The whole point of a flashlight is quite simple: to provide light where there was none before. But tactical flashlights? That’s a whole different ballgame. These aren’t the blocky flashlights that you find tucked away in people’s kitchen drawers, or the tiny $20 camping headlights that barely provide any more light than the stars do.
Tactical flashlights are designed to provide unparalleled brightness and durability, making them the only option for police and military applications. However the best tactical flashlights of 2020 are also affordable enough for the average outdoorsman. That’s why we’re taking a look at the 8 best Tactical Flashlights of the year, taking a moment beforehand to tell you what exactly makes these products so great.
Best Tactical Flashlight for EDC Carry – Fenix PD35 V2.0 1000 Lumen Flashlight
|Runtime (High)||4 Hours|
When the original PD35 tactical flashlight from Fenix came out it quickly became one of the most popular options for an EDC tactical light. That’s because it managed to outdo the competition in tow key categories: output and throw. The 2018 update (V2.0) takes both of these categories to an even higher level, offering a staggering 2000 lumens in a flashlight that is small enough to keep in your pocket.
Here’s the deal: we didn’t get into tactical flashlights because we thought the lights looked pretty. We got into tactical flashlights because of how much more powerful they are than headlamps and traditional flashlights in terms of how much light they can produce. The PD35 V2.0 is both brighter and farther reaching than many of its competitors.
Variable brightness control is pretty much a standard feature on tactical flashlights these days, though not everyone has been pulling it off properly. Fenix’s adjustment switch is small, unobtrusive, and easy to use, making this one of the most easily-adjusted lights that we looked at.
We absolutely love the battery style that Fenix went with here. Instead of hard-installed batteries, they simply included a set of removable USB-charging batteries, giving you the option of charging on the go or swapping out for traditional batteries if need be. We went ahead and tested the highly-touted 430 hour runtime, and it turns out that it’s totally legitimate.
Note: The PD35 V2.0 did not come with a USB charge cable, so you may need to purchase one.
We couldn’t find a whole lot that was wrong with the PF35, but we did notice that the bulb has a tendency to get quite hot after operating for several minutes on high-brightness.
Most Durable Tactical Flashlight – Anker Ultra-Bright Tactical Flashlight
|Runtime (High)||6 Hours|
So we’ve been pretty impressed with Anker lately. Over the last decade they have taken the lead on revolutionizing the way we power our outdoor adventures. The company’s recent foray into flashlights was a much anticipated move for tech junkies like us. After all, if the company could already make such a good battery, you would think that adding a bulb and a case wouldn’t be that complicated. Sadly, there are plenty of companies that don’t have this part figured out.
Fortunately, Anker is not one of these companies. Their tactical flashlight turned out to be perhaps the most durable flashlight on our list. First off, the Ultra-Bright is one of the only lights on our review that features any real measure of water resistance. This one is IP67 rated, which means that she can handle about a half hour of full submersion in up to a meter of water. Considering how hairy some adventures can get, that seems like a pretty good feature to have.
What we’re really concerned with however is the casing. We don’t find ourselves underwater that often, but we sure do find ourselves dropping our gear all the time. When it comes to buying a new piece of gear, we’re probably a lot like yourself. We want something that is going to last, and those plastic red Eveready lights aren’t exactly what we have in mind.
A full-aluminum body is providing all the strength we need on this one. This light is durable and shock resistant; you can tell just by holding it that it won’t give out to everyday wear and tear without a fight.
The main drawback of this product is the reach. They advertise a reach of two football fields, but in our night test this light didn’t perform anywhere close to that level. The floodlight was bright, however, and for most purposes the Anker Ultra-Bright will certainly do the trick.
Tactical Flashlight with the Brightest Floodlight – Klars XT11X Extreme Illumination Rechargeable Tactical Powerful Flashlight
|Runtime (High)||6 Hours|
You know how some clichés are around for a reason? Yeah. We’re about to use one, because there is simply no better way to describe it. The Klars XT11X Extreme Illumination flashlight is the Swiss Army Knife of tactical flashlights. With more features that we have seen anywhere else this light has won its place at the top of our list of the very best tactical lights on the market.
