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The Best Tactical Flashlights of 2024

April 16, 2024 - Blog

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Most crimes happen after the sun goes down, and being able to shine a light on things that go bump in the night is a great advantage. Lucky for us, tactical flashlight technology has come a long way from the old, 2-foot long Maglites. You can get a blindingly-bright, 1,000-lumen light that fits in the palm of your hand or on a firearm. 

Over the last month I‘ve tested several of the best tactical flashlights while shooting drills and as part of my everyday carry rotation. Here are my picks for the best of the bunch. 

Rifle Mounted 

Best Overall: Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0

Best Compact: SureFire M340DFT Pro

Best Budget: Streamlight ProTac 2.0 

Most Versatile: Modlite PLHv2

Pistol Mounted

Best Overall: Surefire X300T

Best Budget: Streamlight TLR-1HL

Best Compact Light: Streamlight TLR-7A 

Most Versatile: Modlite PL350-PLHv2

Handheld

Best Overall: Surefire Stiletto Pro 2

Brightest: Cloud Defensive MCH-HC

Best Budget: Streamlight ProTac 2.0 

Most Versatile: Modlite PLHv2

How I Chose the Best Tactical Lights 

Testing Weapon Mounted Lights

I tested rifle lights mounted on a HK416 and I shot 1,000 rounds between the four. The pistol lights on a Triarc 2011 and I shot 1,000 rounds while testing them. I also carried my pistol mounted with each light to see how they felt in an everyday carry trial run.

Testing Handheld Lights

I carried each tactical flashlight for about a week. Then, I left them at my backdoor to use when letting my dog out at night. I wanted to find out how these lights perform in everyday life, so I integrated them into my daily routine.

Beam Images

I took a photo of each light’s beam in a completely dark indoor range with an IPSC target at 50 yards. The tactical flashlights were set to their brightest setting and I adjusted the camera so that image best reflected what I saw with my eyes. The camera settings were the same for all the photos. 

My Background 

I have been shooting tactical firearms for the last 15 years. My introduction to them was when I built my first AR-15. I was immediately hooked and have followed the passion since. I’ve worked for one of the largest manufacturers of AR-15s for several years, and now work for one of the largest optics manufacturers. Through those years of experience, I’ve been granted the unbelievable opportunity to train with some of the best instructors and federal units in the world. I have also tried just about every kind of firearm setup imaginable and sent hundreds of thousands of rounds down range. I still shoot at least twice a week and try to attend at least one formal class a year.

Best Rifle Mounted Tactical Flashlights: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0

See It

Key Features

Price: $400

Lumens: 1250 

Candela: 100,000

Battery Life: 65 minutes

Battery Type: 18650 (included) or 2 CR123A with some performance degradation 

Length: 6.2 inches

Mounting Footprint: Surefire Scout

Made in the USA 

Pros

Extremely bright

Balanced light dispersion

Durable 

Robust switch system 

Dual fuel 

Includes remote switch and M-LOK mount

Cons

Expensive 

Not always in stock

While the Rein 3.0 is one of the most expensive options on my list, this light outperformed all others while maintaining a competitive size and weight. Its ultra-bright beam sports a staggering 1,250 lumens, but what really sets this light apart is the 100,000 candelas, which means it will throw light farther and laugh at photonic barriers in its way. 

So it’s no surprise that when running this light, I found the throw and beam extremely impressive. One thing that did surprise me was how much I liked the warmer tone of the light. It did not wash out my red dot like other super bright lights, and I was able to track my dot faster from target to target. Made for hard use, the Rein’s lens is 3mm thick glass, and the unit features an impressive IPX-8 waterproofness rating (24 hours submerged in 100 feet of water).

The new single button switches are super low profile and have a nice tactile feel on the top. They also take up a lot less space on the rail. This is a huge improvement especially when running them on firearms with short rails or in conjunction with a laser that also requires a switch. In my opinion, the older two button switches for the Rein were a bit clunky. Cloud Defensive also introduced a surefire legacy body that reduces some of the output, but allows users to use the more common Surefire switches.

The Rein 3.0 has a warm tone that contrasts nicely with red dots.

Liam Ward

There is also some impressive technology engineered into this light. The Rein 3.0 features a patented battery jack, which eliminates battery bounce, a common issue seen with cheaper lights that can flicker or die under heavy recoil. The Rein 3.0 also has several remote switch options. 

