Written by 8:58 amFlashlights

What is a Tactical Flashlight

Photo of a black tactical gear and led flashlight.

When people think of a flashlight, they might associate it with their use when there are power outages or just at night time. What people fail to realize is their potential use in everyday life. It is only when one forgets to carry one that they become vulnerable when they need one the most.

One of the first reasons I started adding a tactical flashlight to my bag was because of my phone’s poor battery life. This was one of many steps to replace some of the functions my phone had. It took only a matter of weeks of carrying the tactical flashlight around to realize how helpful it can be. So what is a tactical flashlight? Well, the word tactical is thrown around these days as a marketing ploy to get more sales. Essentially a tactical flashlight is a flashlight that has a few key attributes. These are:

  • Waterproof
  • Bright
  • Durable
  • Compact

It is nice to carry light bags around but there is something fun about the everyday use of survival items. It becomes a hobby to collect different types of gear that have functionality in my normal life. However, it is clear that the tactical flashlight is one of the only essential items I will always include. This is mainly because of the many different ways that the tactical flashlight can come in handy.

When I was younger, a flashlight was simply just a toy that brought enjoyment when messing around in the garden. I never thought of it as something with potential everyday use. I would use it as night to tell spooky stories or pretend to be a police officer investigating crime. This perception of the flashlight was soon to be changed after consistent outings in the outdoors. From using the magnified lens of the flashlight to ignite fires or the bright flash to signal for aid. It became increasingly clearer that the multifunctional tool the tactical flashlight really was.

It wasn’t until I reached the military that I saw the full capability and functions of the tactical flashlight. Now I was using them as gun attachments whilst performing field exercises, where I was utilizing the strobe effect. Other uses involved tactical flashlights that had different light modes such as dim red lights. These were helpful to prevent attracting attention whilst out in the field, making it easier to read maps.

New technology has transformed the initial brick-like tactical flashlights that I used as a kid to lighter more powerful torches. The difference of weight hasn’t reduced the power of these flashlights as a matter of fact the power has increased. This is another reason that supports the need for carrying a tactical flashlight as part of everyday use.


What are the main differences between the tactical flashlight and a normal flashlight?

First of all, it should be said that both types of flashlights have been made for different audiences. Normal flashlights have been traditionally made for households. Tactical flashlights were designed with a completely different function in mind. If you look at the origins of tactical flashlights, they were made as an addition to a firearm.

They were used to help identify targets when visibility was hindered. This could be for nighttime or in places that were especially dark. The reason they were so useful was because the enabled police officers or soldiers able to wield one item. Instead of holding a torch separately in a different hand, the combo allowed increased vision whilst remaining focused on target.

The increased visibility for police officers wasn’t the only reason that the tactical flashlight was useful. Security or cops could use the tactical flashlight to shine a gleam of light at a suspect. This would momentarily blind them giving the cop or security an advantage. They also were helpful in identifying suspects in areas that were poorly lit for example at night.

For this reason, when the tactical flashlight was being developed, they had to be designed with these functions in mind. This meant that the tactical flashlight had to be made with much more durable materials like strong metals. The household flashlight was made with cheap materials such as plastic.

Because of the sturdiness of the tactical flashlight. It doubled down as a blunt weapon that function in the same way that the baton is used by cops. This makes a distinct difference between the tactical flashlight and the household flashlight. The industries that developed household flashlights did not have the material or preparation for the development of the tactical variation.

Not only were the tactical flashlights to be used by police force and security. The military started to find proper use for them. Especially for situations were slightly dimmer red lights were required to protect night vision and maintain a concealed location. The ability to change filters on tactical flashlights gave them a number of functions.

The addition of an infrared filter on flashlights were used along with night vision equipment. This enabled special markers to be made that only those wearing night vision gear were able to see. Along with the use of laser sights on weapons, the use for tactical flashlights in the military seemed endless.


The different uses for a tactical flashlight


Image of two tactical flashlights laid out, with a red box behind.


You may wonder what the main differences between a household flashlight and a tactical flashlight is for everyday use. Many people don’t know that tactical flashlights can be a really good self-defense option. The reason for this being that tactical flashlights aren’t considered offensive weapons, unlike other self-defense options.

