I’m never without at least one flashlight, usually two on my person.  We ain’t nocturnal critters.  The person who controls the light need not fear the night.

Some good advice on picking a tactically-oriented personal flashlight from my old friend and pistol team-mate Ernest Langdon.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Ahh, remembering the Army-issued angle-head flashlight and the wonderful 6 D-cell (not to be used as an impact weapon ) Maglite. Don’t forget the game changing Mini-Maglite ( you could actually hold it in your teeth without looking like you were starring in a cheap porn flick). The toughest question is if all the perfectly good flashlights & weapon lights you have now “really” need to be replaced with the latest & greatest rechargeable tiny 5000 lumen versions. The golden age of light is here!

    • “..not to be confused with an impact weapon” Subtle and hilarious….. Tell that to my friend (former state trooper from way back in the day).

    • When I was a patrol copper in baton training the instructor told us that the skills applied to any baton-like object so one of the guys said, “so we’re qualified on Mag Lites now as well?” “Absolutely” the instructor said!

  2. Way back in the last century, I happened to be the only person in one of Mas’s classes whose organization mandated carrying a light 24/7/365. My experience is that the concept of “blinding the other” is oversold. A momentary distraction while one gets access to a sidearm and/or creates distance, maybe. But you’ve gotta have the concept in your toolbox.

    Having said that, LEDs typically are more powerful and last longer than bulb type lights. Even so, the more power, typically, the shorter the battery life. Multiple power levels can be confusing and delay turning the cotton picking thing off so you can relocate.

    Have some spare batteries around. The 123 size seems to go from “seems a little dim” to no light quickly. The old style Mag-Lites (3 C cell my favorite) have a spare bulb in the end cap.

    • I carry an LED, (2) AA cell MagLite in my purse, along with a plastic container holding four spare batteries.

      Whenever I contemplate the idea of leaving both of these at home, I think about what it would have been like, trying to go down those 90 plus flights of stairs in a black, smoky, burning World Trade Center, with thousands of panicking, screaming, nearly out of control people around me. Knowing that any minute, the entire thing might pancake.

      A flashlight would have been a lifesaver.

  3. I think of handheld lights in the same fashion I think of screw drivers or guns. Screw drivers are specialized in that you need one with a tip to fit the screw. Some guns are for hunting, some for punching paper or ringing steel, and some for concealed carry. A flashlight with 4 brightness levels is handy for administrative and domestic uses, but one carried for defensive purposes should probably be on/off only and very bright and focused. I carry an administrative light and a defensive light, but actually I find administrative purposes for both because that is the reality of life. Then of course there are lights for home and yard and lights for vehicles. One can’t have too many guns, flashlights, (or knives for that matter).

    • And since you carry two lights, you have a backup for the time when one doesn’t work. “One is none, two are one.”

      • Not to mention feeling your way along in the pitch dark on foot, half lost and exhausted, hours from your vehicle, stumbling up over an immense, barren hillside full of great boulders, out in a snake-infested desert area, too likely followed by a curious, hungry, and possibly foolhardy lion, with yourself as the most vulnerable game to be had at the moment, in the middle of a moonless, cloudy night, with no cell, and needing a second light in order to see what you are doing in order to change batteries in your flashlight. Meanwhile, just one misstep can make you toast. If you are lucky you can make enough light with a lighter or a match, but you can also toast your fingers with it. #%&$!, I will not forget that one. Duh.

  4. They never talked about lumens to compare brightness. I carry one on bright to blind someone in a self defense, but it also has 5 power settings for doing close work. It is to bright to do close work on the higher settings.

  5. I carry a little Streamlight flashlight. It’s a pencil-sized stick with a naked white LED on the end. It takes skinny AAAA (four-A) batteries.

    It’s not much of a flashlight. It gives off enough light to not trip over things on a dark night. It doesn’t have different colors or a strobe function. On the other hand, it’s just the ticket for examining threads in bolt holes, looking down barrel bores, and other tasks. And it’s always clipped to my pocket, so it’s always available.

