I have always known the value of a good flashlight. I remember as a child my father kept one of those long, heavy Mag lights in his jeep. For those that do not remember, they were about 18 inches long and made of thick metal.
They were super reliable and heavy enough to beat an attacker over the head if needed. My father primarily used that flashlight for reading roadmaps as he travelled at night.
We always kept a larger, floodlight style flashlight under the kitchen sink for blackouts. It had about a four inch lens, but was made of plastic to keep it lightweight and inexpensive. I remember that clicking the button on top of the handle would light up the whole room. It was ideal for getting around a dark house.
As I grew up, I started needing flashlights for new reasons. I kept a small version of the Mag light in my pack for hunting. It was about five inches long and the lens was less than an inch across.
It weighed very little and took up almost no space in my pack, but it would light my way as I tried to find my tree stand during deer season. In the wee hours of the morning, the flashlight made me a little less worried about a mountain lion jumping on my back from above.
I started delivering pizzas in college and again had to rely on a good flashlight. Many homes did not light their house numbers. When I would find the right block, I would have to drive with one hand and shine the flashlight with the other to try and find the right house number.
In addition, there were many deliveries down darkened paths or shady alleys in bad parts of town. Having a light was a good way to keep from getting being robbed. Robberies were a severe enough problem that there were certain parts of town we would not visit after dark as a company policy.
No matter what your reason is, there is always a good reason to have a tactical flashlight in your home, vehicle, or bug out bag. In this article we will cover what to look for in a tactical flashlight, scenarios in which you may need one, and a few quality brands that are available for purchase.
What to Look For in a Tactical Flashlight
When selecting a tactical flashlight, there are a few different features that are important to the value of your purchase.
Primary Material – Most good tactical flashlights are made of some form of aircraft grade aluminum. This makes the construction incredibly strong but also incredibly lightweight. Most of these flashlights can be dropped from over 50 feet onto concrete and still function fine. Using aluminum prevents rust from becoming an issue as many people use these on boats where rust and corrosion can become problematic. You want to avoid materials like steel or plastic if possible.
Lumens – This is the measure of how bright the flashlight will shine. The more lumens, the brighter the beam of light. This is important for visibility, but is also part of what makes the flashlight a weapon. Bright beams of light can temporarily blind and disorient an attacker, so this is when the lumens really count. You can get tactical flashlights up to around 1100 Lumens, but anything over 500 is fine. Mine is 600 lumens and will leave you seeing spots if you look into the beam. The number of Lumens also affects the distance at which you can illuminate an object. When focused, I can easily light up items that are 100 yards away.
Texture/Grip – It is important that your flashlight have a comfortable grip that is easy to hold onto. There are times when the flashlight will be wet. There are also times that you will have to use the flashlight as a weapon, so grip is very important.
Waterproof/Water-resistant – Again, it is not uncommon for your tactical flashlight to be wet. Many people use these on boats or when fishing, so the ability to get wet and continue working is quite important. Be sure you understand the difference between waterproof and water-resistant, and purchase a flashlight that will fit your needs.
Beveled Edge – Most tactical flashlights have a beveled edge to the lip of the light. This is the part of the light that can make it a weapon. A good strike from a beveled edge is quite painful and can put an attacker on the ground. If the strike is to the head, it will likely open up a wound. Just be sure you have a good grip on the flashlight before using it as a weapon.
Adjustable focus – Many of these flashlights have the ability to adjust your beam of light from a shallow, wide beam to a long, tight beam. This is incredibly helpful for different scenarios you may face. If I am walking through the woods, I want a medium beam. However, if I hear movement in the distance I can adjust the beam to zoom in on that spot.
Rechargeable Lithium Ion Batteries – Some of the newer tactical flashlights come with rechargeable batteries so you can simply plug the flashlight into an outlet or USB port to recharge it. This feature is nice as long as you have a power supply nearby.
Strobe Setting – One of the most effective ways to disorient an attacker is to set a flashlight on the strobe setting. Not only does the brightness of the LED light temporarily blind them, but the strobe feature confuses the eye and freezes the attacker in their tracks. This gives you enough time to disable them by striking with the beveled edge, or it can just allow you to run towards help.
Places to Keep a Tactical Flashlight
Blackout Kit – The most important item to have during a blackout is a reliable flashlight. If the power goes out, having a tactical flashlight can help you gather the supplies you need even if you are not as prepared as you would like to be. Getting your family gathered together and getting your candles, lanterns, matches, and blankets is your first priority during a power outage. Without a reliable flashlight, that is virtually impossible.
