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Tactical flashlights are heavy-duty and multifunctional tools that offer quick operation and lighting modes great for self-defense and outdoor adventures. You can use them for “everything from searching for a lost item under furniture, to blinding an unwelcome intruder, to scaring a persistent varmint (animal) or a problematic raccoon or bear,” says Cliff Jacobson, an outdoor writer and consultant who has written multiple books and guides about the outdoors.
We spoke with Jacobson and Greg Atwell, the President of BrightGuy, Inc., and researched and tested top models, considering their brightness, battery life, lighting modes, and durability. Our best overall pick is the OLIGHT Warrior X Pro Superior Tactical Thrower thanks to its excellent brightness, throw distance, and waterproof and impact-resistant design.
Here are the best tactical flashlights.
Best Overall: OLIGHT Warrior X Pro Superior Tactical Thrower
Durable and waterproof
Great beam distance
Runtime could be better
The Olight Warrior X Pro is our favorite based on its all-around impressive lighting power and reach, as well as its durable build. This powerful flashlight has a max brightness of 2100 lumens and beam distance of up to 1,640 feet, which is the distance of approximately four and a half football fields. On high mode, it can run for two minutes at 2100 lumens, 100 minutes at 1000 lumens, and 23 minutes at 300 lumens, which is about two hours of runtime in total. In low mode, the runtime is much longer; it provides 300 lumens of brightness and can run for up to eight hours.
Another hallmark of this flashlight is its rugged construction. It has a sturdy, easy-to-grip, textured body and a strong bezel. It’s capable of withstanding drops up to 3 meters and has an IPX8 waterproof rating. While Olight doesn’t specify the exact threshold, this rating means the Warrior X Pro can handle dips in water without issues.
Rather than relying on replaceable batteries, this flashlight has a built-in rechargeable battery and an upgraded magnetic charging cable that Olight says replenishes the battery two times faster than the standard Olight Warrior X model. This flashlight also has a low-battery indicator to help you stay aware of battery levels. Once the battery life reaches 30 percent or lower, the low-battery indicator vibrates once every five minutes. As the battery power depletes more, the frequency of vibrations increases to let you know you should recharge the device.
Best Value: Anker Bolder LC130 LED Flashlight
Not as expensive as other models
Battery is slow to fully recharge
The Anker Ultra Bright Tactical Flashlight offers excellent brightness, impressive durability, and rechargeable convenience without being as expensive as many alternatives. This flashlight has five light modes (all accessible from the easy-to-access main button on the base of the unit) and is capable of emitting up to 1300 lumen on its highest setting and reaching up to 1,200 feet.
We appreciate this flashlight's IPX7 rating, which means it can withstand submersion in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. During testing, we dropped it from a two-story staircase and submerged it in 2 feet of water for five minutes. After both instances, the flashlight worked perfectly fine and we didn’t notice any damage. When it's time to replenish the battery, you can use the provided Micro USB charging cable. However, it's slow to recharge and requires about eight hours based on our testing.
Best Budget: Streamlight ProTac 2AAA Flashlight
Slim and lightweight
Removable pocket clip
Not as bright as other options
Plenty of tactical flashlights on the market have price tags well over $100, but if you're in the market for a more budget-friendly option that still gets the job done, consider the Streamlight ProTac 2AAA Tactical Flashlight. It has a slim and compact profile and only weighs 2 ounces, but it still provides a decent throw, with a beam distance of up to 70 meters. However, its max brightness is significantly lower than other models in this roundup, with its high mode providing 130 lumens of brightness. It also has a 20-lumen Low mode and a Strobe mode.
This flashlight has a removable pocket clip and an anti-roll head, so you don't have to worry about it rolling off a tabletop or away from you when you put it down. It also has an IPX7 rating, meaning it can tolerate submersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Its impact resistance is also up to 2 meters. This model only requires two AAA batteries for operation and can run for an hour and 45 minutes on High mode and 13 hours on Low mode.
Best Small: Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA Dual Fuel Everyday Carry Light
Waterproof and impact resistant
Clip for hands-free carrying
Short battery life on High mode
Not as bright as other models
If you want a flashlight that’s easy to carry daily, this Streamlight ProTac 1L-AAA Dual Fuel Everyday Carry Light measures only 4.25 inches long and weighs 2.5 ounces. This lightweight and compact design and accompanying clip make it easy and comfortable to attach to a hat or other gear for hands-free usage—even in rainy conditions. It’s IPX7-rated, which means it's waterproof and can withstand up to 1 meter of water submersion for up to 30 minutes. The ProTac 1L-AAA is also impact resistant and can tolerate drops from a distance of up to 2 meters.
