Let there be light! A compact and easy to carry flashlight is one of the most basic and useful items to add to your EDC. Who hasn’t dropped their keys in the dark or had something roll under the bed before? A quality tactical flashlight gives you a powerful source of light that easily fits in your pocket. We’ve put together a list of the 15 best tactical flashlights to help you find the one that’s perfect for your EDC.
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
At first glance many people try to write off the tactical flashlight as just another ‘tacticool’ product. After all, how tactical can a flashlight actually be?
Short answer, very.
Tactical flashlights aren’t your granddad’s Maglite. They’re hardened, high end products that use high-density batteries to produce phenomenal amounts of light from very small emitters. They’re designed to function in the hand or attached to a firearm.
To do this they have to be ruggedly designed and able to stand up to significant abuse and even possible use as an emergency self-defense tool. Going beyond their original military and law enforcement purposes tactical flashlights are downright useful.
They’re compact and powerful flashlights that provide anyone with an EDC mindset with tons of value.
Top 15 Best Tactical Flashlights
There are a lot of tactical flashlights out there, from all kinds of companies. Choosing a single best tactical flashlight would basically be impossible. There are just too many excellent products.
We decided the best way to do this review was to find 15 of the best and most popular tactical flashlights at a variety of price points.
Let’s check them out.
SureFire Fury Intellibeam Tactical Flashlight
SureFire is probably the most well known tactical flashlight manufacturer in the world. They have dozens of models in a variety of sizes, intensities, and styles. They’re one of the biggest suppliers of law enforcement and military lights.
The SureFire Fury is designed to provide the ultimate in responsive tactical lighting. It uses something called the Intellibeam system to automatically adjust the light output to outside conditions. It can go from 15 all the way up to 1500 lumens depending on lighting and weather conditions.
If you decide you need maximum output you can override this system at any time by a quick double tap of the tail cap button. The Protac provides this high intensity light output using either 2 CR123A batteries or a single 18650 rechargeable battery. If you want to get the maximum possible brightness you’ll need to invest in one of SureFire’s own SF18650B batteries.
It’s made from aircraft grade aluminum with a knurled grip pattern. The head is designed with flattened points to prevent it from rolling if dropped.
The SureFire Protac is a top of the line product that comes with a top of the line price. It’s hard to find it for under $200. For that price though you get one of the best tactical flashlights available.
SureFire Aviator Tactical Flashlight
Pilots and other aviators have very specific lighting needs. SureFire developed the Aviator line of tactical flashlights specifically to meet these needs. Each has a dual color mode that is optimized for a specific use case.
The primary flashlight is bright white and has two modes, low and high. Low provides you with 5 lumens for up to 20.5 hours while high gives you 250 for up to 1.5 hours. There are 4 colors to choose from: amber, blue, red, and yellow-green.
Amber lighting improves contrast while preserving night vision. Blue light gives high contrast at night and is perfect for identifying blood or hydraulic fluids in low light conditions. Red is well known for its use at reading night maps in military situations and preserving night vision. Yellow-green is specifically designed to complement that color spectrum common to most cockpits.
The Aviator is made from anodized aluminum and powered by a single CR123A battery. It has o-ring seals to prevent water or dust intrusion and a stainless steel clip for easy pocket carry.
The SureFire Aviator is great for pilots, navigators, mariners, and others with the need for specific low light color patterns. It’s an expensive tactical flashlight but for the people who need what it provides it’s a real godsend.
Streamlight Protac Tactical Flashlight
The Streamlight Protac is a classic tactical flashlight with many of the features that have now become standard in the industry. It’s just over 7 inches long and weighs 9.24 oz. The Protac is designed around a rechargeable 18650 battery but also accepts CR123A batteries if needed.
It has 4 different light modes: low, medium, high, strobe, and three operating modes based on Streamlight’s TEN-TAP system. These are High/Strobe/Low, high only, and Low/Medium/High. At high the Protac generates 1000 lumens with a beam distance of 374 meters. It has a high runtime of 1.5 hours and a low runtime of 20 hours.
