Best Tactical Flashlights

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

15 Models Considered
68 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
112 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best tactical flashlights

Last Updated December 2019

A tactical flashlight is a durable, lightweight, and powerful light that serves a variety of purposes. For most people, it’s simply a useful tool that offers a bright, focused, and reliable light in emergencies. No matter your needs, there are more factors to consider than meets the eye.

The number of lumens is a good way to determine the brightness of a particular light. Most tactical flashlights use LED bulbs, which are resistant to shock and other damage. Brighter tends to be better, but it can also mean a higher price. Also consider what size flashlight you need. Compact models are easier to slip into a pocket or backpack, but a larger flashlight has the advantage of doubling as a blunt weapon. Tactical flashlights vary in the variety of light functions, and some allow you to adjust the zoom level of the light to suit your environment.

If you’re ready to purchase a tactical flashlight, consider our top recommendations. If you’d like to find out more about these useful tools, continue reading.

The bright light of a tactical flashlight can greatly reduce the ability of an attacker to see in the dark, making it a useful defensive tool.

Key considerations

What makes a flashlight “tactical”?

A tactical flashlight is a compact, durable tool designed to provide powerful, focused light in a variety of situations. Originally developed for military use, these lights have metal casings that are both tough and lightweight. Most tactical flashlights have a clip that allows you to attach one to your belt, pocket, or bag for easy access. Their size makes tactical flashlights easy to grip, but many are also large enough to be used as weapons. The metal construction, in addition to the LED bulbs, makes most tactical flashlights highly shock resistant.

Lumens and candela

  • Lumens: Lumens measure the total amount of light given off by a flashlight. The lowest lumen rating for a tactical flashlight is around 100 lumens. Most fall in the 300 to 600 lumen range, but there are some flashlights with 2,500 lumens or more. A 100-watt incandescent light bulb outputs about 1,500 lumens. A 1,500 lumen flashlight will seem incredibly powerful compared to a standard household flashlight.

    Whether you really need a 1,500-lumen flashlight is up to you. Even 500 lumens is still blinding enough to temporarily disable an attacker, and 300-lumen lights can cast beams reaching up to 500 feet. Most tactical flashlights list the lumens of their highest setting, which will drain the battery faster than lower settings.

  • Candela: This is the measure of the brightness of a flashlight’s beam focused in one direction. Most tactical flashlights offer anywhere from 1,000 to 150,000 candelas. When it comes to power, candelas are the more important unit.
     

Size and weight

There’s no right answer when choosing the size and weight of a tactical flashlight, only the right answer for your needs.

Compact tactical flashlights, measuring between four and eight inches long and weighing below ten ounces are ideal for carrying in a pocket or bag or taking on camping trips. Despite their small size, these flashlights offer 1,000 lumens or more.

Larger tactical flashlights measure up to a foot long and can weigh close to a pound. Most are still fairly slender in design, enabling you to slip one into a bag. Larger flashlights tend to have a higher lumen rating and the capacity to hold more batteries for longer battery life.

Beam

  • Range: Often referred to as the “throw” of the light, the beam range of a tactical flashlight determines how far the light can reach on the lowest and highest power settings. Some flashlights can cast light up to 2,000 feet. Most of these have lumen ratings of 3,000 or more.

  • Width: The “flood” of a beam is how wide it reaches. A beam with a wide range can illuminate a large area, allowing you set down the flashlight and work with both hands.
     

Batteries

Most tactical flashlights take A or AA batteries, but this varies from model to model. Some flashlights are able to use standard batteries or rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. If you prefer a flashlight that you can recharge, some models charge via USB and have built-in lithium-ion batteries.

Most tactical flashlights offer between a few and 12 hours of battery life. How quickly a battery drains depends on the brightness mode you use. Some flashlights may have a power-saving mode with significantly lower brightness.

ANSI FL1 Standards

Look for flashlights that use American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines for measuring factors like range, lumens, and durability. This will make comparing different models easier and more accurate.

DID YOU KNOW?

Depending on its shape, the bezel of a tactical flashlight can improve its function as a weapon.

