Armed with the knowledge that a tactical flashlight is one whose features are scrutinized and used to the max in order to gain a competitive in-combat advantage, we put together a good list of some brightest tactical flashlight reviews. While putting our list together, it emerged that some of the best tactical flashlights harbor features that cannot be universally agreed upon as to why they’re considered to be the best. It ultimately all comes down to how well a certain flashlight works for you and your unique set of needs.
Fenix PD35 CREE XP-L LED Flashlight
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Surefire Ultra High Output LED Weaponlight, Black
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Fenix PD35 1000 Lumen CREE XP-L LED Compact Flashlight
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Fenix PD35 850 – Ultimate Package
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Nitecore P12 Compact Tactical LED Flashlight
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Orion H40-W 500 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight
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J5 Tactical V1-PRO
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Best Tactical Flashlight Reviews
1. Fenix PD35 CREE XP-L LED Flashlight
This flashlight sort of makes up for the tiniest of personal preference shortfalls which may exist between someone looking at the PD35 850 Lumen LED flashlight and the PD35 100 Lumen CREE XP version, the latter of which is essentially the exact same product, except this one comes packaged with more accessories. They’re from the same manufacturer (Fenix) and from the same range (PD35), but with this one, you get a smart USB-powered charger which is expressly built to charge 26650 and 18650 batteries. When battery power is running low, a low-volt reminder goes off to indicate the need to change battery sources. I suppose this describes pretty much all flashlights in this range, but the casing of this flashlight is cleverly designed to make it roll-resistant and slip-proof, it may not be the brightest tactical flashlight but it’s great in practical deployment environments. The integrated micro memory feature has it going back to the last setting you had it on when you switched it off.
2. Surefire Ultra High Output LED Weaponlight, Black
A bit of science converged with some biology to produce this flashlight, with the yellow-green portion of the color spectrum paid special attention to in the production of the LED light. This is that part of the spectrum to which the human eye shows most sensitivity, so this indicates that this flashlight can be used for self-defense or for alarming purposes. It also gives you a very good situational vision with broad illumination that complements the peripheral vision quite well. The flashlight weighs one pound and the CR123A battery it ships with is capable of generating 600 Lumens. You can get the original manufacturer rechargeable battery from Surefire if you like, as well as the charger – two accessories that may come in handy to save money by replacing the battery. If an opposing shooter, attacker, etc, is making use of dark-adaptation vision, this unit’s light is particularly effective in the blinding effect it delivers.
3. Fenix PD35 1000 Lumen CREE XP-L LED Compact Flashlight
If you’re not entirely satisfied with the 850 Lumen provided by the PD35 850 model of the Fenix PD35 range of flashlights, this CREE XP-L LED version will blow your mind with 1000 Lumens. It definitely warrants being labeled a tactical edition since it’s just made for tactical deployment both in design and functionality. Measuring at under 5.51 inches, it can easily fit in the smallest pockets. In the practical deployment, you get up to 656 feet of beam output. If you use it in its Outdoor mode, you have a choice between six modes and its effectiveness is attested to by its use by professional law enforcement officials. The smart charger it comes with can charge two batteries at once, but it’s best used with 18650 batteries; you’d be wasting its power if you tried to use it with CR123 batteries.
4. Fenix PD35 850 – Ultimate Package
Brand loyalists (who we must profess to have the legitimate claim to being loyalists) of the Fenix name in tactical flashlights have been waiting in anticipation for this version of the PD32 model. At the time of using the introductory version, it was hard to imagine how they could improve on it, yet they have. The glass has been made ultra-clear and it has been made much stronger. In addition, the glass has been coated to offset reflection. Okay, perhaps long-standing users of the previous PD32UE model might have suggested just one improvement, which would be aimed at the excessive flooding of the emitted light beam. This model handles that problem beautifully and inaction, this flashlight is particularly loved by professionals such as firefighters. Only one of the two batteries (18650) powers up the projected 850 Lumens of light, but what makes this flashlight even more useful in practical deployment is the fact that it’s waterproof.
5. Nitecore P12 Compact Tactical LED Flashlight
This tactical LED flashlight from Nitecore is all about concentrated power. It is indeed as compact as the title suggests, but really packs a punch that can deliver a 1000 Lumen beam! Use it with the original manufacturer Nitecore 18650 high-performance battery (rechargeable) for best performance and you’ll enjoy the use of extremely bright light, even if set to the lowest Lumen setting. It comes with the charger too, so it’s literally just a matter of charging up and deploying. If you’ve used the P16 or P25 models from the same manufacturer, expect a bit more user-friendliness from this P12. It has built-in setting memorization features, so there won’t be too much fiddling around each time you have to use it again and it’s so good that it’s a leading choice for professionals such as military personnel, search-and-rescue workers, and law enforcement officers.
