6 BEST TACTICAL FLASHLIGHTS


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Klarus Upgraded XT11GT LED Flashlight - 2000 LUMENS

Klarus Upgraded XT11GT LED Flashlight - 2000 LUMENS

By Klarus

The Klarus XT11GT is an upgraded, lightweight, compact tactical flashlight with a maximum output of 2000 lumens! The XT11GT is by far the best tactical flashlight for the price!

Score: 10

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FlashlightZ BEACON 1000 Lumen Ultra Bright Rechargeable LED Tactical Flashlight SUPER BUNDLE with Adjustable Focus, Rechargeable Lithium Battery, Charge Cord, USB Car + Wall Adapter, and USB Light

FlashlightZ BEACON 1000 Lumen Ultra Bright Rechargeable LED Tactical Flashlight SUPER BUNDLE with Adjustable Focus, Rech...

By FlashlightZ

Best tactical flashlight for the money! This is an entry-level tactical flashlight for people wanting to buy an easy to use and simple tactical flashlight without breaking the bank.

Score: 9.9

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Fenix PD35TAC LED Flashlight - 1000 LUMENS

Fenix PD35TAC LED Flashlight - 1000 LUMENS

By Fenix

The Fenix PD35TAC is the tactical version of the bestselling Fenix PD35. The Fenix brand is the most well-known brand for tactical flashlights.

Score: 9.9

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Klarus Improved XT11S LED Flashlight - 1100 LUMENS

Klarus Improved XT11S LED Flashlight - 1100 LUMENS

By Klarus

Lightweight & super bright tactical flashlight, the XT11S uses a CREE XP-L HI V3 LED delivering a max output of 1100 lumens! This flashlight put Klarus on the map for tactical flashlights.

Score: 9.8

5

Nitecore P12 LED Flashlight - 1000 LUMENS

Nitecore P12 LED Flashlight - 1000 LUMENS

By Nitecore

Great Brightness to Price Ratio! The Nitecore P12 is one of the more electronically advanced tactical flashlights...

Score: 9.5

6

FREE Hybeam LED Tactical Flashlight

FREE Hybeam LED Tactical Flashlight

By Hybeam

The Hybeam Tactical Flashlight is an easy way to get a FREE Tactical Flashlight! It isn't the highest quality LED flashlight on the market by any means, but if you are looking to minimize costs...

Score: 9.1

Tactical Flashlight Self Defense Tips

A tactical flashlight has myriad uses. It is a quintessential piece of equipment for the military and law enforcement, search and rescue operations, firefighters, hunters, recreational sports, adventures and for various kinds of activities from underwater diving to camping. A tactical flashlight is an extremely utilitarian device and can often be the difference between survival and struggling to survive. While a flashlight does have everyday relevance and is imperative in any household or office, a tactical flashlight is also useful as a tool for self defense. Here's how a tactical flashlight can make a difference when you are in trouble or when you sense some danger.

  • One of the requisites for self defense is to be aware of your immediate surroundings. Unless you get to see what's or who is around you, there is really no way you can protect yourself. Flashlights are your go to device whenever you are in very poorly lit or dark areas. Even if you are at home and an intruder manages to cut off the power supply or turns off the lights in your home, a tactical flashlight will be very handy. The very presence of light can discourage people with nefarious intentions. Many minor and heinous crimes are facilitated by darkness. With a tactical flashlight on you, there is no possibility that you would have to be in the dark, dealing with the threatening elements.
  • A tactical flashlight will assist any kind of offensive you wish to launch. You may own a handgun, you may have a weapon of sorts near you which could be a stick or an axe, pepper spray or anything that is capable of inflicting some harm. You may not be able to use any such weapon unless you get to see properly. A tactical flashlight will assist you to aim your weapon right and to strike where it matters.
  • A tactical flashlight is itself a weapon. Most tactical flashlights that are of some repute have military grade materials used to build the case and they don't shatter or break easily. One strike with the tactical flashlight and any threat will suffer a blow. People can be hit substantially hard to render them unconscious. That's absolutely possible with a good quality tactical flashlight.
  • Many tactical flashlights have bezels. These are toothed or serrated bezels which are concealed in the flashlights and they can act as an improvised weapon. Striking someone with the bezel would be effective enough to disarm someone or to just scare them away. You can inflict some serious injury with it as well.
  • The bright light of a tactical flashlight itself is capable to stun anyone when you flash it right into the eyes of your threat.

