The Best Tactical Flashlight Reviews & Buyer Guide
No matter if you are an outdoor enthusiast, a member of law enforcement or a professional worker; you understand the value of a good quality light in times of need. Regular flashlights fill the shelves of local supermarkets and handy-man stores, offering users often times cheap, clunky and unreliable options. However, finding the best tactical flashlight can be more challenging and finding honest, situational reviews of tactical flashlights can be even more difficult.
We understand that your desired use for the device may be different than our next reader. Our aim is to provide you with comprehensive tactical flashlight reviews, providing you with the tools to make an informed decision to meet your needs. All of the products we recommend are of high-quality and made for users who need more out of their tactical equipment.
$$$ - more then $50 | $$ - $40 - 50 | $ - less then $40
What makes a quality tactical flashlight?
There are a variety of reasons why someone needs a tactical flashlight. However, there are a few common requirements that the best tactical flashlights must meet to be considered in our reviews. We start by looking at the level of Lumens a tactical flashlight will emit. Lumen is a measure of the total amount of visible light a light source will produce. For example, a tactical flashlight providing 200 Lumens will provide more visible light than a tactical flashlight providing 100 Lumens.
We also want to consider the beam distance. The beam distance will tell us how far the light source will extend. This is obviously extremely important and dependant on the use of the tactical flashlight. If you are someone who is looking for the best tactical flashlight for hunting at night, a high beam distance will be important to you. If you are someone who is looking for a tactical flashlight to accompany a handgun for home security, beam distance might not matter as much.
We also want to take into consideration the weight and length of the flashlights. Again, it depends on what you plan to do with the device, but obviously the lighter the better to the point where durability is affected. Same with the length, if you are attaching a tactical flashlight to a rifle, a longer light will work out well. Attaching your tactical flashlight to a handgun? That light you bought for your rifle won’t work.
If you plan to holster your tactical flashlight and use it as a handheld device, grip and feel will be determining factors as well. Having your tactical flashlight slip out of your hand can be a matter of life and death or hit and miss. It’s not worth chancing.
What materials are the top tactical flashlights made of?
You have probably owned a flashlight in the past which was made of plastic or plastic and rubber. Tactical Flashlights are however made of aluminum as the metal is naturally strong, light-weight and has other properties which make it the best choice for tactical flashlights. If you have ever dropped a plastic flashlight on cement, the result was probably a cracked or completely broken device. Dropping an aluminum flashlight however will not result in any damage aside from maybe a chip on the coating.
The coating on an aluminum tactical flashlight is achieved using a process called anodizing. Anodizing is a process used to increase the thickness of the natural layer on the surface of the tactical flashlights making it a stronger and more durable surface.
What type of light is the best for a tactical light?
Most of the tactical flashlights we review are LED flashlights as they provide the most efficient and reliable light source available. Part of the reason for this is because LEDs don’t have a glass bulb which makes them a lot more resistant to damage. You can imagine just how frustrating it would be to have the light bulb in your flashlight break when you need it most.
LED lights are also extremely efficient, lasting thousands of hours longer than an incandescent bulb. LEDs are also fairly efficient on batteries, allowing your flashlight to shine as long as possible, allowing you to not have to worry about lugging a bunch of extra batteries on your hiking or hunting trip.
LED lights come in a variety of different colors based on the Kelvin value of the light source. As the light source reaches higher Kelvin, the color begins to change. The Kelvin value which is optimal for you depends on your circumstances. If you require light when it is foggy, or snowing a lower Kelvin value will actually be helpful.
I am sure you have experienced the way bright lights in fog tend to blend everything together in front of them? That is because white light (3200K – 3850K) tends to scatter whereas an amber color (under 2600K) will help to break through the fog and extend our line of sight. Most of the tactical flashlights we’ll be reviewing are above (4200K) and in good weather conditions will allow users to experience the natural color of objects.
Much like everything else we have discussed, the type of operational features you will be looking for will depend on the type of activity you are participating in.
- Mounting your tactical flashlight? Make sure the rail locating keys match your firearm.
- Carrying your flashlight? Make sure it comes with a holster. Finding one after purchase can be difficult.
- Does your tactical flashlight have controls to adjust brightness levels? Depending on conditions, options can be crucial. Make sure adjustments can be performed hastily.
Perhaps most importantly, we want to ensure that the tactical lights have an instant on/off operation. It should be immediate without delay.
