The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (2024)

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Tactical

Never second-guess low-light situations again.

Best Overall

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (1)

SureFire Stiletto Pro

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Best Value

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (2)

Streamlight Microstream

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Editor’s Choice

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (3)

Surefire Aviator

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The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (4)

Everyone’s used a flashlight, but tactical situations require special features to support this specific use, and the best tactical flashlights are purpose-built from the ground up. End-users in these situations require lights that are extremely bright by normal standards and which prioritize things like durability and water resistance. Finally, the best tactical flashlights will often feature thumb switches, strobe modes, or different colored lenses to give them more capabilities in specific tactical situations.

Here are the best tactical flashlights on the market and why they’re worth every penny.

How we tested

All the lights on this list are tactical LED lights. We picked those because they offer improved battery life, brightness, and beam color. For this review, we tested the flashlights in the best places to evaluate their performance. That includes using them as concealed carry aids, at the firing range, or in the field. Additionally, some of the lights on this list operated without issue for months. With so much positive feedback, you can be confident that they’re the best tactical flashlights on the market.

Best Overall

SureFire Stiletto Pro

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (5)
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Best Value

Streamlight Microstream

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (6)
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Editor’s Choice

SureFire Aviator

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (7)
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Best Headlamp

Princeton Tec Vizz Tactical Headlamp

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (8)
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Best for Law Enforcement

Coast HP3R

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (9)
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Best for Rifles

Cloud Defensive Rein Micro

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (10)
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Our verdict on tactical flashlights

Tactical flashlights aren’t always flashlights used for actual tactical uses. Sometimes, they’re ordinary flashlights that are just brighter or more durable than the standard variants. The SureFire Stiletto is purpose-built for EDC and for use as a police flashlight, and excels in that role, especially for pocket carry. The Streamlight Microstream is more of the second category, being a relatively ordinary compact penlight that comes in a tactical color from a tactical company. The Princeton Tec Vizz is probably the best example of a military headlamp for use in a field environment, with every feature that I could ask for.

What to consider when buying tactical flashlights

There are certain features that set our picks apart from the others on the market. There are several types of tactical flashlights, as well as certain characteristics that informed our choices. Below, we’ve broken those down to make them easier to understand.

Types of tactical flashlights

Standalone

Standalone flashlights are the most “normal” of the tactical flashlights, being not much different than normal ones, except for the addition of tactical features like improved durability, brightness, strobe modes, or lens colors. These lights are often popular with law enforcement and EDC enthusiasts, as they offer a discreet way to carry a lot of light in a small package.

Weapon-mounted lights

As the name says, a weapon-mounted light attaches to a firearm. They’re specifically designed to provide illumination of a possible target that you’re aiming at, immediately before firing. This allows you to line up your sights, ensure your target is actually your target, and in some cases, induce a flinch response in an attacker by momentarily blinding them, giving you a window of opportunity. These lights are good for anyone who carries a firearm, especially in close quarters. Additionally, there are infrared weapon lights that are useful for aiding night vision devices in situations where there is no ambient light to be amplified.

Headlamps

A headlamp is, understandably, a tactical flashlight that goes on your head. These can either be mounted to a strap and wrapped around one’s head, or they can be mounted directly to a helmet or other headgear by use of a clip, rail, or NVG bracket. These have the advantage of leaving your hands free to operate equipment, search for someone or something, or read a map.

Key features of tactical flashlights

Lumens

A lumen is a measurement — like pounds or gallons — used to relate the brightness of a light, so a higher lumen count results in a brighter flashlight. However, the intensity of the light is measured in candelas. The difference between the two is that candela increases when the beam is narrow and decreases when it’s widened. Quality brands, like the ones on this list, will leave their lights on for 30 seconds before measuring their stated output, as required by PLATO standards.

Power source

A flashlight’s power source is usually a replaceable battery, either rechargeable lithium or non-rechargeable alkaline. Additionally, there are so-called “dual fuel” lights that can use both, either by using similarly sized batteries or by having compartments that will accommodate two different types of batteries.

Light source

The bulb of a flashlight will dictate things like power consumption, output, operating heat, and other factors. Older flashlights used incandescent bulbs with a heated filament, but modern lights use light-emitting diodes. Additionally, many modern lights use multiple LED heads that feature white lights, as well as red for reduced eye strain or visibility at night.

Pricing

Quality tactical flashlights typically cost more than the standard flashlights. However, there are good options to be had at almost any price point.

  • From $30 to $100, you’ll find a lot of quality, entry-level handheld flashlights and headlamps.
  • From $100 to $200, you’ll find premium handhelds and the beginning of weapon-mounted lights from budget brands such as Streamlight, or used lights from brands such as SureFire.
  • From $200 to $400, you’ll find a lot of premium weapon-mounted lights from brands such as SureFire, Cloud Defensive, and Arisaka. Weapon-mounted lights will often be more expensive due to the fact that they need to withstand weapon recoil.

FAQs about tactical flashlights

You’ve got questions. Task & Purpose has answers!

Q: What is the brightest tactical flashlight?

A: The brightest tactical flashlight from a reputable brand is the Nitecore TM20K. It features 20,000 lumens, which is insane.

Q: What is the most reliable tactical flashlight?

A: Many users swear by SureFire flashlights due to their durability, water resistance, and solid soldering.

Q: What is the most powerful tactical flashlight?

A: The most powerful tactical flashlight by a reputable brand is the 20,000-lumen Nitecore TM20K.

Q: What kind of tactical flashlight does the military use?

A: Most U.S. service members use Petzl, Energizer, or Princeton Tec headlamps for standard tasks, but SureFire lights have long been the standard for weapon-mounted lights for their durability and reliability.

Q: How many lumens should a good tactical flashlight have?

A: As many as are needed for the job at hand. Other factors like beam tightness, throw distance, battery consumption, size, and heat issues are at play here, so getting a high lumen count is important for raw illumination, but comes with other factors as well.

The best tactical flashlights to get it done in the dark (2024)
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