    Most of my friends were impressed by the convenience of the little light. Then they went out and bought eleventy zillion candlepower ‘tactical’ lights, so bright that when they turn them on, reflected light blows away their night vision. Brighter doesn’t mean better, unless your only uses are blinding an opponent or jacklighting deer a hundred yards away.

    And since they’re bigger and bulkier even without the comic-book “tactical” features, they got carried for a week or two, then left at home on the nightstand or in a drawer because they were a hassle. And then they borrow mine, and complain about it.

    “Yes, but it’s in your hand, because it’s the appropriate tool for the job. Where’s *your* light?”

  6. As an admitted candelaphile I’m anxiously awaiting the laser light (LEP) market to advance and make LEDs obsolete. For now the Streamlight pro tac 1L is my EDC.

  7. Always have at least one. Micro lights on jacket zipper pulls and a light in the left-hand pocket, plus my pocket-clipped light. Lights on my night table, lights in my car, lights around the house.

    Help, I’m addicted to flashlights. 😉

    • Rick,

      I used to keep a three D-cell Maglite in my car. But, the cold winter temperatures were rough on the batteries, so I just keep a flashlight near me at all times. It is either on my belt, (in an old police, black leather holder,) or in a large pocket, or in a carry bag. The three D-cell Maglites stay in the house now.

  8. Flashlight in door pocket of Jeep Cherokee. Flashlights in several rooms around house and they all work! At 87 I find them a requirement. I even give them as gifts.

  9. Hi, I am Steve and I am a “Flashaholic”. My first wife said I needed a 12 step group for my flashlight addiction. I have been a professional user of lighting equipment in Fire/EMS/Law for over 20 years; and an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys being outside during periods of darkness for about double that time. From that background I offer this…

    Do you know what a flashlight is? It is a tube for storing dead batteries. Unfortunately for many people, that is a true statement. Many people we know have flashlights put away somewhere for emergency use and we they go to use it they find they don’t work.

    The video is a good introduction to choosing a personal light. My wife and I both agree that the Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA is a fantastic light and we both frequently carry that light. Officially it is a dual fuel light, but in a pinch you can also use AAA. I like the Ten TAP programming that this light offers so you can configure the light more to your needs. This light is not the same build quality as say a Surefire, but it is pretty good.

    For true everyday carry I find that a 1 cell AA battery size flashlight works very well. I always have one of those in my pocket and I frequently use it. Anything that is much bigger than that size will sometimes get left behind for MOST people (Depending upon type of dress and activity).

    The run times listed by the manufacturers are frequently greatly exaggerated. Most manufacturers use an ANSI Specification that allows them to list run times that mislead the buyer. It is a bit complicated but the simple version is that they will take a light measurement usually at 30 seconds after turning the light on. Say that reading is 200 Lumens, they can then run that light until it only puts out 10 percent of that initial value (20 Lumens) and call that the run time for that switch setting. It is important to look at a graph showing the light output over time. It is important to verify these run times with the batteries that you intend to use and in the conditions that you expect to use them. I cannot stress this enough.

    Construction: I live in a very hot climate where summer temps often exceed 110 degrees. I like to play in winter months in areas that are often below freezing. I find that having some plastic body flashlights like some of the Surefire line are more comfortable with bare hands in really hot and really cold conditions.

    Batteries: I have had several lights destroyed by Alkaline batteries of all different makes. I now try to avoid these batteries. I use quality rechargeable batteries in the AA/AAA form factor. I find that the Panasonic Eneloop and Eneloop Pro batteries to work well. Energizer Lithium Disposable batteries also work well for those who don’t want to recharge. For “Tactical” lights I prefer the 18650 form factor using a quality battery. I prefer to have a charger that can handle a variety of battery types and charge my batteries outside of the lights.

    Light output, Lumens, Candela, beam patterns, throw, etc: Find high quality reviews by lighting enthusiasts who take ‘beam shots’ with different lights to help understand this. For a hand held light, you do NOT NEED as much light as you might be lead to believe. In the 90’s I rode a mountain bike on intermediate level trails at night using a light with 200 Lumens of light. In the early 2000’s a small tactical hand held light had about 60 lumens. My TRUE EDC carry lights range from a high output of about 130 to 450 Lumens.