 

Tactical Flashlight Characteristics

Not every flashlight is tactical. A tactical flashlight needs to tick a few checkboxes. A tactical flashlight has all the characteristics of a standard or ordinary flashlight and then a substantial plethora of several more.

Here are some of the tactical flashlight characteristics

  • Depending on the specific purpose of a tactical flashlight, the light output can range from 20 lumens to more than 500 lumens. The latter is obviously the brightest creating the most well lit setting and the former is what you may use in your garage. Tactical flashlights should have an ultra high output LED capable of emitting more than 500 lumens or a high output LED capable of 250 to 500 lumens. In some cases, a tactical flashlight may have a mid range LED with a range of 100 to 250 lumens.
  • Tactical flashlights should have substantial beam intensity. The beam intensity is brightness of the light produced as perceived by us and as focused through a particular device in the optical system, which could be a lens or a reflector or optic. Beam intensities range from less than 200 candela to more than 25,000 candela. The latter is for spotlights. 2,000 to 20,000 candelas is the acceptable range for a tactical flashlight given the exact purpose or utility.
  • Tactical flashlights are categorized according to their beam patterns as well. The ratio of candela to lumen is the beam pattern. The pattern ranges from 15 cd/lm to more than 100 cd/lm.
  • Some of the finer tactical flashlight characteristics are an adjustable focus, output modes and user interface. There are single output and multi modes. Some tactical flashlights come with programmable functions. It is not uncommon for some tactical flashlights to have power saving modes to increase the runtime. Tactical flashlights cannot have very large batteries because they would get heavy and thus wouldn't be aiding portability or easy maneuverability while in use. Thus, tactical flashlights can only run for up to two hours. Certain tactical flashlights have a system of conserving power to increase the runtime. Tactical flashlights are rechargeable.
  • The type of battery, its capacity and the technology used in tactical flashlights will depend on the manufacturer and would be subject to the choice or preference of the user. There are Nickel-Cadmium, Nickel-Metal Hydride and Lithium-Ion batteries. Some models also get powered by a capacitor.
  • The size, weight and design of tactical flashlights vary considerably.

 


 

What is an LED Flashlight?

Flashlights can be categorized into three types solely based on the type of light or lamp that is used. The earliest or the first flashlight used an incandescent bulb. These are still in use, in various capacities and for certain specific purposes. The second major development was the inception of LED flashlight. The third type of flashlight is HID which uses a high intensity discharge lamp.

LED Flashlight: Explained

An LED flashlight uses the same kind of LED technology that you would find in normal lamps or bulbs. An LED is a light emitting diode. When electricity is discharged to this light emitting diode, the electrons get excited and start to move. In case of an LED flashlight, there are two materials, one is rich in electrons and the other has a dearth of electrons thus having surplus protons. When the electrons get excited, they move or jump to the other material that lacks electrons. As every electron takes a place, the proton in its original place gets displaced. This displaced proton emits the light. Consistent movement of these electrons continues displacing the protons and thus you get the light.

Tactical LED Flashlight Vs Incandescent Flashlight

Let us begin with a clarification. LED is not a 21st century invention. It has been around for decades. The fact is LED was not developed or harnessed to an extent that it would be used on larger scales or for brighter and illuminating purposes. LED was confined to those sensor indicators and tiny lights the horde of consumer electronics and home appliances came with.

The shortcomings of the incandescent flashlight made LED flashlights popular. An incandescent flashlight typically has a tungsten filament that gets heated up when electricity is discharged. The heated filament begins to glow, thus emitting light. The filament is housed in a vacuum glass enclosure or there is an inert gas. Such flashlights heat up substantially, they are heavier, the filament undergoes wearing with use and there is seldom any control on the type and quality of light. Such flashlights were also less durable because the bulb or the incandescent lamp was fragile and could easily break.

