We tend to know what we are talking about!
There are many lists of "Best Tactical Flashlights" on the Web today. However, many of those lists are written by people who know absolutely nothing about flashlights! In fact, many of these people do not even seem to own the flashlights they review. It’s actually quite easy to tell which ones do their reviews, and which ones don’t: just try to find a 'real, in-depth review' on their site! They often just copy and paste reviews based on Amazon purchases, aggregate general specifications, and add some stock pictures of the flashlights.
So I'll do my absolute best to help you out with objectively real knowledge. I've been active on flashlight forums since 2009 (check it out on my “About Page”) and I have owned well over 100 flashlights in that time, and currently own a few dozen of them. My team hopes to give you some real insight with many in-depth reviews covering all types of flashlights. Pardon my non-native English, because I'm actually Dutch. ;--)
We’ve already reviewed many of the lights on this list, for which we’ve added a link to the corresponding review.
Just in case you might be more interested in very bright lights, check out this detailed list of the current brightest flashlights in the world. And yes, they were all reviewed by our dedicated and competent team.
Tactical CR123 flashlight
Dual Output LED flashlight with 5 / 500 Lumens.
- Dual levels of output: Momentary low at 5 lumens, and momentary high at 500 lumens
- Pre-focused TIR lens
- Includes a single 3V CR123A non-rechargeable lithium cell
Surefire is one of the most well-known brands with its American assembled military-grade lights. The EDCL1-T is named an EDC (Every Day Carry) light, but it has a momentary ON function as well, and can therefore be used as a tactical Flashlight.
The difference between a normal tactical flashlight and the EDCL1-T is that it doesn't have the classic switch setup that’ll be pressed for on/off operation, as half pressing the switch will give you 5 lumens, while a full press will give you the full fat 500 lumens, but you’ll have to twist the tail-cap for continuous on. When you depress the switch, it’ll just turn off, so there is no physical "click’’. The included high quality clip allows the light to be carried bezel up or down by moving the clip's direction.
Its bigger brother, the EDCL2-T, has a higher maximum output of 1200 Lumens, with a correspondingly larger size for better heat dissipation.
Tactical AA flashlight
Klarus XT1A (2018 model)
Built for tactical operation, one touch access!
- Dual user interface settings settings
- Tactical setting: 1 touch strobe, one-touch turbo, momentary on
- Outdoor setting: Momentary on, One-touch turbo, One-touch Low, SOS
- Uses an efficient 70CRI XPL-HD V6 LED
- Maximum output: 1000 lumens claimed on a 14500 cell and 300 lumens with AA batteries (tested with NiMH cells)
- Can use a variety of AA sized batteries, including alkaline, NiMH, and primary lithium cells, along with 14500 lithium-ion cells!
- Built-in charging for NiMH rechargeable, and included rechargeable 14500 lithium-ion cell
The Klarus XT1A is one of the very few real tactical flashlights that runs of AA cells. Launched in 2018, it has found quite a bit of favor in the flashlight community. The included 14500 lithium cell has a micro USB charger built-in, so you can directly charge the battery with a Micro USB cable. Any 5V USB phone charger should work fine, as the charger will only ask for what current it needs. For use with other types of AA sized cells, NiMH cells are recommended for full 300 lumen output, and for the ability to charge them internally as well. Primary lithium AA cells and alkaline are not capable of being recharged, and should only be used in emergencies. The UI is also great if you want to use it for everyday usage as well, as you can switch between the outdoor and tactical settings on the fly.
Tactical 2AA Flashlight
ThruNite Archer 2A V3
Currently one of the most powerful 2AA tactical flashlights available.
- 500 lumens Max.
- Quick access to Strobe (from On: press-and-hold side switch)
- 4 main modes
- Runs off 2AA batteries
- (Eneloops recommended)
Although the Thrunite Archer 2A v3 is already a little dated, there is not much in this category that can surpass it. The Thurnite Archer 2A V3 is currently the latest 2AA tactical flashlight Thrunite produced. The tail switch is used to activate and deactivate the light, while the side switch is used to change its output. This means that the tail cap switch can be used for Momentary mode! It has 4 main modes and Strobe. You can access strobe by doing a long press with the side switch. If you are looking for a tactical 2AA flashlight, you can't go wrong with the Archer.