    Light usage: Most of my light usage is administrative. I prefer to have a small light that starts off on a low output that I can easily bump up to high output. I prefer to have only 2-3 output settings on a small light. I avoid strobe patterns. Greater than 95 percent of my light usage is at 60 lumens or less.

    The light in my pocket right now is a Fenix LD12 set to come on at 30 lumens. This light has memory and will turn on in the last setting used. Other lights that are frequently in my pocket are an older Fenix E12, Lumintop Tool AA.

    One year for Christmas we gave away surefire plastic body flashlights to friends with some spare CR123A batteries. A few years later I realized that the friends who we gave those lights to never bought more of those ‘weird’ batteries and the lights sat unused. They loved the lights until the batteries had to be replaced. For non-technical people I now give away flashlights that can use AA batteries. I equip them with the Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery and some spares of those. I encourage them to use those batteries. I find that my friends don’t follow my battery advice and they stick any random AA battery into them. But the lights are still working for them!

    We have found that the potential criminals that are lurking in the shadowed areas of lit parking lots and such, avoid us when we very briefly use our small EDC light to light up areas of potential tripping hazard and areas that could conceal someone lurking. Someone who is alert and walks with purpose and is equipped with a light sends a strong message. That type of usage has also saved us from tripping in potholes and such. Smart use.

    I also have small lights that are not true EDC. They are lights that I add to my pocket when I am headed out into the dark to do something. This becomes my primary light for that event and my EDC light is a backup. My favorite defensive pocket light is my Elzetta Bones using the flood lens and using a quality 18650 battery. My second favorites are a collection of various Surefire lights that use 2 – CR123 batteries or a single 16650 lithium rechargeable battery.

    A final thought to share is that most people most of the time are going to be better served having 3 good flashlights rather that one super flashlight that is the price of 3 good flashlights. I don’t own the super expensive $300 handheld flashlights that are quite the rage. However, I do have multiple lights that cost between about $30 and $150. In each vehicle I keep 2 flashlights and 2 headlamps. I keep a less expensive flashlight that I can loan out or give away at an emergency scene in each car. I check the batteries in the car lights every 3 months and I keep spare batteries in plastic battery cases that are designed for that type of battery.

    I hope this information helps a few people find better flashlights for them and their family.

  10. Back in the day I carried a penlight. They were the size of a fat fountain pen, with two AA batteries and an incandescent bulb. It didn’t put out much light, and was only good for fifteen minutes or so, but such was the state of the art.

    I was in a theater enjoying a movie when a thunderstorm blew up. Our first warning was a lightning strike, and a transformer blowing up outside. The movie went dark. I heard everyone gasp. The emergency lights kicked in, and everybody relaxed.
    Then the emergency lights dimmed out.

    Everybody drew a breath. I figured one scream and there would be a stampede. I turned on my dinky little light. It only illuminated about four seats around me, like a candle in an utterly dark room. But it was a bit of light, and everybody breathed a sigh of relief.
    A couple minutes later the ushers came in, with their bigger flashlights, and led an orderly evacuation into the lobby, where emergency lights were working.
    I haven’t been without some kind of light since.

  11. Why 2 lights? To hand one to another person. Imagine you and your wife out together and you are in a building that loses power. It could be daytime but an elevator, hallway or other area hidden by daylight might be pitch dark. What if your car broke down and one of you had to walk for help? What if the battery goes dead. It’s just as easy to carry a spare light as it is to carry extra batteries

  12. Have recently put Olight EOS 150 lumen mini rechargeables on all my sets of keys. Replaced tiny Streamights that put out 10 lumens.

  13. Streamlight Protac 2 AAA is my current choice. Not to be confused with a Kubotan and legal on an airplane as long as it works.

  14. I always carry two Streamlights, a single AAA job in my pocket and a 2-AA job clipped inside my left cargo pant pocket. I was once discussing my flashlight “problem” with my family (siblings and mother) on a group text. Without even trying really hard I found 18 flashlights lying around in various place level in the house!

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