LED flashlight is lightweight, it can emit light covering a wide range of lumens and candela, it lasts longer and consumes much less power, thus making a flashlight last longer on similar charge as possessed by the battery in an incandescent flashlight.

Why Consumers Need Tactical Flashlights

Many people think that a common plastic flashlight is sufficient for emergency situations such as power outages, or when their car breaks down by the side of the road. The problem is that many torches are weak, around 10-30 lumens, and cast little helpful light in the event of total darkness.
Though tactical lights are traditionally designed with high-end professional use in mind, the advancement of modern lighting technology has led to a wide range of economically priced tactical flashlights to suit anyone's needs, from hunting, to security and law enforcement, to simple emergency preparedness in your home or car.

These days even an after-dark walk can be scary, especially for someone walking alone. Not everyone is comfortable carrying a weapon, yet safety is still a concern. This is when a good light comes in handy. Not only does a quality light offer enough brightness to travel a distance of up to a mile or more, it can also serve as protection against an attacker by blinding anyone who represents a threat, allowing you enough time to escape. Some larger versions can easily be used as an object with which to strike an attacker as well.


Some lights even have features that allow you to call for help at a great distance by flashing on and off, indicating the need for assistance. These kinds of features offer peace of mind, particularly when driving late at night in the dark. It is impossible to know when something will happen, and preparation can mean the difference between waiting a long time for help, or worse, and attracting attention right away. Fortunately for the everyman, lighting technology has advanced to an incredibly powerful level, while prices have come down over the past several years to the point of being affordable to virtually everyone.

What to Consider When Choosing a Flashlight

Once the appropriate type of flashlight is identified, there is a bevy of other considerations to take into account. Finding the best tactical flashlight is subjective to each user.  Some people need a smaller size with a focused beam, while others get more use out of a sizeable torch packed with flexible features. Rather than walking into the store blindly and picking out the first thing that catches your attention, it is more economical to become savvy on all of the choices and then make an investment that will serve you well for years to come.

Price

Your budget is the main determining factor in every other decision you need to make regarding flashlight selection. Prices range from under $25 for miniature lights, like keychain models, all the way up to a few hundred or more for larger torches with multiple functions. When it comes to investing in a high quality flashlight, going the cheapest route is not necessarily a wise decision. Keep in mind price usually reflects quality in this arena. If you are in need of a light that is large enough to use as a weapon and powerful enough to shed light upon a large area, plan on spending upwards of $40 to $100. The payoff is in the long life and wide range of uses you will get out of the tool, just as with any significant investment you make into your tool kit.

Size

The tasks you need to perform will dictate the size of tactical flashlight you choose. There are sizes for almost any need, from pocket-sized to find your front door keyhole in the dark, to lights that can project a beam the length of a football field or more, plus take an attacker out with a swift knock to the head.

Micro - This tiny light typically uses a button cell battery, and usually measures around two inches or less. This size is often in the form of a penlight or keychain, and while there are a small minority that are fairly powerful, most are designed for minor tasks requiring a small amount of light.

Mini - At three inches or less, this size can hold a AA or AAA battery or even rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and are capable of putting out a considerable amount of lumens. While a mini tactical flashlight can certainly provide sufficient illumination, it is not very effective as a defensive weapon, beyond blinding an attacker.

Small - Small tactical flashlights run about four to six inches long and may take standard or specialty batteries. This size allows for slightly more versatility, higher capacity LED bulbs for more lumens, and serves as a sturdy weapon.

Medium - At 6 to 7 inches, this flashlight is the typical size for law enforcement, as it not only allows police officers to quickly and efficiently clear a building but also doubles as a nightstick if necessary. The bezel is usually small enough to still fit into a holster.

Large - Once the flashlight gets above 7 inches it is no longer easy to carry around and is usually purchased for specific purposes. Typically, the larger flashlights provide extreme illumination, often around 2000 lumens, and illuminate much further than the smaller lights.

Lumens

Lumens are a measurement of how much light energy exits the flashlight through the beam. While flashlights are marked with a specific lumen number, there are other factors at play - a deep reflector can make a light with a lower lumen number cast a brighter, longer beam than one with a higher technical amount of lumens. That is why it is important to understand all aspects of how the system works together to produce the beam.