Its body is made from anodized aluminum with an IPX4 rating. This is lower than some other high end tactical flashlights so you need to be careful about dropping it in puddles or other water.
The Streamlight Protac is a very well made tactical flashlight with excellent features. It’s bright, rechargeable, and extremely durable. The only ding against it was the low water resistance rating, but we feel its other features more than make up for it.
Fenix TK47 Tactical Flashlight
The Fenix TK47 is a high-powered tactical flashlight intended for law enforcement, military, or home use. It’s a big light, coming in at 10.48 inches long and weighing fully 13.26 oz without batteries. The TK47 definitely isn’t a pocket light, resembling an old school Maglite more than the smaller tactical lights we’re used to.
The light output and intensity match this large size. It has 5 light modes and a small tail light useful for signalling. The main light has low, medium, high, turbo, and strobe functionality. On turbo it gives you fully 1300 lumens of output and 700 meters of beam distance. With its 2 rechargeable 18650 batteries it has almost 2 hours of runtime at this output.
The body of the TK47 is made from stainless steel rather than aluminum. This makes it stronger but heavier. Given it’s honestly massive size to begin with this isn’t that much of a tradeoff.
Overall the TK47 is an excellent tactical flashlight for home, car, or other installation based use. It’s too large for effective EDC but is still extremely valuable as a high-powered flashlight.
Pelican 7600 Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight
Pelican is a giant of the tactical gear and case world. Their 7600 tactical flashlight does nothing to let this reputation down. It’s a 6.2 inch long 10 oz powerhouse that gives you multiple modes of use and several different LED light colors.
It has a white, red, and green light selection as well as 4 modes of use: low, medium, high, and strobe. The 7600 comes with a rechargeable 18650 lithium battery and has a robust IPX8 certification.
All the various modes are cycled with the tail cap button while the colors can be adjusted with a twist control at the emitter head. One place the Pelican 7600 really shines is in runtime. High power provides you with 940 lumens yet can be used continuously for 3 hours and 15 minutes. That’s an insane amount of battery life for that much light intensity.
Even better, Pelican backs their tactical flashlights with an industry leading lifetime guarantee. If you somehow manage to break your Pelican product they’ll replace it, no questions asked, forever.
With its combination of rugged design, high end features, and downright amazing warranty the Pelican 7600 is a strong contender for best tactical flashlight.
SOG Tactical Flashlight – Dark Energy DE-06
The Dark Energy 06 is a robust tactical flashlight from SOG. It has a high grade anodized aluminum body and was built to be the brightest flashlight for its size. It’s 6 inches long but weighs just 6.6 oz.
The DE-06 has 5 different modes: low, medium, high, strobe, and momentary on/off. At high power its rechargeable 18650 lithium battery gives you 687 lumens for 98 minutes. The low light level is designed for maximum run time and will last for 97 hours.
One thing we really liked about the DE line is the body design. The vast majority of tactical flashlights look pretty much identical to one another. SOG tried to break the mold with a spiral patterned knurling that honestly looks really sharp while providing an excellent grip. It also has an IPX7 water resistance rating for confident use in any conditions.
SOG is respected for a reason. They make high quality products that always try to add a little something extra in. The Dark Energy 06 tactical flashlight is no exception to this.
Nitecore MH25GT USB Rechargeable LED Flashlight
Nitecore is a respected name in the tactical flashlight world and its MH25 series was very popular. The upgraded MH25GT takes the best features of the original and adds several new ones. It’s a large flashlight, coming in a 6.3 inches long and weighing over 10 oz. For this though you get an incredibly bright and durable light.
The MH25GT has 6 different modes: low, medium, high, turbo, strobe, and SOS. These can all be controlled via the tail button. Its 18650 rechargeable lithium battery gives you an hours run time at the 1000 lumen turbo setting or 36 on the 50 lumen low.
The body of the MH25GT is made from anodized aluminum and has a fairly large emitter head on a slender body. One thing that helps set it apart from other rechargeable flashlights is the charging indicator. It flashes when it needs a charge and goes steady when it’s fully topped up.
The NiteCore MH25GT is a high quality tactical flashlight that’s incredibly bright and ruggedly durable. It’s definitely not a comfortable pocket carry light but for a car or home setting it’s an excellent product.
