A Tactical Flashlight Buyer’s Guide and Product Reviews
One of the things I always make sure to keep nearby is a flashlight; whether I’m staying home or going out for a camp, our to keep in my car for personal safety (like my 9mm handgun), I always make sure it’s within reach. But even though it’s cheap, it could get really annoying when you have to keep buying a new one because they’re just not built to last. But which tactical flashlight is the best for you to use? Well, this tactical flashlight review guide should answer all your questions as well as offer our personal reviews of each one.
Thankfully, tactical flashlights are now available and affordable for the average Joe. But what makes it different from the flashlight you can get from your corner grocery?
Tactical Flashlights vs. Ordinary Flashlights
A tactical flashlight is built for more than just finding a key in the drain or fixing the sink. It was originally built for combat purposes. It’s very durable, made with weapon or aircraft quality aluminum compared to the plastic of the ordinary versions. You can even use it for self-defense. That’s right, you can hit a bad guy with it.
This type of flashlight has a much brighter light output than your everyday flashlight as well. While the usual flashlight sometimes has difficulty lighting up a room, tactical ones can brighten up a football field or even further.
Its resistance to elements also sets it apart from the ordinary flashlight. Tactical flashlights usually have some waterproofing or at least water, corrosion, and shock resistance.
The Best Tactical Flashlight Reviews
Now the next question is, which among the available tactical flashlights in the market is good? I’ve tried out some of the best ones and here’s my take on them:
Nitecore EC4S 2150 LED Flashlight Review
The Nitecore EC4S is by far the best tactical flashlight I have tried. Compared to the other flashlights, this model has the highest lumen at 2150 that reaches up to 280 meters.
My activities didn’t really require this much brightness but the Nitecore has five adjustable levels. You can set the brightness from ultra low to turbo and it has all special modes available: beacon, SOS, and strobe.
With its 6.03-ounce aircraft-grade aluminum material and uni-body, it is very durable and unexpectedly light on the hand. It also doesn’t become very hot even with prolonged use because of its cooling fins. You could definitely feel that it’s a good quality flashlight.
What I appreciated most about this model is its long run time of 325 hours. It already comes with two 18650 rechargeable batteries and a battery charger, which is a plus.
I read that some customers complained about getting defective products but that seems to be a rarity. So I’d definitely recommend this to flashlight enthusiasts out there who are looking for a really bright, high-quality light.
Fenix PD35 TAC 1000 Review
The Fenix PD35 may come second on my list but it’s in no way an inferior flashlight. This is a very lightweight flashlight with a 1000-lumen LED bulb that reaches 656 feet. It may have half the lumen output of the Nitecore, but it reaches much further. It’s also made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is very durable.
This model runs on one 18650 rechargeable lith-ion battery or two 3v CR123A lithium batteries. It has 6 mode options: turbo, high, medium, low, and eco as well as strobe mode. It does not fall short on battery life as it can last up to 150 hours on eco mode.
A feature of this flashlight is its reminder when the battery runs low. It also has a memory feature that makes it use the last mode used when you turn it on.
Although the features of the Nitecore are superior, I actually prefer this model due to its much lighter weight and waterproofing. The reach is a lot of help as well when you’re outdoors.
Streamlight 88040 Protac HL Review
I bought the Streamlight 88040 because I had read a lot of good reviews about it. And true enough, it didn’t fall short of expectations. Like the two previous models, it is made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum.
This lightweight flashlight can run on two CR123A batteries for about 18 hours on its lowest setting and more than an hour at high outputs. Its 35-lumen setting can reach about 60 meters while the highest 750 lumens can reach 270 meters.
One of the best features of the Streamlight is its power regulation capability — it maximizes the light output from the battery that it uses. Plus, it’s waterproof and has a lifetime warranty!
Outlite A100 Review
Being another lightweight and with durable aluminum material, the Outlite A100 makes the list. This model has five modes including low, medium, and high intensities and strobe and SOS special modes.
Even with 700 lumens, its light can reach up to 600 feet. That’s a good distance for this light output. The light output was rather unexpected and it has a substantially good battery life and water resistance.