It may seem counterintuitive, but there can be such a thing as too powerful a light source for your needs. It is vital to make sure that you know how to use a high-powered tactical flashlight if you choose a high brightness level because you do not want to anger your neighbors, much less accidentally cause damage to someone’s vision, or impair your own night vision.

If you are planning to use your torch as mostly a helpful light source, you will need at least 60-100 lumens. Regular handheld flashlights may only produce between 10-15 lumens, rendering them ineffective as a way to get out of a dangerous situation yet ample enough to light up a room in the night or get the key into the car door.
Once you get up between 100-300 lumens, you cannot only use the flashlight to blind an assailant, but also illuminate a whole campsite, your yard, or a large room. In fact, 300 lumens can allow you to temporarily blind a person even during the daytime.

Special batteries and modes are typically required to reach between 500 and 2,000 lumens. This level can light up a huge area - the size of a football field - but it is difficult to find a reasonably sized flashlight that can actually get to this brightness level.

There are handheld flashlights that can cast 2,000 to 5,000 or more lumens, offering the ability to cast a mile-long beam. These flashlights are usually used by search and rescue teams and other officials who need the portability combined with extremely intense power.

Power Sources

Good batteries can make all the difference in how well a tactical flashlight functions and maximizing its capacity to cast a strong beam. Rechargeable batteries may be ideal in theory, due to their earth-friendly nature, but they do not always give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to optimizing your light's power.

Disposable Batteries - Disposable flashlight batteries are available in both alkaline and lithium (not the same as Li-ion, or lithium ion batteries). The biggest benefit of disposables is that they are widely available, and come in all the standard sizes you could need for a flashlight - AAA, AA, C, and D. Alkaline batteries are mediocre in terms of power but they are very easily accessible and are cheaper than lithium. One downside of this type is that their shelf life is limited to a couple of years, as opposed to lithium disposables which are lighter, more powerful, and have a shelf life of up to a decade.

Rechargeable Batteries - The most commonly used types of rechargeable batteries are those known as Li-ion (lithium-ion), and are available in specialty sizes commonly used in high quality tactical flashlights. They are powerful, long-lasting, and contribute less waste to landfills. They are also pricey and require a charger on top of the battery purchase, unless the flashlight has the ability to charge the battery while inside the light.

Some lights are also available with a custom rechargeable battery pack, which is charged either by placing the pack in a charger, or plugging the flashlight into an outlet. These types can be inconvenient if you need to use your light again quickly after it runs out of battery power because you have got to wait while the pack charges. Except for special cases, we recommend using rechargeable flashlights that use easily exchangeable lithium ion batteries such as the 16340, 18650, or 26650 sizes.

This is another aspect to consider when it comes to battery and flashlight size. You will want to estimate your needed runtime in order to determine the appropriate battery life for your applications. For example, if you want to use your torch to illuminate your campsite for several hours in the evening you will need to take that into account and perhaps choose a larger model that has the ability to hold large batteries that will last a good while. On the other hand, if you anticipate only using the light temporarily, or for emergencies, smaller batteries with a shorter lifespan should do fine.

Construction

Choosing a flashlight is not just about brightness. It is also about durability and portability needs. Different materials offer different advantages and disadvantages, but in general you want the strongest - while lightest possible - light you can find.

Plastic: This is the least desirable of the materials - it cannot hold up to being used as a defensive tool and over time is prone to deterioration and cracking. You will be hard-pressed to find very many tactical flashlight options made out of plastic (or composite) materials.


Stainless Steel: While well-known for its strength and affordability, stainless steel flashlights are heavier than those constructed of other metals, and thus make for an unwieldy, inconvenient tool to carry around on your person.

Anodized Aluminum: Commonly used in high quality tactical flashlights, aluminum is lightweight and strong, while maintaining decent affordability. It also conducts heat away from the LEDs, making it ideal for flashlights. The best tactical flashlights utilize aircraft-grade aluminum, or Type III hard anodized aluminum.


Titanium: This material is expensive, but offers lightness and strength, combining the best traits of other materials into one metal.

