Review: Best Flashlight
A good tactical flashlight ain't cheap. You need to be prepared to pay for quality and the best tactical flashlights that are worth your hard earned dollar are made of high-performance materials and provide powerful and varied brightness level options. LED emitters in these flashlights are impact resistant and can deliver light output at up to a blinding 600 lumens or higher; considering that a mere 80 lumens of light brightness is enough to temporarily blind someone, these lights are more than ready, willing, and able to deter any approaching threats. They also have long beam distances with flood and/or spotlight capabilities for a clear view of your surroundings in the dark. Many of these units run on rechargeable batteries which helps cut down on the price of power cells, while some others use disposable versions of batteries that aren't as widely used as a common AAA cell. C123A lithiums are often the preferred type.
While multiple illumination levels and lengthy runtimes for each are important (the average is about 90 minutes for most tactical lights on high power), you also want to make sure the flashlight body and lens window are virtually indestructible. The best tactical flashlights are made of high-grade metals and are covered in anodized coating with shock-resistant glass or other similar materials used to house the emitter. They're also weather resistant or even completely waterproof, and can handle hard impact when things get hairy out in the field. If your tactical flashlight doesn't meet all of this criteria, then you've chosen poorly. Luckily, the picks on our list of the best flashlights in 2021 have all meet these exact specifications so you can rest assured knowing that each of them will serve you well.
Fenix LED Flashlight
Arc Premium LED Flashlight
Streamlight MicroStream C4 LED Flashlight
Nitecore MH25 Rechargeable Flashlight
Fenix RC40 Rechargeable Flashlight
Streamlight Stylus Pro 66133 USB Rechargeable Flashlight
Dorcy 41-2510 Incredible Floating Flashlight
Princeton Tec Point Hat Clip Task Flashlight
SureFire Hell Fighter High Intensity Discharge Flashlight
Larson Electronics HIDH-3550 Dual Mode Portable HID Flashlight
Eton Blackout Buddy American Red Cross Rechargeable Emergency Flashlight
Eco-i-Lite 4-in-1 16 LED Light
Life+Gear GLOW Flashlight
Inova T4RQMDB-HB T4R Rechargeable Lithium Powered LED Flashlight
Streamlight 74751 Strion LED HL Rechargeable High Lumen Professional Flashlight
Compare The Best Flashlights Of 2021
Fenix is well-known for making quality LED flashlights for just about any size and application and the LD12 is one of their more popular models because of its versatility, functionality and rugged construction. Equipped with a Cree XP-G2 (R5) LED emitter which the company has designed for greater white light output at higher lumens while saving energy and creating a smaller carbon footprint than even their previous model emitters in this size range; the Fenix LD12 has four brightness modes of continuous illumination, ranging from 125 lumens in "Turbo" mode, to 65 in High, 30 in Mid and the lowest setting at just 3 lumens. Runtime at top setting is a decent 2 hours and 20 mins, which increases exponentially as the brightness levels decrease. There are also two flash modes, 125 lumen strobe and an SOS mode at 65 lumens, each of them digitally regulated for consistent brightness even as the batteries are waning. The LD12 is impact resistant up to 1 meter and waterproof rated at IPX8 which means you can submerge it entirely in 2 meters of water. Beam distance on the Fenix is quite good, affording 87 meters of illumination producing a cool white hotspot with ample lighting along the peripheral and without gaps, rings or any uneven effects. Small to take with you anywhere, it comes with a clip, a lanyard, and other accessories, and is made of aircraft aluminum with a Type III anodized finish to keep it ready for anything.
Part of Streamlight's Keychain series of small size flashlights that you can hook on your belt loop, backpack or a pair of keys, this unit uses a Luxeon TFFC K2 warm white LED emitter that has a 50,000 hour lifetime. Chances are you'll never need another flashlight of this size again, just replace the battery after it dies. Luckily that won't get too expensive either as the MicroStream is driven by one AAA battery. There's just one setting on here for light output, delivering up to 28 lumens of brightness from a push button tail switch that lets you choose constant or momentary operation of the emitter. Streamlight has made their product ready to handle just about anything, giving it an unbreakable polycarbonate lens that is scratch-resistant and an impact resistant, drop-tested body that can also handle water with an IPX4 rating for resistance. Only three and a half inches in length and weighing just over an ounce, the MicroStream is perfect to take along with you anywhere you want to go.
