Although headlamps have become the favourite source of illumination for many, tactical flashlights are still the preferred choice anytime you want the strongest beam available, and when precision and dexterity of the light is important. Further, advances in LED and battery technologies have made it so that tactical lights are more compact, yet more powerful than they were just a couple of years ago. But with so many different tactical lights available, how do you decide which one is the best for you, and what are the benefits of tactical flashlights over conventional lights.
When deciding between different tactical lights, you’ll notice that all of them have a different light output, run time, battery time, size and weight. They also range in price from under $20 to over $250 and more, even if they are similarly sized. So what makes one much more expensive than the other. Well, brightness is the main contributing factor to a tactical light’s price tag. A brighter flashlight uses a more advanced bulb, circuitry and battery technology. Rechargeable batteries, impact- and water-resistant properties, as well as effective heat dissipation, can also add to the cost.
Benefits of LED Tactical Flashlights
As briefly aforementioned, most quality flashlights come with LED instead of incandescent bulbs, making them longer-lasting, more cost-effective, safer, more reliable, convenient to carry and use, etc. Brands such as Olight, NiteCore, ThruNite and Fenix tactical light are just some of the many reputable names that have adopted LED technology as the norm and offer quality, long-lasting products that are worth considering if you’re looking for guaranteed value.
The LED light is a result of electrons moving over a simple semiconductor known as a diode. The energy that comes out the electrons is given off as light instead of heat, and since there’s no filament heated in the process, LEDs are capable of staying cool, conserving energy and lasting longer. Due to the fact that LEDs don’t use nearly as much energy as other types of bulbs, they produce a smaller carbon footprint, making them environmentally friendly.
Their solid-state construction and small plastic bulbs prevent them from breaking easily. Further, they feature better drop-, shock- and vibration-properties, allowing them to keep going even after they’ve gone through a lot of abuse, which is bound to happen in the rough Australian outdoors. The fact that they’re smaller and lighter than conventional lights makes them easy to hold, use and store for transport. You can easily fit one in a pocket so that you always have a lighting solution when you need one.
What to Consider
In order to get the aforementioned benefits, as well as to ensure you make the right investment, there are a few things to consider.
The light output – is measured in lumens, and refers to the intensity of the light produced by the flashlight, on the highest brightness settings when powered by new batteries. Some models show the number of lumens the flashlight can produce in all of its light settings. However, the number of lumens a flashlight has doesn’t show the whole picture of brightness. Things like distance, beam intensity and type of beam can all impact the effectiveness of your LED flashlight in different applications. The beam distance is measured in metres, and it represents how far the light can shine before it starts diminishing. The run time is measured in hours, and it represents how long will it take for the light to go out, at which point you’ll need to recharge or replace the batteries.
The battery type – can be either rechargeable or disposable. Disposable batteries are what you use for most of your clocks, remotes, etc. They can be either AA, AAA or CR123A. CR123A batteries are the most powerful out of the three, but also the most expensive and difficult to find. However, they offer a high voltage output and are quite small and light. Rechargeable batteries are usually lithium-ion, and they can be recharged through a USB connection from an AC, DC outlet, a computer or solar panel. Their high upfront cost is the only downside, but they make up for it by their low ongoing running costs.
Size and Weight – The size of the tactical LED flashlight you need will depend on your personal needs. A bulkier unit isn’t necessarily brighter, but it can probably run for longer due to the greater battery capacity. The weight of the light will depend on the materials it’s made of. Most brands, including Olight, NiteCore, ThruNite and Fenix tactical light models are made of either aluminium alloy or plastic, with some parts being made of stainless steel for extra impact resistance. However, keep in mind that not all aluminium bodies are the same – there are thicker styles which are tough, and thinner styles that are lighter. The most common shape is cylindrical, but there are profiled models to prevent rolling.