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.
Best Tactical AA flashlight
Built for tactical operation, one touch access! Mini flashlight
- Dual user interface 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 rechargeables, and includes a rechargeable 14500 lithium-ion cell
The Klarus XT1A is one of the very few real tactical single led flashlights that runs of AA cells. 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.
Best Tactical lights with 2AA batteries
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:
Best Tactical Flashlights with 18650 batteries
Olight Warrior Mini
One of the Shortest Tactical flashlights
Extremely short at 4.2 inches / 107mm
- One of the shortest tactical flashlights
- Maximum output: 1500 lumens from a single LED
- High power 18650 cell is included
- Standard mode configuration and tactical
The Olight Warrior Mini is one of the shortest tactical 18650 flashlights on the market. Its primary LED is a powerful Luminus SST40.
During our test we noticed that the runtime of the Warrior Mini is exceptional. It runs for 18 hours at 140 lumens in Medium mode, while Turbo and High mode last both more than 3.5 hours each. Its highest output of 1500 lumens is available for 4 minutes before it drops to roughly 500 lumens. This continues for more than 3 hours. And all of that with a single battery.
The included battery can be charged with a normal lithiutm-ion battery charger as well is inside the flashlight itself. If you want to read all the details about the flashlight, we have a very in-depth review for you. Please find out more about the Olight Warrior Mini here.
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 Batteries or one rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion cell. The best performance and runtime is, of course, achieved with a high capacity 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.
Best Tactical Flashlights with 21700 batteries
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.
Olight M2R PRO Warrior
A tactical flashlight with an XHP35 HD
- Max output: 1800 lumens
- Battery: 21700 (included)
- Beam intensity: of 22,400 cd
- Spiky bezel for self-defense
We extensively tested the Olight M2R PRO warrior and came to the conclusion this is one of the highest quality tactical lights out there. The LED is a XHP35 HI which means it can throw really far, and at the same time puts out a ton of lumens. Of course the highest setting is only available for the first few minutes, but the options and accessories are superb.
I wouldn't recommend carrying it in the pockets of your pants because the bezel can really cause some damage. You better use the included lanyard or high quality holster. 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.
Charging goes via the included MCC cable Olight also includes in the package. All in all, this is a great tactical flashlight, but because of the nature of the beast, doesn't fit everybody's needs.
Olight Warrior X PRO
First tactical flashlight with a vibration alert for low battery power?
- Most interesting light on this list
- Maximum output: 2250 lumens
- Package includes a 5000mAh 21700 cell
- Built-in magnetic charger (no need to buy a separate charger)
The Olight Warrior X PRO is quite a unique tactical flashlight as it comes with a Vibrating Low Voltage Warning system. 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 modes, 1 Turbo and 1 Low. No hidden modes like strobe or anything else. Probably my favorite, or even the best tactical flashlight with 21700 batteries. We did an in-depth review on is, please check it out here: Warrior X PRO review. Use code: 1LUMEN for 10% discount at Olightstore
Brightest Single Cell Tactical flashlight
World's most powerful tactical flashlight
- Maximum output: 9500 lumens
- Light source: Cree XP-L HD*9
- Light intensity: 18000cd (268 meters)
- Runs off a 21700 lithium-ion cell (
- Built-in USB C charge system
The Nitecore TM9K is definitely a special breed. It's about the size of an C8, but multiple times the output. Instead of the average 1000-2000 lumens tactical lights, the TM9K does about 5-10 times that amount. Only in short bursts though. Since Turbo can only be activated in Momentary-on.
With the 21700 battery you can get a few bursts of 10,000 lumens, but the output after the burst aren't very impressive. So if you want to be able to blast almost 10,000 lumens in the dark, have a look at the Nitecore's TM9K. The 9 LEDs are sitting in a shallow reflector that result in a maximum candela of 18,000. This means about 268 meters of throw in Turbo mode, and roughly 115 meters (3,340cd) in High mode.
If you simply want the most powerful, ultra-bright, tactical light, this is the one to get! No other tactical light currently gets close to this light’s 9500 lumen output.
Best Tactical Thrower
Best tactical thrower in the world
- CREE XHP70.2
- Maximum output: 5000 lumens (measured: 6189)
- Runtime: 86 minutes
- Max beam intensity: 57,000 cd / 521 yards
- USB-C charging
The Acebeam L35 is a golden goose. It is currently one of the best tactical throwers in the world. Sporting an CREE XHP70.2 it claimed to deliver 5,000 lumens, but we measured 6189 lumens.
After the initial drop in output (see the runtime graph, or read the in-depth Acebeam L35 review) it stays just below 2000 lumens for almost 1.5 hours. That is insane! This is the best tactical thrower you can buy at the moment. The beam isn't too narrow because of the XHP70.2, and you can light up a vast area in front of you. You need a high power single 21700 battery (our was included), and you have a ready-to-go tactical kit. The only gripe we found is the slow charging of the battery, at 0.75A. If you have a dedicated charger, this is no issue at all. This tactical thrower is highly recommended.
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?
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 handgun. 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.
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 MS18.
If you are only looking for a tactical flashlight, the Nitecore TM9K 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.
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 simple zoomable flashlight. They’re not even good flashlights at all. You don't want to depend your life on 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 Advanced Knife Bro: https://youtu.be/swSU5GbWjgM
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.
The best tactical flashlight under $40 must be the Thurnite TN12v4 we reviewed. Great all-round package with lots of accessories and great quality. It uses a 18650 lithium-ion battery, so you need to buy a battery and charger separately.