The big selling point here is the ability to switch between two different user interface modes, “tactical” and “outdoor”, making this light extremely adaptable for different scenarios. The various lockout modes are helpful for folks like me who have had flashlights accidentally turn on inside my pocket and kill the batteries.
There’s also the dual switch system, something we haven’t seen anywhere else that allows for multiple modes of operation.
The thermal system is a nice touch. This is basically a temperature sensor that is designed to override light operation if things get too hot. This is actually an important safety feature, as overheating bulbs is a common source of accidental tent fires.
Our only disappointment with the XT11X is the lack of a decent focusable beam. While this is easily one of the brightest overall lights, it had a hard time reaching as far as advertised.
Best Tactical Flashlight Accessory – EdisonBright Fenix PD35 1000 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight & AR102 Pressure Switch
|Runtime (High)||2 hrs., 55 min|
So we’ve taken a look at the Fenix PD35 already, which we deemed to be one of the sleekest and most functional tactical lights anywhere. It’s easy to use, the rechargeable battery works great, and for the price it provides a pretty incredible amount of light. We had some issues with how narrow the beam could focus, or rather, how it lacked the ability to focus to a more accurate degree. Nevertheless, we thought it to be one of our absolute favorites.
This product is a bundle that includes the Fenix PD35 tactical flashlight alongside the AR102 Pressure switch activator. We should get this out of the way immediately: this is a pretty good deal considering what both items would cost if purchased separately.
Why would you need the AR102 switch? Well, for one there is no other item on the market that provides this level of access and control to your tactical light. So if you are mounting it on your hunting rifle for instance, you have the ability to operate all the functions of your light with minimal hand movements, all thanks to the precision switch construction that is simply not available anywhere else. We realize that not everyone is going to need an AR102 Pressure Switch to go along with their tactical flashlight, but you’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty cool product for the price.
Best Tactical Flashlight for Self Defense – H1 Tactical LED Military Grade Tactical Flashlight
|Runtime (High)||3 hrs|
In terms of overall performance and functionality when balanced against the starting price, you aren’t going to find much of a better deal than the H1 Military Grade tactical flashlight. We have always appreciated the line of products that has come out of WISSBLUE, the provider that makes all these lights possible. They’re the folks that make one of the best underwater diving flashlights that we have ever seen, so we were happy to have a look at the H1 to see what they could come up with.
Our first impressions? This thing is BRIGHT. I mean, seriously bright. 3200 lumens pretty much blows the rest of the flashlights on our list out of the water. What might be the best part is that the H1 is actually capable of producing a straight and narrow beam, which is absolutely necessary for top performance in the field. Unlike some other lights that just seem to heap their lumens into a pile, the H1 has focus, and that goes a long way for enthusiasts like us.
One of the most widely applicable uses for a tactical flashlight is self-defense, and the H1 is set to provide you with the highest level of protection against aggressors. Not only does the tactical-mode LED provide some of the brightest rapid-flash illumination on any flashlight around, but the casing if the light itself is designed to withstand significant impact and can actually be used as a blunt instrument for defensive purposes. The downside: the H1’s battery charging port simply isn’t as sturdy as it needs to be in order to support consistent usage. We noticed some of the components breaking down after only a few charging sessions, which means that after a half year or so it will need to be replaced altogether. If you can find a backup battery charger from the manufacturer, we recommend picking one up.
Brightest Tactical Flashlight – Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition 3200 Lumen Tactical Flashlight
|Reach||300m (turbo mode)|
|Runtime (High)||3 hrs. 40 min|
If you can’t tell by the fact that we have decided to include multiple products from their expansive collection of flashlights, we are firm believers that anything made by Fenix is likely to be a purchase that you won’t regret. They are simply some of the best made tactical supplies in the country, and their flashlights are seriously no exception.