ThruNite TN12 EDC LED Tactical Flashlight
The ThruNite TN12 is an EDC focused tactical flashlight with a high intensity light. It’s made from aluminum alloy and is 5.63 inches long for just 2.9 oz of weight without the battery. It uses a dual switch design for on/off and mode cycling.
It has 6 different output modes, including low, medium, high, strobe, turbo, and ThruNite’s own firefly mode. On turbo setting it provides you with up to 1050 lumens for 95 minutes. Firefly setting is the really interesting twist though. It gives you just the slightest glow of .4 lumens for up to 74 days of continuous use.
It’s designed to let you distinguish basic shapes, maps, and other things in a survival situation while preserving battery life. The TN12 uses a single 18650 rechargeable battery that isn’t included. To cycle through the various modes you simply click the light on with the tail cap button then use the stainless steel side switch.
Overall the TN12 is a well thought out light but feels slightly rougher and less polished than many competitors. There are several similarly priced models from other manufacturers that beat it out but none that have its firefly low light mode.
EcoGear FX TK120 Tactical Flashlight Kit
The EcoGear FX TK120 is another value priced tactical flashlight with a very nice feature set. It’s made from aircraft grade aluminum and is 5.5 inches long and weighs just over 5 oz. One unusual thing with a flashlight at its price point is the inclusion of two 18650 rechargeable lithium batteries with a battery cradle.
The TK120 has 5 different modes: low, medium, high, strobe, and SOS. You can cycle through these modes using the tail cap button. At maximum power and focus the TK120 provides up to 1200 lumens. It does this using a sliding zoom control system. It allows you to set the beam intensity to a spotlight or a wider flood for general use.
The EcoGear FX TK120 is an inexpensive tactical flashlight that nevertheless provides real value. It has many of the higher end features found in name brand products without the name brand price.
OLIGHT M20SX Javelot
The OLIGHT M20SX Javelot is a compact tactical flashlight made from aircraft grade aluminum. It’s 5.51 inches long and weighs just 4.37 oz. The Javelot has four power modes, including low, medium, high, and strobe.
The Javelot is powered by either 2 CR123A batteries or a single rechargeable 18650. It has a maximum light output of 820 lumens with a runtime of 4 hours. The medium and low light settings are 150 and 25 lumens respectively, with a runtime of 13 and 72 hours each.
One thing that really stands out about the Javelot is its IPX8 water resistance. This makes it an excellent light to carry in wet or potentially stormy conditions. It uses a CREE XM-L2 LED with a spotlight focus that gives it up to 370 meters of beam distance.
Overall the OLIGHT M20SX Javelot is a rugged and high powered tactical flashlight with a good feature set. It’s definitely on the large side but you get high performance and relatively long battery life at a price that’s quite affordable.
SureFire V1 Vampire
The SureFire V1 Vampire is a tactical workhorse built with military and law enforcement users in mind. It’s a dual output LED light that has both a high intensity white light and infrared (IR) emitters.
The white light can be used in 250 lumen high or 5 lumen low modes. The IR light is usable in 100Mw high and 5 Mw low modes. IR light is used with specific night vision goggles to provide additional illumination. It’s imperceptible to the human eye and so is perfect for use in tactical situations to prevent your adversary from knowing it’s there.
The V1 Vampire runs on a single CR123A lithium battery and gives you 1.5 hours on high and up to 20.5 on low. In infrared mode you get 4.75 hours on high and 57 hours on low.
The Vampire is a specialized product with a fairly narrow use case. If you frequently use NVG’s it provides tons of value, otherwise half its features are kind of useless to you.
SureFire P1R Peacekeeper
The SureFire Peacekeeper is another excellent SureFire product made from aircraft grade aluminum. It has two intensities and runs on a rechargeable 18650 lithium battery.
It’s designed to work as the primary duty flashlight for law enforcement and other emergency services personnel. It’s available in a single output tactical model or a dual output version. They both have a top output of 600 lumens with the dual output also providing a low light 15 lumen setting. You get 1.75 hours of runtime at high and up to 46 at low.
