There can be no doubt that, upon discovering and learning to harvest fire, humankind was sent down a path that led us out of caves and headlong into the development of civilization as we know it today. And while fire has many benefits — including giving us the ability to cook and, therefore, granting better access to more nutrient-rich foods — one of the most important is that of illumination.
We’ve come a long way from the days of oil-doused torches and kerosene lamps. Now, flashlights are as commonplace as many other forms of everyday carry gear. That also means there are a wealth of different varieties crafted for specific purposes. For instance, if you need a space-saving portable torch, there are numerous keychain flashlights around. Similarly, if you require all your gear to be rugged enough to survive the rigors of the battlefield, there are plenty of ultra-tough mil-spec options. It’s these that we are concerned with today, as we’ve collected 15 of what we believe are the best tactical flashlights around.
What To Look For In A Tactical Flashlight
More Than A Lamp
Finding the perfect tactical flashlight is not simply a function of tracking down one that can light up a room. Rather, there are numerous situations and uses to consider to ensure that you’re picking up a portable torch that’s formidable enough for your adventures and exploits. As such, we’ve outlined some of the most important factors to look for below.
Output: It might seem obvious, but the lumen output of your flashlight of choice — tactical or otherwise — is likely its most important feature/factor. What might not be as obvious is that this isn’t simply about the maximum amount of light, but rather the available range. In this day and age, most tactical flashlights offer more than one level of output. And while you might not need a range of 0.5-1,000+, there’s no denying the usefulness of such a range — especially if there are 3-4 settings in-between that range — when it comes to utilizing the perfect amount of light for a given situation. After all, you don’t want your flashlight to be too dark to be useful in the dead of night, but you also don’t want to accidentally blind yourself or those around you if you can help it.
Lighting Modes: Secondary to the actual output, lighting modes can — in certain cases — make or break your tactical flashlight choice. Fairly common amongst this category of portable torches, alternative lighting modes include things like a strobe, SOS, and even a full-lumen burst. And they can be used for a multitude of purposes, including signaling for assistance and disorienting/temporarily blinding assailants. If you want a tactical flashlight to suit actual tactical usage, these alternative lighting modes can be of the utmost importance.
Size: This is an essential factor to consider regardless of the flashlight category you seek. And it goes both ways — a flashlight that’s too small might not suit you just as one that’s too cumbersome might not. The trick here is to find that perfect in-between. With a tactical flashlight, especially when self-defense is a consideration, you want one that’s big enough to fit in your grip but not so big that you might lose your grip if using it as a blunt instrument. That will vary from person to person, so your best bet is trying out a few in your hand and then referring to the sizing specs of the ones you’re considering for purchase.
Construction: Like the size of a tactical flashlight, the construction is important to consider, especially in regards to self-defense usage. Most tactical-focused flashlights will be built sturdy — usually out of anodized aluminum, but sometimes they’ll have softer synthetic exteriors. For striking, a flashlight with a toothed bezel is a good idea. Similarly, if you’re worried about inclement weather, the construction can determine whether a flashlight is waterproof or not, so make sure to keep an eye on the IP rating.
Coast Polysteel 400R Rechargeable Flashlight
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to the Coast Polysteel 400R Rechargeable Flashlight. Not only does it boast a three-output range of 40-380 lumens, but it can run for up to 26 hours per charge and, as an added bonus, it can even function as a power bank to charge up your other electronic devices. On top of that, it boasts an IPX8 waterproof rating and can run on either standard AAA alkaline batteries or the included lithium-ion battery pack.
Lumens (Range): 40-380
Fenix Flashlights FX-PD35TAC Flashlight
Like many of the brands on this list, Fenix trades quite comprehensively in tactical flashlights — so picking out any standouts is actually quite difficult, as so many of their offerings are spectacular. Their FX-PD35TAC you see here is certainly a high point in their sub-$100 options, however, with its 1,000-lumen peak output, IPX8 waterproof rating, six lighting modes, 5.5″ length, and 3.1-ounce weight (without the battery). As mentioned, Fenix offers a lot of great tactical flashlights — and there are a lot of worthwhile ones out there in general — but this is a bright spot (no pun intended) in this price range.
