One of the most important pieces of “kit” that a person can carry every day (EDC) is a powerful handheld flashlight. The uses of a flashlight are fairly obvious and include target identification, navigation, signaling, and self-defense, just to name a few. About eighty percent of the sensory information we receive comes through our eyes. Nearly 100 percent of the necessary information in a gunfight also comes from our sight. We have to be able to identify a target and determine if that target poses an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. In low light conditions, our visual acuity drops to a level in which we are considered legally blind. If we find ourselves in a life threatening situation in low light conditions, a flashlight is a necessity.
With a variety of manufacturers of flashlights on the market, it is important to discuss the features that are most important in a tactical flashlight. We always go back to the adage that, "You get what you pay for." Ask yourself, "How much is your life worth?" While there are a variety of flashlights on the market, there are certain features you must have in your flashlight for EDC. The purpose of this article is to provide information on important flashlight features.
The first thing you need to look for in a Tactical Flashlight is how powerful it is. This is measured in the number of lumens the flashlight has. The number of lumens signifies the amount of light that is "thrown" out the front of the flashlight. Many flashlights on the market today are at least 200 lumens, but a better number to look for is a light in the 500 lumen range. Beware of manufacturers advertising the amount of "candle power" that a flashlight has, instead of providing the number of lumens. This is a deceptive trick designed to get you to buy a substandard flashlight. Candle power is defined as a measurement of the brightest spot in the beam of light. This does not reflect how much light is thrown from the front of the flashlight. A manufacturer can tell you that a flashlight has 50,000 candle power, which sounds very bright. When you get the light, it may only be 100 lumens. Look for the number of lumens the flashlight emits in order to prevent yourself from wasting money.
It goes without saying that the beam should be even and free of dark spots/imperfections. With the advancement of flashlight technology, LED lights are now the standard. Avoid the older filament style tactical flashlights. Those of us old enough to remember, will never forget a time where their flashlight ends up falling to the ground, blowing the filament of the bulb. That is obviously not something you can afford in a life or death situation. Your flashlight needs to be a shock resistant. You should not have to fear that dropping your flashlight on the ground or using it as an impact weapon will cause your flashlight to break.
The flashlight you choose should have a tailcap switch. This is very important because you don’t want to have to fumble around with the flashlight in your hand to find the on/off switch in a "time is life" situation. A tailcap switch allows the user the ease of grabbing and utilizing the light without having to think about where the on/off switch is located. The tailcap switch should also have both a momentary on/off switch and a constant on/off switch. There are many times when you want to only turn on your light for a moment, and then turn it off again quickly, like when you are clearing an area. However, there are also times when you’re going to want the light to stay on, but don’t want to have to hold down the tail cap switch. It becomes very fatiguing on your support hand thumb to continually hold down the switch. Try it if you don't believe me.
The tactical flashlight should have two modes which will be used the most: Full Power and Strobe. The primary modes should be set to go when you turn on the light. You should not have to cycle through all the different brightness levels to get to the intensity that you want. Most often you’ll need to be set in the high intensity mode, but may need to switch to the strobe function at some point. This is not to say that your flashlight cannot have other programmable modes, but the high intensity and strobe modes need to be immediately available.
Finally, there may be some of you thinking that having a weapon mounted light is sufficient. However, many times you will need your flashlight before you need your firearm. You can’t take out your pistol and use it like you would use a flashlight. Inevitably, you would be violating one of the cardinal life safety rules: Never let the muzzle cross anything you’re not willing to destroy, including yourself. This is a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.
Hopefully this has given you some thoughts and considerations for your flashlight purchases. Buy a quality flashlight, from a reputable manufacture. You get what you pay for. I have found a great EDC light that I carry with me everyday, because of both its size features. It is available through WPC here. If you find yourself in that life or death situation in low light conditions, you’ll thank yourself for having a light.