Tactical flashlights are useful for many tasks, so stashing them in various places can be helpful. You never know when you’ll need a little extra light to perform a task safely and efficiently. Not all lights are the same, nor is any light perfect for all functions. In this article, we will explore a wide range of tactical flashlights from the basic “throw in the kitchen drawer” variety up to high lumen output lights and those that can be used on rifles.
What is a tactical flashlight?
A tactical flashlight is a light that is designed to be rugged and many have self-defense features such as pointed bezels or substantial handles. Some lights can even be used on rifles.
Tactical flashlights are designed to be waterproof and stand up to rugged daily use.
The more lumens, the brighter the light. Some of the better tactical flashlights on the market have a brightness adjustment with low, medium, and high settings.
It may seem like more lumens are always better, but that is not true. More lumens make a flashlight cost more. A light that is too bright can be seen from further away, which is not something you want if you just need to see something nearby while keeping a low profile.
When you start looking at Fenix tactical flashlights, it can be a little overwhelming because of the sheer variety. Fenix got my attention because they offer tactical flashlights that can be charged via USB-C, which means they don’t take long to charge. Let’s face it, USB is the charging method for many of the devices you use every day, and the USB-C charging system has proven to be pretty good at making sure that you don’t have to wait around forever to have a fully charged battery.
1. Fenix PD36R
Illumination Range: 920 feet
This small tactical flashlight light fits well in your coat or as an addition to your plate carrier setup. Perhaps what stands out most about this light is that the battery system allows for an almost unbelievable 115 hours of run time when in Eco Mode (30 lumens). This is the first light I’ve heard of that has that capability. Turbo Mode is 1600 lumens and reduces battery life to just under 3 hours.
The PD36R comes with two batteries, so you have that all-important backup.
This tough tactical light is made of aluminum and has been drop-tested at 6 feet, so it can withstand a lot of abuse in the field. It features strobe and turbo modes that can be easily accessed with a single switch while wearing gloves.
Fenix claims that with just 10 minutes of charging, you can run the light on the low (150 lumens) setting for up to 5 hours.
Fenix Rifle Mountable Flashlights and Kits
For those looking for a flashlight with a rail-mount option, here is a list of the Fenix models made for the job. You will also need to buy the Fenix Tactical Weapon Accessory Kit.
2. Fenix TK22UE
Lumens: 1,600 max
Illumination Range: up to 1,329 feet
I am featuring this tactical light because of its tungsten bezel. For those who want a light with some self-defense features, this one is quite formidable looking. I have not seen tungsten used for a tactical light bezel before.
Another stand-out feature is that this light is rated to work well under extreme temperatures. The Fenix TK22UE can perform in environments from -31°F to 113°F, so it is an excellent choice for those who travel a lot or get outdoors during all seasons and want a heavy-duty light to accompany them.
Illumination Range: 1484 feet
Let’s start by saying that this is a heavy flashlight for modern times. At more than a pound, it may remind you a bit of the classic Maglites that so many of us owned. For self-defense, the weight of this beast could be nice.
With 3,500 lumens max, this is a fairly powerful tactical flashlight, considering that many of the lights people carry are in the 1,000−1,600 lumen range.
I could see carrying this one in your vehicle or near your door to have a powerful light that’s easy to access. Living on a farm has taught me the importance of being able to find a bright flashlight quickly.
The ProTac can take 18650 USB batteries or CR123A lithium batteries thanks to Streamlight’s dual-fuel system. When you purchase it, you can choose which batteries you receive with it. For most of us, USB batteries are probably the best option.
Illumination Range: 3280 feet
Although not many people are familiar with this brand, I am featuring it because sometimes a bargain light can perform well.
This flashlight gets some pretty outstanding reviews, and the price point is low enough that you can buy several to stash around your home and in your vehicles.
At 9,000 lumens, it’s an exceptionally bright light. Users report dropping this light and it working well afterward, something that is always good to hear in a review.
