10 Best Tactical Flashlights in 2020
You’ve all seen the commercials about the toughest, brightest flashlights known to man. But, where do you get them? There are so many knockoffs and “clones” of the best tactical flashlights that it can be hard to discern between the good ones and bad ones these days.
No need to worry any longer. You’re about to read about about the top small, led flashlights that are perfect for law enforcement, survival, and any other use you can throw at them. If you buy our top choice below, there really is no reason you’ll ever need another flashlight…that is unless you want another one to share with your family or friends!
If you’re interested in what makes a good tactical flashlight and what selection criteria we used in our top 10, you can find our buying guide be low the list.
Fenix PD35 V2.0 Flashlight
✔ Up to 1000 lumens
✔ Micro-USB Rechargeable Battery (or can use 2x CR123A batteries)
✔ 5.4″ x 1″ and 3.04 ounces
Fenix PD35 V2.0 Review:
Similar to the Fenix PD35 shown below on our list, but upgraded in 2018 to now offer more run time (up to 430hrs). Also now features a CREE XP-L HI V3 LED capable of up to 1000 lumens and 273 yards of distance.
This package is called the “rechargeable bundle” and includes the flashlight, 2600mAh micro-USB rechargeable battery, holster, lanyard, pocket-clip, and a few spare parts and a charging cable.
This new CREE LED has 6 settings (eco, low, med, hi, turbo, and strobe) and the IP rating on the flashlight is IP68. This means it’s submersible in water up to 2m of depth.
ACEBEAM L30 Gen II Tactical Flashlight
✔ 4000 lumens
✔ Can use a 21700 or 18650 or 2x CR123 Batteries
✔ 6.4″ x 1.9″ and 8.3 ounces
ACEBEAM L30 Gen II Review:
This tactical flashlight is a bit different than the others on the list, and that’s a good thing. It has six brightness modes, with one of them (although momentary) can provide up to 4000 lumens! The standard high setting claims to produce up to 2000 lumens.
There are 3 different battery options in this tactical flashlight, including options for charging via a micro-usb port (not possible on the 2x CR123 batteries). In addition, there are both a tactical tail switch for “turbo” mode and a side switch for on/off and access to the brightness modes.
This package includes the AceBeam L30 II flaslight, battery, battery holder, micro-usb cable, holster and lanyard.
Streamlight 88047 ProTac HL 3 Professional
✔ Up to 1100 lumens
✔ Powered by 3x CR123A Batteries
✔ 7.1″ x 1.73″ and 9.3 ounces
Streamlight ProTac Review:
The ProTac HL 3 is one of the brightest tactical lights for its size, and its tactical, multi-function push-button allows for easy, one-hand operation. Unlike some of the other options on this list, it utilizes 3x CR123A batteries and has no rechargeable option.
The package comes with batteries and a nylon holster included, and this flashlight is rated at a a 50,000 hour life. It sounds like a lot, but our #1 rated tactical flashlight is rated at twice that.
It is built to last with aircraft aluminum and IPX7 rated. It’s waterproof up to 1m @ 30 minutes and impact tested for a 1 meter fall.
Fenix PD35 TAC CREE XP-L LED Tactical Flashlight
✔ Up to 1000 lumens
✔ Li-Ion Rechargeable Battery (or can use 2x AAA batteries)
✔ 5.4″ x 1.0″ and 3.1 ounces
Fenix PD35 Review:
The PD35 by Fenix has been a fan-favorite for sometime now. It can use CR123A batteries or the included rechargeable option, providing up to 1000 lumen using a CREE XP-L (V5) LED that has a lifespan of 50,000 hours and 5 brightness settings.
This is one of the smallest, most compact, and lightest weight options on our list! It has both a tactical tail switch and a stainless steel side switch. In addition, it’s marketed to a distance of up to 200 meters.
The ruggedness of this survival flashlight should be noted with it’s impact resistance of 1 meter and IP rating of IPX8, meaning it can be underwater up to 2 meters.