DID YOU KNOW?

While more lumens are great for illuminating an area, a low-power setting can be useful for conserving battery power.

Tactical flashlight features

Once you know how much power you’re looking for and what size flashlight is right for you, consider some additional features that may help with specific situations.

Light functions and modes

Most tactical flashlights include a few different light modes aside from the standard beam.

  • Strobe mode creates a flashing light that can be useful for getting the attention of others.

  • SOS mode sends a signal to others that you are in danger. Though you won’t use this mode often, it could save your life in an emergency.

  • Power-saving mode is useful not only for prolonging battery life but also for searching in the dark when you don’t want to disturb others.

  • Zoom mode allows you to change the flood of the beam by twisting the zoom ring. A flashlight with a zoom mode that’s easy to use is a useful tool in a variety of situations, whether you need to fill a room with light or focus on something in the distance.
     

Durability

Whether water and drop resistance are necessary depends on your intended uses and where you hope to take your flashlight.

  • Drop resistance: The drop resistance of a tactical flashlight is measured by the height from which it can be dropped without suffering significant damage. Most tactical flashlights are rated for about 5.0 feet or 1.5 meters.

  • Water resistance: The water resistance of a tactical flashlight is measured using the IP system, which rates flashlights from IP0 to IP8. Flashlights with an IPX7 or IPX8 rating can be submerged in water briefly without suffering damage.
     

Material

The material a tactical flashlight is made of can determine its overall feel, style, and durability.

  • Aluminum is a popular choice for its attractive appearance, durability, and light weight.

  • Stainless steel is stronger than aluminum, but it’s also considerably heavier.

  • Rubber or composite flashlights tend to the the lightest in weight, but composite tactical flashlights are the least durable option.
EXPERT TIP

An on/off switch on the butt of the flashlight is the easiest to use because it allows you to keep a grip on the flashlight while turning it on and off.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tactical flashlight prices

Inexpensive: You can find tactical flashlights for $15 to $30 that may be rated for as many as 900 lumens. Though flashlights in this range can be bright and durable, they often lack the features of more expensive models.

Mid-range: In the $30 to $70 range are tactical flashlights with features like zoom modes, waterproofing, and USB charging. Most of these flashlights are highly durable.

Expensive: Tactical flashlights that cost $70 to $150 offer lumen ratings of up to 3,500 and are extremely durable. Extra features like rechargeable batteries and zoom modes are almost always included.

Tips

Tactical flashlights can be useful tools in a variety of situations – and they can even help save lives.

  • Car emergency kit

  • Camping, hiking, or hunting

  • Navigating snowy environments

  • Spelunking

  • Survival kit

  • Home emergencies such as power outages or fires

  • Self-defense (bludgeon and blinding)

Other products we considered

Tactical flashlight vary greatly in functions and features, and there are a few other standout choices aside from our top recommendations. If you’re looking for a rechargeable tactical flashlight, the Phixton LED Tactical Rechargeable Flashlight is an affordable light with easy USB charging. Customers love the five different light modes and powerful zoom function. Another great rechargeable option is the Sofirn SP31 v2.0 Tactical Flashlight, which uses a USB battery-charging dock for the included lithium-ion battery. The solid aluminum construction and IPX8 water-resistance rating make this an extremely durable choice.

If you plan to carry your flashlight wherever you go, smaller size and lighter weight should be among your top priorities.

FAQ

Q. Can tactical flashlights damage your eyes if you stare directly into the beam?

A. While staring into a 2,000 lumen flashlight is not recommended, it’s unlikely that a brief glance at the light of a tactical flashlight will do any lasting damage.

Q. Are tactical flashlights legal?

A. It’s possible that your state outlaws flashlights large enough to be used as a weapon, though most states have no such laws. Before purchasing a tactical flashlight, you should check the laws or your area.

Q. Is the beam of a tactical flashlight visible?

A. It depends on the lumens, candela, and zoom of the flashlight. When the beam of most tactical flashlights is highly focused, it is usually visible, which can be useful when trying to highlight an object or signal to others.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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