A tactical flashlight is an excellent addition to any gun owner’s home defense and personal protection equipment. Using a weapon-mounted light instead of a standard flashlight has many advantages. You can see in the dark while keeping both hands on your gun, maximizing the level of control over your weapon.
If you wish to install a tactical flashlight on your firearm, you’ll need to know about flashlight terminology and how to recognize the most desirable features. Here’s what to look for and which are the best firearm tactical flashlights today.
What to Look for in a Tactical Flashlight
The five essential features of a tactical flashlight are the mounting system, weight, battery capacity, brightness, and durability.
If you can’t install your light on your weapon, you can’t use it as intended. Know what mounting systems your weapon comes with, and choose a flashlight that comes with an attachment compatible with that mounting system. The most common mounting system is the Picatinny rail (MIL-STD-1913).
Any accessory you mount on your firearms will add weight. Therefore, you must ensure you select the lightest model possible to keep your weapon lightweight and maneuverable.
Don’t be tempted to use the biggest model you can fit, especially on platforms with plenty of mounting space, such as the AR-15.
The best weapon-mounted flashlight should be bright and have the longest runtime possible before the batteries run low. Look for models with at least 30 minutes of continuous runtime.
Whether the flashlight uses standard or rechargeable batteries is essentially a matter of preference, as each has its pros and cons. Standard batteries are inexpensive but need to be replaced often. Rechargeable batteries are convenient to use but typically need a compatible cable and power.
The amount of light a flashlight can output is measured in lumens. The higher the lumen count, the brighter the flashlight. High-brightness weapon lights have two purposes: To let you see potential assailants clearly and to disorient those assailants.
The minimum amount of lumens for a self-defense rifle or handgun light is 100.
A high lumen count is good to have, but a flashlight with multiple brightness modes is even better. These models typically let you choose between a low-brightness mode (for seeing and navigating only) and a high-brightness mode (for disorienting).
Weapon-mounted lights are typically installed close to the muzzle, if not directly underneath. Some pistol flashlights may even stick out past the muzzle, exposing it to muzzle blast when firing. Because of this position, it is critical to choose a high-quality, durable flashlight intended explicitly for use on a firearm.
1. Best Pistol Light: SureFire XC1-B
Weight: 1.6 oz. (with the battery inserted)
Battery system: Rechargeable AAA
Brightness: 300 lumens
Runtime: 45 minutes
When it comes to tactical lights, SureFire is one of the oldest and most trusted manufacturers. Their first weapon-mounted light was the 1911 compatible Model 310, released in 1985. Since then, the company has become a trusted supplier for the U.S. military and one of the most popular flashlight brands in civilian and law enforcement use.
If you need a handgun light for home defense, concealed carrying, or general personal protection, the SureFire XC1-B is one of the best pistol lights available today.
The XC1-B’s dimensions are ideal for compact and mid-sized pistols, such as the S&W M&P Shield or the Glock 19 Light, durable, compact, powerful, and long-lasting, the XC1-B has everything you need to give your defensive pistol a tactical light without compromising your weapon’s weight.
Measuring just 2.5” and weighing only 1.6 oz., the XC1-B is one of the smallest and lightest pistol lights on the market. It is ideal for shooters who prefer to carry IWB, as it does not add as much length and bulk as a typical tactical would.
2. Best Rifle Light: Inforce WML White Gen 2
Weight: 3.2 oz. (with the battery inserted)
Battery system: Standard CR123A
Brightness: 400 lumens
Runtime: 90 minutes
The second-generation Inforce WML (Weapon Mounted Light) is one of the most popular flashlights for tactical and home defense rifles.
Designed from the ground up as an AR light, the WML features an integrated clamp that fits any AR-15 handguard equipped with at least one Picatinny rail.
The WML generates 400 lumens of bright, white light, with a wide beam and up to 60 yards of range. In practical low-light situations such as home defense, it will allow you to illuminate a large area in front of you, bathing entire rooms with light and letting you see any potential opponents with ease.
As an AR-15 flashlight, the WML offers many convenient features, such as anti-slip controls, a safety lever to prevent accidentally turning the light on, a rock-solid mounting clamp, and a lightweight, glass-reinforced nylon casing.
3. Best Shotgun Light: Streamlight TL-Racker
Mounting: Forend replacement
Weight: 10.8 to 11.1 oz.
Battery system: Standard CR123A
Brightness: 1,000 lumens
Runtime: 90 minutes
One of the most popular personal defense firearms is, without a doubt, the shotgun. The three most popular models are the Remington 870, the Mossberg 500, and the Mossberg 590. If you are among the millions of Americans who own one of these shotguns for home defense, the Streamlight TL-Racker is for you.
This unique tactical light does not use a Picatinny rail or any standard attachment method, being a combination shotgun slide and tactical light instead.
Although installing this requires removing the stock slide, the TL-Racker provides you with an exceptionally robust and powerful tactical flashlight, generating a 1,000-lumen light beam with over 300 yards of range.
Once installed, the TL-Racker cannot be misaligned or knocked off. Its ergonomic, cord-free design lets you navigate in low-light environments without snagging on objects. In addition, it features a convenient ambidextrous on/off switch, suitable for both left- and right-handed shooters.
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