is an important thing to consider. Most quality tactical flashlight have an aluminum body coated in some kind of rubberized grip material to help not only with grip, but to prevent corrosion as well. A flashlight with a quality grip will make it easier to hold in inclement weather or with wet hands.
Then there is the battery issue. Most quality (and definitely the high-powered flashlights) use a rechargeable battery. This isn’t always true though, some flashlights have been designed to take both disposable and rechargeable lithium batteries to add convenience.
Strictly rechargeable is great if you’re using it in an area where you can easily recharge it after extended use (as little as an hour on high), but running out of juice in an emergency situation without any back-up power, would be less than ideal. This is where it’s beneficial to have the option for disposable batteries that you can carry as an emergency back-up.
In the end though, it’s very much a matter of how much you will be using the flashlight before you can recharge it. So if you don’t need a long, strong beam (clear at a little more than a football field) pick a flashlight with about 500 lumens output, or one with the option to use at a lower level to help extend your battery life.
Note: Although buying an extra battery sounds great, the price tag can be a barrier for many users. If you want to go this way, make sure you know how much a spare will actually cost before committing to a flashlight.
Lumens and Beam
The most important thing to most new buyers is lumens, and the higher the better! Here’s the problem though; higher lumens typically means higher battery usage. Although a flashlight over 1000 lumens sounds great and is perfect for just about any situation, you can get away with as little as 500 lumens while still maintaining a lot of visibility and also retaining your battery life.
Another thing to consider is that any bulbs other than LED bulbs, are going to significantly reduce the life of your flashlight. As a rule of thumb: if it’s not easily replaceable or not LED, move on. That’s not to say that all LED’s are built the same.
Some companies use inexpensive LED’s produced for anything from brake lights to house fixtures, while others build theirs in-house or through higher quality vendors. Anything you find on this list will have higher quality bulbs that will last upwards of 35,000 to as much as 100,000 hours of use.
Modes and levels make a big difference as well. Many flashlights come with a few options such as high, medium, and low-light, but many also come with extra settings such as wide beam, S.O.S. mode or strobe mode. As mentioned in the batteries section, higher lumens (brighter settings) take a lot more battery power than their counterparts, so make sure you understand the tradeoff between blinding brightness and useable light.
Although most flashlights are water-resistant to some degree, a waterproof flashlight is essential for those working or playing outdoors and can come in very handy for those using it in other kinds of wet conditions (divers, firefighters, plumbers, and more). Waterproof flashlights also have the added benefit of being dust and sand resistant, making them perfect for extremely dry conditions as well.
In general, most of the best tactical flashlights will have a water resistance rating of: IPX4 which means it will stand up in rain or damp conditions for a short period of time, IPX7 which is rated for use underwater for limited periods of time or heavy rain, or IPX8 which is rated for use underwater for hours
You’ll want to stick to see one of those ratings or at least high quality gaskets to ensure that your flashlight will handle being left in damp conditions (for example: if you fall in water, your bag gets wet, or you need to use it in heavy rain). Beware of basic gaskets however, lights that have been sitting on a shelf for a few years are more likely to have dried out and thus may have lost their waterproof seal.
The last big thing to consider is your budget. A lot of “tactical” flashlights can be found online for as little as $10, but you can expect they won’t be worth much and will likely fail you when you need it most. A good price threshold for a quality tactical flashlight is at least $50, but many lights can be found for as much as $400 before getting a bit absurd. Most of the flashlights on this list can be found with batteries for under $200 and will add hold actual value while holding up to the elements. Although you should set a budget, it’s important to remember that the “El-Cheapo” story we began with.
The 5 Best Tactical Flashlights
Based on what we covered above, the following are our best rated tactical flashlights for EDC and tactical use.
#1: THE EAGLETAC T25C2
First on our list is this is a tried and true tactical flashlight. Eagletac is a very popular choice for law enforcement and for good reason. The T25C2 tactical flashlight being no exception. With a high quality LED, the option for interchangeable bulbs using its interchangeable module, an automatic power saving mode, and an output of up to 1180 lumens, this flashlight will light (or blind) any target within view.