The built-in push button on the back of the unit works independently of the remote switch. This is a great addition if you like to run a light on your strong hand side or if you’re running a laser like a MAWL that takes up space on the side of the rail. This is an impressive feature that once again makes this light an amazing duty option and showcases the superior design.  

Best Compact: SureFire M340DFT-PRO

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Key Features

Price: $400

Lumens: 650 

Candela: 95,000

Battery Life: 45 minutes

Battery Type: 18350 (included) or 1 CR123A with some performance degradation 

Length: 4.8 inches

Mounting Footprint: Surefire Scout

Made in the USA 

Pros

Impressive beam throw 

Compact size

Durable

Includes M-LOK and Picatinny mounts 

Compatible with all Surefire switches and mounts 

Cons

Expensive 

Does not include a remote switch 

The SureFire M340 Turbo is an incredible light, designed and manufactured by one of the most well-known names in illumination products. It is an ultra lightweight and compact unit perfect for firearms with shorter rails like PCCs or SBRs. It sports an impressive beam output for its size coming in just 5,000 candela less than the larger Rein 3.0. Being that it is a SureFire light, it is compatible with all SureFire pattern switches and mounts, which sports a robust aftermarket.

The SureFire M340DFT-PRO has impressive throw.

Liam Ward

When I was running drills with this light, I did notice a difference in weight compared to the other lights, it almost felt like nothing was there and the gun was very well balanced. However its short length caused significantly more suppressor shadow. The mounts that the light comes with are phenomenal, especially if you are planning to run it in conjunction with a laser. The hinged mount is a great way to customize where the light sits in space, allowing you to have control over how tight to the rail you want the light to be. This small thought out feature really separates the M340DFT from its competitors.

Best Budget: Streamlight Protac 2.0

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Key Features

Price: $160

Lumens: 2,000

Candela: 17,700

Battery Life: 2.5 hours

Battery Type: SL-B50 

Length: 6.3 inches

Mounting Footprint: Surefire Scout

Made in China

Pros

Affordable

Bright 

Includes charger, mount, and remote switch

Cons

Large and heavy

Proprietary switch system

Proprietary battery (Not a dual fuel light)

The Protac 2.0 by Streamlight is an affordable option that has a lot of features to make it a good all-around light. While it doesn’t perform as well as the other lights I tested, it is plenty bright with acceptable throw for most users. My main complaint with this tactical flashlight is its size and weight. The light is very heavy, and it made the gun front heavy. I definitely bumped it against barriers a couple of times just because I wasn’t used to its size. The Protac 2.0 takes up a lot of rail space and the added weight made my gun feel unbalanced. For me, this light didn’t fit well on any of my setups. 

The Streamlight Protac 2.0 is affordable and bright.

Liam Ward

The Streamlight Protac series uses a proprietary switch and battery. I would love it if in the future Streamlight moved to using the widely accepted Surefire switch pattern and introduced a dual fuel option. Testing the Protac 2.0 was an interesting endeavor. Yes, the light comes with mounts and remotes, but they were tedious to install, especially the tape switch. I also didn’t love how the activation felt; the different buttons on the remote were mushy. 

That being said the whole time I was testing this light I was impressed, it’s built like a tank and comes in under half of what you would pay for a Cloud Defensive or Surefire making it a hard bargain to beat. 

Most Versatile: Modlite PLHv2

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Key Features

Price: $309

Lumens: 1,350

Candela: 54,000

Battery Run-time: 75 minutes 

Battery Type: 18650 (included) or two CR123A

Length: 5.3 inches

Mounting Footprint: Surefire Scout

Manufactured in the USA

Pros

Extremely versatile 

Very bright

SureFire footprint and switch compatibility 

Cons

Expensive

Does not come with a remote switch 

If you’re looking for the Optimus Prime of tactical flashlights, this is the light for you. The Modlite PLHv2 is super bright with great throw, and its performance is up there with the SureFire Turbo. However, the main selling point of the Modlite is that it can transform into multiple configurations by swapping the head and bodies. You can change the light’s beam pattern by switching heads, or you can change its length by swapping the body. This multi-use system is a pretty cool way to extend the usage of your light if you have multiple setups. 

The Modlite PLHv2 is very bright.

Liam Ward

Testing with this light was a good experience, very similar to the SureFire Turbo. The throw was highly impressive, and the neutral tone of the light didn’t distract me when shooting my red dot. I would not recommend this light on full power indoors because this light has a super bright hotspot that doesn’t have enough spill to illuminate a room.