Home Invasion Kit – If somebody breaks into our home, I like to have more than just a handgun ready to handle the situation. The last thing I would want to do is to injure or kill somebody if it is not absolutely needed. If I were to hear glass break or hear an intruder in our home, the first thing I would do is gather my family in our back bedroom so my wife could call ‘911’.
Then I would grab my home invasion kit to assess the situation. This includes my tactical flashlight, my handgun, and typically some form of non-lethal self-defense such as pepper spray. I also have a shotgun that I would hand to my wife so she is protected as I walk through the house.
By shining the flashlight directly at the intruder, it would temporarily blind them while I check for any weapons. Then I could decide what amount of force to use to disable the intruder.
Vehicle/Get Home Bag – So you wreck your vehicle at night in the middle of nowhere, and your phone is damaged. What do you do? You probably start walking towards town. However, walking in the middle of the night without a flashlight is very dangerous. You can easily twist your ankle or worse.
A headlamp is another great option to throw into your vehicle bag. If you have to change a tire in the dark, having both hands free is a huge help!
Also, there is a good chance that any SHTF scenario that happens while you are at work could result in a hike home in the dark. The average commute for Americans is about 20 miles and the average American can hike about two miles per hour over terrain of medium difficulty. This means it would take about ten hours for the average person to hike home.
Most Americans would have to face at least a portion of their hike in the dark. Again, having a tactical flashlight would be vital to avoid injury.
Everyday Carry Kit – If there is any way to keep a tactical flashlight in your everyday carry kit, it is a good idea. Even if you just use it for walking to and from your vehicle, it could potentially save your life.
Being able to light up dark alleys, blind an attacker, and strike them with a solid weapon are all functions that a tactical flashlight can provide. It is also hard to know how prepared your workplace would be in the case of a blackout. You might be the only person in your office with a flashlight handy.
Boat Kit – Anybody who has ever owned a motorboat knows that they break down all the time. It is not uncommon to become stranded on the open water. A waterproof or water-resistant flashlight can help you potentially fix the problem, or it could help you signal for rescue.
Many tactical flashlights have an ‘SOS’ setting that automatically flashes the light using Morse code. If the setting is not available, it is easy enough to replicate.
Bug Out Bag – Most survivalists have a pack prepared with the tools that they will need for survival if forced to leave their home. A good tactical flashlight is a must for any BOB. I completed my first survival challenge without a flashlight, but it was not fun.
This was a stationary challenge so I did not have to worry about hiking at night. However, trying to walk through the woods in the dark to relieve myself was not easy. Last fall I completed a long distance challenge without a flashlight and hiked about 10 miles per day, but I had to have my camp set well before dark.
I could not risk injuring myself by hiking in the dark. I would have been much more productive with a reliable flashlight.
First Aid Kit – When treating injury or illness, it is often required that you get a good look at the problem in order to identify the solution. If the lighting is not ideal, you could misdiagnose the problem. For cuts, irritations, or broken bones you need to see what you are doing to treat the problem. Having a tactical flashlight can greatly help you treat yourself or others.
Hunting/Fishing Kit – Whether you are walking to your tree stand in the dark, field dressing an animal after the sun goes down, or night fishing for catfish, having a waterproof or water-resistant flashlight is a good idea. It is often hard to determine if you will make it back to your vehicle by sundown or not. In addition, there are times when you want to be in the field during nighttime hours for strategic purposes. In these scenarios, a reliable flashlight is your best friend.
Toolbox – I have noticed over the years that I do not always have the best lighting when I need to work on a project. There are times I could not get my mower back to the garage to work on it, or times the lighting in my garage was simply not ideal for the angle at which I was working. Having a bright flashlight handy has aided in several of my repairs and projects.
Camping Gear – When I am packing up my gear and taking my son on a camping trip, I like the experience to be enjoyable for both of us. That means that having a source of light is important. If we are forced to set up camp after dark or move around the camp site, having a tactical flashlight ensures that I do not have to worry about either of us getting hurt or lost.
At this point, I think the usefulness of the tactical flashlight is fairly apparent. However, you must be sure you buy one that is high quality and will last a lifetime. There are hundreds of models available for purchase. Three brands that are top quality and consistently receive positive reviews are Fenix, SureFire, and Streamlight. Each brand has several different models available varying in features and cost. Take the time to do a little research and find the one that best fits your needs.