The body is just over 5 inches long and weighs just 6.2 oz. The Peacekeeper has a beam intensity of 13,620 candela and is designed to provide a piercing spotlight with lots of usable peripheral lighting.
The Surefire P1R Peacekeeper is an excellent product with useful features. If you’re looking for a high end tactical flashlight that meets major law enforcement standards the Peacekeeper is a valid choice.
J5 Tactical V1-PRO Flashlight
The J5 V1-Pro flashlight is a pint sized light at a bargain basement price. It’s made from tough aircraft grade aluminum and runs off a single AA battery.
The V1-Pro has 3 different modes: high, low, and strobe. It has a relatively low runtime of just over an hour but that’s to be expected from an alkaline powered light. It makes up for this with it’s small size and very low cost. At maximum brightness you’ll get 300 lumens at a distance of up to 600 feet.
It has an aggressive bezel and body design that makes it easy to hold onto and resistant to impacts. If you’ve always wanted a tactical flashlight but didn’t want to spend more than $20 or so the J5 V1-Pro could be the light for you.
SureFire G2X Series LED Flashlights
The SureFire G2X series are designed to be entry level tactical flashlights at affordable prices. They have the same attention to detail SureFire puts in their other products at significantly lower prices.
One of the cost-saving measures they used on the G2X was the substitution of Nitrolon polymer for anodized aluminum in the main body of the light. It reduces the overall weight of the flashlight and has a very nice textured grip. The head of the light is made from anodized aluminum to protect the LED’s and provide increased impact resistance.
The G2X has two modes, a low 15 lumen and a high 600 lumen. These are controlled by a tailcap switch. It uses two CR123A lithium batteries and gives you a runtime of 2.5 hours on high or 45 hours on low.
If you want to own an honest to god SureFire tactical flashlight but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it the G2X series is a great place to look.
Anker Bolder LC90 Super Bright Tactical Flashlight
Anker is a company known for their quality tech peripherals and charging cables. The LC90 is a foray into the tactical flashlight market that shows their usual attention to detail and dedication to good manufacturing practices. It’s a 900 lumen LED flashlight with a rechargeable 18650 battery.
It’s made from anodized aluminum and has an IP65 rating. This gives it good dust and water resistance but doesn’t allow it to be submerged. The LC90 works in 5 different light modes: low, medium, high, strobe, and SOS.
Its large battery gives you a full 6 hours of runtime on medium brightness. Once it’s depleted you can fully recharge it in another 6 hours with the included Anker micro USB cable. One thing we really liked was the zoom adjustment slider. It allows you to take the LC90 from a pinpointed spotlight all the way up to a useful flood setting.
The Anker LC90 is a large and robust tactical flashlight with a lot of useful features. It has much of the same functionality of well known flashlight brands but costs a fraction of the price.
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Tactical Flashlight Batteries
The batteries of your tactical flashlight have a big impact on its function. The smaller the flashlight is the denser and more powerful the power source needs to be for the same light intensity.
Here are the most common battery types and sizes for tactical flashlights.
Alkaline batteries are primary batteries that rely on the chemical reaction between metallic zinc and manganese dioxide. Primary batteries refer to any battery that is intended for single use instead of recharging. They’re called alkaline because of the potassium hydroxide electrolyte they use.
Alkaline batteries are by far the most common type of primary battery in use today. This makes them cheap and easy to replace. Tactical flashlights that use alkaline batteries are generally either slightly larger or lower intensity than other varieties. If you plan to take your flashlight into areas with temperature extremes you shouldn’t use alkaline batteries.
They’re sensitive to very high and very low temperatures and will stop working if you let them get too hot or cold. It’s important to remember that any flashlight capable of running on alkaline batteries can also run on lithium. Common alkaline battery sizes include AA and AAA, as well as things like C and D cell batteries.
Lithium batteries come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including the CR123A we’ll discuss below. They have much higher capacity on an ounce for ounce basis than do alkaline batteries. They also respond much better to high and low temperatures.