Modlites utilize the SureFire mounting footprint and switch interface, allowing for a robust aftermarket support. The Modlite includes a charger and battery, but no mount. 

Best Pistol Mounted Tactical Flashlights: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: SureFire X300T

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Key Features

Price: $380

Lumens: 650 

Candela: 66,000 

Battery Run-time: 90 minutes

Battery Type: Two CR123As 

Length: 3.8 inches

Weight: 4.4 ounces 

Manufactured in the USA 

Pros

Extremely bright

Extremely long throw

Extremely durable

Good switch system 

Universal mounting 

Cons

Very expensive 

When most people think of weapon lights the first name they think of is SureFire, especially when it comes to pistol lights. That becomes apparent when you search for a holster, and every single company offers a Surefire X300 compatible model. The X300T is their latest model, and boy oh boy it doesn’t disappoint. With an incredible throw, you can easily PID a target at over 50 yards, and I can only assume it feels like staring into the sun if it is being pointed at you — I didn’t test this because I didn’t want to give myself Lasik. Featuring an IPX-7 waterproof rating and made of a 6061 aluminum this light is duty ready and has a very thick bezel. Another great feature is the fact that it is the same dimensions as older X300 models, meaning you won’t have to find new holsters.

The SureFire X300T is extremely bright with an extremely long throw.

Liam Ward

I have been using this light since it came out because it’s the light I have on most of my full size handguns. The throw is unbelievable and the balance of flood is great for all scenarios. The switches can be activated by either pushing them forward or down, making activation under stress easy but not so easy that you might ND it. SureFire may be one of the oldest brands in the light game, but they are certainly still wearing the crown. 

Best Compact: Streamlight TLR-7A

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Key Features

Price: $130

Lumens: 500 

Candela: 5,000

Battery Run-time: 90 minutes

Battery Type: One CR123A

Length: 2.5 inches

Weight: 2.4 ounces

Manufactured in China

Pros

Very small and lightweight 

Great switches 

Pretty durable

Affordable

Cons

Not as bright as some others 

If you’re looking for a light for your subcompact or micro handgun, seriously consider the Streamlight TLR-7A. Coming in at under 3 inches and under 3 ounces, this light is perfect for everyday carry. It has a 5,000 candela beam that will light up an area at defensive ranges. 

When testing the TLR-7A, the first thing that stood out to me was the switches. I believe these are the best switches on the market today. They have a great tactile feel, and can be activated by pushing forward with your support thumb. They also cantilever flush to the trigger guard so you’re never reaching to find the switch or breaking your grip. The switches feature a textured top that serves a dual role: It lets you know where the switch is, so you don’t have to look at it, and it differentiates where the momentary and constant activation is located. The light also fits flush with the muzzle of most Glock 19 sized firearms for a streamlined fit. 

The Streamlight TLR-7A is small and lightweight.

Liam Ward

Featuring an impressive IPX-7 waterproof rating and a recessed bezel, the Streamlight TLR-7A is tough enough to stand up to daily use and abuse. It also includes multiple inserts that help you fit the light to basically any rail out there making this an excellent choice if you’re swapping lights between different firearms. All in all, this is a feature-rich light with excellent performance in a size that will please even the most minimalist concealed carry users. 

Best Budget: Streamlight TLR-1HL

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Key Features

Price: $149

Lumens: 300 

Candela: 12,000

Battery Run-time: 180 minutes 

Battery Type: Two CR123A

Length: 3.4 inches

Weight: 4.2 ounces

Manufactured in China

Pros

Pretty bright 

Great switches 

Pretty durable

Affordable

Cons

Not as bright as some others 

A little larger than some

Somewhat unintuitive battery compartment

The Streamlight TLR-1 is like blue box mac and cheese. Affordable, but damn good. Coming in at around half the price of the Surefire or Modlites of the world, it’s certainly no slouch and, in my opinion, not half as bad as those lights. Featuring an impressive 12,000 candela it has plenty of power to positively identify targets at 50 yards, and its 180-minute battery run time is the longest of the pistol lights I tested. 

The Streamlight TLR-1HL is pretty bright.

