What’s the Deal with Tactical Flashlights?

Posted: September 16, 2013 in Self Defense
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


An interesting topic has come to my attention of late: flashlights. Now, not just any ‘ol flashlight, but tactical flashlights. You may ask, what exactly is a tactical flashlight and what makes it any better than a regular flashlight? Those are excellent questions and I shall do my best to answer both. A tactical flashlight is best classified as a small, light-weight yet powerfully bright flashlight built of weapon-grade aluminum. They frequently have an activator switch (button) on the tailcap and are typically designed to be attached to a firearm. Black is the standard color.

The-SureFire-C3-Centurion-Flashlight-1Definitions are all well and good, but why should you go spend your hard-earned money on one of these woop-di-do flashlights when you already have 5 flashlights at home? What’s so important about these lights? Well, first of all, let’s look at the reasons we need flashlights:

  1. identify unknown objects or persons in a dark environment
  2. reveal potential hazards
  3. aid in locating objects stored in darkened places (cabinets, shelves, storage areas or dark corners)
  4. assistance in completing a task (reading a book, finishing up an outside task, etc…)
Target Identification…

Home-Invasion-Defensive-PositionOf these four, the first one is clearly the most relevant to tactical situations (and by tactical I mean any situation that is related to self-defense, military or police action or any deviation therein), with the second reason coming in close behind it. When you hear that bump in the night, it is critical for your conscience’s sake (and law enforcement) for you to be able to clearly identify the threat. To do that, you must be able to visually determine if the person has the capability, intention, and ability of doing said harm to you or your loved ones and this assessment must be done within a few seconds. Now, multiply that by considering that the large majority of violent encounters occur at night… Imagine yourself stumbling out of bed in the middle of the night in response to a loud noise, reaching for your firearm, seeing a human sized form in your hallway, training your firearm on the perceived threat, and shooting said form. You have completed all the steps in your home defense plan. You have defended yourself from a threat and protected your loved ones… except for one major problem: you did not identify the threat. What if that large form was your drunk neighbor who simply got the wrong house, or a family member dropping in due to unforeseen circumstances, or a coat rack your spouse had recently moved into the hallway? Or it may have been a genuine threat. At that point, the only way to know is to turn on the light and examine the damage. Keeping a flashlight either on or next to your home-defense firearm and utilizing that light during that middle-of-the-night wake-up-call will most definitely help prevent tragedies and ease your conscious in the aftermath. It will also help you articulate to law enforcement or a jury why you felt your life was endangered.


And the other 3 reasons…

Tactical flashlights are also advantageous when considering the other three reasons to use a flashlight. These lights are so small and compact you are more likely to have one on your person than a conventional light and thus they help you avoid hazards, find objects, and finish that project. Mine has also saved me from a face full of spider-web.

Why Use a Tactical Flashlight?

The tactical flashlight has many advantages over conventional flashlights in home-defense planning.

  1. 4928697093_60dc771434_zIt is compact. It is easy to keep next to you while sleeping at night and on your person during the day.
  2. It is lightweight. The weight of the flashlight does not dramatically affect the handling of the firearm. Also, as a daily carry item its minimal weight is especially beneficial.
  3. It is very bright. A conventional flashlight with two D batteries and a standard bulb puts out 15 to 20 Lumens. 200 Lumens are considered the minimum for tactical purposes and 500 Lumens are preferred. This brightness will temporarily blind your opponent giving you the advantage of time and target ID. The light may also confuse and disorient your opponent, deterring or delaying an assaultive action.
  4. The beam is tightly controlled. The beam on a conventional flashlight spills out to the sides, fills an area and frequently has dark spots. With a quality tactical flashlight, the beam is solid, concentrated and contains no dark spots. Aside from simply focusing all the light into one area, a controlled beam also prevents the person holding the light from being illuminated.
  5. surefire-beamIt easily attaches to a firearm. There are many options and accessories available for attaching a tactical flashlight to your firearm without affecting the handling or cycling. Attaching a light to the firearm is key to reduce lag time and ensures you can operate the firearm while keeping the bad guy illuminated. This is especially critical on long guns. Try to hold a flashlight and a long gun, activate the light, identify the target, hold them both on target, and get off accurate shots. Now try doing the above with that pump shotgun so many of us have as our home defense firearm… Like I said, attach a light.