Switches

The method used to turn your tactical flashlight on and off matters more than you may think. If you do not plan to use the light as a personal safety mechanism, then you may not need the most easily accessible switch type possible. If you are going to be carrying it with you in case of emergency, however, you’ll want to make sure that you can turn your light on in the blink of an eye. There are a few different switch types used on flashlights, often dependent upon the size and shape of the torch:

Side/Body: This switch is the type you are likely most familiar with, and is typically used on standard plastic can lights found in discount stores. It is located along the main portion of the light and may be a push/pull mechanism or a push button. It is not the fastest in certain situations, but does allow you to hold the light while operating the switch in hand positions not permitted by other types.

Twist: Smaller flashlights like penlights usually utilize the head/tail twist switch because it does not take up extra room in the design. This switch can be inconvenient however, for two reasons - firstly it usually requires two hands to operate, and the head or tail may become unscrewed in the process of trying to turn it on. When using a tiny light as a way to illuminate a keyhole or other minor task, this may not be a huge problem.

Tail Button: The preferred switch type for tactical flashlights, the tail button creates a naturally defensive position while operating the torch. The location of the switch allows you to hold the flashlight in the most convenient position for self-defense while being able to easily turn it on and off at the same time. It also makes operation easier when the light is mounted on a firearm.

Water Resistance

This may not be something you immediately think of when shopping for a tactical flashlight, however water resistance can be a surprisingly useful feature in case of a sudden rainstorm, an accidental slip into a water body, or simply for peace of mind so that you can be assured your light will continue functioning in all conditions. There are standardized water resistance ratings that are as follows:

IPX4: Offers splash-resistance and little more. The flashlight may sustain damage if completely submerged in water or exposed to excessive moisture.


IPX7: Products with this rating may be submerged up to one meter for up to a half hour. This is the minimum recommended water resistance rating for a truly reliable tactical flashlight.


IPX8: A product with this rating may be submerged up to four hours in more than one meter of water. Few flashlights carry a higher rating than IPX8, and most average consumers don’t need more than this level of water protection.

Beam Distribution

In the course of researching your tactical flashlight purchase decision, you are sure to come across references to flood and throw or flood light and focused beam. These terms refer to the way the flashlight directs the light out of the face. A device with more flood than throw will light up a wider area, but not cast the beam as far. By contrast, a flashlight that has strong throw will cast a longer, narrower beam. A longer throw provides a more focused light source that allows you to see an object with good clarity even at a great distance. This means that a torch with more flood is appropriate for localized activities situated closer to the light source.


The factors that determine a flashlight’s throw or flood are the strength of the LED and the type and shape of reflector. A deeper, smoother reflector will usually provide more throw, while a textured and/or shallower reflector tends to create more of a flood.

Brightness Levels

Tactical flashlights give you a few different brightness choices depending upon the model, size, and type.

One mode: this type of flashlight features just two settings - on and off.


Two levels: this option - consisting of high and low - is still fairly basic but does add some versatility as far as the types of applications you can accomplish with the light.


Multiple brightness levels: these tactical flashlights may have as many as 10 settings, allowing you to achieve a high level specificity according to the task at hand. This feature prevents the issue of struggling with insufficient or excessive light.

There are a couple of schools of thoughts on brightness options for tactical flashlights.
Some users believe that just one setting keeps operation simple - the way it should be. In an emergency, there are no surprises as far as how bright the light will be when you turn it on. On the other hand, more brightness settings mean more flexibility in one tool, and offer the benefit of battery conservation if you do not need the light’s full power for a given task.

Light Patterns

Some tactical flashlights come with modes that alter the light’s pattern, which is particularly useful in an emergency situation.


SOS: This is perhaps one of the most inarguably valuable features of a high-powered torch. It causes the light to be displayed in Morse code for SOS, which when combined with an extremely intense light level could make the difference between getting help in a life or death situation or not getting help, or not getting it quickly enough.

Beacon: This pattern is another option in an emergent situation. Rather than Morse, it simply causes the bulb to blink at full power every few seconds. The blinking pattern allows the flashlight to save energy.


Strobe: This mode is just what it sounds like - an intensely bright pattern that flashes at high speed in order to throw someone off track. This mode is ideal to have in the event of an attack on your person.

 

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