6. Orion H40-W 500 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight
If you’re specifically looking for a tactical flashlight you’ll use with your gun, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one brighter than this LED-baby. It seems to perform at its peak in the most testing of environments and owes its brightness to the Cree XM-L U2 Lumens LED (500) it has integrated. It covers around five inches in length and takes up a circumference of only one inch, so you can easily mount it on a 12-gauge or even on your AR-15 rifle. In action, you can choose to have the light on constantly or you can use the click-switch to match your exact in-deployment needs or preferences. It’s not a rechargeable unit itself, though, but a really good one nonetheless. Extremely durable and it has an amazing ability to handle high caliber gun recoil, once snugly fit on standard-sized Picatinny gun rails.
7. J5 Tactical V1-PRO
Sporting a blue camouflage design, this J5 Tactical V1-Pro flashlight is so popular that it has become the manufacturers’ bestseller and one of the brightest tactical flashlights in the market. It’s not hard to see why it’s so popular, though, with its refreshing design and all the power it surprisingly packs for a flashlight which uses just one standard AA sized battery. What you get in practice are three different deployment modes, graded as strobe, low, and high. The strobe mode is particularly popular with cyclists, while the high mode packs so much power that it has been used by some servicemen in the real deployment. You can adjust the range of focus to a narrow but powerful sweep, or you can make the illumination a bit wider and let up with the intensity just a bit. To give you a practical example of its power, the flashlight’s beam can span the total length of two side-by-side football pitches.
8. American Tactical Supply Co. ProTorch X1, 800 Lumen
This flashlight makes very good use of LED technology to produce up to 800 Lumens. It feels very strong in the hand, a good indication of its durability. Despite it’s strong built, it still remains very light and is, therefore, great for use in professional tactical situations. Five modes come in SOS, Strobe, Low, Medium, and High and the beam focus can be adjusted very easily in the dark as well, as its tail-cap glows in the dark. The alloyed aluminum casing offers more than just durability, also serving as a good DNA snatcher, so there should be no doubt by now as to the intended professional tactical use of this flashlight and its indicative performance during a practical deployment. A singular 18650 battery which powers this flashlight comes included and is rechargeable, offering up to 40 hours of running time. Alternatively, you can run it on two CR123A batteries, or even three AAA-sized batteries.
9. Olight M22 Warrior 950
This is one tactical flashlight which enjoys the honor of buyers going for a repurchase, just so they can have more than one of these in different places and for different uses. It’s a very good little light that emits some brightness you’d not ordinarily expect from a flashlight of its size. 950 Lumens is what you get, to be exact, generated by a 18650 battery or two CR123A batteries. The thick holster it comes with looks very good too and you’ll love using it because it offers some of the best single-handed use you’ll find. This is due to a switch located at the tail, which is operated with a simple forward motion. It’s bright enough to blind and alarm anyone who makes direct eye contact with the light coming from the non-reflective, ultra-clear torch lens, so be careful. You also get a nice wide beam.
10. Vizeri LED Tactical Flashlight with Focusing Lens
This LED tactical flashlight from Vizeri makes good use of what is becoming a standard feature in tactical flashlights and returns to the last mode you used when you shut it off. You don’t have to cycle all the way through the different modes in order to get the beam you prefer. This is very important with this particular flashlight because although it features five modes (SOS, Strobe, Low, Medium, and High), you’re only really likely to use two of them (medium or high). The CR123 alkaline or AAA batteries to power up this bright flashlight don’t come included, but that’s because it is very flexible in terms of the different batteries you can use. In addition to the two mentioned, you can use rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion batteries, which in fact are recommended by the manufacturers if you’ll be using it in its highest mode. The flashlight can be submerged to depths of up to three feet too and it is plated with gold to prevent rusting.
11. Supernova Guardian 1300 Ultra Bright
The aircraft-grade aluminum casing with its brushed, smooth appearance gives a lot more than just an extremely good looking tactical LED flashlight. It was manufactured this way to give it shock-resistance and to also make it scratch resistant. The texture on the handling region only adds to this flashlight’s beauty, but again there is more to it than appearances because the texture makes it much easier to grip and less likely to slip out of your hand. The 18650 Lithium-Ion batteries which come included power-up five modes of operation, including SOS, Strobe, Low, Medium, and Full. Put this flashlight side-by-side with almost any other LED flashlight in the same product class and it comes out as a clear winner in terms of brightness. It’s very comfortable and stable too and the extremely bright light is reinforced by the large focus area it covers.