Lithium Battery Powered Tactical Flashlights:
18650 Tactical Flashlights
One of the shortest tactical flashlights
- Rather short tactical flashlight
- Maximum output: 1800 lumens from a single Cree XHP35-HD LED
- High power 18650 cell included
- 5 modes, including strobe, SOS and beacon, and a red auxiliary light
The Nitecore P18 is one of the shortest tactical 18650 flashlights on the market. Its primary LED is a powerful CREE XHP35 LED, and it also has a little red auxiliary(AUX) LED on the side, that can be turned on by a small switch.
When the P18 is on, you can half-press the tail switch to access Turbo. When it’s off, you can enter Turbo by a full press+HOLD of the tail switch. At the same time, you'll have access to ultra low-mode by both pressing the tail and side switches.
Nitecore also mentions you can use a pair of CR123 cells, but I would suggest against using them, unless you are in an emergency. That is because lithium-ion 18650s are rechargeable, actually have more energy than 2x CR123s, are actually safer to use, and are much less expensive to use. Also of note: you can’t use turbo mode with 2x CR123s, as their internal resistance is too high to allow enough power to flow to use Turbo mode.
Olight M2T Warrior
A tactical flashlight with an XHP35 HD
- Momentary Turbo, Turbo Momentary Strobe
- 3-way tactical tail-switch
- Maximum output: 1200 lumens
- 18650 or 2*CR123A
- Easy lock-out function
- Beam intensity of 9500 cd
The Olight M2T uses a Cree XHP35-HD with a neutral white tint, with a color temperature of 5500k; this is a little on the cooler side of neutral. With the protruding tail switch, the Olight M2T won't be able to tailstand, but this is not an uncommon characteristic of Tactical lights. The UI itself is quite a treat: there’s a dedicated momentary Turbo/ Strobe mode, and on top of that, you actually have direct access to Moon, Turbo and Strobe. On the physical side of things, Olight actually includes a dual-direction pocket clip, which gives you the opportunity to clip it into the direction you prefer. The M2T is actually an upgraded version of the M2R, using an improved sealed switch, as many people complained about problems regarding the M2R’s switch, as it attracted dirt and ended up malfunctioning in the long run.
Olight Warrior X
First tactical flashlight with a vibration alert?
- Most interesting light on this list
- Maximum output: 2000 lumens
- Package includes a 3000mAh 18650 cell
- Built-in magnetic charger (no need to buy a separate charger)
The Olight Warrior X is probably the first of its kind, as it comes with an interesting Low Voltage Warning: it actually vibrates!? When the battery level goes down to 30%, it starts vibrating once every 5 minutes. When the battery SOC(State of Charge) drops to 10%, it will vibrate every 60 seconds. When it drops to 5%, it does so every 10 seconds.
This is another flashlight that has lots to offer. It has 2 types of mode groups in its UI, 1 for general use, and 1 for tactical use. This will hopefully, fill most people’s needs.
As per my opinion towards the Low Voltage Warning(LVP) mechanism, I’d have to say it’s quite innovative, but not my cup of tea, as it wastes a bit of power for every vibration. But to each its own.
Powerful 18650 flashlight produced by Nitecore.
- 1800 lumens
- CREE XHP35HD
- Built-in charge
- 23000cd of light intensity
- 5 brightness levels + 3 special modes (SOS, Strobe, Beacon)
- Rechargeable Lithium battery included NL1835HP (18650)
- Compatible with 2*CR123 / RCR123
We are going to review the Nitecore MH25GTS soon so stay tuned. The MH25 GTS is the newest version in the Nitecore MH2x lineup. (after the MH25, MH20GT, MH23). It's an impressive and powerful tactical flashlight produced by Nitecore. Charging is done through the USB port, sitting on the tail-side of the light. The LED on the side indicates the Battery level. 3*blink=50% or more, 2*blink=below 50%, 1*blink=below 10% battery capacity. Read more on the Nitecore website: https://flashlight.nitecore.com/Server/detail/ad/1292. Or read our review of the Nitecore MH25GTS
Fenix PD35 TAC ltd editions
Limited edition of a long time seller!