The MH25 from Nitecore uses a Cree XM-L U2 LED emitter capable of four brightness modes of up to 860 lumens of output on "Turbo" mode which comes with a runtime of almost two hours. That's pretty terrific considering other emitters can only give off a fraction of that type of output at a similar runtime at nearly the same price point. The other modes give off 320 at high, 130 at medium and 40 lumens of output on low at a runtime of 28 hours. You also get a Strobe and SOS mode and and there's a memory function in the flashlight that can remember the last mode you used for instant activation. The MH25 is built with an aerospace-grade aluminum alloy exterior and a stainless steel bezel. Recharging the flashlight requires a USB cable which plugs directly into the unit and can be connected to any USB equipped device, be it a laptop, tablet, PC computer or car adapter. There is no AC adapter included with the light so you won't be able to charge it in a wall socket. The O-ring that protects the USB port keeps it free of dirt, dust, and water, which makes sense since the body has been rated IPX8. That means you can submerge it entirely under water for extended periods of time without damaging the device.
The Fenix RC40 does everything bigger and offers multiple options in just about every facet of its functionality. Five modes of brightness output are available here using the same LED emitter as the Nitecore, but with an amazing 3500 lumens of output on "Turbo" mode with an hour and a half of runtime. From there you get 1500, 550, 150, and 35 at the lowest or "Eco" setting for 160 hours of battery life. Considering 60 lumens is enough to temporariliy blind someone in total darkness, you could run this thing at the lowest setting at all times and see everything with plenty of illumination. With an impressive amount of lumens output modes, you'd expect the beam distance on the RC40 to be just as impressive and with a potential range of 2329 feet this flashlight more than meets all expectations. The beam has a strong throw with even illumination in the periphery and no rings or gaps in the spill. Recharging options give you AC power for wall outlet use or car charger plug-in for portability. The RC40 is built for impact and water resistance of up to IPX8, and the body measures nearly a foot long with a weight of just over three pounds.
The Stylus Pro is a pen light style device that uses a protected USB port to recharge the flashlight's internal lithium ion battery. A full charge usually takes just over a couple of hours and once you're fully replenished the battery offers one brightness mode of 70 lumens of light with a three and a half hour runtime. When you're all out of juice just connect the flashlight via USB cable to any laptop, tablet or other USB equipped device or connect it to the USB AC wall adapter and plug it into any wall socket. The battery can handle up to 300 recharges before it needs to be replaced. Beam distance can reach up to 50 meters and provides a concentrated center beam with limited spill around the edges. The body is aluminum with Type II military spec anodizing to keep the unit strong but lightweight, and the included strap and clip let you take it anywhere you need a good flashlight that can withstand the elements.
Bright yellow and black so it's easily located even under moonlight, the Dorcy 41-2510 uses four LED's for a combined lumens brightness of 55 lumens. There's only one setting on this light and it gives you almost nine hours of runtime on one set of 3 AA batteries (which come included). The exterior has been designed and built to be waterproof and it can float on the water if dropped off the side of a boat or knocked into a creek by mistake. The body's water-tight design can be a challenge to anyone trying to install the batteries into the unit, but a little patience and some elbow grease will make all the difference. The 41-2510 emits a flood beam with a strong hotspot and uniformly even peripheral illumination which can be seen from 31 meters away, making it a valuable tool for the boat, the RV, even the trunk of the car.
So tiny it can fit in your pocket, but can be affixed to your hat, jacket, anywhere really; and it gives off dual output brightness from one small LED bulb. Using two 2016 lithium ion coin cells, Princeton Tec's miniature flashlight has a high setting of 10 lumens with a wide beam that can extend a full 8 meters on 12 hours of runtime. There's a low setting as well that can shine for up to 36 hours with only 3 meters of beam distance. One single large circular button is all you need to activate the light, just click it and clip it and you're ready for all kinds of nocturnal adventures. An IPX7 rating for water-resistance deems it protected under one meter of water for up to 30 minutes without damage.