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
Well we’re almost 100% certain you know exactly what a flashlight is and you probably know what a tactical flashlight is by reference, but in practice and in technical terms, what exactly does it mean if a flashlight has the word ‘tactical’ placed in front of it?
Tactics are all about the application of anything really which could give you an advantage over what can in most cases be branded an opponent. So in the case of flashlights, it’s any flashlight deemed good enough to use in tactical situations such as in military deployment, on-duty law enforcement operations, and perhaps even in self-defense situations for civilians as well. The ‘tactical’ side of proceedings is reinforced by making use of the various features flashlights come with, with the aim of gaining that advantage over your opponent. These features include:
- The amount of light the flashlight outputs
- How long the flashlight emits light based on the power source
- How far the light beam travels (its reach)
- The beams peak intensity
- The flashlight’s ability to resist impact, and
- The flashlight’s ability to resist water damage (water resistance)
10 Tips to Find the Best Tactical Flashlight
As with anything else you’re considering for purchase, there are some common features that manufacturers like to focus on in order to try and sway your decision in favor of their product offering. Granted, with an object such as a tactical flashlight the market has developed to the point where most manufacturers are actually spot-on in highlighting the features users want. This is largely due to all the competition which exists in the tactical flashlight manufacturing market and as this has done a world of goods for consumers. It makes it a bit easier for consumers to gauge quite accurately, just by looking at the highlighted features, how a certain flashlight may perform in real deployment environments.
Looking at the features can only go so far, though, which is why enthusiasts such as our team of reviewers and the editor put reviews together to help prospective buyers make a more informed decision. No comprehensive list of features put together by manufacturers trying to sell their product can go into a bit of detail about the potential flaws of their product, for instance, in the same way no manufacturer trying to sell their product will point you in the direction of a slightly better product produced by competing manufacturer, which may perhaps even be available at a slightly cheaper price. That’s what we’re here for and that’s why we put this list together of 10 tips to find the best tactical flashlight.
- Consider Exactly what You Want to Use It For!
This is perhaps the most important consideration to take into account before choosing tactical gear as it sets the precedent for the other tips you can use. You have to have an idea of exactly what you’re going to use it for as this will inform your choices between seemingly small details like the material used to manufacture the casing of the flashlight and also things like the battery life. If you want to be able to quickly whip the flashlight out of your pocket, for instance, you wouldn’t want a big and bulky outer casing that has many sharp edges that may hook other items in your pocket. Just have an idea of the likeliest scenario in which you’ll be using the flashlight and the next tips to follow will make more sense to you.
- Material Matters
Naturally, different materials are used by different manufacturers to produce their tactical flashlights. If the tactical flashlight you want to buy it for professional use, you’ll probably want one which is durable and lasts long. Plastic casings work well to make the overall unit lighter, but then so does aluminum, which in fact makes flashlights a bit more durable and easier on the eye. Aluminum or alloys which contain other metals also make tactical flashlights primed to offer features such as anti-reflective properties, which can come in handy in tactical or self-defense situations.
This is perhaps challenging to gauge if you don’t have the opened tactical flashlight package in your hands, but this basically refers to how it feels in your hand and how it performs by virtue of its size and just the way it operates. For instance, a smaller flashlight remains comfortable in your hand for longer periods of time, but at the same time, a smaller flashlight would naturally be limited in terms of battery life and perhaps power as well.
- Bulb Type
This builds on from the ergonomics and simply refers to how the flashlight performs in the environment you’re deploying it in and also how it performs in relation to you as the user. The best tactical flashlights can adapt to many different environments, in terms of their performance and also in terms of their application (comfort, reliability, etc.). On the other hand, if you want a tactical flashlight for a specific purpose and nothing else, some manufacturers duly oblige by specifying features that are built for those specific functions. A tactical flashlight package which comes with Picatinny mounting rails, for example, is one which you’d know is purpose-built to give great performance attached to a firearm such as an AR-15.
- Light Beam Strength
Light beam strength is measured in Lumens and this is simply a measure of the light beam’s brightness. The higher the lumens, the brighter the beam (and the higher the price), but it makes no sense for instance to get the absolute brightest flashlight you can get if you’re only planning to use it over short distances. If you want your flashlight to have a dazzling effect on any human counterpart or opponent, 500 or more lumens will do, otherwise, between 200 and 300 lumens will produce adequate reach.
