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What Is A Tactical Flashlight And How Do You Use One

What Is A Tactical Flashlight And How Do You Use One

These days a lot of companies like to put the word "tactical" in front of things and feel that it automatically gives their product super powers. Sadly, it just doesn't work like that. In order for something to be "tactical" it must provide some sort of tactical advantage in specific tactical situations. 

NOTE: If you are a tactical ninja that knows all there is to know about all things tactical, you may want to stop reading at this point. This article is geared toward those who are new to the tactical gear and training space.

When it comes to flashlights, I see many lights labeled "tactical" when they are the furthest thing from it. So what, exactly, defines a tactical flashlight? What are the features and benefits a particular flashlight provides that deems it "tactical?" 

For some time, tactical flashlights or tactical lights were any light mounted to a weapon. However, over the years, these lights have fallen into their own category of "weapon mounted lights." So that leaves us to flashlights one holds in their hand.

Making a flashlight small and black does not make it a tactical light, contrary to what many companies would like you to believe. So let's go over some of the features you should look for when considering purchasing a true tactical flashlight.


First and foremost, a tactical flashlight must be one that fits comfortably in your hand and provides adequate grip in a multitude of situations. While using it you may need to climb a fence, fight with a suspect or fire a weapon. If the light doesn't have features that accommodate these situations and more, you might want to consider another light.

Features such as a rougher grip area, rings and ergonomic indentations are just a few of the features seen on premier tactical lights to help manage grip and manipulation in various situations.

On/Off Actuation

This may seem elementary to most, but how you turn the light on and off is critical in most any tactical situation. When it comes to tactical flashlights, the on/off button should be at the bottom (tail) of the light body (the end opposite the lens). This allows for fast and easy actuation using the thumb. 

In most any tactical situation, you would be holding the tactical light with an overhand grip. This grip would put your thumb in the ideal position to turn the light on and off. This is also the manner in which you would hold your light when shooting a weapon. 


This might go without saying but we'll say it anyway. Most smaller, tactical lights these days are lightweight. With advancements in technology, tactical flashlights have gotten smaller and smaller. In some instances, they might even be too small. 

When choosing a tactical light, you don't want to get something that's heavy and bulky. In the long run, this is not going to benefit you in any way. However, I do prefer a tactical light that has a tiny bit of weight to it so I know when it's in my hand. Nothing crazy; just a little bit. This also helps when manipulating the light in various situations. Too lightweight and I feel that the thing is always ready to fly out of my hand. 

Before purchasing a tactical flashlight, be sure to hold it in your hand with the batteries in it. Flip it around. Manipulate it. It should feel nice a balanced while in hand. Shouldn't feel like a roll of quarters but also not like a drinking straw.


We've all seen the infomercial of the "tactical dude" selling the tac-light that has 10,000 lumens or something crazy like that. So bright it lets you see ants crawling on the surface of the moon. Let's face it, even if it did, do you really need that?

More lumens does not necessarily mean better. In certain situations you want illumination but you don't want to light up the entire neighborhood. 

The light I carry on me every day as part of my EDC is 1,000 lumens. However the light I keep on my bedside table is 500 lumens. If you follow @221Btactical on social media, you'll know why. That said, Not every situation requires daylight type illumination. In many tactical situations, you want just enough light to get the job done and not a bit more. 

Now, if you've run off the side of the road, are in a ditch and trying to alert those passing by of your location. you want as many lumens as humanly possible. But just remember, the higher the lumens the more power you're using. Which brings me to our next point.


One of the features I love most about the tactical flashlight I carry as my EDC light is that it allows me to toggle between brightness modes and features a strobe setting.

As stated, you don't always need the brightness of the sun coming out the lens of your light. In some situations, just a little bit of illumination is all you need and all you want. That's when adjustable brightness modes comes in really handy. This also helps preserve battery life.

The strobe mode is great in self defense situations. The one on my light is super bright and would absolutely stun somebody for a few seconds if they looked into it. And sometimes, a few seconds is all you need. 

When choosing a tactical flashlight, brightness modes and strobe are features I always look for.

Battery Life

What's the point of a great tactical flashlight if it's dead? Years ago I had a tactical light that was awesome in so many ways. However, the thing only lasted 10 minutes before it started going dim. And was completely dead within 15 minutes. 

Run time is an important feature to look at when purchasing a good tactical flashlight. And believe it or not, certain batteries do last longer than others. Choose your batteries wisely as well. With cheap batteries, you get what you pay for; shorter run times. 

As for USB rechargeable lights, I only use these for the little lights I have around the house for projects and light use. When out and about, I always keep extra batteries with me. If you are in the woods, a couple of miles away from an outlet and your light goes dead, what good is a USB port?


You never know where you're gonna end up or how you're gonna end up there. And you surely never know what the conditions might be. In my eyes, you're better safe than sorry. If you're gonna choose a light for emergency situations, it makes sense to choose one that works when wet. Lots of bad things happen when it's raining or storming. Be prepared.

Be sure to test your light in wet conditions as well. I've purchased lights before that say "waterproof" right on the package. But they stop working the second you sneeze on them. Trust but verify.

I hope this helped answer most or all of your questions about tactical flashlights. It may seem like a very basic purchase, however there are quite a few key features you want to look out for. 

And for those of you wondering which light I carry, here's a link to my favorite EDC tactical flashlight. 

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