CAMPING & HIKING

Don’t Be Caught In The Dark: Finding The Best Tactical Flashlight

Tactical flashlight review
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

If there is one thing that is worse than an emergency, it’s an emergency that you are unprepared for. It could be a storm that knocks down power lines, a blown tire on a dark highway, a criminal running through the woods, or an intruder in your house.

All of these are situations where you need to be able to react quickly. People want a tool that helps them in times of need and a flashlight that is bright, tactical, and reliable is just the tool. Here are nine of the best tactical flashlights to consider before you get caught in a dark situation.

What A Quality Tactical Flashlight Should Have

A tactical flashlight is different than your everyday regular flashlight. The definition of a tactical flashlight is one with specific features that allow it to be used in conjunction with weaponry if the user chooses to do so.

These flashlights work both being handheld to use as well as mounted on top of various firearms. Though using them with weapons is not mandatory, the factors below will help in either case.

Quality Tactical Flashlight

Tactical flashlights are often used in the military and law enforcement groups to assist in some of the most dangerous situations but are not only found in those professions. Often hunters, campers, and other outdoorsmen find needs to these specialized lights as well.

There are numerous qualities that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a tactical flashlight that meets one’s specific needs. Each flashlight has their own set of key features that will help you decide whether you will need something brighter, more lightweight, or something super durable. Whatever needs you have, there is tactical flashlight out there that is perfect for you.

Weight

When it comes to weight, tactical flashlights are oftentimes not the only gear that a user is carrying. Whether it’s being held in a waist belt or atop a firearm, weight is extremely important. The lighter the weight usually indicates a better choice but the weight should never be the sole feature that a decision is based on.

Tactical flashlight weight

Same is true for the outdoorsman. When taking lots of gear along when hunting, fishing, or just hiking and backpacking, weight is crucial because you never want to carry more weight than you need. In contrast, they are also used in everyday household settings when weight might not be as important.

Keeping a tactical flashlight in your basement, nightstand, or trunk of your car are also great uses for them when weight might not be an issue.

Size & Dimensions

The size of the flashlight is almost equally important as the weight. Holding a 5-inch flashlight is much easier than carrying a foot-long baton that happens to have a light in it. Users want something they can pull out quickly, doesn’t take up unnecessary space, and can be attached to other objects without losing any functionality of either object.

Lumens

Lumens are the measure of how much light is emitted per second based on the light source. The higher the lumens is usually the better, but not always. Sometimes paying for a flashlight with the highest lumens is unnecessary because the user can get by with something less. One always has to find a balance between the lumens and the many other features the light is sure to have.

Tactical flashlight lumen

A light with high lumen output is also something that will use a lot of energy which will require you to either charge new batteries or replace them all together. Balancing the lumen output with the other factors that may allow the light to work with more efficiency is also an important aspect to consider.

Power Source

When choosing the best flashlight for a certain task, the power source also has to be in the discussion. If the user is out in the wilderness or on a military mission, the last thing concern in mind should be whether the batteries are going to die. One of the best solutions to this is a Lithium Ion Battery. These batteries changed the game by having the ability to be re-charged.

Power Source

That being said, using your light on full lumens, even with a Lithium Ion Battery, will run the energy down more quickly. Keeping in mind that you will still have the option to recharge those batteries instead of throwing away old ones and having to purchase more.

The key is knowing the power and efficiency of your flashlight and when a power source (electricity) may not be available to have a backup just in case. This factor alone needs special attention when comparing the prices of tactical flashlights.

Light Modes

Flashlights have improved immensely over the course of time. Almost every flashlight out there has some sort of “mode” that allows the light to do different things based on its internal circuit. This is highly imperative when choosing tactical flashlights. Users can use different modes such as High/Medium/Low/Strobe for different situations.

Obviously, in worst case situations, High mode will get you noticed. This is the strongest beam with the highest lumen output. Medium and Low modes may work best for specific tasks you may need to see or do in the dark or an alternative to the High mode to save on energy over a long period of time.

Tactical flashlight Light Modes

Strobe mode is another common feature in flashlights and this allows the user to choose a light mode that blinks intermittently. This can be used in a variety of predicaments. First is to call attention to something. Whether it’s giving directions and flashing it to friends or flashing it as a safety signal to your fellow soldiers, the strobe often goes under appreciated.