- Flashlight Mode Settings
Again, unless you explicitly want a flashlight just for one constant purpose, go for flashlights that offer at least three settings, one of which is the strobe setting which is mainly used by cyclists.
- Battery Types Used
Manufacturers prefer to make their tactical flashlights compatible with different batteries, so the key is to select one which uses batteries you may have easy access to or indeed those which work well with rechargeable batteries. Always use the battery brand and types recommended by the flashlight’s manufacturers for maximum performance.
- Light Beam Distance
Light beam distance should be considered in two ways, one which is the longitudinal distance the beam covers at perhaps its highest intensity level, and the second of which is the spread of the light beam. Good tactical flashlights can cater to both considerations to a reasonable degree, so it comes down to a matter of selecting one which matches your specific needs. For example, what if you want to cover a broader area and you’d then be satisfied with less intense light?
- Running Time
This is dependent on a combination of the batteries used and the power consumption rate (or strength) of the flashlight. It could come down to just a matter of being able to estimate how long you can use your flashlight at which intensity level before needing to replace batteries or recharge, and then working out if that’s a trade-off you’ll be okay with before buying the flashlight.
The budget will naturally come in as an important consideration since this is what ultimately decides which tactical flashlight is within your reach. Wherever you can, though, try to stretch the budget if the value you get makes sense to do so, like paying just a little bit extra for a package that comes with a charger will work out cheaper than replacing batteries in the long run.
Do You Really Need The Brightest Tactical Flashlight?
The amount of light the flashlight outputs is measured in lumens and for tactical considerations, this would depend on how much of an advantage you get from brighter flashlights. The running time of the flashlight also gives the advantage to owners of flashlights which can get the most intensity out of the least amount of battery power, but generally, the more intense the light beam the quicker the power consumption. Such parameters are then catered to by perhaps giving way in other areas, like maybe having to put up with a bigger flashlight that can house more or bigger batteries, but then you’d be sacrificing the size factor. All other considerations including beam distance, peak intensity, impact resistance, and water resistance come together during deployment with the aim of the user gaining an advantage and that’s essentially what makes a tactical flashlight, tactical.
How To Use a Tactical Flashlight?
It may seem like a daft question to try and address what could very easily be perceived to be an obvious answer, but it’s not as straight-forward as that. Military personnel and professional law enforcement officials would otherwise not have to be subjected to a professional training when it comes to in-combat or in deployment use of their various tools, one of which is indeed a tactical flashlight. We’ll be exploring two uses of a tactical flashlight here, namely safe maneuvering with a tactical flashlight in the dark and holding a flashlight when using it with a gun.
1. Safe Maneuvering With a Tactical Flashlight in the Dark
In a practical application environment, the need for you to use your tactical flashlight would likely be brought on by hearing a sound in the dark which you’re not sure of and want to safely investigate its origins. An example of this is if you suspect there’s a potential threat in the form of an attacker near you. The correct procedure can be broken down into five steps, namely:
- Switch the light on
- Seek out threats in your environment
- Turn off the light
- Move strategically
- Repeat the process
It’s important to remember to switch the light off after each short scan of the environment for potential threats. In fact, you should start moving just before you turn it off and then move in a different direction immediately after you turn it off. If you leave your light on for too long while scanning for threats, you make yourself an easy target if the threat is an attacker who may even be armed. Similarly, if you don’t move after essentially giving away your position when you turn the light on, that’s just another way to make yourself an easy target whose location has been given away.
2. Holding a Flashlight When Using it With a Gun
If self-defense is indeed one of the uses you have for a firearm, learning how to use a tactical flashlight along with it can definitely work out to your advantage and give you a little bit of an edge which could mean the difference between life and death. It is very likely that you will need to use your weapon in situations with very low light, hence, the saying that criminals such as burglars do their misdeeds under the cover of darkness.
If your tactical flashlight is one that is specifically designed to be mounted on a firearm, half your job is already done. You just have to ensure you know exactly where and how to access the on/off switch so that you can turn the light on and off quickly as needed. Otherwise, simply hold the tactical flashlight in your other hand, crossing your arms towards the middle of your forearm region and your wrist. Whether you cross your flashlight arm over or under the hand holding the firearm, it’s your choice and is a matter of which method is most comfortable for you.
Using a tactical flashlight in this way is a bit safer than one which is mounted on the firearm because you’d otherwise have to point the firearm in every direction where you’re pointing your light source. That’s not a very safe way of trying to avoid danger and confrontation.