    Duct tape is not a recommended option.


Or this…

Daniel Defense flashlight mount

Try this instead…

Counter Arguments…


Some may argue that holding a flashlight in front of you (or attaching a light to your gun) only provides a bullseye for the criminal. And to some degree, they are correct. By holding the light in front, any shots fired at the light are more likely to hit your vital areas. Ultimately, the best situation is for you to be in the cover of darkness while looking into a lit room. If you could rig up your house in such a way that ensures you are always in the dark and the rooms you are searching light up before you get to them, then I suppose you would not need a flashlight. However, as that is not feasible for most of us, a very bright flashlight is the best alternative to shooting in the dark. And there are techniques that may be used to draw the criminal’s line of fire from your center mass to less vital areas. I plan on exploring these techniques in my next article.

Concluding Thoughts…

Overall, a quality flashlight is valuable to have on hand in our day-to-day lives as well as in tactical and emergency situations. I find myself using my flashlight to find gun boxes stored under the display cabinet, light up the path to my apartment, and to look for spider webs. While I am certainly grateful to be spared that auspicious meeting with the spider, I know I’ll be even more grateful for my tactical light’s bright beam should I ever use it while meeting a predator of a different sort.


*Many thanks to Richard McLarin, representative for SureFire, for sharing his knowledge of tactics and flashlights.

Other Sources…





  1. Roy Baker says:

    Most encounters with boogers happen at night. I have reassessed the importance of having a quality light on hand with a self defense weapon. Without light it is a crap shoot in the dark.

  2. MamaLiberty says:

    “except for one major problem: you did not identify the threat. What if that large form was your drunk neighbor who simply got the wrong house,”

    Anyone who breaks into my house has self identified as a threat. I don’t need any other reason to shoot if they do not surrender immediately when commanded to do so. I keep my doors and windows locked, so no “drunk neighbor” has any hope of getting in accidentally. I live alone, but when I have visitors, they know to identify themselves verbally if they choose to enter my space at night. Most of them are also armed, and I’ve never had any reason to worry about it.

    It is easy to rig a way to turn on lights anywhere in the house from your bedside, though probably not necessary. A single motion detector light for the hallway or other critical locations would do nicely. I have one on the stairwell and one on each door.

    I do have a flashlight at the bedside as well, and several in other places in the home. They certainly do have their uses, but I have zero interest in mounting one on my gun. I’m not going to point a gun at someone I’m not willing to shoot… so identification of the target has to come before I take aim. There are better ways to do that. Obviously, nobody should shoot indiscriminately, but it is really not that difficult to identify who or what is moving around at night.

    • Excellent comments as usual MamaLiberty. I really appreciate the time and thought you put into reading and commenting on this blog.

      I had previously considered your point of not aiming a firearm at any one you are not willing to shoot. However, I had concluded the ability to identify a target to be worth the compromise. I am now reconsidering and investigating this topic further.

      • MamaLiberty says:

        My pleasure. 🙂 It is easy to get sucked into “gear” solutions to problems, and I fall in as often as the next shooter, but I work hard to remember (and teach) the holistic approach. Guns and other gear are only valuable as part of a rounded program of awareness, training and environment.

  3. […] What’s the Deal with Tactical Flashlights? […]

  4. […] What’s the Deal with Tactical Flashlights? […]

  5. Tara says:

    I don’t get it either – I mean, flashlights obviously are a necessity in the field, but to make an entire industry out of “tactical flashlights” seems like a bit of a stretch.

  6. CJ Rigdon says:

    These flashlights are all great, but you may be overlooking one of the best and most versatile flashlights available on the market: the LazerBrite tactical flashlight: http://www.lazerbrite.com

    Not only is it made in the USA, but it is both lightweight and durable, as well as completely waterproof, and it is very affordable as well. Its frequently used by the military, as well as for outdoor recreation.

  7. @Tara – I agree it’s just a bit much really.

  8. Thats funny! But thanks again with this post

  9. Thats amusing! But thanks again because of this post

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