If the operator is using a slower, blinking strobe it can help someone find them in the dark more easily. The strobe can be used when stranded on the highway to warn oncoming traffic or mounted to a bicycle at night for added safety. If a user has a quicker strobe option, it may be used to disorient an attacker. These are just a few of the modes that are found in most tactical flashlights.

Highlights & Lowlights

Shadow Hawk X800 Tactical Flashlight

ShadowHawk X800 High Tactical Flashlight 800 Lumens x2000 With Case

Weight: 7.8 oz.

Dimensions: 5.5 inches long

Lumens: 800 Lumen Output

Power Source: Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery

Specific Features: 5 Different Light Modes, Adjustable Focusing Beam, Water Resistant and Shockproof

Best Use: Tactical Solutions, Camping, Hunting, Fishing, Law Enforcement, Household Use

Description: The Shadow Hawk Flashlight comes in a kit that includes the flashlight itself, a rechargeable lithium battery, and a charger for that battery which would save some money. With 800 lumens, it isn’t the strongest of all flashlights but is still certainly strong enough to get the job done and can still be depended on in extreme situations of danger or emergency.

Coming in at almost 8 ounces, this is on the heavier side of tactical flashlights, but it features five different light modes (High/Medium/Low/SOS/Strobe) which makes it much more versatile for the users.

Lumitact Tactical G700TM Flashlight
LumiTact Tactical G700 TM Flashlight (Flashlight Only)

Weight: 7.0 oz.

Dimensions: 7 inches long

Lumens: 700 Lumen Output

Power Source: 1 BRC 18650 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery or 3 AAA Batteries

Specific Features: 5 Light Modes, Adjustable Focus Mode, Water Resistant, Front Mounted Striking Bezel

Best Use: Outdoors, Hunting, Fishing, Camping, Self Defense

Description: The LumiTact Flashlight is still fairly heavy when it comes to a tool you will want to carry along with many others during and outdoor excursion. That being said, the weight is something that could come in handy when using it as self defense.

With 5 interchanging light modes, this light has High/Medium/Low/SOS/Strobe but also features an adjustable focus zoom that allows you gain distance by zooming out or intensity by zooming in.

At 700 lumen output, this light is on the low end but the advantage is the zooming effect to create a concentrated beam or a wider beam ray that will cover more distance up to 200 meters of visibility. Made of strong aluminum this little light is a force to be reckoned with especially considering the mounted striking bezel if confronted with a dangerous situation.

Fenix PD35 Tac 1000 Lumen Cree Led Tactical Flashlight

Fenix PD35 TAC 1000 Lumen CREE XP-L LED Tactical Flashlight

Weight: 3.1 oz. (excluding battery) about 4 oz. with battery

Dimensions: 5.51 inches long

Lumens: 1000 Lumen Output

Power Source: 1 Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium Batteries

Specific Features: Outdoor (6 Different Light Modes) and Tactical Features (3 Light Modes), Waterproof up to 6.5 Feet Depth for 30 Minutes

Best Use: Outdoors, Hunting, Fishing, Camping, Law Enforcement

Description: The Fenix Tactical Flashlight is one of the most lightweight flashlights out there. At only 3.1 ounces without the battery and only around 4 ounces with the battery this flashlight is an easy-to-pack no brainer.

Taking up little space with is 5.5-inch long frame and still managing to hit a 1000 lumen output makes this light a key tool to never be without. With two different functions, Outdoor and Tactical, this light has different modes in each of those functions.

The Outdoor function has 6 different light modes and Tactical has three. This is one light with the highest versatility out there. Those features paired with the ability to keep functioning under 6.5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes give this guy a high satisfaction rate as well as a high price tag and is attractive to almost any field with a tactical flashlight need.

Streamlight 88031 Pro Tac Tactical Flashlight

Streamlight 88031 Pro Tac Tactical Flashlight

Weight: 3.2 oz.

Dimensions: 4.7 inches long

Lumens: 260 Lumen Output

Power Source: 2 CR123A Lithium Batteries

Specific Features: 3 Different Light Modes, Waterproof up to 3 Feet for 30 Minutes

Best Use: Outdoor Uses, Hunting, Camping, Hardware Tool, Medical Services, Law Enforcement

Description: The Streamlight Tactical Flashlight is another extremely lightweight flashlight. Boasting a 50,000 hour lifetime this flashlight can be used for the long haul.

Needing only two Lithium batteries that will allow it to run about 3 hours straight on High mode, 50 hours on Low mode, and 6 hours on Strobe.

