Tactical flashlights are very different from a plastic flashlight someone might use during a power outage.There are several features that make a tactical flashlight different.
They are normally made of healthy, sturdy materials that are often weatherproof and waterproof. They resist damage from heavy impact and are exceptionally shiny. They are capable of maintaining long battery life and often have military and law enforcement applications.
Types of Tactical Flashlights
Before considering something as technical as what level of IPX waterproof protection you might need, one of the first choices is deciding which style of tactical flashlight is right for you. There are several to choose from, each with its own purpose and qualities.
EDC Tactical Flashlights
Everyday flashlights (or EDCs) are compact and convenient light sources that you can take with you anywhere. Improvements in light and battery technologies mean the little lights are brighter and last longer than ever before. These compact lights are good backups for a full size tactical flashlight. Common types of EDC tactical flashlights include penlights and keychain lights.
Full Size Tactical Flashlights
Full-size tactical flashlights resemble classic, standard police flashlights. They usually measure between eight and twelve inches or more in length and weigh more than a few pounds. They are very bright and their beams extend over very long distances. Their size and sturdy construction also make them an effective defense tool in an emergency.
Specialized Tactical Lights
While full-size and EDC tactical lights are generally intended for general use, many tactical lights are designed for a very specific purpose. Some are designed for hands-free use while others are designed to provide extended visibility over a large area.
Projectors Law enforcement officers often use portable searchlights if they are pursuing a suspect. The floodlights are also suitable for firefighters who need piercing illumination through heavy smoke and dust. Use aspotlightto shine a very bright light on a specific point or person.
Headlamps Lamps headlamps provide a focused light source when your hands are not free. These lights attach to an elastic band that fits around your head. As your head spins, light will shine wherever you face. Use aheadlampwhen you need light and your hands are busy.
Lanterns Like a conventional flame lantern, an electronic tactical lantern illuminates a relatively large area by emitting light in all directions. They are a good temporary light source for reading maps or increasing general visibility. Use alanternto fill a room with ambient light.
Weapon Lights For use on pistols, rifles and shotguns, weapon lights allow you to use your weapon in dark and potentially dangerous locations. If police are chasing an armed suspect at night or a SWAT team is raiding, they will often have alight weapon.
Tactical flashlight performance
As tactical flashlights and the technology around them began to develop, manufacturers felt the need to create a set of performance standards for their lights for consistency. As a result, they createdANSI/NEMA FL-1in 2009. This document requires manufacturers to disclose important flashlight performance metrics so buyers can understand the capabilities of a certain light. Recognizing these performance standards will help you choose the right flashlight for your needs.
The amount of light emitted by a flashlight is measured in lumens (lm). There are many misconceptions about what lumens actually are. Simply put, a lumen is the direct measurement of how bright something is or the total amount of visible light produced by a flashlight. Generally speaking, the higher the lumens, the brighter the flashlight. While lumens give a good indication of overall brightness, they don't tell the whole story; other factors like beam distance determine the effectiveness of a light.
Shock resistance is defined as the distance (in meters) from which a light can fall and continue to function normally. With the development of the ANSI/NEMA FL-1 standard, the shock resistance of flashlights is tested more accurately than ever. Flashlights dropped more than one meter are tested six times to ensure they can still work despite heavy damage. Shock resistant flashlights are a great choice for police officers, security guards, military, or anyone else whose light can stand severe abuse.
The beam distance is the distance at which a light can still produce at least 0.25 lux. A lux is defined as the number of lumens per area of a light's beam. While the overall lumens of a tactical light give an idea of how bright that light is, the beam distance indicates when (and how much) the flashlight's beam begins to fade.
Beam distance is affected by the lens and frame of the light as well as the focus of the beam of the light. If a flashlight has a wider beam, its light won't reach as far. If a light has a narrow beam, it can shine very far but cannot illuminate much around it. When choosing a tactical light, it is important to find one that shines both far and bright.
The battery life of a flashlight is measured by the time it takes for a fully charged light to drop to 10% of its original value. Flashlight battery life is directly affected by light output - the brighter a flashlight shines, the faster its battery drains. A flashlight uses energy in two ways: regulated or unregulated. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages.
In a regulated flashlight, the brightness of the beam remains the same throughout the life of the battery. When the battery is exhausted, the light suddenly turns off. While the light maintains its brightness consistently throughout battery life, there's no good way to tell how long the battery has left before it dies. The crash can happen at a critical time, so it's important to have a backup.
In an unregulated flashlight, the beam starts at its brightest point and constantly gets dimmer and dimmer until it dies. As less light becomes available over time, the steady loss of light provides an indication of remaining battery life, helping to prevent complete and unexpected light loss. Unregulated flashlights allow you to better budget your battery life when you need it most.
As part of its service, a flashlight can encounter water in a number of scenarios. Most often, water damage to flashlights occurs during heavy rains. However, a fully submerged light is not unheard of, especially when navigating complex terrain. It is a good idea to choose a flashlight with water protection.
The IPX scale (developed by ANSI/NEMA FL-1) indicates the level of water resistance of a flashlight. The higher its IPX rating, the more a tactical light can withstand water over a long period of time.
AtIPX4, a tactical flashlight is considered water resistant. Water can be splashed in it from all sides without any penetration inside, and the light will work normally.
AtIPX7, a tactical flashlight is considered waterproof. It can be submerged in up to one meter of water for thirty minutes or less and function properly.
AtIPX8, a tactical flashlight is considered submersible. It can last up to four hours at depths over one meter and still work when removed.