The Eagletec T25C2 is very impact and weather resistant, so drops, strikes, and water won’t be an issue. The smaller size and rubberized grip makes it extremely easy to handle and allows it to fit nicely in your pocket. You can also utilize the removable clip for shoulder straps or pockets.
The beam from this light is very concentrated, so this isn’t the greatest if you need a wide field of view, but with the option to change out bulbs, you can definitely customize this light to fit your preference. Expect to be spending a fair bit though, it’s can be tough to find EagleTac lights with batteries included adding an additional cost to this flashlight.
Length 5.7 inches
Batteries Li-ion (usually not included)
Water-resistance IPX8 Price $$
#2: THE 5.11 TACTICAL S+R A6 FLASHLIGHT
Looking for something super practical and wallet-friendly? Look no further than the 5.11 Tactical S+R A6 Flashlight. This small but mighty light features a rubberized grip over a solid, anodized aluminum body which makes it highly water-resistant, easy to grip, and impact-resistant. With a simple turn-dial on/off function and 600 lumens output, that’s all this light has to offer. It’s nothing fancy but it’s everything you’ll need in a bind.
Another great feature for some users, is that it takes AA batteries meaning you can easily have (inexpensive) spares on-hand when you’re out for extended periods of time.
Batteries AA batteries (usually included
) Water-resistance Water-resistant (unknown rating)
Price $ to $$
#3: THE SUREFIRE E2D DEFENDER
The E2D Defender is small enough to fit in your pocket, and boasts a 1000 lumens output with single or dual output model options. The E2D Defender, like all Surefire flashlights, is built gasket sealed keeping every element out.
That isn’t all though! The Surefire E2D LED Defender Ultra is a true tactical flashlight; built for handleability while boasting dual ended strike bezels, it’s made to inflict some serious damage on attackers with its high impact resistance.
Although the Defender single-output version blasts its 1000 lumens for nearly 3 hours, the Defender Ultra has the option to run the flashlight at a battery saving 5 lumens, allowing you to use the flashlight for up to 63 hours.
Length 5.6 inches
Lumens 5 to 1000
Water-resistance Surefire’s Waterproof/Weatherproof Gasket
#4: THE FENIX LD41 FLASHLIGHT
Probably the toughest tactical flashlight on our list, the Fenix LD41 is meant for all situations. With a waterproof rating of IPX8, anti-slip coating, anti-roll design and seriously tough but modestly sized aluminum body you’ll find yourself using this light for everything from finding lost keys, to taking out perpetrator.
With a handy tail-cap on/off switch, four different modes, and up to 960 lumens of output, the Fenix LD41 is everything you need and a bit more.
Length 8.1 inches
Lumens 6 to 960
Batteries AA Batteries (usually not included)
Price $ to $$
#5: THE STREAMLIGHT PROTAC HL USB FLASHLIGHT
This is our slimmest flashlight but don’t discredit it for its size! Streamlight is known for their user friendly flashlights, the Protac HL USB being no exception to this. With its 3 levels and 4 modes maxing out at a whopping 1000 lumens all the way down to 65, you’ll have the power of a higher end light in a
smaller package. The head of the flashlight is designed to be anti-roll, keeping it from rolling away if you set it own.
At a handy 6.5 inches in length and push button, tail-cap operation, you can’t skip past the Protac HL USB flashlight if you’re looking for a light duty, every-day light.
Length 6.5 inches
Lumens 65 to 1000 with strobe
When you’re looking for a new tactical flashlight, there is a lot to take into account. Choosing the right one is more about understanding how you will be using it (or think you will be) than the features or even the output. The most important thing to consider is how it will perform for you in the environments you frequent.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in law-enforcement, an outdoorsman, or just looking for something new to love, a quality Tactical flashlight will help you find your way, keep you safe, or just add a ton of convenience to your life. Any light from this list will serve you well, so get out and enjoy!
Written by Emily Gust
With rifle in-hand and just what she can carry in her pack, Emily was raised chasing monster whitetails on the prairies and camping throughout the Canadian wilderness. Spending much of her free time exploring, she knows a thing or two about surviving extended periods of time in the unpredictable outdoors. If it’s related to hunting, fishing, or the outdoors, you can bet she’s into it. Instagram @prairieland_huntress