Another key feature for such a resourceful flashlight is its ability to stay submerged for 30 minutes at about 3 feet under water. Although impressive, still not as useful compared to other flashlights especially for fishing or tactical situations around water.

The Streamlight may seem on the weak side with only 260 lumens, but there are many similar styles with varying lumens and capabilities that make this light a true contender.

Related: ProTac 2AA- 155 Lumens, ProTac HL- 750 Lumens, ProTac HL3- 1,100 Lumens

Nitecore SRT7 Revenger Cree XM-L2 Led Flashlight

Nitecore SRT7 Revenger Cree XM-L2 Led Flashlight

Weight: 6.1 oz.

Dimensions: 6.22 inches long

Lumens: 960 Lumen Output

Power Source: One 18650 Battery or Two CR123 Batteries

Specific Features: SSR (Smart Selector Ring), Red, Blue, and Green Tactical Light Signal Modes, Water Resistance up to 6 Feet Submerged

Best Use: Hunting, Tactical and Law Enforcement

Description: Initially, The NiteCore Revenger flashlight is intimidating. At 6.1 ounces, it’s fairly heavy compared to some of its competitors and at almost 6 and a half inches long, it is not the smallest by a long shot, but a few key features separate this flashlight from the pack.

Packing a punch at 960 Lumens is no joke when it comes to lighting up the dark, but this is one of the few lights with a Smart Selector Ring (SSR) that allows you to spin a ring around the neck of the light rather than the push of a button.

Spinning this ring in various directions will not only allow you to adjust the intensity of the light but will take you through three colors, red, blue, and green, that are used for special tactical signaling. This flashlight brings powerful light and added safety features to its user.

Klarus XT11 Cree XM-L2 Led Flashlight

Klarus XT11 Cree XM-L2 Led Flashlight

Weight: 4.8 oz.

Dimensions: 6 inches long

Lumens: 820 Lumens Output

Power Source: 2 CR123A Batteries

Specific Features: 73 Hours Run Time on Low Mode, Dual Button Switch for Quick Use, 3 Light Modes and Strobe Mode

Best Use: Tactical, Outdoor, Camping, Hiking

Description: The Klarus LED Flashlight is a great middle ground. Fairly lightweight compared to some and at 6 inches in length easy to grab and hold quickly. It has two buttons on it, one for the cycling of High/Medium/Low modes and a separate button for the strobe which could be convenient in times of emergency.

At 820 lumens it is still a very strong light and can go at that lumen strength for about 6 hours straight when set on High mode. Another key detail is the striking bezel that will both break glass in emergency cases as well as offer a severe blow to an attacker.

Solaray Pro ZX-1 Professional Series Flashlight

SOLARAY PRO ZX-1 Professional Series Flashlight

Weight: 5 oz.

Dimensions: 6.2 inches long

Lumens: 1200 Lumen Output

Power Source: 3 AAA Batteries or One 18650 Battery

Specific Features: Water Resistant, 5 Light Modes (High/Medium/Low/Strobe/SOS), Zooming Lens, Memory Mode

Best Use: Camping, Hiking, Outdoors, Security, Fishing

Description: The Solaray Professional Series Flashlight is one of the biggest and brightest. Probably not ideal for someone counting every ounce they carry, but the size and weight are small factors after considering some key details.

The huge 1200 lumen output is maximized by having the zooming ability which will cast a more direct and intense light versus a wide flooding light that covers more area. This light also has 5 modes including High/Low/Medium/Strobe/SOS but a feature that is lacking is the mode-changing.

To change modes on this light, the user does a short single press of the button, but to turn the light itself on and off is a longer press of the same button. In emergencies, no one wants to be caught taking the time to turn your light on, cycle through the modes to find the best one, and then accidentally turning the light off in the process.

The lumen value and the capabilities it has on just 3 AAA batteries is still impressive for the everyday user and this light is still something you want to have around for household emergencies.

Streamlight 88105 TL-S Tactical Flashlight

Streamlight 88105 TL-2 2-Lithium C4 LED Tactical Flashlight

Weight: 3.95 oz.

Dimensions: 5.25 inches long

Lumens: 160 Lumen Output

Power Source: 2 CR123A Lithium Batteries

Specific Features: 1.75 Hours Run Time, Tail Cap Push Button, Steel Pocket Clip, Wrist Lanyard

Best Use: Hardware, Household Uses

Description: The Streamlight Tactical Flashlight has many factors to consider for the average, everyday users in a home setting. This light is very durable and because of its material, aircraft aluminum, it’s strong enough to withhold a few cases of extreme impact such as dropping or hitting against other objects.

