As you can imagine, I’ve done a whole lot of reviews, but one things that I don’t think I did is talk about what goes on in a tactical flashlight review, and talking about what exactly to look for, to determine if a flashlight is really good, or if it’s not so much. Is it worth the money? Can you find something better? I wanna get into the details of what we look for in a tactical flashlight review to determine the best tactical flashlights.
So, basically, in this particular article, I’ll be talking about the entire review process. So, to start with, I research. I want to see which flashlights I want to review, and if they’re really worth my time. There are a ton of great flashlight brands out there, but there are also a lot of duds. You really have to be careful when it comes to flashlight brand, who may be re-branding the same light, over and over again, and selling it as a different flashlight.
One thing I like to make sure of is that the brand manufacturer is a reliable company, and that if, for whatever reason, the flashlight is defective, something breaks, it has a good warranty. To be honest, if it doesn’t have a warranty, and a good company, to back up their product, I would recommend looking elsewhere. A few brands that have great warranties are Klarus, Nitecore, Fenix, and Olight.
What really catches my eye, in tactical flashlights, can often be, something unique about them. Whether it’s unique in the design of the flashlight, or in the user interface, or in a special feature. I really like seeing something that’s very unique. A lot of the time you’ll see the same flashlight among different brands, with slight variations about them, and I of course, like reviewing these very simple flashlight, however, I would definitely say that I like looking for flashlight that have something more, something special to them.
Once I pick my flashlight, I do a bit of research into it. I want to know every single thing about this flashlight. From the LED that it uses, to the user interface, to what it is made out of. These are incredibly important things, because if you’re willing to spend a decent amount of money on a tactical flashlight, you wanna make sure that it has everything you need, and sometimes more.
A great example of this, in particular, would be the Klarus XT11GT. It has so many features, that it’s almost a steal, because of all the features that are packed into this one flashlight. So, the first thing I look at is, the body and the design of the flashlight. Is it compact? Does it feel comfortable in your hands? Is it sturdy, lightweight? These are all important questions to ask, because when you’re buying a flashlight, a lot of the time you’re buying it online, and you don’t actually know until it gets there, how this flashlight is going to feel.
Size & Feel
So, I think it’s important to talk about that in my reviews, talk about the size of the flashlight and how it feels when you’re using it. I’m also going to notice any knurling that it has on the body, because I definitely want that anti-slip grip. I’m going to be noticing the heat dissipation groves, because that is very important in keeping the flashlight at a higher output for longer. Of course, I’m going to notice the lumens. The maximum output that it can deliver.
Now, everyone is different in what they think is a great tactical flashlight, in terms of, the maximum output. Personally I prefer my tactical flashlights to be somewhere between 800 lumens, and 2,000 lumens, and that’s quite a range, but I found that 800 lumens actually does provide a great amount of light, and 2,000 lumens is just unbelievable, but actually very practical. The majority of tactical flashlights I find, tend to be somewhere between the 1,000 and 1,600 lumens range.
I also like looking at the beam pattern, as well as, the color of the LED. Sometimes, with certain flashlights, you can get a nasty blue tint to them. Some flashlights kind of have almost a yellow tint to them. Some of them have a cool white. I like noticing this, because some people have specific preferences as to which color of LED they prefer.
Beam pattern is absolutely important to talk about, because there are many lights that will have a flood, or possibly only a spot. Some of them will have a decent amount of flood, a good amount of spill, but have a very specific hot spot. For example, you have the Klarus XT11S, this has a good amount of spill, but a very focused and specific hot spot. Whereas the XT11GT, actually has a bit of a brighter and bigger spill, and less of a hot spot. I think it’s important to note that.
The next thing is going to be the user interface, and this does include the switch design. The user interface is a really important thing to look at, because some flashlights have a user interface that is very complicated, can be a little difficult to learn, and there are others that are simple, you pick them up and you learn them.
In most of the flashlights I review I really like to see a variety of brightness levels and at least one flashing mode. In a tactical flashlight I expect that mode to be the strobe mode. I also like noting very specific features, such as, instant turbo, instant strobe, instant low. These can be really important aspects when looking for a tactical flashlight, so I definitely like to make note of them.
Another important aspect of a flashlight I’m going to look at is, the energy source. What kind of batteries can it use? Does it come an integrated battery pack? Does it come with a special charging system, whether it is a USB rechargeable flashlight, or do I need a propietary charging cable? These are all things I’m going to wanna know when reviewing a flashlight. For some users out there, having a USB rechargeable flashlight is a must. As for others, it’s not quite so necessary. Some people do like certain proprietary charging systems, or charging cables, while others would rather just have a flashlight that they can switch the batteries out, no problem. It’s different for everyone and I like to make note of what kind of batteries you can be using in this flashlight, whether it’s rechargeable, and how it’s rechargeable.
I also wanna look at the run times, because there are some flashlights that will wow you with their lumen output, but it turns out, that the turbo mode, that it’s been marketing for, is not actually that long lasting. So, I like making sure that the tactical flashlights I’m reviewing have decent run times, and if they have run times that I don’t find to be as adequate, I will talk about it, and I definitely make note of it.
I’m also going to look into the construction of the flashlight. I want to be sure that it is crafted from a good, high quality material. I particularly like flashlights that are made with an aluminum alloy, and have that really nice, hard anodized finish, or flashlights that are made from titanium. I find these flashlights are going to be very, very durable. I wanna be sure that this flashlight can really make it in a rugged environment. So, I wanna be sure that the flashlight is impact resistant, and water resistant, because you don’t want to have to worry about trying to hide your flashlight in a rainstorm. Especially because at times like that, you might need it the most. Checking to make sure the flashlight is durable, is definitely a big thing that I look at when reviewing the light.
Along with that I look for some safety features that the flashlight has, including, an ITS that monitors the internal temperature of the flashlight, and it will regulate the output so you don’t have to worry about the flashlight overheating. I like looking for reverse polarity protection, and any other feature that makes me know, that the flashlight can take care of itself, and I don’t have to worry about it.
I’m also going to check out the accessories, because tactical flashlights can be pricey, so I wanna make sure that I’m getting a good number of accessories. The things I’m specifically going to look for when I’m reviewing a flashlight, is going to be a bezel, which I know might not be included as an accessory, it could be included as a body design. However, there are some flashlights that have removable bezels, so I like to include it as an accessory, but either way. I want to see that it has a bezel, not all tactical flashlights need one, but a lot of people prefer that they have bezels. So it’s important to make note of that.
I like looking for pocket clips, holsters, lanyards, spare O rings, because if an O ring breaks, your flashlight may lose some of it’s water resistance. So, it’s definitely important to have those back up O rings. I also like it when, tactical flashlights come with their own batteries, so you don’t need to worry about buying a battery, and if it is USB rechargeable it’s great, often they’ll include the USB charging cable. So, you can get a lot of good accessories, especially with the high end flashlights.
After considering all of the features above, the final thing is price. If you have a budget lower than $30, you may have to ignore some of our suggestions and find a light that just has a solid construction and bright LED. There are thousands of flashlights out there that can all get the job done in one way or another. It is just like with any other tool…you get what you pay for.
So I think that just about covers what I look for when I’m reviewing a flashlight, and each of these aspects I find to be important, because tactical flashlights have certain requirements, and at the same time, users have different preferences, so it’s important to point out all of these features. Hopefully our flashlight buying guide has been enlightening for you with the reviewing process.