Here's a guide to 80 or so of the best tactical flashlights available.
How do I know?
Because they're made by the best tactical flashlight companies in the world. Companies that specialize in top tactical gear.
To make it easy for you, I developed a table so you can rank by length, weight, lumens, cost, battery, etc., and explore further details on Amazon.
Additionally, you can sort or search by intended use – penlight, tactical light and even rail lights, etc.
Let's get into it.
But first, a crash course on flashlights
In order to choose the best light for your needs, you need to know the basics.
- Features &
- Only companies which are top quality legitimate manufacturers are listed in this guide. (You can check my post reviewing all these companies here.)
- The Internet is full of cheap knockoff tactical lights - "2 for $12.99" etc., should be a clue - stay away from them. If you can't Google the brand name of the flashlight, and find a legitimate manafacturer to back it up - don't buy it!
- Almost all of the companies in this guide offer limited lifetime warranties. This doesn't cover batteries and abuse but if a button goes bad, or it just doesn't work - you're covered.
- Klarus, Olite and Nitecore offer 5 year warranties. Essentially, all parts, again except batteries, are covered.
- Pelican offers a limitless lifetime warranty. If anything goes bad, again, except batteries, you're covered.
- Keep your receipt - warranties usually only apply to the original purchaser.
- Alkaline batteries include AA and AAA.
- AAA batteries are available in alkaline and lithium and are normally used in pen lights.
- Probably the most common alkaline battery is the AA. The 14500 batteries, is the rechargeable lithium equivalent of an AA batteries. 14500s are more powerful, but should only be used if the manufacturer specifies they are compatible with your flashlight.
- In a few lights, AA batteries can be used as alternatives to 123A and even 18650.
- Lithium 123A batteries.
- CR123A are not rechargeable, have a lower voltage then rechargeable 123A batteries, but have a longer shelf life - usually 10 years.
- Rechargeable 123As are known as RCR123A or 16340s; they have a higher voltage than the CR but a shorter shelf life.
- 123A are probably the most common batteries for tactical lights.
- Ensure your light can use the RCR123A before using.
- For SHTF and bugging out etc., the CR123A are a good choice because of its long shelf life.
- Otherwise, both types are great choices.
- 18650 batteries.
- Many lights are configured for 2 123As or 1 18650.
- 123A are lighter but have less power and run time than an 18650.
- Newer 20700 and 21700 lithium are the same size as the 18650 but have higher capacity and volume. Again, ensure your light is compatible before using.
- With the current interest in vaping and their use of 18650 batteries, these batteries will continue to get better and better.
- Internal Lithium packs.
- Some lights have an internal lithium pack that is specific to a light and is rechargeable via magnetic or USB connection.
- These power packs are more common in high powered search lights and some keychain lights.
- Lithium Batteries
- Check out the InfoGraphic on Lithium Batteries here.
- Alkaline batteries include AA and AAA.
- There are a number of available chargers for these batteries. One recent addition, that should be owned by anyone who travels is the Nitecore LC10, which won the 2019 ISPO award for technology.
- Common features include different light levels and strobes and even different program modes. These modes will retain a sub-set of the lighting configurations which are most useful for tactical use or camping use, etc. You also have power levels indicators as well as the ability to lock out the light to prevent accidental discharge. Many also include electronics to avoid reverse polarity issues. A few even have stepless and automatic light adjustments automatically based upon the environment.
- Common applications include pen lights to every day carry.
- Special applications may include law enforcement use of one light level and momentary on off only, to mitigate any lighting error to intrinsically safe for explosives and flammables, to UV for anti-counterfeit authentication (bank cards, id and currency) to search lights to hunting applications. They're all here in this guide.
- Most lights are constructed with aircraft aluminum. Some models (Streamlight and Pelican for example) are starting to use polymer which is lighter and more comfortable in cold weather (since they don't get as cold.)
- The lens of quality lights, will be some sort of anti-reflective treated crystal vs. the plastic or cheap glass used in poorly made products.