The included wrist lanyard ensures control and at about 5 inches long will fit perfectly in your hand and won’t be an annoyance swinging from the wrist.

No fumbling around with a too small or too large flashlight with extra wrist control as an added bonus.

This light differs in that it may not boast the fancy modes that other tactical flashlights may have, but this light offers a super simple, functional usage of two modes and one easy on/off switch on the tail. This light’s main advantage is its short range, but its highly intense light beam.

Pelican Flashlight 110X

Pelican Flashlights 7060-001-110X 7060 Rechargeable LED light

Weight: 10.4 oz.

Dimensions: 8.65 inches long

Lumens: 160 Lumen Output

Specific Features: 254 Meter Beam Length, Two Hour High Beam Run Time, Dual Switch Technology

Best Use: Law Enforcement, Hunting, Outdoors

Description: Big and bad, this light does it all. The Pelican 110X is an extremely durable light. Built to last with a solid manufacturing material this light boasts versatility and strength in many ways.

First to mention is the dual switch technology. This allows users to use the light by having the freedom to hold the light in different ways.

One on/off switch is found on the tail end and one is found along the side. This is especially useful if used in conjunction with a firearm to ensure the light is directed at the correct spot while maintaining control of both the light and the weapon.

For the small 160 lumen output, the 254-meter beam length is something this light can be proud of. Maybe not the flashlight to carry when counting ounces in your pack, but it a solid solution for those in fast moving situations.

Time to Flip The Switch

To shed the final light on a huge list of comparisons it comes down to a few key considerations when choosing which of the best tactical flashlights is best for you. First is it’s uses. Ask yourself some questions about what the main uses of this flashlight will be.

Is this flashlight mostly a backup plan in case of a power outage or is this something that your life may depend on? Size and weight vary greatly and when push comes to shove and you want a flashlight that will do its job to help you do yours.

Secondly, is the light’s lumens. If you can get by without using a light that produces up to 1000 lumen output then consider it because the price tag often correlates with that number. In contrast, if a user is working the night shift or a dangerous midnight operation and needs all the lumens they can get, then ditching the price tag and getting what you need to protect yourself is priceless.

Choose your tactical flashlight

Finally, consider the flashlight’s modes and extra features. Along with the lumen output, make sure you are taking all of the light’s additional features and accessories into careful deliberation.

If a flashlight is used daily or even hourly in your line of work then purchasing a flashlight with a long battery life or a rechargeable battery is key. If plans are to mount the light on a firearm then having a clip or mold already in place or built into the light are just a few features to consider.

It’s easy to be confused and even exhausted when trying to find the product that is right for you, but doing your research, defining the pros and cons, and making and educated decision is the best route to take when purchasing an important product like a tactical flashlight. Don’t be blinded by all of your options! Read up and flip the switch on the light you find works best for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Mike Walker

    The Fenix PD35 is amazing. At barley 5′ in length, it throws a hot 1000 lumens. I have several brands of flashlights but out of all of them, I prefer Fenix. Durable, long lasting, worth every penny. The spill on this light is crazy wide. I 100% recommend this light

  • Daniel Carraway

    Thanks for the heads up Mike. Don’t you just love using The Fenix PD35? At 1000 lumens, it’s quite powerful. If you want a brighter light of 1200 lumens, better get the Solaray Pro ZX-1 Professional Series Flashlight. I have a couple of these inside my house and car. Gets the job done and not that expensive. Yet, of course, it’s still a matter of preference.

  • Jim Clark

    I also got 2 Solaray Pro ZX-1 in my car. It feels very sturdy, and has a lot more settings than most of the flashlights I currently own. So far, it is performing well. The light is bright. It’s a good flashlight with strong illumination, which I appreciate a lot. It is also a very durable product. Dropped it several times on rocks and hard ground but it still worked great. No problems or complaints. And the price is awesome, too.

  • Daniel Carraway

    There are a lot of people I know who have this flashlight. At 1200 lumens, it’s the brightest one yet. I rely a lot on this baby since I had numerous experiences being on a camping trip at night. When you’re in a dark place, this Solaray is a tremendous help. Very hardy, yet compact and fits just right in your hands.

  • Daniel Carraway

    The ShadowHawk X800 is a highly tactical flashlight that features adjustable focusing beam with telescopic zoom. You can use it in your backyard, when camping, or when hunting.

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