SureFire Hell Fighter High Intensity Discharge Flashlight
SureFire's HID lamp is virtually indestructible, housed behind a coated 5mm Pyrex window which is dust, mud, particle-proof for high-impact resistance. It can deliver a high-powered, concentrated beam of up to 3000 lumens light output that has hundreds of yards of range and enough spill to illuminate the periphery, making it well-suited for search and rescue tasks. You get a choice of battery options, either one or two military BA-5590 cells that can provide up to 3 hours runtime or hook it up to your vehicle's 12V for continuous operation through the cigarette lighter. Though it only measures 8 inches in length and weighs a scant 10 pounds, the Hell Fighter is ready to take any kind of abuse you can throw at it. Constructed of fortified aerospace-grade aluminum and coated with military spec Type III anodized finish, this lamp is waterproof and shockproof and designed for use in a number of applications. Carry it in hand, or mount it to any vehicle for oscillating convenience. It can also be mounted to a number of weapons such as a .50 caliber machine gun, M134 minigun, an M249 or Mk19 grenade launcher, just to name a few. So versatility isn't an issue here.
The HIDH-3550 is the same size of a standard flashlight at just a foot long in length and weighing only 4 pounds. The brightness modes are an entirely different story; able to produce exponentially greater output at up to 50 watts of power generating 4700 lumens of light at its highest setting. The beam can reach a mile and a half ahead with a focused searchlight-style hotspot and ample spill around the edges. The lower setting gives off a dim 3500 lumens at 35 watts of power with a concentrated beam that can only extend for almost a mile long. You get up to an hour and a half of runtime which isn't bad for a light of this potential output and the batteries are rechargeable lithium ion cells that require only three hours of charging to reach full capacity. Larson has constructed the HIDH-3550 almost entirely of machined aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, that includes the exterior of the body and the lens reflector within the housing, which is part of how the unit achieves such extended throw. The housing is fully sealed to keep the unit dust and dirt proof and, more importantly, IP68 waterproof and able to withstand total submersion to a depth of 100 meters or more. So it's well-suited for divers who want to explore the darker reaches of our world's oceans and lakes. The light has mounting options as well for tripods and the grip can be switched out for multiple different versions and diameters.
Simply plug the Blackout Buddy into any wall socket and the unit is constantly charging, ready for any emergency that might pop up. Using long-lasting LED bulbs, this flashlight has two functionality options; the first as a night-light that gives off dim illumination that's bright enough to make the kids feel at ease or just keep the hallway lit for those trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The second is its main purpose; if the power goes out, the three main LED's burst to life with 50 lumens of light output so the unit is easily accessible in the pitch black. The flashlight has two hours of runtime on a full charge and is four inches in length so it's easily portable to take with you throughout the house or wherever you're stuck in the dark.
There are more than a few similarities between this product from Capstone and the American Red Cross light from Eton. Both of them work in much the same way, though this one is much brighter in its overall potential output. The unit sits in a charging cradle, acting like a night-light if need be; with six LED low power bulbs that illuminate automatically via automatic sensor when the surroundings get dark. But if the power goes out entirely, ten other LED's at the head of the handheld unit turn on, delivering 60 lumens of light output for up to three hours of runtime on a full charge of the included lithium ion rechargeable cell. Those LED's have four light modes; high, low, flashing, and total off and you get a potential fifteen hours of battery life on the low setting.
The GLOW flashlight from Life+Gear offers total functionality in both typical and more unconventional ways you'd expect from a budget flashlight at this price point. The head of the unit uses LED's to light your path but also has a Glow function in which the body of the unit emanates like a glowstick. Both functions can be used either in concert with each other or exclusively, depending on what the situation calls for. There's also a flashing option that can give you 400 hours of continuous operation for any type of emergency. But what got our attention is the flashlight's waterproof design and how it immediately illuminates if it's dropped into the water. What's even more convenient is that the body of the unit offers a storage compartment to keep you keys, cash, anything small enough to fit into the handle of a standard size flashlight, safe and dry even if you drop the unit overboard.
