These days, most popular flashlights have 'tactical' in their name. This implies (or at least, it should imply) higher quality, increased flashlight shock resistance, better reliability in adverse conditions, powerful batteries, adjustable focus, several modes of operation, etc.
But, it is not always like that. Tactical or 'Military-grade' flashlights differ significantly in their quality, size, power source, light source, optical system, case durability, on-board electronics etc. and one should really pay attention when buying such flashlights. However, good tactical flashlight is essential for anybody who likes outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, camping, hunting and similar.
Also, tactical flashlights are often of very compact design and can be packed in any backpack or even purse, or can be simply kept in the desk drawer and used when required.
And they are also excellent gift, not only for outdoor enthusiasts.
This article provides reviews of the best and top rated, yet affordable small, but also the brightest rechargeable tactical flashlights suitable for self defense, outdoor activities and EDC use in general.
Following table lists our reviews of some of the most popular and top rated tactical flashlights (ordered alphabetically):
|Model (Our Review)||Short Description||Comment||Amazon Link - Check Price|
Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.0 inches, 13.7 x 2.5 cm, 3 ounces, 89 grams (no batteries)
Light modes: Turbo (1000 lumens), High (500 lumens), Mid (200 lumens), Low (60 lumens), Eco (8 lumens), Strobe (1000 lumens); Tactical mode, Outdoor mode
Batteries: 1x 18650, 2x CR123A
No adjustable focus.
Very sturdy (1m drop + IPX-8)
One of the best tactical
|Fenix FX-PD35TAC Flashlight|
|J5 Hyper V
Dimensions: 5.25 (5.0) x 1.0 (1.25) inches, 3.7 ounces, ~105 grams (no batteries)
Light modes: high, low and strobe, 400 lumens max
Beam Range: 800 feet, ~245 m
Batteries: 1x 18650, 2x CR123A, 2x 16340, 3x AAA
Good performer, affordable, very popular.
|J5 Hyper V Tactical Flashlight|
|J5 Tactical V1-PRO
Dimensions: 4.24 (4.0) x 0.875 (1.125) inches, 2.3 ounces, 65 grams (no batteries)
Light modes: high, low and strobe, 300 lumens max
Beam Range: 600 feet, ~185 m
Batteries: 1x AA alkaline, NiMH; 1x 14500 lithium ion
Good performer, affordable, compact, very popular.
|J5 Tactical V1-Pro Flashlight|
|Smith and Wesson MP12
Dimensions: 5.5 inches long, 6.15 ounces (with batteries)
Light modes: high, low and strobe, 875 lumens max
Beam Range: 800 feet, 242 m
Batteries: 2x CR123A
Uses only CR123A batteries.
Strong and durable, not cheap.
|Smith & Wesson MP12 Tactical LED Flashlight|
|Solaray Pro ZX-1
Dimensions: 6.25 x 1.1 (1.5) inches, 16 x 2.8 (3.8) cm, 5 ounces, 145 grams
Light modes: high, medium, low, strobe, SOS, 1200 lumens max (Max. output of Cree XM-L is 1040 lumens)
Beam Range: -
Batteries: 1x 18650, 3x AAA
Strong and durable, not cheapest model, but it comes as a kit.
Well balanced design.
|SOLARAY PRO ZX-1 Tactical Flashlight|
Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.6 inches, 1.56 ounces, 44.5 grams (no batteries)
Light modes: high, low, moonlight
Beam Range: -
Batteries: 2x AAA both 1.2 and 1.5V
IPX-7 Waterproof, Pen-shape flashlight with 'attack head'.
Nice, popular design.
Affordable EDC flashlight.
|ThorFire PF02 Pen Flashlight|
Note: Amazon affiliate links open in the new windows, so feel free to check them. Also, when considering tactical flashlihgts, be sure to know few more things:
- best and top rated - best flashlights are not always top rated and are not always the most popular ones. It is much easier to sell $10 'tactical' flashlight with many features, than $100 flashlights with limited features (at least, on the paper!!!) - and such 'expensive' flashlights often prove their worth only under extreme circumstances. And that is why price and features are very important, but they often don't tell anything about quality of design.