SureFire G2X Series LED Tactical Flashlight
✔ Up to 600 lumens
✔ Uses 2x 123A Batteries
✔ 6.8″ x 1.37″ and 6.6 ounces
SureFire G2X Review:
The SureFire G2X has a very tough and rugged Nitrolon body. The micro-textured reflector creates a smooth, optimized beam and the polycarbonate window makes it impact-resistant.
Our favorite things about this basic flashlight are its low price-point and the fact that you can get it in four different colors! While this is a fairly “no frills” tactical flashlight, it does cover all the basics, and it won’t break the bank. If you have something against the 1TAC, and you don’t want to spend so much, keep the SureFire G2X in mind. It’s also small and light weight.
StreamLight ProTac HL5-X Series Flashlight
✔ Up to 3500 lumens
✔ Li-Ion Rechargeable Battery (or can use 4x CR123A batteries)
✔ 9.53″ x 1.24″ and 19.4 ounces
Streamlight HL5-X Review:
This is a slightly larger and more expensive flashlight than most on this list, but there’s a reason for that. It can also get significantly brighter than most. Up to 3500 lumens in one of its 5 brightness modes.
Streamlight calls this their “duel-fuel” model, meaning it can run off of the included rechargeable batteries or 4x CR123A batteries.
We love the shock resistant C4 LED that uses solid state power regulation to ensure maxiumum light output throughout the battery’s lifespan.
Anker Ultra-Bright Tactical Flashlight
✔ Up to 1300 lumens
✔ Rechargeable 26650 Battery
✔ 7.09″ x 2.36″ and 13.4 ounces
Anker Bolder LC130 Tactical Flashlight Review:
Anker’s Bolder LC130 is ultra-bright with up to 1300 lumens projected from 3 small CREE LEDs. The 5 brightness settings can extend to a maxiumum of over 1200 feet according to their marketing materials.
The LC130 is a reliable, compact, tough flashlight that is relatively inexpensive for the amount of light it provides. In the package you’ll find the tactical flashlight, a rechargeable battery, micro-usb charging cable, and a wrist strap.
One of our favorite things about the Bolder LC130 is the worry-free 18 month warranty Anker provides with each purchase!
What is a Tactical Flashlight?
Tactical flashlights are flashlights that are compact, light weight, rugged, and have a multitude of features. The best tactical flashlights work well in any weather conditions and can stand up to falling, hitting, being run over, set on fire, and much more! At the core, they are flashlights that our law enforcement and military personal can rely on to take them through hell and back.
If you want a flashlight that’s bright and compact, now you can buy from the same models our first responders choose. But, be advised, there are many “clones”, or knockoffs, out there. They look the same as the real deal, but they’re typically much cheaper. Plan on paying over $50 for most well-made tactical flashlights.
What is a Tactical Flashlight Used For?
The most common uses for tactical flashlights are law enforcement, military personal, and our first responders. They can certainly be an important tool for cops. But, in recent years, their availability to the general public, other uses are always being identified. Some of these include camping, fishing, hunting, and all sorts of outdoor activities.
Really, anyone that needs a compact flashlight that can withstand conditions would benefit from such an EDC (every day carry) device. You don’t actually have to be in the battle of war or fighting for your life for them to be useful. Having one or more around the house is always handy, even just for walking the dog after the sun goes down or checking in your backyard if you hear a noise at night.
Tactical Flashlight Features: Important Things to Consider Before Buying
If you checked the price on any of the flashlights above, you probably noticed that there can be a large variation in price between the most expensive one and a cheap knockoff version you might find on the web somewhere. Don’t be fooled however, there is usually a reason for the huge price gap. We’ve also found that the best tactical flashlight for police is not necessarily the best tactical flashlight for self defense. These are some of the things you’ll want to keep in mind when purchasing your next flashlight.
Brightness, or more accurately, light output is typically measured in lumens. This is the intensity of the light that is cast out by the tactical light. You’ll see numbers between a few hundred lumens to a few thousand lumens. Again, don’t be fooled as often there’s some specsmenship that happens in the marketing of flashlights. If it says a compact flashlight can produce 4000 lumens, make sure you pay attention as it’s more than likely just a momentary light. For most purposes, having anywhere between 800-1200 lumens is usually adequate.
