Buying A Quality Flashlight

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Guide to Buy A Quality Flashlight

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? This guide will help you narrow down what to look for, so you can avoid paying for features you don’t need.

Flashlight Uses

How you intend to use a flashlight will largely determine what price range you’re looking at, and will also help you sort through the large number of product options.

Every Day Carry (EDC): $30-80

A flashlight meant for every day carry does’t necessarily need to be expensive. It does, however, need to be relatively durable. 6061 aluminum is the most common metal used for the body. When anodized properly, it is nearly impossible to break from being dropped, thrown, run over, etc.

Recommended brands: Bushnell, Streamlight, Fenix, Surefire, Four Sevens

The Fenix E12 is a great example of a durable flashlight that is plenty bright for most applications, and only costs $27.

Your higher-end products will be capable of multiple mode programming, such as those available from Four Sevens.

Outdoors & Extremely Low Light: $80-400

For larger areas and places with little to no light, you will want a much more powerful flashlight. These are capable of running longer than a flashlight designed for EDC.

Recommended brands: Bushnell, Streamlight, Fenix, Surefire, Four Sevens

Four Sevens continues to impress with the best “bang for the buck” in this category. Most of their powerful lights can be purchased for $100-200, and are just as powerful as rival competitors costing three times as much.

Streamlight also produces lights that are impressively bright and are in the same price range as Four Sevens. Their Ultrastinger flashlight is a prime example, coming in at just $184.

The more expensive products are produced by Surefire. They do have environment-sensing hardware, which adjusts the brightness of the beam depending on where you are. Other flashlights will not have this feature. A prime example of this is Surefire’s R1 Lawman with Intellibeam, which is priced at $399.

Weapon Lights: $30-500

Weapon lights range in price greatly. Despite the large fluctuation, you can get a high quality light for $300 or less, unless you want it nearly indestructible. Mission First Tactical makes a great, compact light for around $30. It doesn’t put out a lot of light, which isn’t a big deal for home defense situations. If you’re looking for a more broad use light that isn’t blinding, Streamlight is a great option.

The Streamlight TLR-1 is a great example of a no-nonsense light that has multiple applications, can take a beating, and doesn’t break the bank at $130.

In contrast, Surefire weapon lights start in the $260 range and go up from there. The advantage, however, is Surefire makes pressure-activated pads you can use to activate the light, instead of having to flip a switch. The M162 Ultra Scout Light is a great example of this, coming in at $430.

Flashlight Features

Knowing what your intended use for a flashlight is will help reduce the number of options you have to research. From there, you can further narrow down your choices based on specific characteristics and features.

Durability

Most flashlights are similar in durability for the actual body. The major difference will be between the type of aluminum used. 6061 is the most common, and is anodized so the softness in its raw form is negated. 7075 is a much harder aluminum, which proves even more durable when anodized. Lastly, not all lenses are created equal. Many are simply glass, which can scratch over time, even when tempered. Some companies, such as Four Sevens, go above and beyond by coating their lenses in sapphire, which is second in hardness only to diamonds.

Brightness

Brightness of a flashlight is measured in lumens. This is the standard for comparing the actual brightness of any flashlight. When a company isn’t willing to tell you how bright the light is in actual lumens, that is a major red flag.

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. It’s recommended to purchase multiple flashlights so you’ll have the right tool for each job.

Battery Types

There are trade-offs with the different battery types that each flashlight uses. Here is a simplified breakdown.

AA/AAA
Pros:
– Easy availability at most stores
– Cheap

Cons:
– 1.5v output, so greater brightness requires larger battery capacity
– Takes up more compartment space

CR2/CR123
Pros:
– 3v output, so brightness output is maximized in a smaller space
– Takes up less compartment space

Cons:
– 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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The author

Tyler Capobres has years of experience torture testing guns, knives and gear to their limit. If he’s not writing about gun projects, reviewing products or mocking anti-gun zealots on Twitter, you’ll find him at the range. Owner of thegoodgun.com, a website dedicated to all gun and knife enthusiasts.

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