- small tactical flashlight - thanks to strong and durable materials, powerful lithium batteries and new LEDs as light sources, small tactical flashlights easily fit into the palm of one's hand and are often used as EDC (Every Day Carry) flashlights. But, they can be used as tool for breaking the car window in emergency, for self defense, for digging etc.
- brightest tactical flashlights provide 1000 lumens of light easily. There are models which provide 3000 - 5000, or even more lumens, but such models have larger lens, they are heavier and/or have limited operating time when using full power. And they dissipate plenty of heat. Good and the 'brightest' tactical flashlight should produce around 1000-1500 lumens - if it is stronger than that, verify its size, weight and operating time, and if it fits your needs, why not :)
- rechargeable tactical flashlights use lithium ion batteries, most often 18650 battery or batteries. Using rechargeable batteries lower the operating costs - very important for people who use these flashlights on a regular basis. However, people having these flashlights for use only occasionally should consider primary lithium CR123 batteries - they have shelf life of 10 (ten) or even more years and provide plenty of power from rather compact and lightweight batteries. Nonetheless, new 18650 batteries have very low self-discharge rate and can be used even one year after being recharged - this is highly model dependent, so be sure to periodically check and recharge your lithium ion batteries.
- best tactical flashlights for self defense - strong flashlight can disorient the attacker and if absolutely required, sturdy flashlight can be used to knock out a potential attacker. Due to distinct shape of the 'attack head', such blows in the head can cause serious injuries - if possible, use your flashlight to disorient the attacker and use that time to get away ...
- outdoors activities - tactical flashlights are common choice for outdoors enthusiasts. These flashlights are strong, sturdy, reliable, can withstand lots of punishment and still work, they are water resistant (up to the point) etc. Unless you need dedicated diving flashlight, tactical flashlights are the best option.
- EDC use - tactical flashlights with CR123A batteries can be stored for years and than used if and when required. They can carried in the backpacks, pockets or kept in the drawer - people often even forget about them until they need them. And such flashlights work as brand new even after years of being stored away. Such fantastic reliability is the reason why such flashlights are often bought by gadget collectors and are often given as cool gifts :)
- military grade flashlights - term 'military grade' is one of the most used terms in advertising and promoting LED flashlights.
Why? Well, there are no 'branding' or rules or standards for 'military-grade' - for short, any manufacturer can use this term for promoting their products.
Fortunately, there are United States Military Standards or for short 'MIL-STD' and true tactical flashlights must comply with those standards, if their manufacturers wish to advertise their products using these standards.
If you are really interested in these standards, start with MIL-STD-810 article (link opens in the new window) on Wikipedia.
- aircraft grade aluminum - aluminum is lighter than iron and when alloyed with various elements, they change its properties significantly in many ways.
Such aluminum alloys are widely used in aircraft industry and depending on the required part or construction element, various aluminum alloys are used. There are countless aluminum alloys and their classifications - for example, two most basic classifications of aluminum alloys are: wrought aluminum alloys and cast aluminum alloys.
If the manufacturer doesn't state which aluminum alloy (for example 7068 aluminium alloy), this means just an alloy with the aluminum as the primary metal (most present element).
So, for short, 'aircraft grade aluminum' means - aluminum or aluminum alloy, unless exact aluminum alloy is specified.
How To Choose The Best Tactical Flashlight?
Choose according to your needs, carrying options, your budget and personal preferences.
Small and compact flashlights often come with high output LEDs, but they have limited operating time and can get rather warm, even hot, when pushed to the limit.
Larger and heavier flashlights often cost several times more than smaller ones, but they have stronger LEDs, more battery options (18650, 26650, CR123A etc.), longer range even without adjustable focus etc.
Note: adjustable focus is a great thing, but it also lowers mechanical toughness of the unit and can often lead to issues with moisture, dust and especially with water.
Nice EDC tactical flashlights can be found relativelly cheap. On the other hand, really expensive flashlights are mostly excellent and reliable units. We say 'mostly', because there are always 'rotten apples' out there and high price is not a warranty of a good flashlight :)
For more information about flashlights in general, please check our Flashlights - How to Choose the Best Flashlight article with short intro about all our flashlight reviews.