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If you’ve looked online for a new flashlight lately, chances are you’ve seen the word “tactical” used to describe some models. A tactical flashlight is typically built for more rugged use than a regular model, with a heavier-duty aluminum body. Most are impact-resistant and water-resistant, and some are even fully waterproof for a period of time. They won’t roll around on a flat surface, and while brightness varies by model, they are typically brighter than the average flashlight you would stash in your kitchen drawer.
01 of 07
Best Overall: Fenix FX-PD35TAC
Bright, simple and reliable, the Fenix FX-PD35TAC is a tactical flashlight that owners say they’re proud to have at the ready. At 6 inches long and only a few ounces, it’s small and light, but make no mistake – with maximum brightness of 1,000 lumens and beam distance of 656 feet, it has ample light and power for just about any task. It also takes either rechargeable batteries or non-rechargeable CR123A lithium batteries.
The FX-PD35TAC is built for the long haul, with a 50,000-hour LED, stainless-steel side switch, anti-roll aircraft-grade aluminum body and anodized anti-abrasive finish. It’s even waterproof to 6.5 feet for 30 minutes. There are two operating modes: tactical and outdoor; settings include turbo, high, mid, low, eco and strobe. Runtime ranges from 70 minutes on turbo to 140 hours on eco. Owners say this is a high-quality flashlight, with outstanding brightness and intuitive, easy-to-use switches. They also appreciate the carry clip and momentary-on feature, activated with just the press of a button. Some do complain that the batteries and charger aren’t included, though. It’s backed by a five-year manufacturer’s warranty.
02 of 07
Best Budget: J5 Hyper V Tactical
Cheap flashlights are a dime a dozen, but owners say the J5 Hyper V Tactical Flashlight is among your best choices in a crowded field. This 400-lumen flashlight can throw a beam up to an impressive 800 feet – that’s more than two football fields – but weighs just 4 ounces and is just 5 inches long. It’s powered by three AAA alkaline batteries, so if you want a model that can use rechargeables, look elsewhere.
The J5 Hyper V doesn’t have as many modes as other models – you’ll only get high, low and strobe – but it has a convenient belt clip and an anti-roll aluminum case. It also has adjustable zoom that allows the beam to go from wide to narrow, a feature usually found on pricier flashlights. It is not waterproof, however. Owners say they’re surprised at how sturdy this flashlight is for the money, but others complain that the belt clip is flimsy or the brightness wasn’t as promised. There is a money-back guarantee, but no formal warranty.
03 of 07
Best Ultra-Bright: Streamlight 88060 Pro Tac HL 4
Whether you need the brightest possible light for outdoor activities or need assurance that you won’t be left in the dark during a power outage, the Streamlight 88060 Pro Tac HL 4 offers a dazzling maximum output of 2,200 lumens – that’s enough for activities like caving or even nighttime search and rescue missions – and an extremely long beam distance of more than 1,100 feet. Like the Fenix FX-PD35TAC, it can run on either rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or disposable CR123A lithium batteries.
The Streamlight is on the bigger side at just under 9 inches long, and it weighs just over a pound – unsurprising, given its power. It’s waterproof up to a bit over 3 feet for 30 minutes and features a sure-grip rubber sleeve and an aircraft-grade, anti-roll aluminum anodized body. You’ll get high, medium and low modes as well as strobe; runtime ranges from 90 minutes on high to 43 hours on low. A wrist lanyard and momentary-on are other features. Owners are thrilled with how much light this model puts out, with most saying it’s the brightest flashlight they’ve ever used. A few caution that the extreme brightness means it washes out objects that are close by, though. It’s backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
04 of 07
Best Compact: Nitecore P12 Compact Tactical LED Flashlight
They say good things often come in small packages, and that’s certainly true of the Nitecore P12. This rechargeable flashlight weighs just a few ounces and is only a bit over 5 inches long, making it easy to hold in the palm of your hand, shove in a pocket, or keep anywhere you’re crunched for space. But it’s also impressively powerful, with a maximum light output of 1,000 lumens and a beam distance of up to 756 feet.
The Nitecore can be powered by its rechargeable batteries (a charger is included) or two CR123A lithium batteries. It has four light levels – high, medium, low, and “lower,” – as well as strobe, S.O.S. and even a location beacon. Runtime is 75 minutes on high and 28 hours on low. It’s also waterproof to over 6 feet and impact-resistant. Built-in memory keeps tabs on your selected mode, which is easy to select with a side-mounted button. Owners love how much light they get from such a small package and say battery life is great. A few say the flashlight died after several months, though. It’s covered by a five-year warranty.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Best Budget Compact: J5 Tactical V1-Pro Flashlight
Handy and compact, J5 has packed its compact tactical V1-Pro flashlight with a number of desirable features. The LED light is small but intense, reaching a whopping 600 feet from the bulb to fully illuminate your path. It has three different light settings, is water resistant, and impact-resistant up to a 10-foot drop. At just under four inches long and an inch in diameter, the J5 is great to have on hand for emergencies. They fit easily into a pocket and won’t take up much space in the glove compartment. Reviewers, including search and rescue members, praise it for its durability and compactness.
06 of 07
Best Water-Resistant: GearLight LED Tactical Flashlight (2 Pack)
Bright and powerful, GearLight has created a compact tactical flashlight that is not only water resistant but nearly indestructible. It has been tested for rough handling, freezing, or getting lost in the road and run over a few times. You can even temporarily submerge it and it will continue to function. The ultra-bright LED light can illuminate up to 1,000 feet of space in front of you with a wide-area beam for maximum visibility. And the flashlight is only six inches long, making it the perfect size to tuck in a glove compartment or camping pack.
The GearLight flashlight has five different lighting modes including safety settings like strobe and SOS, and comes with its own holster for easy carrying. The wide-to-narrow beam is great for everything from walking the dog through the neighborhood to finding that fishing line in the wee hours of the morning.
07 of 07
Best Rechargeable: Supernova Guardian 1300XL
The Supernova Guardian 1300XL Tactical Flashlight is a bright, well-rounded model that includes two rechargeable batteries and a charger (often a separate purchase on other models). It also runs on three AAA alkaline batteries (included, too) if you’re in a pinch, though. As its name suggests, maximum brightness is 1300 lumens – enough for everything short of intense nighttime searches.
With the Supernova Guardian, you’ll get a removable belt clip; anti-slip handle; waterproof, shock-resistant aluminum casing; and five operating modes: full, medium, low, strobe and S.O.S. The flashlight also has a handy memory feature and a rigid strike bevel for anyone who has to use it for law enforcement or security duty. It’s relatively compact at around 6 inches long, and weighs only 5 ounces. Reviewers say the light is bright, well-made and easy to use, though there are some scattered durability complaints. It’s backed by a five-year warranty.