People use tactical flashlights in both everyday and hazardous situations, piercing the darkness with the intense beams generated by these small, lightweight, powerful illumination devices. Designed originally for police and military users, these flashlights now serve homeowners in protecting their property and family from prowlers, as hunting aids, and even during search and rescue. Since the buyer likely intends to use the flashlight in a high-stress situation, it helps to consider the material, weight, light output method, lumens, strobe settings, and power source.
What Is a Tactical LED Flashlight?
In today’s post we’re not talking about just any old flashlight. We’re talking about tactical flashlights. What makes a flashlight tactical? A tactical flashlight is simply a flashlight that’s been designed for tactical (i.e. military or police) use. Many tactical flashlights are designed to be mounted to a weapon for low-light shooting. They’re typically smaller than traditional flashlights, emit much more light, and are made of weapon-grade aluminum for maximum durability. While tactical flashlights are designed primarily for military and police units, as we’ll see below, they’re also a really handy everyday and personal defense tool for the average civilian.
Choose the Right Tactical Flashlight Material
Manufacturers fabricate tactical flashlights from several materials, such as plastic, aluminum, and anodized aluminum. Plastic works well, but aluminum offers superior strength, plus possible lightness advantages. Anodized aluminum adds a layer of aluminum oxide on the outer surface, toughening it against scrapes and scratches. Flashlights cased in this material stay functional most reliably in the rough and tumble situations where the urgent need exists for a dependable light.
Consider the Weight, Ergonomics, and Purpose of a Tactical Flashlight
Lightweight tactical flashlights provide better usability because of their ease of carrying and maneuverability. Users can hold a mini flashlight ready for long periods of time without undue fatigue. Light flashlights also work better mounted atop a hunting weapon, adding less weight and increasing steadiness. Tactical flashlight brands are quite varied, and users narrow their search by considering the usual purposes of a specific company’s products, as well.
Designers make good tactical flashlights highly adaptable to different situations, so these categories overlap in many areas. Nevertheless, the firms focus somewhat on their specialty and have larger ranges in specific areas than their competitors, making brand-based searches another option for choosing a flashlight.
Understand the Advantages of LEDs
Buying a tactical flashlight that uses standard light bulbs is an error in most cases, since these bulbs burn out fast and break easily. Any impact is likely to shatter the slim filament providing illumination, plunging the user into darkness. LED bulbs survive practically any impact, fall, or drop that is not so severe it smashes them into pieces directly, making them reliable in dangerous situations. Their lifespan is often thousands of hours, and their light is stronger than standard bulbs.
Know What Lumens Are Needed
The more lumens a tactical flashlight generates, the brighter its beam and, generally speaking, the higher its cost. If the user seeks short-range illumination only, 30 to 50 lumens are sufficient to reveal the immediate area. If involved in search and rescue or other activities benefiting from long-distance lighting, 200 to 300 lumens provide a good reach. Tactical flashlights used for dazzling human opponents, such as hot prowl burglars, must preferably generate 500 lumens or more.
5. Learn the Limitations of Tactical Flashlight Strobe Settings
Many designers now build tactical flashlights with a strobe setting causing the light to blink rapidly on and off, asserting that this confuses attackers. Although occasionally useful, a strobe setting impedes the user as well as an attacker, while the glare of a high-lumen flashlight dazzles opponents even without strobing. The on and off flashing gives the user short glimpses of the situation rather than a steadily illuminated scene. Strobe settings offer the owner nothing most of the time, while potentially hampering his or her ability to deal with the situation.
Weigh the Benefits and Drawbacks of Battery Types
No tactical flashlight functions without plenty of energy, highlighting the indispensability of batteries. The user’s choice lies between disposable and rechargeable batteries. Disposable batteries function even when no outlet is available for recharging, but prudent users keep several packs available for replacement, although this occupies space and weight. Rechargeable batteries function many times over, but require a working electric plug and eventually fail anyway. One strategy involves using rechargeable cells, but carrying a pack or two of disposables just in case.
How to Use a Flashlight in a Tactical Situation
Why Every Man Should Carry a Flashlight
Before we even get into the tactical and self-defense uses of a flashlight, let’s talk about why you should start carrying one even if you don’t plan on using it to thwart would-be attackers.
Next to a pocket knife, a small, tactical flashlight is one of the most useful and versatile tools a man can have in his Every Day Carry kit.
And as the residents of the Eastern seaboard learned firsthand last week, electrical power can go out at any time and for long periods. Having a flashlight on you can save time and toe stubs as you navigate about your darkened apartment.
And, besides helping you fix wire connections or navigating your home after a power outage, a flashlight can also be used as an effective self-defense tool.
Flashlights: The Most Underestimated Tool for Personal Defense
If you use a handgun as a personal defense weapon, a flashlight is vital for low-light shooting. Not only does it help you to identify your target, but it also allows you to see your gun sights in the dark. Even if you don’t carry a gun for personal defense, a flashlight, when used correctly, can be very handy in tough situations. (We’ll talk more below about using a flashlight when armed or unarmed.) They can be taken into places like movie theaters or airplanes where guns are banned, and are great for men who live in countries with strict weapons laws, but who still want to carry something for personal defense.
There are two important self-defense functions that a tactical flashlight serves, plus one bonus use
Helps identify threats. Attackers often use the cover of darkness as an advantage. A bright flashlight can help identify threats in a low-light environment and eliminate the advantage of an attacker stalking in the shadows. Simply shining a light on a bad guy can be enough to get him to take off.
Momentarily disorients attackers. Have you ever had a bright light shined in your eyes when it was dark outside? You probably felt disoriented and even blinded for a bit. You can take advantage of that natural reaction to bright light to defend yourself against would-be attackers.
Whenever you encounter a possible threat, shine your flashlight directly in their eyes, or as Mike says, “dominate their face.” Your assailant will likely reach his hands up to his face and experience three to four seconds of disorientation and semi-blindness. That gives you enough time to either flee or attack.
Which Flashlight Is the Best Flashlight in Tactical Situations?
So a tactical flashlight is a great self-defense tool. Which one should you get? There are literally nearly 100 different models on the market. The one you choose will typically come down to your budget and personal preference. But here are a few things you should look for when selecting a tactical flashlight for everyday carry:
▪ Small. You want something small enough to carry in your pocket every day. Your flashlight should be no bigger than the size of your palm.
▪ At least 120 lumens of light output. For a flashlight to be an effective self-defense tool, it needs to be bright enough to disorient attackers. Anything less than 120 lumens just won’t get the job done.
▪ Simple. There are flashlights on the market that have strobe or SOS functions, or flashlights that allow you to change the brightness of your light output depending on how many times you push the on/off switch. While many tactical flashlight users swear by these features, Mike recommends keeping things simple. You don’t want a flashlight so complex that you have a hard time using the primary feature (bright light) when you really need it. A simple on/off switch should do the trick.
▪ Waterproof. You want a flashlight that will work in ALL situations. Get a flashlight that’s waterproof so it will work even in the rain or other wet conditions.
▪ Ruggedly constructed. Your flashlight will likely see a lot of action, so get something that will withstand the use. Look for one made from hard anodized aluminum. It’s a tough, yet light metal. Also, make sure the metal on the flashlight is machined so that it’s easy to grip. You don’t want to drop your flashlight when you need it most.
▪ LED or incandescent? Mike prefers LEDs because in his experience incandescent bulbs break easily when dropped while LEDs can withstand a beating. Incandescent bulbs also aren’t very energy efficient. You’ll burn through bulbs and flashlight batteries faster than you will LED bulbs.