Hands down the most exciting thing about the TK35 is the toggle switch, which is just a very satisfying way to switch between different lighting modes, of which the TK35 offers many, including tactical mode, outdoor mode, and the lockout function which is one of the best in the industry.
This light performed quite well in our night test, out-performing all the other tactical flashlights that had been advertised as 3200 lumens. The truth is, not every light can hit the advertised level of brightness in all conditions. The TK35 seems to have no problem doing so, which is perhaps why it is no surprise that Fenix has on more than one occasion been called “the brightest in the industry.”
If there is any drawback here, it is the price. There are plenty of situations where a $150.00 flashlight simply doesn’t fit into the budget. But for the discerning outdoorsman or soldier, the extra price is well worth it when you consider the staggering amount of brightness you are getting in exchange.
Best Tactical Flashlight to Keep in Your Tool Box – WISSBLUE X2 1600 High Lumen Tactical Flashlight Military Grade
|Runtime (High)||3 hrs. 30 min|
We’ve taken a look at the most expensive light on our list, so now it is perhaps time to take a look at the other end of the spectrum, where the most affordable option lies. And in this case, ‘affordable’ doesn’t translate into a significant drop in quality. In fact, the WISSBLUE X2 is one of the best entry-level lights that we have had the pleasure of reviewing, and it managed to pass most of the durability tests that we exposed the more expensive lights to.
There is an added bonus here of a magnetic baseplate, giving the X2 the ability to function as a remarkably versatile little work light but simply attaching the base to some metal and pointing it at your project. The light is more than adequate for such instances, and the flashlight itself is small and portable enough to not consume excessive amounts of space in your tool bag or glove compartment.
Of course at this price, not everything is going to stack up. For instance, the X2 simply cannot provide the crisp brightness of the other lights on our list. As a floodlight or a narrow beam, the X2 underperforms most of its competitors in the tactical flashlight category. It is however significantly brighter than your average store-bought flashlight. Because of this and the price, we actually highly recommend the X2 for anyone who is looking for a sturdy and versatile tactical light for their glove compartment or tool box.
Best Tactical Flashlight for Law Enforcement: – OLIGHT r50 PRO Seeker LE Police Tactical Flashlight
|Runtime (High)||3 hrs. 30 min|
When you see the letters “LE” listed next to a piece of tactical equipment, it is a good sign that you are going to be getting top-of-the-line performance and next-level durability. That’s because LE stands for law enforcement, and these are the men and women who need gear that isn’t going to give out on them in the middle of an intense situation.
For us civilians, “LE” just translates to a professional quality light. Yes, it is significantly more expensive than consumer models, but what you are getting in terms of increased brightness, throw, and durability more than makes up for it.
We were luckily enough to get our hands on the Seeker PRO model, which differs from the standard LE model in a few important ways. The most important one is the R-dock, a little bit of technology that has single handedly put this tactical flashlight at the top of our Christmas list. (Yes, we are already working on our Christmas list).
The R-dock is easily installed and gives you the ability to both store and rapidly charge the flashlight by simply setting it inside the dock. The obvious benefit here is to have a full-charged flashlight within easy reach that is always right where you expect it to be. In addition, it utilizes infrared communication to allow the flashlight to turn itself on “low-mode” when the surrounding lights suddenly go out. That’s pretty handy for power outs, among other emergency situations. Is there anything missing from the r50 PRO? Actually, yes. Why is there no place to attach a safety strap? This is one of the only flashlights we have seen that does not have this feature, which he have become quite fond of in other models.
Going into this review, our team was fairly confident that we would be selecting the Fenix TK35 Tactical Flashlight as our number one favorite. Perhaps that’s because we were already well aware of Fenix’ reputation for manufacturing some of the best all-around performance tactical lights.
While the TK35 was certainly impressive, we were more than a little surprised to find that the H1 Tactical Flashlight performed nearly as well for about half the cost, while at the same time adding in a few key features that the TK35 simply did not have. What about yourselves? Is there one tactical flashlight that you would recommend over the others?