Lumens (Range): Up To 1,000
SOG DE-01 Dark Energy Flashlight
SOG is most well-known for its array of knives — both fixed blades and folding EDC ones. But they also make some of the best tactical flashlights for everyday carry and outdoor usage in their Dark Energy lineup. The entry-level option in that lineup is the DE-01, which is a bit squat at 3.8″ in length but has some impressive features that beat out much of its competition. That includes an ultra-rugged aerospace-grade aluminum construction with a menacing toothed bezel, a maximum output of 188 lumens (sounds small, we know, but this is plenty bright enough for most folks), a handy pocket clip, and a 180-minute max runtime. If you want an EDC-friendly, pocketable tactical flashlight, you’re not going to find one much better than this in the sub-$100 price range.
Lumens (Range): Up To 188
Olight M2R Warrior Flashlight
At 5.12 inches in length, the Olight M2R Warrior is on the larger end of the acceptable range — at least where everyday carry is concerned. However, if you can cope with that, you’ll find this tactical flashlight to be one of the best on the market at any price point. A part of the reason, obviously, must be credited to its 1-1,500-lumen range — but it’s also waterproof rated at IPX8, is compatible with an included 10A HDR 3500mAh 18650 Lithium-Ion battery or two CR123A cells, it offers simple USB magnetic charging, and it can run for up to a whopping 25 days at a time. As mentioned, this tactical flashlight is one of the best at any price.
Lumens (Range): 1-1,500
Pelican 7600 Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight
Like SOG, Pelican may be a brand you recognize — but not as a flashlight brand. As it turns out, however, this exceptional luggage/storage manufacturer also crafts a number of spectacular tactical flashlights like the 7600 you see here. A bit too large for most everyday carry loadouts — measuring up at 6.19″ in length — this flashlight is probably better suited to slipping into your tactical backpack for outdoor adventures and/or operations. And that makes sense, as Pelican’s lighting solutions were designed for use by military, police, and firefighting personnel. It’s built from sturdy aluminum, has a range of 37-944 lumens, can swap the color of the LED light on-the-fly, and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Lumens (Range): 37-944
Fenix TK20R Rechargeable Flashlight
Our last pick in the sub-$100 range, Fenix’s TK20R is a formidable contender in the tactical flashlights category. From its five power settings to its 1,000-lumen maximum output, this portable torch is a versatile illumination machine. It also boasts IPX8 waterproofing, a sturdy aluminum body with an intimidating toothed bezel, knurled grip, pocket clip, rechargeable battery, and a handy memory circuit that recalls the last-used output level when you turn it on once more. Perhaps best of all: it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Lumens (Range): 10-1,000
Foursevens Maelstrom Regen MMR-X Flashlight
It might be a bit of a mouthful, but the Foursevens Maelstrom Regen MMR-X flashlight certainly lives up to its moniker. This impressive tactical flashlight is actually the first in the brand’s Maelstrom range to offer micro-USB charging, but that’s only the beginning of its magnificent range of features. It also has a whopping five available user interfaces that range from a single maximum output to eight distinct available lighting modes — all at the push of a button. It also weighs just 5oz with the battery, can run for up to 35 days, and more.
Lumens (Range): 1-800
Nitecore Tiny Monster TM03 Tactical Flashlight
Nitecore, another big name in the tactical flashlights industry, offers an entire range of options under the Tiny Monster moniker — and all of them are impressive in and of themselves. However, many are not what we might call carry-friendly. The TM03 you see here, by contrast, is. It measures up a bit on the big side at 6.25 inches, but it more than makes up for the added bulk with a maximum output of 2,800 lumens (more than double most of its similarly-priced competition), a runtime of up to 30 hours, and IPX8 waterproofing. Mate that to an ultra-tough aluminum exterior with a beefy toothed bezel and you can see how calling this bad boy a Tiny Monster is accurate.
Lumens (Range): Up To 2,800
SOG DE-06 Dark Energy Flashlight
As you might’ve guessed from its name, the SOG DE-06 Dark Energy Flashlight is one of the larger siblings of the DE-01 from earlier on our list. But size is hardly their only difference. It’s still made from aluminum, has similar styling, and even features the same intimidating toothed bezel. But it’s bigger by nearly double, measuring up at 6″ in total, and has an output to match — 678 lumens, to be exact, across a whopping five different modes all accessible via a simple tail-mounted push-button. Plus, it has the potential to run for a whopping 97 hours straight and it boasts IPX7 waterproofing. That’s definitely enough upgrades over its smaller sibling to make it worth it if you need something a bit heftier and more powerful.