This flashlight offers 350 lumens of brightness, which is significantly lower compared to other options, but still more than adequate for most uses, especially considering this size. You can also choose between one alkaline or one lithium battery for operation. As for lighting options, this model has Low, High, and Strobe modes. On its lowest setting, this flashlight can throw a 53-meter beam and run for up to 14 hours. On High mode, it can throw a 160-meter beam, but the battery life is significantly lower: It can only run for up to one-and-a-half hours.
Best Throw Distance: Olight Warrior X Turbo Extreme Distance Tactical Flashlight
Incredible beam reach
Waterproof and durable
Battery life indicator
No strobe mode
Shorter battery life
The Olight Warrior X Turbo is as heavy-duty as it looks and as its name suggests. Compared to our other top flashlights, this model offers the most impressive throw, with its beam reaching up to approximately 3,280 feet (the length of about nine football fields) on High mode. It’s also ready to take on all the elements and emergency situations with its rugged bezel, 1.5-meter drop protection, and IPX8 waterproof rating.
This flashlight has two light modes, High and Low, which range from 1100 to 150 lumens of brightness. You can access either mode with a quick button press. This model can run for 12.5 hours on Low mode, which is a significant amount of time, but other flashlights provide longer low-mode runtimes. And unlike many other tactical flashlights, this model doesn’t offer a strobe option. On the plus side, this flashlight is rechargeable and comes with a custom magnetic charging cable and a vibrating power indicator to let you know when to recharge. It also comes with convenient carrying accessories, including a lanyard and holster.
Best Lighting Modes: ThruNite BSS V4 Tactical Flashlight
Wide range of brightness modes
Very long runtime on lowest mode
Firefly mode is great for reading
Very short runtime at max lumens
If you want a model with numerous lighting settings to cycle through, the ThruNite BSS V4 Tactical Flashlight has six different light modes, ranging from Firefly (0.54 lumens) which is great as a reading light and can last for an impressive 56 days to Turbo (614 to 2523 lumens) and Strobe (1200 lumens). This unit's side switch locks/unlocks, powers the flashlight on/off, and offers quick access to Firefly mode. Single-clicking this side button also returns you to your last-used setting, while pressing the tactical switch at the flashlight's base engages Turbo mode.
As for the build quality, it has a strong, aluminum alloy body with an anti-abrasive finish and a strong bezel for self-defense purposes. This model also has a 1.5-meter impact resistance and an IPX8 rating, meaning it’s rated for protection in up to 2 meters of water. In addition to the assortment of helpful lighting mode choices, this flashlight comes with a rechargeable in-unit battery and a Micro USB charging cable.
Best Ultra-Bright: Nitecore P20iX Tactical Flashlight
Range of lighting modes
Impressive battery life on Ultralow mode
Battery life indicator
Short runtime in Turbo mode
If you’re looking for one of the brightest tactical flashlights, the Nitecore P20iX Tactical Flashlight offers 4000 lumens of brightness on Turbo mode, which surpasses any of our other picks. On this setting, the flashlight can produce a bean throw up to 723 feet long, though it will only run for 30 minutes. The default Daily Mode includes five other settings, ranging from Strobe Mode to Higher mode (1700 lumens) and Low mode (50 lumens). Alternatively, you can enable Tac mode, which rotates through four brightness and strobe modes.
The aluminum casing of this flashlight, which includes a robust bezel, is just as powerful as the light beam it produces. With an IP68 rating, this flashlight can withstand 2-meter submersion in water, exposure to elements like sand and dirt, as well as drops up to 3 meters. It’s rechargeable (via the USB-C charging cable), and the flashing indicator lets you know how much battery life is left. You can also take advantage of the backup battery option (two CR123A batteries), memory function, and various accessories, including a holster, lanyard, clip, and extra O-ring.
Best Durability: Fenix TK16 v2.0 Tactical Flashlight
Waterproof and dustproof
Great brightness and throw range
Pricier than alternatives
Short battery life in turbo mode
Battery requires removing to recharge
The Fenix TK16 v2.0 Tactical Flashlight is compact but tough. It has a high-strength aluminum body and a rugged bezel made of tungsten steel hard alloy. These materials come backed by an IP68 durability rating, meaning this unit can withstand dust, dirt, sand, extreme high and low temperatures, and up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. In addition to a durable build, this flashlight comes with several convenient features, including a rechargeable battery and USB-C charging cable. However, note that you have to remove the battery to recharge it, which isn't the case with many competitors.