- CREE LED bulbs are the best lights available and come in numerous configurations to optimize the brightness and run time designed by the manufacturer. All of the lights in the Definitive Guide use only CREE LEDs.
- The reflector cone, which houses the CREE LED light is specifically designed to optimize (focus or spread) the light. Some manufacturers, like Surefire, custom make these cones, which add to the cost and desirability of the light.
- Water resistance rating - Although lumens are not regulated, water resistance is tested by a scientific panel and ratings are assigned to flashlights.
- Here's the complete listing of IPX water resistance ratings.
- Recommendations - If you're going to be around water make sure your light has a IPX rating of 7 or 8. Most of the lights in this guide are rated at least a 7. Unless you're scuba diving, you're going to be fine.
- Buttons and switches
- Although some lights are twisted to turn on, off and access different settings, most lights have either a side or tail switch or button and some have both.
- The easiest control point is the tail switch or button, because the grip is more like an ice pick vs. a sword grip. Lights with both a side and tail button are also good choices.
- Check out the InfoGraphic on the Construction of Tactical Lights here.
- Weight -
- Weight is in ounces. Some companies list weights with batteries, while others list weight without batteries. Still others don't say if the battery weight is included or not. Keep this in mind when you review the guide.
- Additionally, lights with optional battery configurations will weigh differently. For example 2 123As will weight less than 1 18650 battery (approximately 34 grams vs. 43-45 grams.)
- Length -
- This is self explanatory and is simply the length in inches from end to end.
- Length is important because of intended use. For example, 4 or 5 inches is more appropriate for every day carry than a 9 inch light with more lumens.
- Lumens -
- Simply stated, lumens equal brightness. A 100 watt incandescent light bulb is approximately equivalent to 1600 lumens.
- All flashlights in this guide are CREE LED bulbs. You will never change a flash bulb. For example if you run the light 6 hours a day for 365 days a year, it could last for 23 years.
- LED's are low energy and high efficiency bulbs and are almost indestructible.
- There are no government regulations to ensure lumens are stated correctly. The manufacturers listed in this guide, however, have been shown to list their lumens truthfully. That is not the case with the cheaper light companies where lights listed as 1200 lumens are tested to be closer to 300 lumens.
- Want a smaller pen light? Sort on battery and look at the AAA lights. These are usually the smallest and will effectively be the size and shape of a pen. Some are UV if you're looking for document authentication.
- Looking for every day carry (EDC)? Search on CR123A. Most EDC are about the size of one CR123A. Look at the images and check out the Amazon reviews. Also look at the prices relative to the costs and amount of Lumens. All are great lights but only you know your needs.
- Some come with USB chargers which can either charge the battery directly or are inserted into the flashlight itself to charge.
- Tactical Lights usually come with a non-roll construction and some type of striker concept on the front of the light. They will be be water resistent (remember check if their IPX rating is 7 - a very few will be 8.) See if the size and price are good for you and check them out.
- You can find aluminum and polymer lights. Polymer are lighter and don't get as cold in the winter. Both are solid choices.
- Want a bright light for the bedside? You're probably looking at 2 123As or 1 18650. These are bright but make sure that you have access to strobe easily and that the light has a tail button. These are pretty common. Again, check the sizes and prices to see if you can find a match.
- Want a specialized light?
- UV lights are available for authentication purposes - credit cards, ID's and money.
- Work in an environment where unintentional sparks could cause a disaster? Look at a Intrinsically Safe light.
- Search Lights? These lights not only have higher lumens but more distance. Many come with a internal battery pack. Search search lights and review the costs vs. lumens and size.
- Need a rail light? Simply sort on rail and check out the sizes, lumens and prices. Some have internal battery packs also.
- Need a hunting light? Search on hunt and check out the available lights. Again, look at size, cost and lumens, then check out the various features such as light colors, etc.