Using a Cree XPG LED bulb and rechargeable exclusive Lithium Ion batteries, the T4R from Inova offers three output levels of brightness and respectable runtimes to match. The highest setting delivers 303 lumens of light output on two hours of battery life, then you get a medium mode for 144 lumens and nearly five hours of runtime while the lowest mode outputs at 17 lumens for 43 hours of use. The flashlight is easy to work and maintain, with a rubberized side click button that activates all three brightness modes in addition a strobe function and a momentary on mode that you can access by holding the button down for nearly a second. Beam distance can reach up to 213 meters and the unit emits a well-rounded beam with no discernible ring effects or holes and offers a wider hotspot for good illumination in your peripheral vision. Since this light is rechargeable, it's important to mention the charge time takes about three hours for full battery replenishment and the charging cradle can be used with any wall outlet or the cigarette lighter in your car. The flashlight itself has been built to withstand just about anything you can throw at it, Inova has made the exterior shockproof, crushproof and water resistant. The head of the light can withstand hard impact while the rest of the body has been built of aerospace-grade aluminum and military spec Type III hard coat to keep it resilient. But just in case something goes wrong with it, the T4R comes with a lifetime warranty.
Streamlight's Strion HL has a Cree XM-L LED emitter capable of 500 lumens output which affords a relatively short one hour of runtime. Medium and low levels produce 250 and 125 lumens of output respectively with two and three and a half hours of runtime. Admittedly, that's not the best battery life ratings, but when even your lowest output mode provides that much brightness you're going to sacrifice runtime. Luckily, the Strion HL works on rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries so you can charge up instead of pay up to keep your light working at all times. Much like some other picks on our list, the unit's interface comes down to just the click of a button. Click it once and you go right to the highest brightness mode. Hold the button down and the flashlight will cycle through each mode, descending in output level and just release when you arrive at your preferred mode. Double click and you get a strobe mode. Beam shape and distance is of the wider variety, illuminating a larger section of area with a strong hotspot surrounded by a well-lit periphery. Throw gives you up to 200 meters of beam distance and the flashlight will continue performing at these high standards because it's been heartily built with a Borofloat high-temperature glass window, aircraft quality aluminum, and anodized finish to make it impact resistant and water resistant at IPX4 which means it can take a splashing but don't submerge it in water.
Flashlights have come a long way since they first arrived more than a century ago. Crucial in times of power outages, and priceless during late-night security checks, flashlights are not just brighter, they are more dependable than ever and even more compact and lightweight.
With the array of flashlights available on the market, it’s easy to get overwhelmed once searching for the right flashlight for your needs. To answer some of the questions you’ll come across, our buying guide below will share everything there is to know about today’s flashlights.
What are the key features I should consider when buying flashlights?
Before you try to choose the best flashlight that works for you, you need to understand the choices you have. Below, we have examined some of those things that would come up when you need to choose a flashlight.
Flashlights that have a regulated power supply maintain a steady, near-peak brightness level through a major percentage of the batteries' life cycle. Close to the end, however, the light output drops off abruptly and significantly. Unregulated flashlights would usually start bright then progressively grow dimmer as they drain power from the batteries.
A single setting is usually good enough for general purpose use but certain flashlight models offer 2 or more modes like low, medium, high, and boost. You may not require the extra modes but it’s a great option to be able to throw an extra-strong beam on demand. With these multi-mode flashlights, the brighter the mode, the shorter the runtime. Other models may also offer special modes like a strobe feature or more complex user-programmable modes though these might require some extra effort to set up on the light.
Some users might have a preferred choice amongst all the types of lighting mode switches available. Some of these controls make it a lot easier to handle these flashlights. For example, some flashlights come with a safety lock feature that prevents the light from being accidentally turned on and wasting power unnecessarily. Some flashlights also feature a silent insta-beam function (depressing the switch slightly activates the light until either a full click leaves it on or releasing the switch turns it off). This is a desirable feature in law enforcement operations.