These include tools like pepper spray which are illegal in some countries and cannot be carried aboard planes. The tactical flashlight on the other hand can be carried with you wherever you decide to go. Various uses for tactical flashlights have already been mentioned above but I thought a concise list may be useful.


You may be wondering how tactical flashlights can be used in a self-defense manner. For the most part, tactical flashlights have the ability to shine an extremely bright beam of light. This can be utilized against attackers to momentarily blind them giving you time to make an escape. This is most effective if the attack occurs during the nighttime.

The reason for this being that when it is dark the eyes of the attacker have adjusted to minimal light. This means that when you shine a bright light at their eyes, they become fully blind. You then might just buy yourself enough time to run away or hide from the threat.

Another way in which tactical flashlights can be used in self-defense by utilizing the sturdiness and strength of the torch. Especially if someone is to lunge at you and all you have is a flashlight in your hand. The weight and durability of the flashlight allow it to be used similar to a police baton. With the powerful swing, you can be sure to stun an attacker if you land a hit on the right spot.


The good thing about tactical flashlights nowadays is that they are made in all different types and sizes. This means that you can find super thick, heavy flashlights as well as lightly more pocket-sized ones. In situations where you are alone at night, for example you are returning from a friend’s house. A pocket tactical flashlight may come in useful to light up that path ahead.

Being alone can make you feel vulnerable on its own but at nighttime it’s even worse. With the help of a tactical flashlight you can change the spread of light using the different settings. This can help increase spread of light to maximize visibility of your surroundings at night.

With a tactical flashlight, you instantly become safer against attackers looking to potentially inflict harm and steal from you. Less scary benefits of the tactical flashlight include the ability to see what’s actually in front of you. This helps prevent tripping over debris on pavements and potentially spraining your ankle unnecessarily.

Situations of Emergency

This one really speaks for itself. We have all experienced a power outage at some point in out lives. The first things we look for is some sort of lighting device so we can actually see around our house. For most households this usually requires blindly looking around the cupboards for the hidden flashlight.

This might be a reminder to think about where the closest flashlight is to you right now. Maybe it could be a good idea find the tactical flashlight when you have light and put it somewhere memorable. Or even look online to purchase one if you realize that you don’t actually own one.

Igniting a fire using a flashlight

This might not be known to many but its actually possible to start fires with your tactical flashlight. One of the methods involve carefully breaking the outer glass of the lightbulb without damaging the filament. You can then use some tinder and place it around the filament and switch on the light.

The other way of creating fire involves taking the lens of the light from the flashlight. Then using the magnified lens to focus the suns rays onto some tinder igniting sparks and creating a fire. The final way of starting a fire is only available for certain tactical flashlights with high lumen rays. By shining this light directly onto some tinder, it can spark and ignite flammable materials.

Useful tool

When people look for a tactical flashlight, they usually have two main characteristics in mind. They usually want a flashlight that has a powerful light but also high durability. These are features that are required for use in the military and the police force. There can be some variations to the type of tactical flashlights used by each field.

For example, there is a tactical flashlight known as a Maglite which can function as a weapon and a torch. The reason for this is the bluntness of the flashlight but also the heavy bulky design. This makes it ideal and similar to the baton used by police. Other design features of the tactical flashlight include the addition of notched edges. This feature makes the tactical flashlight useful for smashing windows. This is an effective way of escaping a vehicle or building or trying to get inside somewhere.

Signaling for assistance

This feature may one day save your life. If you are to become disorientated or stuck by the side of the road at night. You need to be able to signal for help. This is where a tactical flashlight comes in useful.

Normally when you become lost and you have nothing on you to call for help you rely on you voice. If you are by the side of the road at night with cars passing by your voice will likely not be heard. With a tactical flashlight you can use the bright light and the strobe effect to signal that you need help.

Carrying a tactical flashlight reduces the chance of running into danger and gives you a lifeline if all else fails. Another use for the tactical flashlight in the military is the ability to transmit morse code to allies. This may come in useful if equipment fails and you need to send a message to your squad from distance.


What makes a good flashlight?

Strength of Flashlight (lumens)

Tactical flashlights can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all have common features that define them. These are usually durability, powerful light emission and a long lifespan. These are aspects of the tactical flashlight that separates them from the traditional household one.

After reviewing and using flashlights for a good part of my life I have compiled what I consider important features. These are what I think make an effective tactical flashlight.