It’s charged via micro USB, so you can easily charge this where you charge your other devices. There is something to be said for one cord that can handle most of your charging needs.
High-output tactical flashlights
Sometimes you want to be able to light up an area. The tactical flashlights in this section are used for major situations and search and rescue. They are handy for those who work outside a lot and don’t know when they might be called away at night to take care of something important. While these lights are adjustable, even on the low setting, they are quite bright.
Illumination Range: 3543 feet
I love this flashlight because it allows us to see a long distance on our farm. In fact, you can see ¼ mile away with ease. I was skeptical about whether this flashlight could deliver on the promises on the website, but it is actually better than described. When I say you can see ¼ mile, I mean that you can see well. You can see enough to make out individual trees ½ mile away. I live in the mountains, so the terrain varies a lot. In a relatively flat area with few obstructions, this flashlight would be even better.
The Javelot is recommended for those who miss the old Maglites that took D-cell batteries. These are essentially a club that can be used for self-defense. The Javelot is made of aluminum, so while it feels light in hand, it is strong and feels solid. The bezel is formidable and large.
One feature we really like is that you can adjust the light from low to high. This is an important feature for a flashlight that can be so bright. If you accidentally shine this in someone’s eyes, it would be really painful. It is too much to deal with up close as well.
The downside to the Javelot is that it is pretty darn big, so it won’t work well in bags where space or weight is a significant concern. However, it’s an excellent primary flashlight for home or vehicle.
Illumination Range: 1,683 feet
The Imalent is the brightest tactical flashlight on our list. The Imalent is shorter and bigger around than the Javelot Pro, so it looks a bit more like a searchlight than your typical high lumen flashlight. You can see objects more than a ¼ mile away with this flashlight, but if you just need light close to you, you can choose one of the other four modes. There is even a strobe option for emergencies.
This light doesn’t stick out very far on either end when gripping it in your hand.
As you would expect with a high lumen flashlight, it has some serious battery needs. The Imalent takes three 21700 4000 mAh Lithium-Ion batteries. In low, you can get 31 hours from a single charge. The Imalent can be turned down to 200 lumens, meaning it has a very versatile light range, which you don’t always find in a flashlight capable of massive light output.
Type of battery
I encourage considering battery type when purchasing a flashlight. If you have many things that take AA batteries but nothing that takes Cs, you might want to find a tactical light that uses AAs.
At the same time, rechargeable high-capacity lithium batteries have many advantages. Many tactical lights, emergency radios, and other gear now use these batteries. If you add any battery system to your preps, this is the one you should consider.
As noted, some flashlights can charge via USB. This is a neat system as long as the battery packs can be easily replaced once they no longer hold a charge well.
It is critical to look at the battery life of a flashlight. Sometimes a lower cost or more powerful flashlight means that you cannot run your light as long. For example, a less expensive light may have a 4-hour run time, whereas a more expensive flashlight could have an 8-hour battery. That being said, battery life is not everything, and not everyone needs to pay more for a super long run time. It can be less expensive to simply keep an extra battery charged up and ready to go.
For everyday carry bags and plate carrier setups, a small tactical flashlight is the best option. However, a smaller light doesn’t mean you have to settle for fewer lumens, either. There are some very powerful small lights out there, but they can come with a larger price tag than your typical edc flashlight.
Tactical flashlights for rifles
Some tactical flashlights are made to be mounted on rifles. It is important to make sure that your scope and rail set up is compatible with the flashlight you purchase. Weights of lights can vary, and this can add a very noticeable amount of weight to your rifle.
Do not mount just any tactical flashlight on a rifle. While the lights made to work with rifles cost more, they are designed to take the impact, recoil, and abuse that comes with being mounted on a weapon. A regular tactical flashlight will not hold up, and you may wind up ruining a good piece of gear after just a few uses.