Just about every high end flashlight that accepts primary batteries will require lithium batteries for the best functionality. The downside to this high performance is their cost. Lithium batteries are generally at least twice as much as comparable alkaline batteries.
In the past it was difficult to find lithium batteries outside of specialty stores. Nowadays they’re rapidly overtaking alkaline as the most common battery type and can be found just about everywhere batteries are sold.
CR123A batteries are commonly used in higher end and more compact tactical flashlights. The CR denotes the chemical composition, LiMnO2, while the 123A refers to the battery size, 34.5mm x 17mm or 2/3A cell size.
The CR123A is a 3V battery in a very compact size. It gives ample power and allows significant light output and performance characteristics. The vast majority of tactical flashlights will run on either CR123A batteries or their rechargeable 18650 counterparts.
Where possible we always recommend rechargeable batteries. Not only will you save money, you’ll also significantly reduce battery waste. You can find a rechargeable version of all the batteries used in tactical flashlights.
There are also tactical flashlights with a rechargeable battery built right in. These come with a charging station or charge via mini or micro USB. One of the most common types of rechargeable battery is the 18650 lithium battery.
Brightest Tactical Flashlight
Arguably the most important aspect of any flashlight is how bright it is. Light output for flashlights is measured in lumens. The higher the number of lumens the brighter a flashlight will be.
The majority of tactical flashlights nowadays will have multiple light output modes with a low starting somewhere around 50 lumens and a high going up to about a 1000. In general we recommend you get a light with low, medium, and high setting so you can adjust its brightness to your situation.
If you’re looking for the brightest tactical flashlight you should check out the SureFire Fury. It produces a blinding 1500 lumens on high power.
Light output alone doesn’t determine the total brightness of a flashlight. Keep reading to learn about the FL1 standard and the other factors that go into brightness.
The FL1 Standard
In the past comparing two different tactical flashlights was really difficult. There wasn’t an accepted set of measurements that could be used to compare them. You’d have one flashlight advertising its “million candlepower” while another was talking about “high-flux LED”.
Most of those descriptors didn’t really mean anything unfortunately. It took the creation of the ANSI/NEMA FL 1-2009 Standard, commonly referred to as the FL1 standard, to allow apples to apples comparisons between flashlights.
The FL1 standard provides you with 6 different ratings for comparison’s sake.
- Light Output [Lumen]
- Peak Beam Intensity [Candela]
- Beam Distance [Meter]
- Runtime [Hours]
- Water Resistance [IPX Rating]
- Impact Resistance [Meter]
We’ll go more in depth on what these mean a little farther down the article. Just remember to look for the FL1 comparison chart on the packaging of any tactical flashlight you’re considering. It’s a voluntary standard but the vast majority of quality manufacturers have adopted it.
Best Tactical Flashlight Buyers Guide
The best tactical flashlights are made from very rugged materials and provide tremendous light output in a very small package. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. There are several other measures you should look at to make sure you’re getting the best flashlight for your needs.
Tactical flashlights are a lot like multi tools and knives as far as pricing goes. You can get a pretty good product for around $30-70. You can also spend up to several hundred on a real top of the line model with all the bells and whistles.
These are extremely powerful, often with multiple light effects and modes, and are usually rechargeable with a high end internal battery. If you work in law enforcement or are a member of the armed forces these provide you with real value.
For most people though, $50-$100 will buy you all the flashlight you’ll need for your EDC.
Construction and Materials
Tactical flashlights have to be rugged. They’re designed to be used frequently in potentially hazardous conditions. To do that they need to withstand being dropped, smashed into things, and even used as an emergency self-defense tool.
The vast majority of tactical flashlights are made from aircraft grade anodized aluminum. It’s lightweight, very strong, and inexpensive. The designs themselves incorporate features like raised bevels and highly textured grips. This lets you get a very firm hold on them and protects the glass from shattering on impact.
Make sure that all the screw seal points are well machined and move easily. This aids in overall strength and water resistance. You should also look for things like o-ring seals, buttons that click easily and firmly, and either tempered glass or polycarbonate lens covers.
Mode Functions and Extras
An important thing to remember with tactical flashlights is that they were designed for combat situations. The best will work just as well mounted to a firearm as they will in your hand. They need to be able to blind or incapacitate adversaries with varying intensities and patterns.
