Best tactical flashlights

Flashlights

A tactical flashlight kept in your glove compartment can come in extremely handy for emergency repairs while on the road.

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Which tactical flashlight is best?

Tactical flashlights are powerful, compact flashlights that are intended for police or military use. However, due to their reliability, heavy-duty construction and extreme brightness, tactical flashlights have also become popular with hunters, campers, mechanics, first responders and others who need their tools to be able to withstand abuse and adverse conditions.

Providing incredible brightness with a rugged housing, rubberized grip and a design that prevents it from rolling off of tables or across floors, the Streamlight 88060 Pro Tac HL is the best all-purpose tactical flashlight.

What to know before you buy a tactical flashlight

Tactical vs. standard flashlights

While a flashlight may seem like a basic tool, choosing the right tactical flashlight to suit your needs takes special consideration due to their unique features.

  • Brightness. Tactical flashlights are best known for their intense brightness. These lights allow those in the military and law enforcement the ability to see clearly in the dark for long distances. They can also be used to potentially blind an attacker in self-defense.
  • Material. While standard flashlights tend to be made out of plastic, tactical models will be constructed out of aluminum or, in some cases, a tough composite material.
  • On/off button. Tactical flashlights have their on/off button located directly on the back, or tail cap, of the light. This allows for simple operation with a click of your thumb. This configuration also eliminates having to turn the light around to access a switch located on the tool’s side or having to use both hands to twist the flashlight’s head in order to turn it on.
  • Waterproof. While many household flashlights have a degree of water resistance, a tactical flashlight will be highly waterproof, Some models are able to function while submerged in up to 5 feet of water.

What to look for in a quality tactical flashlight

Brightness

Measured in Lumens, the light output of tactical flashlights is their biggest selling point. While a rating of 100 Lumens is more than adequate for most users, many tactical flashlight models can achieve a baseline brightness between 300-600 Lumens. As technology continues to advance, flashlights capable of thousands of Lumens are becoming increasingly common, although many of these units are only capable of such extreme brightness for short periods of time.

Modes 

From multiple colors to strobing, tactical flashlights often provide the wielder with various modes to choose from. Some allow you to focus the beam of your light on a smaller point by twisting the flashlight’s head, while others allow for short blasts of intense brightness. A key feature of a tactical flashlight is the ability to slightly depress the tail cap button to momentarily turn the light on without clicking into sustained illumination. This allows you to briefly and silently flash your light without completely clicking it on and off.

Belt clip

Keep your tactical flashlight out of your pocket by selecting a model with a clip that allows you to securely wear it on your belt, backpack or another strap for easy access.

Battery type

A good tactical flashlight will accommodate a wide range of battery types. However, many are at their most powerful when using high energy, 21700 lithium-ion batteries. Most legitimate tactical flashlights won’t run on standard AA batteries, although there are exceptions. 

Strike bezel

Some tactical flashlights are built with a strike bezel that is designed for self-defense. These bezels have sharp points on them and are meant to be used as a potential weapon.

Tactical flashlight tips

  • Customization is possible. Many people modify and customize their lights to suit their needs and taste. Aftermarket bezels, batteries and more are sold. A robust online community is also available for questions and recommendations.
  • Keep your light safe from drops. A lanyard will prevent you from dropping your flashlight and also keep it easily accessible.
  • Don’t overlook comfort. Select a flashlight that has a weight, balance and design that makes it easy for you to use. Even the latest and greatest features will do you no good if your tool is challenging or frustrating to use.

How much you can expect to spend on a tactical flashlight

Small tactical flashlights can be purchased for as little as $25 while models that are used in professional law enforcement or military situations can cost as much as $300. Most users will find a tactical flashlight to suit their needs between $70-$120.

Tactical flashlight FAQ

Are tactical flashlights illegal?

A. No. In spite of their potential use for self-defense, you are free to carry a tactical flashlight without any special license or permit.

How bright does a tactical flashlight have to be to blind someone?

A. While 60 Lumens is bright enough to cause discomfort, especially in dark conditions, a tactical flashlight with a brightness of at least 300 Lumens is recommended in order to use its light in self-defense.

Do tactical flashlights attach to firearms?

A. Yes. Many companies sell attachments that allow you to mount your tactical flashlight to your firearm, from handguns to shotguns and more.

What’s the best tactical flashlight to buy?

Top tactical flashlight

Streamlight 88060 Pro Tac HL

Streamlight 88060 Pro Tac HL

What you need to know: This rechargeable tactical flashlight is capable of 2,200 Lumens of brightness.

What you’ll love: This model comes from a reputable company known for producing quality, affordable flashlights. It comes with two rechargeable batteries and features a rubberized grip. This model is waterproof up to one meter.

What you should consider: This light’s beam is not adjustable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top tactical flashlight for the money

ThruNite LED Flashlight

ThruNite LED Flashlight

What you need to know: This small, tactical flashlight is an excellent value and can even run off of two AA batteries.

What you’ll love: Waterproof and impact-resistant, this flashlight has a brightness of 500 Lumens. Available in three colors, this light has a built-in clip that can be used to keep it fastened to your belt.

What you should consider: Some users have found that this flashlight’s power button can be a challenge to engage.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

OLIGHT Warrior Mini 2

OLIGHT Warrior Mini 2

What you need to know: Despite its small size, this flashlight is capable of a max brightness of 1,750 Lumens. 

What you’ll love: Tiny but powerful, this tactical flashlight’s 1,750 Lumen beam can reach 220 meters. Featuring two switches and a carabiner for portability, this model is perfect for camping and use in tight quarters.

What you should consider: Users have reported that this light can heat up quickly when in use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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