Lumens (Range): Up To 678
SureFire G2Z Tactical Flashlight
At just 4.75″ in length, the SureFire G2Z tactical flashlight is one of the most compact in its class. But don’t let that slight stature fool you; it is still plenty formidable. In fact, it has an ultra-durable exterior crafted from Nitrolon anodized aluminum, boasts a maximum output of an impressive 800 lumens, boasts weatherproofing for use in inclement weather, comes with high-energy CR123A batteries, and is backed by a lifetime guarantee. The phrase “tiny but mighty” suits this torch just fine.
Lumens (Range): Up To 800
Body: Nitrolon Anodized Aluminum
ZeroHour Relic XR2 Flashlight
2,000 lumens, in truth, is probably more than anyone really needs. Of course, that’s easy to say up until you have someone or something bearing down at you, at which point 2,000 blinding lumens is the perfect amount. And that’s what the ZeroHour Relix XR2 flashlight has to offer at its highest setting. Pairing with that impressive output, it’s also rechargeable, built from sturdy aluminum, has four clickable illumination modes alongside a variable control ring for even more exactitude, IPX8 waterproofing, and so much more. Plus, that seemingly-awkward square ring toward the tail will keep it from rolling off surfaces for hands-free usage.
Lumens (Range): 0-2,000
SureFire Defender Flashlight
As the name suggests, SureFire’s Defender flashlight was definitely built with tactical use in mind — the kind that would suit military, police, security, and firefighting personnel. In fact, it’s actually been proven in just such situations and is favored by many in those industries — which is a nice endorsement for a tactical torch to have. Of course, even without it, this flashlight would still boast impressive specs, like a durable anodized aluminum body, 600-lumen maximum output, easy-to-use push-button control on the tail, and toothed self-defense bezel.
Lumens (Range): 5-600
SureFire P2X Fury Dual-Fuel Flashlight
Sometimes, the edge you need from a tactical flashlight comes in the form of what kind of batteries it uses — as there are so few factors that can really set one apart from the pack. And the SureFire P2x Fury Dual-Fuel flashlight stands out because it can actually accept two different kinds of battery chemistries: either two 123A lithium batteries or a single economical 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable battery. It also boasts a blinding maximum output of 1,500 lumens, it’s built from sturdy aluminum (including its toothed bezel), it was built in the USA, and it operates with a simple and intuitive tail switch.
Lumens (Range): 15-1,500
Olight X7R Marauder Flashlight
While we’d never suggest that the Olight X7R Maurader works in an EDC loadout, it unquestionably falls into the realm of the tactical based on sheer capability. You see, this beer can-sized portable torch has a maximum output of 12,000 lumens — which makes it a bit more like a handheld sun than just a flashlight. That’s enough to even blind someone wearing dark sunglasses, which is great for staving off assailants. And that’s only the beginning. It also has a possible runtime of a whopping 30 days, IPX7 waterproofing, and USB recharging. Whether you stash this bad boy in your mil-spec backpack or on a shelf in your closet for emergencies, you’re never going to be disappointed by its power.
Lumens (Range): Up To 12,000
Alpha Flashlights Alpha MIL/LEO
There’s certainly something to be said for customization and the Alpha Flashlights Alpha MIL/LEO tactical torch might just be the most customizable one around. In fact, you can choose from a whopping eight different emitters — with maximum outputs that range from 500-900 lumens. You can also choose from four available packages, whether or not you want a metal tailcap button, and from four different pocket clip finishes. There is one catch, however, to this spectacular tactical flashlight: you have to be active-duty MIL/LEO personnel in order to order one. If you are, however, this is easily one of the most exciting tactical flashlight options around.
Lumens (Range): Up To 900
The 8 Best Tactical Wallets
What better to pair with a battlefield-ready portable torch than an equally formidable cash and card carrier? And you’ll find the perfect one for your loadout on our list of the best tactical wallets.
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