Tactical Light

80 of the best Tactical Flashlights you can own now (the Definitive Guide)

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.

  • Manufacturers
  • Warranty
  • Power
  • Features &
    Applications
  • Construction
  • Table
    Specifications
  • Recommendations
    • 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.
      • Recommendations
        • 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
  • Chargers 80 of the best Tactical Flashlights you can own now (the Definitive Guide) 1
      • 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.

brandmodelweightlengthlumenspowercostnotes
ThruNiteTi4 Penlight0.795.2252AAA-2$20pen light/cool white (blue)/$/IPX8
ThruNiteTC205.24.68380026650$90short stumpy/cool or neutral white light
SurefireFury Tactical6.55.61500CR123A-2 or 18650$149Tactical/1 light level/momentary or constant on/law enforcement
KlarusXT11GT4.585.592000CR123A/18650 or internal lithium$84edc//usb/bright
NitecoreMT2A2.36.1345AA-2$35larger pen
InovaT3 Tactical
6.886.2485CR123A-3$44long/non tactical looking
SurefireFury Intelligent Beam6.55.61500CR123A-2 or 18650$190Intellibeam automatic and stepless adjusts from 15 to 1500 lumens
SurefireEDCL1-T3.34.5500CR123A$125EDC/compact
OlightSR Mini II Intimidator6.325.193200CRA123A-6 or 18650-3$157search/bright
NitecoreP12GTS search3.495.731800CR123A-2 or 18650$110search
SurefireG2X Tactical polymer4.45.2600CR123A-2$66polymer/law enforcement/1 level/momentary/constant
NitecoreMT10A2.144.24920AA OR 14500$49bright for battery size/edc/$
NitecoreP305.835.571000CR123A-2$140hunt/rail
KlarusXT12S4.625.641600CR123A or 18650$87magnetic charge/edc/bright
FenixTK15UE
55.61000CR123A-2 or 18650$70edc/tactical ring
FenixTK20R USB561000CR123A-2 or 18650$100USB
ThruNiteArcher 1A V31.484.3200AA or 14500$30edc/$
KlarusXT329.289.571200CR123A-4 or 18650-2$130car/large
OlightI3T EOS1.453.5180AAA$20pen/IPX8
ThruNiteT1 USB2.522.741500CR123A$40USB/super bright/stumpy
FenixUC35 V2.0 USB3.15.51000CR123A-2 or 18650$90USB
Pelican7610 Tactical6.95.121018CR123A-2, AAA, 18650$90polymer
KlarusXT11S4.055.471100CR123A-2 or 18650$86IPX8/edc/usb
StreamlightTLR-1 HL 692604.183.39800CR123A-2$120rail
Pelican7600 Rechargeable 3 color6.96.19944CR123A-2$89polymer/IPX8
FenixPD353.15.41000CR123A-2 or 18650$65IPX8
SurefireG2X Law Enforcement4.45.2600CR123A-2$66polymer/law enforcement/tactical ring
Pelican5000 flood to spot2.45.59202AAA-2$29focus/polymer
KlarusXT11UV4.465.57900CR123A or 18650$80UV/usb/edc
ThruNiteTC12 V23.065.5110018650$56usb/$/edc
CoastPX14.64.5315AAA-3$27pen/inspection light/great for RV use/twist focus
SurefireV1 Vampire3.24.4250CR123A$239Infrared with no IR filter needed/law enforcement
StreamlightProTac 88054 HL USB 8507.26.5850CR123A-2$97usb/ten tap program/
FenixTK72R14.56.19000internal lithium$330super powerful search
NitecoreConcept 12.184.381800CR123A-2 or 18650$80bright/usb/new design
StreamlightProTac HL3
9.37.11100CR123A-3$79home or car light
SurefireUDR Dominator38.411.62400CR123A-12 /internal lithium$999search/high output/long throw/multiple chargers
StreamlightProTac 88040 HL 7505.65.4750CR123A-3$61hi/lo/strobe/ten tap/home or car
KlarusXT12GT5.66.361600CR123A/18650 or internal lithium$95home/auto
KlarusXT21X5.576.34400021700$120newer batter/bright/edc/car/home
SurefireTitan Plus23.375300AAA$90EDC/twist control/bright for size
KlarusXT11X4.785.943200CR123A or 18650$90search/bright for battery
InForceAPLc Compact0.163200CR123A$95rail
FenixE18R1.172.475016340$70short stumpy
KlarusXT1C1.673.35700CR123A$50edc/usb
StreamlightProTac 88061 1L-1AA2.54.25350CR123A or AA$40EDC/versatile clip
KlarusXT2CR3.125.472000CR123A or 18650$73edc
OlightM2T Warrior4.735.121200CR123A-2 or 18650$70fast strobe/edc/
NitecoreMT1A1.944.13180AA$35compact keychain
Streamlight76442 PolyStinger HAZ-LO13.510.2130internal lithium$119intrinsically safe
Pelican7100 Tactical USB4.45.1269514500$66USB/polymer
KlarusXT1C 20181.983.721000CR123A or 16340$50bright for battery/$/edc
NitecoreTMO2814.65.9600018650-4$295bulky search
NitecoreMH25GTS USB4.375.91800internal lithium$110bright edc/dual switch/usb
KlarusXT30R12.59.851800internal lithium$130search battery pack
NitecoreTMO37.516.25280018650$104super bright/car/home/edc
NitecoreMH1C USB2.224.29600CR123A$55IPX8/bright for one battery/edc
OlightPl-Mini 2 Valkyrie2.572.07400internal lithium$75battery pack /rail
SurefireE1B Backup MV2.953.87400CR123A$115EDC/MaxVision wall of light/compact/great clip
SurefireEDCL2-T4.15.841200CR123A-2$123EDC/hi-low/tail button/versatile clip
Pelican7620 Tactical6.96.751124CR123A-3$80polymer
SurefireG2X Pro polymer4.45.2600CR123A-2$66polymer/multiple colors/law enforcement
StreamlightProTac 1AAA1.33.9470AAA$27pen/ten tap program
NitecoreP123.15.471000CR123A-2 or 18650$43larger edc
StreamlightProtac HL4 Search178.632200CR123A-4 or 18650-2$80search
StreamlightTLR-7 694202.42.15500CR123A$103rail
KlarusXT1A 20182.174.241000AA or 14500$50great edc/recharge AA/$
KlarusXT30R Hunting (2 lights)12.459.85180018650-2$149hunt/rail
InovaXP LED Pen light24.87185AAA-2$26pen light
FenixLD05 V2.0 EDC UV15.3100AA-2$40UV
KlarusXT2C2.865.321100CR123A-2 or 18650$57edc/usb
FenixLD02 V2.0 UV0.843.6270AAA$30UV
StreamlightProTac HL-X 88666.45.431000CR123A-2 or 18650$87rail
InovaT2 Tactical4.25.42385CR123A-2$55edc/non tactical looking
KlarusXT114.445.71060CR123A-2 or 18650$68tactical ring/law enforcement
SurefireX300 Ultra7.27.81000CR123A-2$269rail
CoastG191.54115AAA$10pen/inspection light/great for RV use
OlightM2R Warrior USB5.265.121500CR123A-2 or 18650$93USB/magnetic charge/edckydex holster
NitecoreMH25GT USB5.046.29100018650$129hunt/rail/usb
OlightM1T Raider2.293.58500CR123A$40IPX8
FenixWF05E - intrinsically safe1.35.385AAA-2$35intrinsically safe/pen

Summary

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.

Good luck.

 

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