Functions and Features of a Tactical Flashlight
There are thousands of tactical flashlights, each with a myriad of functions and features. A soldier might need a large, durable flashlight with high lumens and different light modes, while a detective might need a smaller, more inconspicuous flashlight that doesn't draw much attention. . Different options exist to cover all the needs you may have to do your job well.
A useful and convenient feature, the beams of some tactical flashlights can be dimmed or brightened by cycling through different light modes. Police officers scouring the woods for a suspect, for example, would shine their beam to increase visibility. On the other hand, reducing the brightness of your light can help avoid detection. This reduced output is also very effective in preserving battery life.
Many tactical flashlights also come with a strobe mode that flashes the light very quickly. On particularly bright lights, the strobe setting can be used to disorient anyone downstream. It can also be used to ask for help if you get stuck.
Because they're meant to take a beating and take a lot of abuse, tactical flashlights are made from strong, durable materials that won't bend, break or crack easily. A variety of different materials are available depending on your budget and the type of use you expect your flashlight to be. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Plastic / Composite / Polymer These materials are not as strong or resilient as their metallic counterparts. Most plastic flashlights won't be very technically advanced either. They have the advantage of being light and economical.
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is found in hundreds of products and appliances.It is hard, corrosion resistant and lasts a long time.As a result, stainless steel flashlights are relatively inexpensive and built to last (although they are a bit heavier).
Titanium flashlightsare both strong and lightweight. These qualities make them ideal for police, fire and firefighters and the military. The versatility and convenience of titanium, however, comes at a price - its price. It is very expensive compared to other alloys.
Aluminum Like titanium, aluminum flashlights are lightweight. They're not as tough as titanium, but they'll still work after multiple impacts. Aluminum is an inexpensive material from which to construct a flashlight, which makes aluminum flashlights a very cost effective option.
The controls on a tactical flashlight are designed to make it easy to use and intuitive to use. A light with a rotating bezel for brightness adjustment, as opposed to a clickable on/off button, can be the difference between stealth and unwanted attention. You should think about the controls for your lamp before purchasing.
Push Button: There's nothing simpler than pushing a button: push for 'on', push again for 'off'. On a tactical light, however, the on/off button is often used to cycle through different brightness levels. Some buttons produce a clicking sound when pressed which is not very secretive. A button may also require the use of both hands, which can be an obstacle in the field.
Switch Many old school non-tactical flashlights used an on/off switch that the operator pushed up or down to turn on or off. Like a button, the switch can make a noise when in use which could lead to unwanted attention. A switch can also be turned on by accident, causing an unexpected loss of battery life if it goes unnoticed in a bag.
TelescopeRotating : A rotating bezel that turns a tactical flashlight on or off is perhaps the best and most useful control feature on a light. The bezel, when rotated, can also be used as a dimmer to adjust the level of light brightness. A bezel allows the operator to turn the light on and off silently, avoiding excessive attention. Like a switch, however, a rotating bezel could cause the light to turn on accidentally, which could ruin battery life.
Sometimes it helps if your flashlight beam has a wide radius. Other times you may need a tighter beam that extends a bit further. When choosing a tactical light, it is wise to consider the beam type of a flashlight and how that beam type will affect how you use the light.
Wide beam (or fixed) A wide beam is a wide band of light that covers wider but shorter distances. This type of beam is useful when surveying a large open area.
Spot (or focused) beam A spot beam is a narrow beam of light that reaches far but doesn't shine on much. This type of beam is useful when looking for something smaller and further away.
adjustable beam A tactical flashlight with an adjustable beam is perhaps the most useful. These lights allow you to manually change the width and distance of the light beam to suit your most immediate needs. It offers the best of a wide beam and a spot beam.
For a long time, incandescent and xenon bulbs became standard in flashlights. There were hardly any alternatives, so it made sense to use them. They had caveats, however. They were expensive and they got very hot very quickly. They drained the battery life of a light and didn't produce much light.
As technology progressed, LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs came along and offered a better solution. They have a much longer battery life than incandescent and xenon bulbs. They don't get as hot, they're brighter and much more economical. LED bulbs are now standard in tactical flashlights and are the absolute best option to use.
The type of battery your flashlight can accept will have a direct impact on the battery life and performance of the flashlight. There are a few options to consider. Some work better in certain situations than others, so choose carefully and decide based on what kind of use you want your tactical flashlight to be.
Disposable batteries: Disposable batteries such as AA, AAA and CR123A are very common. They're a great option if you plan on using your light for a long continuous period, because if they die they can be swapped out (as long as you have new ones handy). One caveat, however, is that it can be expensive to buy and replace batteries, especially if you use your light often.
Rechargeable Batteries: Rechargeable batteries (like 18650 and 20700) are a great, cost-effective alternative to disposable batteries. Because you can recharge them over and over again, you won't spend as much to power your torch. Always bring a new set with you - if they die and you don't have spares with you, your light will be out of order.
Built-in batteries: Built-in flashlight batteries are convenient and economical. They're usually lithium-ion, and since they're built-in, you won't have to worry about buying extras and carrying them around. A major downside to built-in batteries, however, is that once they're dead, the battery is dead until you can take the time to recharge with a micro USB cord.
Renewable batteries These batteries are often powered by built-in solar panels or a hand crank. It is recommended that flashlights with these types of batteries be reserved for emergency use only; they do not offer the power or brightness level of a typical tactical flashlight. If you're looking for a service light, it would be wise to pass up these types of lights and batteries for something a little stronger.
There is no "perfect" tactical flashlight - the best one for you depends on your specific needs. Before deciding on the light you want, you need to understand what you need it to do. This decision takes a lot of research, a lot of considerations and a bit of expertise. Once you finally find the right one, you'll have a tool in your arsenal that will perform the way you need it, keep you safe, and offer invaluable help in any situation.