Streamlight 88031 Protac Tactical Flashlight 2L
It is one of the best and most highly reviewed tactical flashlights on the market, the Streamlight 88031 is a top-quality holstered light. We have in our hands the 2L version which is the highest performance version of the options listed. The 88031 has three different modes including a high beam setting, low beam and strobe setting. Adjusting between modes is simple and requires only one-hand to operate.
Light wise, the 88031 offers users 180 Lumens on high with a beam distance of 126 metres. We have taken this particular model on a few late night hiking trips and have been impressed with the quality of light provided and the duration in which is lasts.
Run time on this particular model is as follows:
- High= 2hours and 30 minutes
- Low= 50 hours
- Strobe= 6 hours
4.77 inches in length with a weight of just under 5 ounces with batteries the 88031 is an ideal tactical light for professionals, outdoor enthusiasts and home security. If you are seeking a lighter option, take a look at the other versions of the same model. They don’t offer the same performance as far as Lumen levels but they still offer users a light-weight, extremely durable best tactical flashlight.
Fenix PD35 Flashlight
The Fenix PD35 is one of the more expensive products on the market with its list price just over $100.00. However, the PD35 does not mess around with quality offering users a maximum output of 850 Lumen. A little over 5 inches in length and weighing only 87 grams, it is a compact and extremely bright tactical flashlight.
We tested out the Fenix PD35 along with some of the other models and the strength of the beam is blinding. If you, plan to mount this to a shotgun, prepare to blind anybody who stares at this tactical light in the face as it is STRONG. It has 6 different modes including turbo which has received some complaints as the device does get pretty hot.
It comes with two EdisonBright CR123A lithium batteries although you have the option of using one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery if you so choose. We stuck with the batteries provided and it lasted about 3 hours, using it on high to medium for the majority of our use.
It also ships with a holster which is pretty basic. The clip on the side of the flashlight can be removed if necessary but I recommend this device mostly as a handheld option for professionals, outdoor enthusiasts and home security.
The highlights of the Maglite S4D016 are many but its indestructibility is what shines brightest. Built with an ultra-strong aluminum alloy case the S4D016 goes through an extensive anodizing process to ensure proper coating both inside and out. Worried about water damage? It features some of the highest quality O-rings at both openings to ensure the batteries and internal components stay dry.
People who have owned Maglite products rave about durability. In some cases, the on/off switch is the first thing to fail on a generic flashlight but Maglite’s switch is rubber coated and weather protected providing you with the confidence you’ll never be left in the dark.
The Maglite S4D016 does not make use of an LED light, opting for an incandescent. It’s well protected so you shouldn’t have to worry about the bulb breaking and its battery efficiency is fantastic. It offers users two different light settings including a tight beam and a flood option.
The Maglite is definitely a holstered flashlight. You will not be mounting it to any type of firearm as it is nearly 15 inches in length and weighs just under a pound. However, this unit does seem to double as a pretty sturdy club so if you get into trouble, at least you have something! I highly recommend it for professionals who need a reliable source of light for a great price.
UTG Defender Series 2 in 1 Weapon and Handheld Tactical Light
A more affordable option for those looking for the best tactical flashlight to mount to their firearms, the UTG weapon mount offers users a Lumen output of 126 which from our testing was actually pretty good. We tested it from a variety of distances and were impressed with just how bright this model is compared to other options with similar Lumen levels. It should be noted that this is not an LED tactical flashlight but is home to a 26mm Xenon IRB bulb.
Made of aluminum with a high quality anodized finish and a combat tactical front head, the UTG weapon mount is made to last. It weighs just under 6 ounces and length wise is under 6 inches which should make it more than suitable for most long barrel firearms. This particular model is a bit of a crossover providing the user the option of using it as a handheld tactical flashlight if necessary. Just a side note, it does not ship with a holster.
On our trials, its battery operating time was just over an hour of running time in most cases. Obviously this isn’t a super long time but for the price, you have to give up a little. As for actually turning the device on and off you have a couple of different option. You can either screw in the back all the way to have it stay on permanently or you can use the push button momentary switch . A final option is to opt for the remote pressure switch that rests in the hand but this does come with some reliability issues in tense situations.
None the less, it’s a fantastic tactical flashlight for the price and recommended for those who are looking for something like this but don’t want to spend $150.