The added feature of this model is its zoom lens capability. This is especially useful for illuminating far objects. Because of its zoom function, it could reach about 900 lumens of output.
The Outlite runs on a rechargeable 18650 battery or three AAA batteries.
Perhaps the downside to this is its lack of memory capability. Once you turn it on, it goes into a lower intensity setting, which could be annoying. Then again, this downside may prove helpful in preserving battery life.
SureFire G2X Series LED Flashlight Review
Just for its brand, the SureFire is already a runner in the top tactical flashlight brands. Although lower in lumen output at 320, its corrosion-proof, lightweight nitrolon body doesn’t fall short on durability.
It could also produce a battery-saving light of 15 lumens when you don’t need very bright light. It could last up to 45 hours on this setting.
The unique feature of this model is the tail switch that lets you turn it on for a brief or extended period.
For everyday use, this is probably the best tactical flashlight due to its top-quality durability and bright light.
Solaray PRO ZX-1 Professional Series Review
I found this on a lot of top-rated tactical flashlight articles which made me decide to test it out. It can produce about 1200 lumens and has 5 modes including high, medium, low, SOS, and strobe.
The package ensured that it wouldn’t be damaged and it included a charger and two rechargeable batteries.
Probably the downside to this is its zoom lens which I found hard to use. You need to use a bit of effort for it. I also found some bad reviews about it. But overall, it’s still a good flashlight with bright light output and multiple accessories that come with the package.
J5 Tactical V1-PRO Flashlight Review
This mini tactical flashlight finishes the list for its far-reaching 300-lumen capacity — it could reach up to 600 feet. You could set it to high, low, and strobe modes.Even with its 3.7-inch length, it is very sturdy and also water-resistant. The best feature of this handy tool is probably its battery. It only needs one AA battery or a 14500 rechargeable. And for a single battery, it can run pretty long.
Choosing the tactical flashlight that’s right for you isn’t as simple as you might think. There are a lot of considerations to be thought over. It might seem like a trivial matter but at times when you least expect it, the right flashlight could just save your life.
Parts of a Tactical Flashlight
Before you pick out a tactical flashlight, there are some things you need to know, such as what makes up its parts and the measurements you need to check.
- Bezel – This is the ring that holds the lens and keeps it attached to the flashlight.
- Bulb – This is where the light comes from. Tactical flashlights usually come with LED-type bulbs since they are brighter, more durable, and last longer.
- Lens – This is the transparent cover at the front of the flashlight. Aside from protecting the bulb, it helps enhance the brightness and length of the light’s beam as well as lights up the area in different color options which have a variety of functions.
- Reflector – This is the cone-shaped interior surrounding of the bulb. It helps direct the light beam forward instead of scattering it. Some flashlights can even change the scope of the light to either widen or focus it.
- Head – This is where the bulb is housed. This part needs to be very durable because it protects the bulb.
- Battery compartment – This is where the battery is kept, usually at the middle part of the flashlight. Some tactical flashlights that are rechargeable don’t have this.
- Tail switch – Tactical flashlights usually have the button at the very bottom to not get in the way of handling the flashlight.
- Pocket clip – As the name suggests, this is a clip found at the side of the flashlight that allows you to attach it to your pocket so you can easily reach for it when needed.
- Lanyard attachment – This is a small hole usually found near the tail switch. You can put some sort of cord or string here to hang it around your neck or somewhere easily accessible when you need to do something with your hands.
- Tail cap – This may seem like an unimportant part but it actually serves two purposes: One, it puts the battery in place; and two, it offers extra grip which is important in a tactical flashlight, especially in life and death situations.