Here's the Definitive Guide to Tactical Flashlights
Sort by any of the table headings or search in the search bar.
|ThruNite||Ti4 Penlight||0.79||5.2||252||AAA-2||$20||pen light/cool white (blue)/$/IPX8|
|ThruNite||TC20||5.2||4.68||3800||26650||$90||short stumpy/cool or neutral white light|
|Surefire||Fury Tactical||6.5||5.6||1500||CR123A-2 or 18650||$149||Tactical/1 light level/momentary or constant on/law enforcement|
|Klarus||XT11GT||4.58||5.59||2000||CR123A/18650 or internal lithium||$84||edc//usb/bright|
|Inova||T3 Tactical||6.88||6.2||485||CR123A-3||$44||long/non tactical looking|
|Surefire||Fury Intelligent Beam||6.5||5.6||1500||CR123A-2 or 18650||$190||Intellibeam automatic and stepless adjusts from 15 to 1500 lumens|
|Olight||SR Mini II Intimidator||6.32||5.19||3200||CRA123A-6 or 18650-3||$157||search/bright|
|Nitecore||P12GTS search||3.49||5.73||1800||CR123A-2 or 18650||$110||search|
|Surefire||G2X Tactical polymer||4.4||5.2||600||CR123A-2||$66||polymer/law enforcement/1 level/momentary/constant|
|Nitecore||MT10A||2.14||4.24||920||AA OR 14500||$49||bright for battery size/edc/$|
|Klarus||XT12S||4.62||5.64||1600||CR123A or 18650||$87||magnetic charge/edc/bright|
|Fenix||TK15UE||5||5.6||1000||CR123A-2 or 18650||$70||edc/tactical ring|
|Fenix||TK20R USB||5||6||1000||CR123A-2 or 18650||$100||USB|
|ThruNite||Archer 1A V3||1.48||4.3||200||AA or 14500||$30||edc/$|
|Klarus||XT32||9.28||9.57||1200||CR123A-4 or 18650-2||$130||car/large|
|ThruNite||T1 USB||2.52||2.74||1500||CR123A||$40||USB/super bright/stumpy|
|Fenix||UC35 V2.0 USB||3.1||5.5||1000||CR123A-2 or 18650||$90||USB|
|Pelican||7610 Tactical||6.9||5.12||1018||CR123A-2, AAA, 18650||$90||polymer|
|Klarus||XT11S||4.05||5.47||1100||CR123A-2 or 18650||$86||IPX8/edc/usb|
|Streamlight||TLR-1 HL 69260||4.18||3.39||800||CR123A-2||$120||rail|
|Pelican||7600 Rechargeable 3 color||6.9||6.19||944||CR123A-2||$89||polymer/IPX8|
|Fenix||PD35||3.1||5.4||1000||CR123A-2 or 18650||$65||IPX8|
|Surefire||G2X Law Enforcement||4.4||5.2||600||CR123A-2||$66||polymer/law enforcement/tactical ring|
|Pelican||5000 flood to spot||2.4||5.59||202||AAA-2||$29||focus/polymer|
|Klarus||XT11UV||4.46||5.57||900||CR123A or 18650||$80||UV/usb/edc|
|Coast||PX1||4.6||4.5||315||AAA-3||$27||pen/inspection light/great for RV use/twist focus|
|Surefire||V1 Vampire||3.2||4.4||250||CR123A||$239||Infrared with no IR filter needed/law enforcement|
|Streamlight||ProTac 88054 HL USB 850||7.2||6.5||850||CR123A-2||$97||usb/ten tap program/|
|Fenix||TK72R||14.5||6.1||9000||internal lithium||$330||super powerful search|
|Nitecore||Concept 1||2.18||4.38||1800||CR123A-2 or 18650||$80||bright/usb/new design|
|Streamlight||ProTac HL3||9.3||7.1||1100||CR123A-3||$79||home or car light|
|Surefire||UDR Dominator||38.4||11.6||2400||CR123A-12 /internal lithium||$999||search/high output/long throw/multiple chargers|
|Streamlight||ProTac 88040 HL 750||5.6||5.4||750||CR123A-3||$61||hi/lo/strobe/ten tap/home or car|
|Klarus||XT12GT||5.6||6.36||1600||CR123A/18650 or internal lithium||$95||home/auto|
