It’s not news that most violent crime happens at night. And one of the gun safety rules is, as I like to say it, Be sure of your target and what’s around it. For those of us who identify as human (and even those who don’t but obviously are), light is an essential. Without it, we can’t effectively differentiate between friend and foe, or even neutral parties and threats, in the dark. So ready access to a great flashlight is part of any solid personal defense plan.
Previous articles have discussed selecting a useful tactical flashlight as well as techniques for using one. This one provides information on the top five choices in the current market. Flashlight technology has come a long way in recent years, but some traits like sufficient brightness for target ID and straightforward operation, including limited functions that make use under stress as quick and easy as possible, remain top priority in the choices shown here.
In no particular order, here are current (spring 2023) recommendations for reliable, easy flashlights with an eye toward personal/home defense.
Foursevens Mini MKIII
Superb portability and flexible application are the name of the game with this light. It’s got the pocket clip and tailcap switch for accessibility. Its tiny 2.2-inch midnight blue or titanium shell packs a USB-rechargeable RCR123 High Discharge battery to deliver a surprising maximum 800 lumens of brightness.
Foursevens made this light user-programmable so its six “on” modes (including strobe, flashing, and SOS) and four brightness levels won’t distract, assuming time is taken to program it. For situations not defense-involved, it has a handy magnetic rear cap and can assist to light up an area affixed to, say, an automotive frame or steel beam. It’s also compatible with the Foursevens headband. This little hottie of a light can be ordered direct for $70 for the Midnight color, or $110 for Titanium.
From this trusted name in flashlights comes another super-powerful, compact light that, if it’s like others I know from this brand, will hold up for a very long time. The PD36R is another rechargeable, with a 21700 Lithium Ion battery and charging cable included. Longer-than-expected runtime is a prime feature of this light. Fenix also throws in a lanyard, holster, a rubber switch boot, and replacement O-ring to maintain water resistance. This flashlight has a lighted indicator to let the user know when the battery is in need of a charge.
This light is purported to deliver a dazzling 1,600 lumens in “turbo” and strobe modes, with 960 feet of range. I have personally seen an earlier Fenix handheld work as a 100-yard shooting light when bigger, more costly lights failed to light up the range that far. So, I’m optimistic the PD36R is as bright as advertised. This light is an inch in diameter and 6.4 inches in total length—on the longer side among those in this list, but also a length many find easier to manipulate with a pistol in hand, especially during reloads. Its two-way clip is as handy for holding it on MOLLE or a ball cap brim as it is in a pocket. As of this writing, the PD36R is on sale for $99.95; representing a great deal on powerful lighting.
Nightstick Mini-Tac Pro 2AA
Replacing worn-out or poorly-recharging premium batteries is a challenge in some communities. That’s just one good reason to consider the Mini-Tac Pro 2AA from Nightstick, a growing and respected brand that keeps my own state’s (New Mexico’s) State Police supplied with weapon-mounted lights. While I’ve not owned a Mini-Tac Pro myself, I’ve had a great experience with the all-weather ready, reliable Nightstick flashlight that’s mounted on my carbine.
This six inch-long light has a midsection that’s skinny at 0.6 inches while the ends are just 0.8 in diameter. It’s housing is aluminum with a non-slip grip. This makes it a handy nighttime pistol partner or improvised striking tool. Its brightness is a modest 265 lumens; Nightstick brand proudly says they don’t exaggerate lumen measurements as some (of course unnamed) companies tend to. For in-home or small-yard defense, it’d be hard to go wrong with this light. Unfortunately, direct order is not an option, but the Nightstick website offers a dealer directory. This is also the most economical choice on our list. Shop hard online and you’ll find the Nightstick Mini-Tac Pro 2AA for less than $30.
Streamlight Macrostream USB Everyday Carry Flashlight
Isn’t it nice when a product name is also a great description? Streamlight is one of the longstanding respected names in flashlights. I’ve personally owned many and can attest to their durability, especially considering their prices, which have not been inflated for the civilian market even though Streamlight enjoys serving a sizable chunk of the law enforcement and military contract markets. Their Macrostream USB Everyday Carry light is, as the name suggests, USB-rechargeable on its lithium ion battery. It has a two-way clip handy for pocket or brim/MOLLE carry.
This little, 4.5-inch long light delivers a surprising 500 lumens on high setting; 50 when subtle light is required. A charging cable is included, and this light has a battery charge status indicator. Streamlight makes a dedicated charger, available for separate purchase. While this light apparently doesn’t have a pressure-only on/off function on its tailcap switch, it can make a fine tactical light that’s backed by Streamlight’s lifetime warranty. Find this one using a web search; among those choices are one of my fave shops, LA Police Gear, which sells this light for $55.99.
FirstLight Torque LE
There’s a decided lack of variety in light styles in this list, so I wanted to include a light that’s just right for those who like to be unique. And it’s one I’ve tested in its earlier version, and it was remarkably reliable and easy to use. Firstlight’s Torque LE is a light that’s hinged and made to be held in a “beer can grip” with the thumb on top. It has a handy, quick-release finger loop to keep it secure. This light has numerous light colors besides its 200-lumen white light, which with some practice is easiest to turn on first-and-only for defensive purposes. If camping, nighttime fishing/hunting, or the like are as important to you as defensive use, this might well be the light.
FirstLight is, in my estimation, one of the unsung heroes of the flashlight market and deserving of more popularity in the civilian market. Though this light is literally named for law enforcers, it makes a handy light for any self-reliant civilian too. Pick one up for $126.99 via direct order.
These are just a few of the dozens of good choices of handheld lights available today. Is the list missing a couple brands that seem like household names in the light industry? Yes, and that is strategic. Just like a gun used for personal protection, a light must first be reliable. A popular brand is not in this article as I’ve seen their new products fail regularly. Another is missing because they tend to charge inflated prices for lights with the same features as other top brands, and people I respect in this industry have also noticed that. This list is far from complete, but it’s done with the best interest of the civilian defender in mind.
Do you have an EDC light that’s served dependably in EDC for more than a year? Do tell the world about it in the comments.