There are some measurements that indicate the capacities of tactical flashlights set by the ANSI or the American National Standards Institute:
Indicates: Light amount emitted by the source
Peak Beam Intensity
Indicates: Intensity of the light at the middle of the beam
Indicates: distance of the light from the flashlight that is as bright as the light of the moon
Unit: Hours, rounded to nearest quarter
Indicates: Length of time until the lumen is at 10% from the initial output
Unit: IPX4, IPX7, IPX8
Indicates: IPX4 = water-resistant
IPX7 = 1 meter waterproof for 30 minutes
IPX8 = more than 1 meter waterproof for about 4 hours
Indicates: How high it can be dropped into concrete with its parts and functions still intact
Factors to Consider When Buying:
This should be the first and most important question you should ask yourself: What will I use it for? This will determine what you need to look for in a tactical flashlight. Will you use it for everyday stuff? Will you use it for camping? Do you think there’s a big chance you’ll drop it in the water? Or will you use it as a defensive weapon?
These flashlights can cost anywhere between $20 to several hundred bucks. More trusted brands with better features will definitely be heavier in the pocket. But this doesn’t mean affordable ones are of bad quality. Again, match it with your purpose. Perhaps a cheaper one will do what you need it for. You probably wouldn’t need a $700 flashlight for a power outage in the house.
There are three standards you have to check to gauge the brightness of the flashlight: output, intensity, and beam distance. Longer beam distance would be helpful if your purpose is for outdoors where you need visibility from afar.
Higher intensity to output ratio on spot beams will suit you if you need the light beam to be brighter and more focused to illuminate objects at far distances. On the other hand, flood beams with higher output to intensity ratios will be more efficient in lighting up objects that are nearer.
Since the general brightness of the light is what most would be looking at, here’s some information on what lumen measurements may mean:
- 14 lumens and below – This is what regular flashlights usually have and can only help you navigate your way around dark spaces.
- 15 to 59 lumens – This is enough to shed light on nearby things and provide light to a room during a blackout.
- 60 to 149 lumens – A beam of light with this output can give you some light at a longer distance and can be used outside in the dark. Note that 100 lumens can also cause brief blindness to an individual in the dark.
- 150 to 299 lumens – This has a wider range that could lighten up a bigger area. It will be good enough for a camping trip and some self-defense to cause temporary blindness.
- 300 to 699 lumens – This brightness can completely illuminate a football field and definitely cause some loss of sight if faced directly.
- 700 lumens and above – This level of brightness isn’t something you will need for ordinary activities. It can cover hundreds of feet and would be ideal for rescuers looking for survivors in disaster areas.
The tactical flashlight’s ability to withstand elements is what sets it apart from the regular flashlight. You should be looking for high-impact resistance in case it falls or be exposed to various forms of shock from your activities.
Tactical flashlights are usually made from high-quality aluminum and some from either steel or titanium. Steel ones are sturdier but heavier, while titanium ones are both lighter and stronger but on the higher-priced end.
You’d also want to look for some waterproofing at IPX7 or 8 if you want a versatile tool.
Losing battery at the most crucial moment could mean death for you. That is why choosing the right type of model with a good battery is important. There are three types of batteries that could go into your tactical flashlight: disposable, rechargeable, and integrated rechargeable.
Disposable batteries come in two forms: alkaline and lithium. Alkaline may be cheaper and more accessible but lithium batteries last much longer. Rechargeable batteries are even better for power. They may be even more expensive but they will let you save more in the long run. Integrated batteries come with the flashlight and are rechargeable as well. The problem with this special type though is you cannot replace them so you have to wait until they finish charging.
Tactical flashlights can measure from 2 to more than 6 inches. While mini flashlights at 2 to 3 inches are very compact and can even be kept in your pocket, they don’t provide for self-defense functions. Their small size also can just keep one battery, which means the battery life is shorter. Small ones at 4 inches have better capacities but still, run with one battery. Medium-sized ones from 4 to 6 inches allow for 2 batteries and better light output. The length may also serve spots for self-defense. Better at serving as some sort of defense weapon, large ones measure longer than 6 inches but are less compact.
Some added features may benefit you and could contribute a lot to your survival. Flashlight settings usually allow low and high intensities, but some versions have more intensity options. Low intensities would save much more on the battery than high ones.
Some models have special modes like SOS, strobe, and beacon. SOS mode makes the light send out an SOS in the form of Morse code. The strobe can confuse enemies for law enforcers by the change in light patterns from the flashlight. Beacon sets the light to beam every few seconds. Some bikers use this to save up on battery life.
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