Just about every tactical flashlight has the option of low or high power. As you move up the feature ladder you’ll get things like strobe capability, SOS patterns, and even the ability to switch between different colored lights.
Some truly military focused ones will even have infrared modes for use with night vision goggles.
Waterproofing and Water Resistance
One of the most important aspects of a true tactical flashlight is its resistance to water damage. These aren’t the old plastic hand lights your dad kept under the sink. They’re made to go with you anywhere in the world and work under the toughest conditions.
To do this they need to be able to stand up to rain, splashing, and even temporary submergence. Unless you’re buying a SCUBA specific flashlight don’t expect true underwater capability.
The way to determine this is the International Protection Marketing, or IP rating system. It’s written out in the form of IPX + a number. The X just shows that the product hasn’t been tested for dust resistance while the number tells you how water resistant it is. We’ll only cover IPX4 through IPX8 because those are the standards included in FL1.
IPX4 – IPX4 resistance means a flashlight can withstand splashed water for up to 10 minutes without damage. This is the absolute minimum water resistance level you should consider in a flashlight.
IPX7 -IPX7 products can withstand sprayed jets of water and total immersion up to 1 meter deep for at least 30 minutes.
IPX8 – IPX8 is the highest resistance level you’ll see in standard tactical flashlights. It allows extended immersion without ill effect in water deeper than 1 meter.
Size, Weight and Ergonomics
One of the most important things to consider with any tactical flashlight purchase is size, weight, and the physical design. If you’re looking for an EDC light you’ll need something much smaller and lighter than a bug out bag, vehicle, or home tactical flashlight.
Ergonomics also comes down to how you intend to use it. If you’re looking strictly for a gun mounted light you don’t need to worry as much about comfort. One you’re going to be using on a daily basis needs to sit well in your hand and be easy to use.
One of the most common ergonomic features is the location of the on/off switch. Old school flashlights usually have it located along the side of the body. For tactical flashlights though a tail cap button is a much better solution. It allows you to hold it upright in one hand and easily manipulate the brightness and settings with your thumb.
The runtime of tactical flashlights will vary significantly based on several factors. The most important are the light output and battery size. Smaller flashlights with extremely high light output will naturally run out of juice a lot faster than larger ones.
That doesn’t tell the whole story though. Most tactical flashlights have power saving low power modes that can extend the runtime by orders of magnitude. Using a low power strobe or red light mode can increase it even further.
Consider how you intend to use your flashlight and how much light you really need before making a purchase.
Most tactical flashlights are bright white light. If you’re looking for a red or other shade light though there are plenty of options available. You can find red, blue, purple, amber, etc, all in varying intensity and beam styles.
Beam distance under the FL1 standard measures the distance the light of the flashlight is equal to the illumination provided by a full moon. It prevents manufacturers from fudging the numbers with barely perceptible lighting. This is mainly useful if you plan to use your flashlight in outdoor situations as even the most basic will reach for well over 50 meters.
Candela – Peak Beam Intensity
The peak beam intensity of a flashlight is one of the most important measures of how bright it actually is. It measures the brightness as perceived by the human eye and is based on how the light is focused.
The light output of a flashlight, measured in lumens, is an actual measure of brightness. Peak beam intensity takes that and figures out how much usable light the tactical flashlight can focus on one area and is measured in candela.
Impact resistance is key with tactical flashlights. Their anodized aluminum bodies give them a lot of strength but the internal designs also help. Most have sealed internals that are designed to resist sudden impacts and prevent movement.
The batteries are tightly contained within their area and the remaining circuitry is hardened as much as possible. Any FL1 compliant flashlight will list impact resistance in meters. This just tells you that they’ve tested their product in drops up to that height and found them to still function.
With tactical flashlights you certainly aren’t starved for choice. You can get one in just about any size, shape, brightness, and battery type. There are quality $20 lights and incredible $300 ones.
Whatever kind of light you’re looking for, remember to compare manufacturer claims to the FL1 scale and keep in mind just how you intend to use your light.