- Maximum output: 1000 lumens
- Tactical mode + Outdoor mode
- Light Source: Cree XP-L(V5) LED
- Runs off 18650 lithium batteries
- Compatible with 1x18650/2xCR123As/RCR123
Fenix has introduced the limited edition cerakoted Fenix PD35 TAC as one of the most popular tactical brands on the planet. Like many of the lights on the list, it has a UI with two mode groups: the Tactical and Outdoor mode. The Outdoor mode works just like a standard flashlight UI, with 6 different output modes. The Tactical mode gives you direct access to Turbo mode to blind within 100 yards(90m). Have a look at our review of the regular black Fenix PD35 TAC here.
Besides the Patriot Cerakote Finish, Fenix store also carries the following ltd editions:
- Blaze Battleworn Cerakote Finish
- Black Multicam Cerakote Finish
- Bronze Multicam Cerakote Finish
- Dark Multicam Cerakote Finish
- Thin Blue Line Cerakote Finish
- Digital Camo Edition Tactical Flashlight
Amazon doesn't carry these ltd editions except for the regular Camo version.
Malkoff MDC Bodyguard V2 18650
Specialized tactical use flashlight with 1150 out the front lumens
- Maximum output: 1150 lumens Out The Front (OTF) (we actually tested 872 Lumens, see review link below)
- Tactical mode
- Light source: Cree XP-L cool white (6200K) LED
- Runs off a single 18650 or 2*CR123
- Includes reverse polarity protection, just in case you put in a battery in the dark
Is durability the thing you value the most? Do you want a light built like a tank? Then consider getting the Malkoff MDC Bodyguard. I mean it.
This flashlight was designed for use with two primary lithium CR123 Battery or one rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion cell. The best performance and runtime is, of course, achieved with a high drain 18650 cell. The rated input voltage range is 3.4 - 6V, and input voltages above 6V may damage this light, meaning a 2x RCR123 cell configuration is not supported at all, and will probably fry the light’s circuitry if you try to insert them. The Malkoff MDC is also protected against reverse polarity battery insertion.
As with all Malkoff products, the Malkoff MDC is manufactured, and assembled in the USA. Some parts are not sourced domestically by the company, but that was to be expected for parts like the LEDs, and some electronic components.
If you are looking for a durable light with a lifetime warranty, this is the one to get. Check out the Malkoff MDC Bodyguard review for a more in-depth look at the MDC Bodyguard. Slip it in your pocket when you need 1000 lumens instantly without a complicated UI. I also have to add that the anodization quality is superb.
21700 Tactical Flashlights
The Fenix PD36R is the successor of the extremely popular Fenix PD35TAC
- Simple easy to use UI
- Maximum output: 1600 Lumens
- Side switch for changing modes, tail cap switch for turning on and off
- Includes a high quality 5000mAh 21700 cell
- Includes a built-in charger (no need to buy a dedicated battery charger)
Fenix upgraded the Fenix PD35 TAC with the PD36R, and what an upgrade it is. We reviewed the Fenix PD36R here. The Fenix PD36R provides great value for an all-round tactical flashlight kit. The package includes a 5000mAh battery, a carry strap, a deep-carry reversible pocket clip, a holster, a USB-C charging cable and some spare O-Rings. The user interface is easy: use the rear switch to power it on, and the electronic side switch for changing modes. If you don't want to bother buying a separate smart lithium-ion battery charger and still want a high-quality flashlight, the Fenix PD36R should be on your wishlist.
All in all, this is a great package, and great for gifting during the winter holidays, when natural light is usually sparse.
2000 lumens with a CREE XHP35 LED
- Maximum output: 2000 lumens
- Battery: included 5100mAh 21700 lithium-Ion battery.
- Power indicator with 4 battery levels
- IPX8 rating: Submersible down to 2 meters of water resistance, and dustproof
- Built-in charger using the modern, and universal, USB-C connector (no need for buying a separate charger)
I'm a big fan of Jetbeam's high-quality machining and anodizing. The Jetbeam JET-III MR tactical is a much higher power successor of a lineup that started years ago (2011 to be precise). So this means that this is a successful model in their lineup. The 2019 model now features a 21700 battery and a CREE XHP35-HD LED for an output of 2000 lumens and 390 meters of throw. This is more than double the output of its older 2011 sibling, a considerably increase in overall brightness.
An 18650 to 21700 battery adapter is included right in the package, allowing you to use other 18650 lithium-ion cells you might have lying around. If you are interested in a Tactical flashlight from Jetbeam, have a look at our Jetbeam PC20 review.