It may seem at first glance that many of these flashlights use the same LED type. That’s actually not true when you dig into it. Most use different versions of similar LED bulbs. Most of today’s LEDs drain very little power from the batteries and can provide a long lasting bulb life of up to 100,000 hours in some cases. CREE is one such manufacturer of top LEDs, based right here in the United States.
Our plea…please don’t go cheap if this flashlight is an important tool for you. You will likely regret it. There are some really good tactical flashlights on the list above. I don’t intend to hide anything from you. You can search Amazon and find many that cost much less. However, they likely aren’t as good, won’t last as long, won’t be as bright, and will break the first time you drop them or they see water. Spending roughly $50-$100 now will ensure you don’t have to buy another one in a few months.
This one is a no-brainer. If the use for your flashlight is tactical in nature, it definitely must stand up to all the conditions you may face while it’s in use. For some, that means it’s waterproof. For others, it might need to be fireproof and or have the ability to be run over. No matter how you use your flashlight, having one that can stand up to conditions will ensure it doesn’t let you down, but also that it will last you a lifetime, which should be your ultimate goal when buying one.
There are numerous accessories that we’ve seen included with tactical LED flashlights. Some of the more common ones include batteries, chargers, charging cables, lanyards, and holsters. However, depending on your use-case, you may also consider finding one with a carrying case, extra batteries, multiple flashlights, etc.
This is something you won’t find on most tactical flashlights, but the ability to zoom, or adjust, the beam is a great asset. Without zooming capabilities, the manufacturer must decide and product a flashlight that has great range or large beam size. With the invent of LED zooming, the user can adjust and select the beam size in such a manner that its range can be extended well beyond the normal settings. Some tactical flashlights claim to be visible for up to 2 miles away!
Each tactical flashlight uses different types of batteries. You’ll see some that use AAAs, others with CR123A, and yet more with rechargeable batteries. Even those are sometimes charged in the flashlight and sometimes while they’re not in the flashlight. Each of these may have its pros and cons, but some of the best tac lights have the ability to use multiple types of batteries. An example where this might be useful would be when considering rechargeable flashlights. They’re great on an everyday basis so you’re not constantly going to through disposable batteries. However, in a survival situation, there may be no way of charging the flashlight. In this case, having one that uses disposable batteries would be advantageous since you could stockpile them for this situation.
Size of Flashlight
The best size of flashlight for you will depend solely on your use and how you’ll carry it. But, in most cases, everyone is looking for the smallest, lightest, most compact flashlight that can give them an ultra-bright light and all the other features they might need. For this reason, we posted the physical size of each flashlight at the top of our reviews above.
Before we close out this discussion, I wanted to point out other names and uses for similar flashlights. You’ll sometimes see them called TAC lights or survival flashlights. If it’s not obvious, TAC as in TACtical and when in a survival situation, you rely heavily on your tools to make it through, so you definitely want a durable tool of course.
We’ve also noticed folks calling this style of light an EDC flashlight. EDC stands for every day carry, meaning they are convenient to carry on your person day in and day out. Yet another name would be a law enforcement or police flashlight. This of course stems from the fact that one of the most common users of this type of light are cops and other law enforcement officers.
Last, but not least, they can also sometimes be called CREE flashlights, specifically calling out the type of LED used in many popular tactical flashlights.
We hope our buying guide and our top 10 list was helpful in your search for the best tactical flashlight. They are the perfect tool to have around the house and use in almost any situation. By using the guide above, you should be able to better select the lights that have high performance and provide a good value for your money.
In addition to their usefulness and resourcefulness, they can be used for self-defense, sending out an SOS, or getting you out of difficult, unsafe situations at times.
We admit, and even mentioned above, it can be difficult to discern between poorly built flashlights and those that really are high performance tools just by looking at them. You really have to dig into the specs, features, and benefits each provides to make sure you’re not wasting your money on junk!
Our top Choice, Fenix PD35 V2.0, is ultra-bright, yet small and lightweight. It can use CR123A batteries or rechargeable ones, whichever is easier for you. On top of this, it’s weather-proof and has several different settings so it’s perfect in any setting or situation. We highly recommend this as the best tactical flashlight of this year!