Liam Ward

The testing of the TLR-1 was a bit of a mixed bag. Performance wise it was great. I found the flood and throw excellent for the price. The ergonomics were good, and it balanced on a handgun quite well. However, I wish it had the same switches as the TLR-7. The switches on the TLR-1 hang a bit farther out from the trigger guard. Activating them was easy, but I had to break my grip to activate the two different modes. The battery compartment is a bit strange. It’s very well sealed, but I had to look up how to open and close it, and I could see someone breaking the door if they tried to force it open. 

The Streamlight TLR-1 has an IPX-7 waterproofness rating, and like the other Streamlight products, includes several inserts allowing it to fit any kind of rail.

Most Versatile: Modlite PL350

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Key Features

Price: $320

Lumens: 1,350

Candela: 54,000

Battery Run-time: 40 minutes 

Battery Type: One 18350 (does NOT support dual fuel) 

Length: 5.5 inches

Weight: 4.6 ounces

Manufactured in the USA

Pros

Very bright 

Very durable

Cons

Not the best switches

Not dual fuel 

Expensive 

The Modlite PL350 uses the same head as the Modlite rifle and handheld lights, so you can swap from the floody PLH head to the throw-optimized OKW. 

The Modlite PL350 is very bright.

Liam Ward

When testing, I found that one of the best features of the PL350 is that the battery loads from the front. Unlike the SureFire and Streamlight options, you don’t need to remove the light from the firearm to change the battery. The only thing I didn’t care for on this light were the switches. They did not have a positive feel when operating and were uncomfortable when shooting. That being said, you can’t deny the impressive flood and throw performance of the Modlite PL350.

Best Handheld Tactical Flashlights: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: SureFire Stiletto Pro II

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Key Features

Price: $380

Lumens: 1,500

Candela: 35,000

Battery Run-time: 60 minutes

Battery Type: Integrated Rechargeable Battery 

Length: 4.9 inches

Weight: 5.0 ounces 

Manufactured in the USA 

Pros

Innovative design

Very bright with a long throw

Very durable 

Multiple modes 

Dual lens 

Cons

Very expensive

Shorter battery life

Not dual fuel 

Surprise, surprise, SureFire is up at the top again. The Stiletto Pro 2 is an amazing handheld light that features a sleek, rectangular shape allowing it to fit into your pocket like a pocket knife. Its flat sides keep it discreet and comfortable in the pocket. It also features a dual lens design that provides not only an impressive throw, but good spill as well. The button layout and functions are well thought out. The main button on top allows you to cycle through all three modes. The button on the rear immediately outputs the max brightness as well as the strobe feature. The buttons are programmable so you adjust them to your liking. 

This was by far the most comfortable light to carry every day because of the shape and weight. It slid into my pocket with my knife and, honestly, I forgot it was in there sometimes. The deep carry pocket clip is reversible which is a nice touch. 

The SureFire Stiletto Pro II is very bright with a long throw.

Liam Ward

The multiple brightness modes were also very convenient. I work with a lot of small components every day and sometimes flashlights are too bright to the point where you can’t see the small details. I enjoyed being able to cycle through and find the appropriate amount of light. The one downside to this light compared to the others was the fact that it doesn’t not have a Thrym accessory available. I love being able to put my finger through the Thrym loop and not rely on my entire hand to hold the light. 

Brightest: Cloud Defensive MCH-HC

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Key Features

Price: $240

Lumens: 1,100 

Candela: 80,000 

Battery Run-time: 75 minutes

Battery Type: 18650 or two CR123As 

Length: 5.2 inches

Weight: 5.7 ounces 

Manufactured in the USA 

Pros

Extremely bright

Extremely long throw

Super durable 

Can be used with Thrym switchback 

Dual fuel 

Cons

Expensive

Not always in stock

Does not include the Thrym 

If blinding your attacker from another zip code is your objective, then the Cloud Defensive MCH-HC is the light for you. Like everything Cloud Defensive makes, this takes brightness to another level. Featuring an astonishing 80,000 candela the throw on the MCH-HC is downright ridiculous. 

The Cloud Defensive MCH-HC is extremely bright with an extremely long throw.

Liam Ward

I’ve been using the MCH-HC for a couple of years now, so I’m very used to it and hold it in high regard. This is the light I use when I take my dog out at night. The MCH-HC can easily spot the rabbits my dog likes to chase over 100 yards away, allowing me to direct my dog to other parts of the yard. The MCH-HC is not only bright, but feature packed as well. It comes with three different ND protectors that recess the activation button lower in the unit. I put the deepest protector on and I’ve never once had it accidentally turn on in my pocket. 