Can you use a Tactical Flashlight for Self Defence?
Well, the short answer is yes you can use a tactical flashlight for self-defense, which would then lead to the question of how you use it effectively. It may sound like a bit of a paradox, but yeah, if you improvise its use correctly, a tactical flashlight can be a very powerful tool for self-defense, especially since many assailants ordinarily don’t expect something like a flashlight to be used as a weapon. It’s perhaps becoming clear by now that there are different ways of using tactical flashlights in self-defense and we’ll be exploring three of them here:
- Threat identification if you’re armed
- Disorientation of the attacker if you’re following the safety-first rule
- Improvising the flashlight as a weapon itself
1. Threat Identification
If you have a weapon at your disposal, like a firearm, a flashlight used in self-defense situations simply helps you identify the source of the threat and exactly what kind of threat you’re facing. We’ve covered the details in our How to Use a Tactical Flashlight section, but to reiterate, it simply refers to using the light beam to light up low-light environments where any threat you’re facing isn’t visible. At this point, you were basically just alerted to a potential threat to your sense of hearing and you now want a visual representation to confirm whether or not you’re facing a threat. Refer to our How to Use a Tactical Flashlight section for more details.
2. Disorienting the Attacker
Good tactical flashlights have some settings which can be extremely bright – bright enough to cause momentary blindness to any set of eyes that makes direct contact with the emitted light beam. Safety-first principles teach us to avoid physical confrontation unless absolutely necessary, so blinding the assailant can give you enough time to slip away and flee to a safer location. From there you can alert law enforcement officials or if you absolutely have to, a disoriented attacker is more susceptible to your counter-attacks in this state of confusion and extreme discomfort. It really is amazing just what a tactical flashlight beam can do if it’s shone squarely in the eyes, so be careful not to disorientate yourself while trying to alarm the burglar/attacker in this way.
Think back to any occasion when you might have been walking down the street and a car with its bright function turned on suddenly turns the corner. The first thing you do to offset the stinging sensation inflicted on your eyes is probably to hold your hands up over your face in a defensive position. A tactical flashlight with enough power has the same effect.
3. Improvised Weapon
This would be the last resort, but one which can be very effective too. Be very careful, but yes you can use your tactical flashlight as a blunt-force weapon. Some of these tactical flashlights feature serrations or have a bezel lined with tooth-like slight protrusions. If it hurts a bit in your pocket or if it causes slight discomfort when carried in a certain way, you bet it can be used to inflict adequate damage if used as an improvised weapon. Just consider all legalities surrounding all outcomes, though, as you would in any self-defense situation. Keep in mind you can use the flashlights by themselves or in combination with other reflex sights.
Best Tactical Flashlight Comparison Chart
|SUREFIRE ULTRA HIGH OUTPUT LED WEAPONLIGHT, BLACK||$$$||500||2 CR123A batteries|
|FENIX PD35 1000 LUMEN CREE XP-L LED COMPACT FLASHLIGHT||$$||1000||one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries|
|FENIX PD35 850 – ULTIMATE PACKAGE||$$||850||one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries|
|SUPERNOVA GUARDIAN 1300 ULTRA BRIGHT||$$||1300||two lithium or 3 AAA alkaline batteries|
|NITECORE P12 COMPACT TACTICAL LED FLASHLIGHT||$$||1000||2x CR123A or 18650|
|ORION H40-W 500 LUMEN LED TACTICAL FLASHLIGHT||$$||500||2 x CR123A (included) or 1 x 18650|
|AMERICAN TACTICAL SUPPLY CO. PROTORCH X1, 800 LUMEN||$||800||1 Lithium ion batteries|
|OLIGHT M22 WARRIOR 950||$$||950||2 Lithium Metal batteries|
|VIZERI LED TACTICAL FLASHLIGHT WITH FOCUSING LENS||$||1000||3X AAA battery or 18650 lithium battery|
|J5 TACTICAL V1-PRO||$||300||AA size Alkaline, NiMH, and lithium 14500 batteries|
As general shooting enthusiasts, we find great joy out of testing firearms and all the accessories which go with, including the best tactical flashlights. We took great care in putting all this information together about tactical flashlights and we hope you’ll enjoy reading our tactical flashlight reviews as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Above all else, hopefully, you will find our comprehensive guides informative to the point where just by looking at the features of various tactical flashlights you’re considering buying, you can make an informed decision as to how your final choice will fit best with your tailored needs.