It also has a dual tail switch that allows you to quickly turn the flashlight on, switch between brightness levels, or quickly enter strobe mode. With six brightness levels, you should be able to find a mode on this flashlight that fits your needs. You get the longest beam throw of 1,247 feet on the 3100-lumen Turbo mode and the lowest beam throw of 131 feet on the 30-lumen Eco mode. However, the flashlight’s battery also depletes the quickest in Turbo mode, which can last almost four hours. If you want to get the longest performance from this flashlight, Eco Mode offers an impressive 43.33-hour duration.
The Olight Warrior X Pro Superior Tactical Thrower is our favorite because it offers a durable, waterproof build, along with an impressive level of brightness and throw distance. If you’re looking for a very bright option, we recommend the Nitecore P20iX Tactical Flashlight, which has a maximum brightness of 4000 lumens and is both waterproof and dustproof.
What to Look For When Buying Tactical Flashlights
When determining the maximum brightness (lumens) you want your tactical flashlight to be, you should consider how you will use it. If you participate in a lot of outdoor activities, especially in situations where you need to ward off intense darkness or potential animals, consider a flashlight that can emit an adequate level of brightness to illuminate your surroundings. "In the days before LEDs, a bright tactical flashlight was 60 lumens," says Atwell. "Now you can find tactical-size flashlights over 3000 lumens."
Some tactical flashlights' highest modes may be too bright for most uses, so you may want to make sure there are lower modes that better suit your needs. Whichever brightness you choose, Jacobson recommends looking for a model with "a well-focused tight beam that concentrates all the light in a relatively small spot." You may also want to consider coordinating features like light modes and levels and throw distance (how far the beam reaches, which could be great for emergency signaling).
A tactical flashlight is typically rugged, but you should still examine IP waterproofing and durability specs to match how and where you’ll use it and which level of protection is appropriate. Some models with IPX8 ratings can withstand submersion in water over 1 meter deep, while some have IP68 protection against exposure to elements such as sand, dust, water, and extreme temperatures.
Impact resistance is another important durability factor to consider. Look for a drop rating in meters based on drop testing results. You may also want to look at the materials as indicators of ruggedness. Many tactical flashlights use aluminum and stainless steel and provide protection over charging ports if they use a rechargeable battery.
Battery life varies based on the model and brightness mode, but you can usually expect faster depletion on the highest mode and the longest performance on the lowest mode. Most product descriptions for flashlights list the various runtimes for each lighting mode but don't be too concerned if the highest mode's runtime seems significantly lower. Most tactical flashlights' highest modes likely offer such intense brightness that you will use them only occasionally, so be sure to note the runtime on the other settings as well.
As for how much runtime you need, consider your main uses. If you go on long hikes or camping trips or tend to be forgetful about replacing or recharging batteries, you may want to opt for a tactical flashlight with above-average battery life. Some models offer over 40 and even up to 350 hours of battery life on their lowest settings. Other helpful features to look for include low-battery indicators to let you know when you might need to charge up soon or alternate backup battery options in the case of rechargeable models.
What is a tactical flashlight?
As the name suggests, tactical flashlights are best for tactical uses such as self-defense and rugged outdoor activities. Atwell tells us that a hallmark of a tactical flashlight is “a switch that can be accessed quickly without fumbling.”
Atwell adds that a “flashlight with a tail switch works best. The tail switch should have a momentary option meaning a soft press on the button will turn on the light, but once you remove the pressure, the light turns off.”
What’s the difference between a tactical flashlight and an everyday carry flashlight?
Tactical flashlights and everyday carry flashlights are not mutually exclusive. That is to say a tactical flashlight can be an everyday carry flashlight.
“An everyday carry light can be a tactical light, but more importantly, it is a size that somebody can comfortably have with them all day and every day,” says Atwell. “For most people, an everyday carry flashlight (EDC) will be carried in a pocket or clipped to a belt. Generally, an EDC flashlight will be small and unobtrusive.”
How bright should a tactical flashlight be?
Maximum and minimum brightness vary from model to model, and ideal brightness depends on your intended use for the flashlight. “If you are using the flashlight for home protection for when you hear the creak in the night, 500 to 1000 lumens are enough,” says Atwell. “Your eyes are night adjusted, so anything brighter can easily blind the user when the light bounces off the walls of the room being investigated.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Sarah Toscano, a staff writer at The Spruce specializing in smart home and tech content. She read through customer reviews and various discussion forums, watched video reviews, and evaluated each product's specs—such as brightness, durability, and battery life—to make the picks for this article.
To better understand tactical flashlights and their potential uses, Sarah reached out to Greg Atwell, the President of BrightGuy, Inc. and Cliff Jacobson, an outdoor writer and consultant and Distinguished Eagle Scout.