The 10 Best Tactical Flashlights
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in August of 2015. If you need a powerful source of illumination that can stand up to the elements, check out our selection of tactical flashlights. They're perfect for camping, hunting, and hiking, as most models weigh very little and can fit in your pocket. You can stash one in your tool bag or glove compartment, in case you come across any poorly-lit projects or emergencies on the highway. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 13, 2020:
When it comes to tactical flashlights, one should consider more then just how bright a particular model is. Since these may be used in emergency situations, we believe they must also be very durable and reliable. It was with this thought in mind that we removed all of the very low-priced and somewhat questionable reliability options. While these may have a place on a general list of the best flashlights, they simply don't warrant a spot here where a functioning and responsive light might be a life-saving device. This meant eliminating the Gearlight S1000, OxyLED MD50, J5 Tactical V1-Pro, and Helotex G2.
We also thought it prudent to eliminate older models in favor if their newer iterations. For example, the 2015 version of the Nitecore P12 was replaced with a more recently released version of the same name, this latter one produces more lumens, has a longer runtime, farther throw distance, and a few other features that make it a better choice. Additionally, we replaced the Fenix PD35 with the Fenix FX-PD35TAC. The latter has a helpful feature where you can set it to tactical or outdoor. In the tactical setting, the side switch is deactivated and the tail cap button operates the turbo, low and strobe modes. In the outdoor setting, the side switch operates all of the modes, and the tail cap is used for momentary on.
The Olight Warrior X Pro is another new addition, and it boasts a blinding 2,100 lumens, so it should be capable of disorientating an attacker who is charging. It also has one of the best drop test ratings, at 3 meters, and is fully submersible for long periods of time. Those looking for something they can mount to a helmet of MOLLE webbing may want to consider the Streamlight 14032 Sidewinder. It isn't nearly as bright as most others, but that is because this one is more about illuminating things in a relatively close vicinity, as opposed to objects hundreds of feet away. It is nearly unbreakable too, and has a useful rotating head.
December 03, 2019:
This round of updates, we eliminated the Coast HP17TAC and the Klarus XT11S, due to availability issues. In their places, we added the Gearlight S1000 – a smart two-pack of flashlights that offers great value, and the Nicron B70 – an anodized-aluminum model with a magnetic base and a swiveling head that really impressed us with its long list of features.
A few considerations worth shining some light on while you’re shopping:
Output: Of course, the basic metric to look at here is a given unit’s rated lumen output, but there is a bit more to this than simple brightness. Many options ranked here, including the Gearlight S1000, feature a zoom function that allow you to focus your light’s beam. Other offerings include output options such as strobe or SOS modes. The Nicron B70 can even shine red or green colored light if it suits you.
Durability: While options like the Gearlight S1000 boast that they can take a 10-foot drop and keep on shining, reviews note that other options like the Helotex G2 don’t respond as well to shorter falls. A certain amount of toughness should really be a prerequisite for consideration in this category, but just how rugged you need this torch to be will depend on your personal needs.
Battery Life: With the rise of LED technology over the past few years, modern options in this category blow their incandescent predecessors out of the water in this respect. But if you’re investing in something that’ll be used as a daily tool, you’re still going to value a flashlight that can run longer on a single charge. Many companies will advertise their offering’s single-charge run time in hours, to make things easy for you. The Nicron B70 can even charge via USB-C, so you can save yourself the hassle of installing and uninstalling batteries over and over again, and throw it on your Android phone charger instead.
What Is A Tactical Flashlight?
Tactical flashlights often boast thousands of hours of illumination from a single charge.
Tactical flashlights are designed to be used alongside a firearm in hunting, military and law keeping applications. They’re built with the specific needs of people who work or operate in these fields so many of them are quite compact, making it easy to attach them to a police belt or hunting vest, alongside other tactical tools. Some come with mounts that let the user attach them directly to a gun, allowing them to illuminate and aim at their target in one quick motion.
Tactical flashlights often boast thousands of hours of illumination from a single charge. Because people using these types of lights may need to illuminate extremely large search areas, as well as focus their beam on something small, tactical flashlights often have a wide zoom range. This makes them very useful for search and rescue parties.
To reduce the chances of you becoming the person being searched for, taking a tactical flashlight with you when hiking in the woods is considered one of the essential items every hiker should carry. They’re also incredibly bright, sometimes producing over 1,000 lumens and many feature a strobe mode, which can be used to disorientate a target or capture somebody's attention in an emergency situation.
Those who need a tactical flashlight often work in extreme conditions, running at a moment’s notice, jumping over obstacles, and working outdoors, so they are made with a rugged, shock-resistant casing that is often weather-resistant as well. Most can be dropped from several feet above the ground and not suffer damage.
Why Civilians Need Tactical Flashlights
While tactical flashlights are usually associated with armed forces and the police, regular civilians can benefit from carrying them as well. Even though more states are allowing people to carry guns, there are still many which don't allow them to be brought into areas people regularly frequent — like bars, train stations, and grocery stores. Fortunately, a tactical flashlight can be an incredibly useful safety tool.
While tactical flashlights are usually associated with armed forces and the police, regular civilians can benefit from carrying them as well.
In its most practical application, a tactical flashlight can provide light in dark areas. One can use their tactical flashlight to look in the back seat of their car before getting in, as well as to scan a poorly lit street before walking down it.
A tactical flashlight is an important addition to any fully-equipped survival kit. People who go camping or hiking regularly should always bring one with them. If they lose their way in the wilderness, their tactical flashlight can provide light for several days, scaring off wild animals and helping the forest authorities locate them.
These tools are also important for surviving in one's own home during a flood or natural disaster. A tactical flashlight can provide light during a multi-day power outage. It can be dangerous to walk around a dark house after a flood since there might be loose electrical wires or sharp items on the floor. A tactical flashlight can help a person safely navigate their house so they can make their way to food or higher ground.
In dire situations, a person can use their tactical flashlight to escape a kidnapping or defend themselves against an attacker. Most tactical flashlights have bezel edges that can break glass. Should a person be locked in the trunk of a car, they can use their flashlight to break the rear lights of the car and wave for help. In the event of an attack, a person can quickly blind their attacker by shining their tactical flashlight in their eyes. The practical applications of a tactical flashlight are nearly endless.
The History Of Flashlights
One can’t talk about the invention of the flashlight without discussing the incandescent light bulb. Before that, people used lamps that ran on oil or kerosene, which can be very hazardous. In the late 19th century Thomas Edison made the discovery that a carbon filament could provide light inside of an oxygen-free bulb for up to 40 hours without burning up. In 1899 the English inventor David Misell used this bulb to create the flashlight. His model used three D batteries that sat inside the handle of the tool.
His model used three D batteries that sat inside the handle of the tool.
The original flashlight got its name because it could not sustain prolonged light. Users could turn on the light through a small contact switch, but it would only stay on for a couple of seconds. These earlier models ran on zinc-carbon batteries that couldn’t deliver a current for a long time, so it was also important that users let their flashlight rest between uses.
By the year 1922, the demand for flashlights was so high that there were several varieties on the market, including a small pocket model, a version that could stand up like a lantern, and a reflector type that could light up large areas. Over 10 million people were using flashlights before they had even been available for 30 years.