A 2019 model of Klarus claiming 4000 lumens!
- Maximum output: 4000 lumens
- Battery: included 5000mAh 21700 lithium-Ion battery.
- Intelligent Thermal Protection System (to stop overheating)
- IPX8 rating: 2 meters submersible, waterproof and dustproof
- Built-in charger
The Klarus XT21X is the second brightest tactical torch on the list. Claiming 4000 Lumens off a single 21700 battery and an XHP70.2, this is also Klarus' first 21700 tactical light!
As mentioned above, the XT21X is their first 21700 tactical flashlight with the classic Tactical and Outdoor UI settings. Besides Fenix, KIarus is one of the few brands that focuses on Military lights a lot.
Its tactical setting has 2 modes, One-touch Strobe, and One-Touch-Turbo... exactly as it is supposed to be. Simple, but effective.
Outdoor setting, on the other hand, has One-Touch Turbo and One-Touch Low. Using the side switch, you'll be able to use SOS, for whenever you actually need to use SOS.
Acebeam L30 II
Most powerful tactical flashlight on the market!
- Maximum output: 4000 lumens
- Light source: Cree XHP70.2 LED
- Light intensity: 34800cd (373 meters)
- Runs off 21700 lithium-ion cells (compatible with 18650s with an adapter)
- Built-in USB C charge system
Acebeam has been following the plow, but with brighter flashlights than its competitors. The brand has become very famous very rapidly. The Acebeam L30 series is one of those reasons for their uptick in popularity and brand recognition. Not only is it extremely powerful, but it can also throw a really far beam, even with its large XHP70.2 LED. This also grants it great heat dissipation potential, allowing it to stretch its 4000-lumen output far longer than its competitors.
This tactical flashlight is currently the most powerful, blinding flashlight with a single battery. You can also add a remote pressure switch as well as colored filters to complete the package. First announced in 2017, which was compatible for 18650 and 20700 lithium-ion cells, and the second version was announced in 2018, which added 21700 cell compatibility, for higher capacities.
If you simply want the most powerful, ultra bright, longest lasting tactical light, this is the one to get! No other brand currently gets close to this light’s 4000 lumen output sustainability!
Tactical Multi Cell flashlights
FENIX TK35UE - UPGRADE
Very popular Fenix tactical flashlight
- CREE XHP70
- Maximum output: 3200 lumens
- Runtime: 1.5 hours
- 22,000 cd intensity
- Micro USB charging battery holder
- Dual switches for power and mode switching respectively
The Fenix TK35 model has been on the market for many many years. During this time Fenix upgraded the LEDs and this edition has the Cree XHP70 high power LED. While not as efficient as its 2nd generation counterpart(XHP 70.2), it is still quite the powerhouse.
It also includes a new battery holder for a 2x18650 battery setup, with a built-in USB charger. Unlike many other flashlights where you can simply plug the USB cable into the flashlight, the TK35 has a dedicated battery holder that needs to be taken out in order to charge. The main reason for this is safety: using a regular USB charging controller, you can follow the 2x18650 battery setup voltage, but not the individual battery voltages. With a max charging voltage of 8,4V, that could mean one 18650 would be at 4,1V, and the other one at 4,3V, damaging the latter one quicker. Sadly, batteries are not included in the package, but this means you can choose what kind of 18650s you use, be it low resistance high power 15A+ 18650s, or lower power 10A+ 18650s that have higher capacities.
What is a tactical flashlight?
Before you start shopping around for your new tactical flashlight, understanding what makes a tactical flashlight, well, tactical, is quite important! When you start browsing some online shops like Amazon, you'll notice the word Tactical being used rather often. Some sellers actually call these types of lights also military flashlights or military-grade flashlights, while most of them in reality, are just plain regular flashlights. So, what actually makes a flashlight a real Tactical Flashlight? Why are tactical flashlights used by the military or law enforcement?
Well, first of all, a tactical flashlight has great build quality, with a simple user interface, good battery life, large battery type compatibility, and a good warranty, just in case something goes awfully wrong, which shouldn’t be the case anyway.
In my opinion though, my particular feature set would look like this:
- Should have 1 button to turn the light on and off with the same brightness! (Regular flashlights with 1 switch usually use the same button to change modes, but that isn't very handy in critical situations where you should trust your flashlight and not skip modes from high to low for example).
