There are many makes and models of flashlights available, but how do you distinguish which are the good ones and which are junk? Even then, how do you know it’s worth the price you’re paying for it?
There are many manufacturers who make bold claims about their flashlights. One prime example is the Atomic Beam flashlight. For comparison purposes, I’ll compare its features against other flashlights.
They advertise the light as nearly indestructible, which is hardly unique considering the strongest flashlights are all made of Type 3 anodized aluminum (The same material used in some cars, boats and planes). Anything less and you may not be dealing with an inferior flashlight, but you will want to exercise a greater level of care with it.
Brightness of a flashlight is measured in lumens. In the case of the Atomic Beam flashlight, they advertise its brightness in “lux”. The problem with this is lux is a measurement of a single lumen over one square meter. Without knowing the exact dimensions of the area they tested the flashlight in, it’s anybody’s guess how bright the light really is. When a company isn’t willing to tell you how bright the light is in actual lumens, that is a major red flag.
How Bright Do I Need It To Be?
A “bright” or “tactical” light is considered to be anything rated 500 lumens or higher. It does a great job at illuminating objects at close range and blinding attackers. In confined spaces, however, you may want a lower lumen light since brighter flashlights create darker shadows in tighter spaces. They can also be blinding when used in fog, smoke, or spaces with white walls or other reflective surfaces. These are all important factors to consider when selecting a flashlight. I recommend purchasing multiple flashlights so you’ll have the right tool for each job.
There are trade-offs with the different battery types that each flashlight uses. Here is a simplified breakdown.
– Easy availability at most stores
– 1.5v output, so greater brightness requires larger battery capacity
– Takes up more compartment space
– 3v output, so brightness output is maximized in a smaller space
– Takes up less compartment space
– Limited availability in local stores
– More expensive
Lithium vs Alkaline
Lithium typically is lighter than alkaline batteries and can operate under extreme heat and cold. Alkaline batteries are heavier and cannot operate in more extreme temperatures, but are considerably cheaper by comparison. It’s recommended to choose lithium batteries for outdoor use, or when you are uncertain of the operating conditions.
Sticking with name brand companies like Streamlight, Surefire, FourSevens and the like are an easy way to avoid bad products. Within those brands there are lights that will be brighter than others. Compare these by lumen rating to start, but also take into consideration the battery type used and how that will fit into your intended use for the light. Lastly, if the company won’t rate the brightness of their flashlight in lumens, or won’t list the type of materials used in the flashlight housing, be very cautious and do your homework.