It also features a deep pocket clip that makes carrying comfortable. The light can also be outfitted with a Thyrm Switchback, which replaces the pocket clip and provides a ring that you can use to hold the light. 

Best Budget: Streamlight Protac 2.0

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Key Features

Price: $104.00

Lumens: 2,000 

Candela: 17,300 

Battery Run-time: 150 minutes

Battery Type: SLB50 Battery 

Length: 6.1 inches

Weight: 8.3 ounces 

Manufactured in China 

Pros

Affordable

Bright

Multiple modes 

Cons

Large overall size and weight

Proprietary battery

Not as bright as the others 

Affordable and reliable with solid performance, the Streamlight Protac 2.0 is a great option for those on a budget. The three brightness modes make it a versatile tactical flashlight that isn’t too bright. It also features the longest battery run time of the units I tested.

The Streamlight Protac 2.0 is bright and affordable.

Liam Ward

I don’t care for the proprietary battery; having to set up a completely different charging station for this light was annoying. The overall size and weight made the Protac 2.0 difficult to carry, especially because the Stiletto Pro 2 is brighter and lighter.

Most Versatile: Modlite PLHv2

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Key Features

Price: $310

Lumens: 1350 

Candela: 54,000 

Battery Run-time: 75 minutes

Battery Type: 18650 or two CR123As 

Length: 5.5 inches

Weight: 5.9 ounces 

Manufactured in the USA

Pros

Versatile

Very bright with good throw

Dual fuel 

Multiple programmable modes 

Cons

Expensive

Not as bright as others reviewed 

High in features and performance, the Modlite PLHv2 is as good an option for a handheld light as it is for a rifle or pistol light. Featuring a super bright beam and impressive throw, it easily outclasses many other handheld lights. It is programmable with multiple brightness modes allowing you to adjust light output. 

The Modlite PLHv2 is very bright with good throw.

Liam Ward

I liked the PLHV2’s slim design, and it is smaller in diameter than the Cloud Defensive, while being almost as bright. It was very easy to carry, and the Thrym compatibility is a great feature. The one downside I found with this light is it heated up faster than the others.

The head can be swapped onto any other body to transform into different configurations. This Modlite ecosystem of products is a great option for someone wanting to outfit multiple platforms. 

Read Next: Best Flashlights

How to Choose the Best Tactical Flashlights

Lumens and candela are two main features to consider when evaluating a tactical flashlight’s efficiency.

Liam Ward

Lumens and Candela

When it comes to lights there are two main features to understand, lumens and candela. Put simply, lumens is the measure of the total light produced, while candela refers to the measure or intensity of the throw of light. These two factors are very important when deciding which light best fits your needs. 

For example, a light with high candela isn’t always the best choice indoors where the throw is so intense it creates hotspots or can even reflect back at you. Conversely, a light with high lumens but low candela isn’t great for identifying things far away. Finding the balance between the two for your specific needs is important. 

Battery

In recent years, more companies have gone to rechargeable batteries. And some even offer dual fuel, which means the light can work off either a rechargeable high-capacity battery, or disposable lithium batteries. Most people prefer a dual fuel or rechargeable battery because it saves you the cost of buying expensive CR123 batteries. 

Also consider things like runtime, size, and user interface when choosing a tactical flashlight. Those factors will depend on your specific use case and the gun the light will be mounted on.

Read Next: Best Guns for Home Defense

Final Thoughts on the Best Tactical Flashlights

In a defensive scenario, illuminating your surroundings is a huge advantage. Investing in a solid light setup maximizes the capability of you and your firearm and could be the difference in determining between friend and foe. Choose the best tactical flashlight light below that gives you the capability and price you’re looking for.

Rifle Mounted 

Best Overall: Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0

Best Compact: SureFire M340DFT Pro

Best Budget: Streamlight ProTac 2.0 

Most Versatile: Modlite PLHv2

Pistol Mounted

Best Overall: Surefire X300T

Best Budget: Streamlight TLR-1HL

Best Compact: Streamlight TLR-7A 

Most Versatile: Modlite PL350-PLHv2

Handheld

Best Overall: Surefire Stiletto Pro 2

Brightest: Cloud Defensive MCH-HC

Best Budget: Streamlight ProTac 2.0 

Most Versatile: Modlite PLHv2

The post The Best Tactical Flashlights of 2024 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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