|Surefire||Titan Plus||2||3.375||300||AAA||$90||EDC/twist control/bright for size|
|Klarus||XT11X||4.78||5.94||3200||CR123A or 18650||$90||search/bright for battery|
|Streamlight||ProTac 88061 1L-1AA||2.5||4.25||350||CR123A or AA||$40||EDC/versatile clip|
|Klarus||XT2CR||3.12||5.47||2000||CR123A or 18650||$73||edc|
|Olight||M2T Warrior||4.73||5.12||1200||CR123A-2 or 18650||$70||fast strobe/edc/|
|Streamlight||76442 PolyStinger HAZ-LO||13.5||10.2||130||internal lithium||$119||intrinsically safe|
|Pelican||7100 Tactical USB||4.4||5.12||695||14500||$66||USB/polymer|
|Klarus||XT1C 2018||1.98||3.72||1000||CR123A or 16340||$50||bright for battery/$/edc|
|Nitecore||MH25GTS USB||4.37||5.9||1800||internal lithium||$110||bright edc/dual switch/usb|
|Klarus||XT30R||12.5||9.85||1800||internal lithium||$130||search battery pack|
|Nitecore||MH1C USB||2.22||4.29||600||CR123A||$55||IPX8/bright for one battery/edc|
|Olight||Pl-Mini 2 Valkyrie||2.57||2.07||400||internal lithium||$75||battery pack /rail|
|Surefire||E1B Backup MV||2.95||3.87||400||CR123A||$115||EDC/MaxVision wall of light/compact/great clip|
|Surefire||EDCL2-T||4.1||5.84||1200||CR123A-2||$123||EDC/hi-low/tail button/versatile clip|
|Surefire||G2X Pro polymer||4.4||5.2||600||CR123A-2||$66||polymer/multiple colors/law enforcement|
|Streamlight||ProTac 1AAA||1.3||3.94||70||AAA||$27||pen/ten tap program|
|Nitecore||P12||3.1||5.47||1000||CR123A-2 or 18650||$43||larger edc|
|Streamlight||Protac HL4 Search||17||8.63||2200||CR123A-4 or 18650-2||$80||search|
|Klarus||XT1A 2018||2.17||4.24||1000||AA or 14500||$50||great edc/recharge AA/$|
|Klarus||XT30R Hunting (2 lights)||12.45||9.85||1800||18650-2||$149||hunt/rail|
|Inova||XP LED Pen light||2||4.87||185||AAA-2||$26||pen light|
|Fenix||LD05 V2.0 EDC UV||1||5.3||100||AA-2||$40||UV|
|Klarus||XT2C||2.86||5.32||1100||CR123A-2 or 18650||$57||edc/usb|
|Fenix||LD02 V2.0 UV||0.84||3.62||70||AAA||$30||UV|
|Streamlight||ProTac HL-X 8866||6.4||5.43||1000||CR123A-2 or 18650||$87||rail|
|Inova||T2 Tactical||4.2||5.42||385||CR123A-2||$55||edc/non tactical looking|
|Klarus||XT11||4.44||5.7||1060||CR123A-2 or 18650||$68||tactical ring/law enforcement|
|Coast||G19||1.5||4||115||AAA||$10||pen/inspection light/great for RV use|
|Olight||M2R Warrior USB||5.26||5.12||1500||CR123A-2 or 18650||$93||USB/magnetic charge/edckydex holster|
|Fenix||WF05E - intrinsically safe||1.3||5.3||85||AAA-2||$35||intrinsically safe/pen|
The best way to find the exact light to fit your needs is to review only quality lights that meet your criteria and then compare the lumens, size, cost and other features.
This guide is a great way to do just that.
No more “5 best lights” or “20 best tactical lights” posts – if they don't cover what you need or are looking for, you're out of luck.
I know that these lights are the best of the best.
Work with my recommendations and the most definitive tactical flashlight guide available on the Internet and you'll find exactly what you need.