What Makes a Great Tactical Flashlight?
Although there are most definitely some exceptions, we can safely assume that you are not considering purchasing a tactical flashlight because it will make you look cool.
Tactical flashlights are about two things:
These lights need to perform to the higher standards that are required of expert sportsmen, and as such they need to offer features that cannot be found in traditional flashlights and headlamps. Some of these features include lockout switches, variable brightness control, and rechargeable batteries.
These lights aren’t designed to send with your kid to summer camp. (Although, they might thank you for it.) No, they’re designed for the field, where just about anything can happen. A good tactical flashlight will need to stand up to the rigor of advanced fieldwork. This often is accomplished through things like aluminum casing and water resistant construction.
So what exactly should you be looking for in a tactical flashlight? We’ve broken it down for you here:
The measure of the total output of light from an individual source is expressed in Lumens, and it is the first number you are going to come across when searching for a new flashlights.
To get an idea of how lumens work, here is a quick guide to help:
• 10 Lumens: Candlelight
• 15-20 Lumens: Mini flashlights, keychain flashlights.
• 25-200 Lumens: Most camping headlamps
• 200 – 1200 Lumens:
Premium headlamps and flashlights
• 1200 – 3200 Lumens: Tactical Flashlights <——— The Flashlights on Our Review
The total distance of visibility that a flashlight can provide is quite commonly referred to as the throw. This number is not always clearly available on the product packaging, and when it is, this number is usually referring to the brightest settings that are available on that particular light.
A typical throw for a good tactical flashlight is between 1000ft and 2000ft.
In large part, tactical flashlights in 2020 are made of some of the highest quality aircrafts-grade aluminum that is available. That’s because military and police applications require nothing but the strongest durability. As civilians, we are just getting the best of the deal.
Now ‘aircraft-grade aluminum’ is just a fancy marketing way to say ‘aluminum alloy.’ This means metal that has been designed on the molecular level to be as durable and scratch resistant as it is lightweight.
Although tactical flashlights have been around for decades, the addition of the rechargeable battery pack is a relatively new feature. Every flashlight on our list in fact has the option of being recharged via a mini-USB cable that is usually included.
Some models allow for the optional use of traditional disposable batteries, while others do not, so it is important to know before you buy what kind of batteries you might need and whether or not they will fit in your flashlight.
Pro Tip: Purchasing a second charging station and / or charging cable is a good way of making sure that your light is charged at all times. We recommend one for the home, the car, and the office.
Most of the Tactical Flashlights that we reviewed offer two basic modes of operation:
- OUTDOOR MODE gives you click by click access to the full range of brightness options (usually between 3 and 5) by cycling between them via the side switch.
- TACTICAL MODE reduces the immediate access to some of the mid-range lighting options and restricts it to TURBO, STROBE, & LOW. The idea here is the ability to rapidly switch from one light mode to the other without having to cycle through all the other options in between.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. The types of batteries that are included in tactical flashlights these days will not be harmed from overcharging or constant charging. Nor is it recommended that you let the battery die completely before charging it again. Both of these care instructions originated from the 90s when battery technology was nowhere near where it is today.
You won’t have a problem charging any of these models on a 240 voltage, however, it will be necessary to purchase a power adapter if you are attempting to use the included battery chargers, as many of them are region dependent and the box contents will vary depending on your shipping address.
All good tactical flashlights include the ability to focus the beam, or rather, to make it either wider or narrower. A wide beam setting is known as flood while a narrow setting is commonly known as spot.
There is a high degree of variance in how focusable a flashlight’s beam will be, so it sometimes helps to try before you buy.
YES. One of the coolest things about these tactical lights is the ability to add a colored lens to the end of it, or rather to swap out the existing lens with one. You have to purchase the colored lens separately, but often times they are available as part of a set including red, green, and blue among others. However these colored lenses are not interchangeable between brands, so it is important to make sure you are getting one that fits your flashlight of choice.