Illumination Range: 656 feet at 300 lumens
This is an affordable light that is designed to be used with the Picatinny rail system. It is made of quality aluminum, so it won’t weigh you down. The 18650 lithium-ion battery will keep this light running for 4 hours. Remember that you can buy extra batteries to always have one fully charged and ready to rock when needed. The included charger takes 3−5 hours to charge a battery. While the Marmot has O-rings to seal it from moisture and is rated for use in the rain, the manufacturer does warn against submersion.
Its price point puts the Marmot at the top of the list of starter mountable tactical lights for rifles.
8. Olight Odin
Illumination Range: 2,000 lumens at up to 900 feet
If you are willing to drop a little more cash on a quality rail-mounted light, you can’t go wrong with Olight. They make exceptional lights that are made to take a lot of use and abuse in the field. Although it may seem like a fairly small rail-mounted light, it produces a powerful 2,000-lumen beam and boasts an outstanding 8-hour run time on a single battery.
Budget-priced EDC tactical flashlights
Looking to put back some decent but inexpensive lights for barter or just for back up?
This is the section for you. These lights make great additions to small bags or for keeping in a drawer just in case. In many cases, budget-priced flashlights do not come with batteries, so it is best to check and make sure you order some if you don’t have enough at home.
Illumination Range: 600 feet
This light has an impressive number of good reviews on Amazon. I’m skeptical when reading reviews because I know that people are often paid to write them for brands trying to break into a tight market. The J5 appears to be the real deal, and it’s currently selling for under $15 with over 19,000 positive reviews.
The J5 runs for up to 6 hours on a single charge with a maximum output of 300 lumens. This is a good light to put in small EDC carry bags or kids’ backpacks.
Being caught in the rain won’t be a problem because the J5 is water resistant and can survive a 9-foot drop, which is nice if you’re on pavement or rocky surfaces.
The J5 Tactical V1 takes a single AA battery, which I consider a major plus. It is easy to keep a few AA batteries charged up. We use AA and AAA batteries more than any other type.
Illumination Range: 500 feet
This is an excellent way to get a pair of decent flashlights on a budget. Eveready is an established and trusted brand for budget-priced flashlights. Each light has a tactical impact bezel and operates on 3 AAA batteries. These can be operated in three modes: high, low, and strobe. The strobe features make this flashlight useful for signaling or getting attention during emergencies. While you are not getting aluminum at this price point, the metal that Eveready uses is known for its strength and durability.
Lumens: 300-800, but the bulb is rated for up to 1,040
Illumination Range: Up to 1,000 feet
GearLight is a fairly new brand. These small tactical flashlights are made of aluminum despite their low cost. With five zoomable light settings, these little flashlights are very versatile. Each light takes 3 AAA batteries and is small enough to fit in a pocket or be carried in the holster on your belt for fast and easy access. These have strobe and SOS modes for signaling. It’s hard to believe that you get so much for the money. At the moment, if I were buying a lot of flashlights to put back, these would be near the top of my shopping list. They would be better if they were USB rechargeable, but since I have a USB powered AAA battery charger, that’s not a big deal.
Price and budget
Although it is important to look at the features of a flashlight, you don’t always have to pay top dollar to get a quality light that will meet your needs. We keep lights around that range from a few dollars up to our $200 Javelot. It’s good to have a range of lights and sizes.
Everyone should have some inexpensive tactical lights. Sometimes, you want to help someone else out but not give them your best flashlight. A $5-$15 flashlight is far better than nothing. You can easily get an Energizer or store brand in that range. Buying cheap packs of multiple flashlights often provides better value.
It is best to have a range of flashlights for different purposes. They do not take up a lot of space, and you can stash them in your vehicle, backpack, or hang them on hooks near the entry points of your home. Paying a lot for a flashlight is not always the best option. You should look at the total lumen output, battery life, and size of a tactical flashlight as well as the cost. Tactical flashlights for rifles can be used as a regular flashlight when not mounted on a rifle, but regular flashlights are not made to take the shock and recoil of a rifle, so they don’t last long when used that way.
Small, inexpensive flashlights and batteries make excellent items for barter or helping others out during long emergencies.