Materials and Shape
Flashlight housings are usually either plastic or aluminum alloy. Some flashlights feature stainless steel head constructions for extra impact resistance. These materials all have their merits over one another depending on how they are used as the same material can be applied in different ways. For example; not all aluminum bodies are the same—thinner styles are lighter, thicker ones are tougher.
Flashlights are most commonly shaped cylindrically, but as these tend to roll around when laid on a surface, some models are designed to resist rolling. In addition to this, the surface of the body may have a knurled pattern to provide more grip and reduce slipping.
Some flashlights might come included with add-ons or they might be sold separately. This is another thing to check for before buying yours. A few examples of add-ons that may be included are lanyard, belt clip or holster, lens filters, and diffusers.
Close-up or long-range
Generally, flashlights with larger heads (wider and deeper reflectors) will project a beam further and are best for distance illumination. Flashlights with textured reflectors give a smoother beam but will not shine as far as flashlights with smooth reflectors.
Size and Weight
The choice of the size of your flashlight is personal and subjective. Larger and heavier units are not necessarily brighter but are more likely to feature extended run times due to a greater battery capacity.
Flashlight Performance Standards
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) working alongside the flashlight industry, developed performance standards and symbols to effectively communicate a flashlight's features and benefits. Compliance with these standards is voluntary as the manufacturers do their own testing, but most of the major brands you’ll come across now include these performance data.
Light Output (Measured in lumens)
This is a measure of the intensity of the light that the flashlight produces, on the highest brightness setting powered by new batteries. It may also be featured for multiple light settings and is a great comparison tool, but does not tell the whole story about brightness. There are a lot of factors that influence the effectiveness of light in different applications (Beam intensity, distance, and type). The measure of a flashlight’s output can range from as little as 20 lumens (great for reading a book) to a whopping 3500 lumens.
Beam Distance (Measured in meters)
This is a measure of how far the light will shine before the brightness diminishes to the equivalent of the light from a full moon.
Run Time (Measured in hours)
this is how long it takes the flashlight output to drop to 10% of the rated output on new batteries, rounded to the nearest quarter-hour.
Impact Resistance (Measured in meters)
Flashlights are tested by dropping them onto concrete six times from a regulated distance. This test is done to primarily ensure that the flashlight remains functional after occasional accidental drops.
Water Resistance (Rated using the IPX system)
if you need to use your light in rain or specifically in bodies of water then this feature becomes a paramount function to look out for.
What are the types of LED Flashlight batteries?
A flashlight is useless without a source of power, so it’s very crucial that you spend time making sure the battery for your flashlight fits your needs. This will save you a lot of frustration down the road. Here’s a quick look at the main flashlight power options you’ll find;
Disposable these kinds of flashlights require you to replace the batteries once the light beam is low. Their upside is you might get a higher voltage output for a smaller size and weight, making possible a brighter flashlight in a smaller, lighter package.
Rechargeable flashlights that use built-in lithium-ion batteries can be recharged through a USB connection from a computer, AC or DC outlet, or solar panel. They compensate for their higher upfront cost by their low ongoing running cost – you would have no need for disposable batteries.
RenewableThese flashlights come with a built-in battery energized by a hand crank or solar panel. They are ideal for emergency kits.
Tip Do not use lithium or lithium-ion batteries with any flashlight unless recommended by the manufacturer. You risk damaging the light by mismatching it with lithium batteries.
Q: What is an LED?
A: A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor device that emits light when an electric current is passed through it.
Q: Which flashlight is best for me?
A: The right choice of flashlight depends a lot on the intended usage. Typically, there is no single flashlight that works well in all situations so you need to consider your application and ask yourself which of your options best suits this need.
Q: What are flashlights made of?
A: Aluminum is very frequently the material of choice for flashlights because it provides a durable shell that is also lightweight but there are other common options like copper, titanium, and polycarbonate (PC) materials.