- Should have a strobe option that can be accessed quickly, in a high stress scenario.
- Should be waterproof.
- Uses a forward clicky at the rear end of the flashlight so you can turn the light on and off without pressing the button completely (a reverse clicky switch need a complete press and will turn on after the click, while a forward clicky will power the light on before the click, as it’ll activate much earlier), so you can put your thumb on the bottom and decide how long you press the button to use the light, instead of having to click a second time to turn the light off.
- In most cases, they include some kind of strike bezel or crenelated bezel, in order to use it for self-defense or as a non-lethal weapon. Being trained in using it helps tremendously, and without training, such a feature is usually not necessary.
Some people suggest such a light should be attachable to a pistol or a gun. But that doesn't make it a tactical flashlight! Those are weapon mount flashlights.. a different class entirely, with different uses and characteristics. Some people say Tactical Flashlights are only used in combat.. that is also untrue.
What's the difference between a tactical flashlight and an EDC flashlight?
Please read the explanation above first. An everyday carry (EDC) flashlight simply doesn't need the kind of functionality present in a tactical flashlight. They can be great for outdoor activities like camping, but you shouldn't usually be using it when you are a first-responder. An EDC flashlight can have all kinds of miscellaneous features, such as built-in USB charging, Bluetooth connection, etc. These features are nice, but can get in the way of operation, and in the worst case scenario, if not well implemented(like USB charging), can actually make some things worse, like worse water resistance.
An EDC flashlight can usually fit in many pocket types just fine, since it is meant to be carried throughout the day. UIs can also be more complex, and cover a larger range of lighting scenarios. A tactical or military flashlight has fewer of these requirements and only needs a few settings, but you should be able to count on it in all circumstances! A dead flashlight is the worst thing you can have in a tactical low light scenario.
Besides this functionality, it should be able to be used in self-defense, and be used in emergencies. This is one reason CR123 compatibility in tactical lights is so broad: due to their very low self-discharge, they are the best choice of battery in case of an emergency. Please read up on a flashlight before buying one, since many are selling tactical flashlights, but in reality are just general lights. In my opinion, flashlights with more advanced settings and modes should not be used in critical life threatening scenarios, like what police officers can encouter.
Many people still think a 1000 lumen tactical flashlight is all you need; this could actually be true in rural areas, where light pollution isn’t nearly as prevalent as in city areas. This also depends on the intensity of a light source: a very throwy light might seem brighter than a very floody light, even though they emit the same amount of light, due to the much higher intensity.
What is the Brightest tactical flashlight?
If you are looking at just the brightest flashlight, then we have an excellent page dedicated to just that, with the entirely impractical Imalent, but nice, Imalent DX18.
If you are only looking for a tactical flashlight, the Acebeam L30 II might be the brightest sustainable tactical flashlight currently available. This can change of course.
In terms of reliability, something like the Malkoff MDC would be your best bet, along with Surefire in close second, for superb warranty support and very wide availability. The Acebeam L30 II still is brighter though
What is the best affordable tactical flashlight?
My first question would be: what for? Do you plan on using 18650 batteries? When will you be using it? Generally speaking, the Klarus XT1A seems to be the cheapest of the bunch, not breaking the $50 mark. It's the most affordable tactical flashlight, while still not sacrificing important features. It does lack the battery life of its bigger 18650/21700 counterparts, but easy availability of NiMH cells counters that a bit.
What is the best tactical flashlight under $30?
If you are looking for the best tactical flashlight under $30, you are going to have a hard time finding one capable as such. Below $30, you get all sorts of very nice budget lights, but none you’d actually depend your life on. Save a bit more and just get a dedicated tactical light like the Klarus XT1A mentioned before.
LumiTact G700, a military flashlight or military-grade flashlight? scam
Tactical flashlights are often referred to as Military flashlights. Unfortunately looking on Amazon or eBay, you'll soon notice that many sellers claim to sell Military flashlights or a "Military grade torch". Lights like the LumiTact G700 are an actual scam and aren't military-grade flashlights. It's a zoomable flashlight.They’re not even good flashlights at all. You don't want to depend your life upon one of those. Seriously.
IMHO, these kinds of lights should be put in a category called: “Flashlights to toy around with when bored”. Check out this fun Youtube video. It’s just a classic from my friend Advanced Knife Bro: https://youtu.be/swSU5GbWjgM