First of all, I think it’s of upmost importance that the actual light of the flashlight is emitting strong light. This means looking at the description of the flashlight to see what level of lumens is being emitted. You want numbers that are high in comparison to other tactical flashlights to ensure that you have optimum visibility outside.

Ability to focus the light

Another feature of the tactical flashlight that you want to look out for is the ability to focus the light. This means looking for settings that allow light to be focus or spread out. This will give you the ability to focus the light on a specific point.

This is useful if you are trying to see something specific like a number plate that’s 10 meters away. Being able to switch to a more spread of light is important as well. This enables you to be aware of your surroundings and protect you against potential threats and dangers.

Battery Power

The power of the tactical flashlight is important, but the lifespan of the torch is of equal importance. You can have the most powerful flashlight on the market but if its lifespan is short it is useless. Especially for military made flashlights where patrols can last hours and require strong light visibility for long periods of time.

Some flashlights say they have a longer lifespan than they really have. This is because they have taken the time for the light to die out completely. Some flashlights lose the strength of their light over time making them less effective the longer they are on.

This is why it is important to find out how long the tactical flashlight lasts on the highest light setting. You can then decide based on what the use of the tactical flashlight will most likely be for you. Allowing you to make an appropriate decision for the features that best fit your needs.


One of the most important features of a tactical flashlight especially for the police force and military is its durability. For the military this means a flashlight that can withstand harsh weather conditions and potential damage.
For the tactical flashlight to be functional in the military it is important that it is waterproof and temperature proof. This means that those carrying the tactical flashlight aren’t limited in where they can go which is important for soldiers.

The same goes for the varying temperatures that come with being in the military. It can quickly go from scorching heat to freezing temperatures depending on where you are located. This then makes it important that the tactical flashlight can function in both weather types.

For the police force it is equally important that the shell of the tactical flashlight is robust. This is important as the tactical flashlight used by the police force can be used as a blunt weapon. Its helpful for having one hand free instead of using both hands for a torch and a baton.


Why do you want a tactical flashlight?

This is why it is important to figure out what role the tactical flashlight is actually playing before purchasing one. Is it purely for the ability to light up a forest or is it for self-defense reasons? Or are you looking for a small compact flashlight that will fight easy into your pocket or everyday bag.

For some people, they like to have two flashlights. One that is more military-grade that is useful for big outdoor excursion and self-defense measures. And another one that fits comfortably in your pocket or bag that comes in useful for finding things in the dark.

The different ways in which tactical flashlights are designed is another consideration you may want to think about. Some people have preference when it comes to where the on and off switch is located.
Others prefer it on the side whilst some like it on the end of the tactical flashlight. The reasons differ, some people enjoy the ability of rapidly tapping the button for imitate a strobe mode. Others like a setting that activates strobe mode by itself.

Finally, you may want to think about what type of batter the tactical flashlight uses or if it is rechargeable. Some flashlights use double A batteries whilst others use triple A. This really comes down to preference and how easy each type of battery is to get a hold of.


How to hold a tactical flashlight

The FBI Technique

This method of hold the tactical flashlight is a way of deceiving a threat. This involves holding the light above your head and away from your body. This makes someone believe that you are in a position you are not. By holding it away from your body, if someone was to shoot, they would aim towards the light.

The Neck Index Position

This method enables you to switch from the previously explained FBI technique to aiming to shoot. By bringing your arm closer to your eye level you get increased vision of where to aim whilst improving accuracy.

The Harris Technique

This method of handling the tactical flashlight gives an increased steady aim by positioning the flashlight under your aiming hand. With this technique you improve your ability to shoot a target whilst maintaining vision with the tactical flashlight.

The Sunfire Technique

To properly use this method of holding the tactical flashlight you need to have a slightly smaller flashlight. This technique involves placing the flashlight in between the fore finger and index finger. This then allows the other hand to hold get a firm grasp of the gun with the other handing supporting. Placing both hands on the gun improves the control of recoil and steadies the aim.

Allowing for better accuracy whilst maintaining a clear shot with the light provided by the tactical flashlight. It is important that the tactical flashlight is small enough so that it can be held horizontally. If the tactical flashlight is too heavy, then it will begin to slip and point downwards. This will of course still provide some light on the target but will not have the same blinding effect.

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