Shedding some light…on Flashlights.
What?! Flashlights?! Yes. But, this is a firearms site? Indeed. You don’t always need one with the other, but there are times they go hand-in-hand. In fact, if you have a firearm for home defense, a high-quality, high-output flashlight or weapon light to use with that firearm in low-light, or no-light situations is a must. Even if you don’t own a firearm, there are many great reasons everyone needs at least one high-quality flashlight that puts out some serious candle-power!
I actually recommend three to four: one for your home, one for your vehicle, one that’s part of your Every Day Carry (EDC) system, and one for your Bug-Out-Bag if you have such a thing. A high-quality light is just another smart, useful tool. Useful tools give you capability and options. Capability and options are good, especially in emergency, or dangerous situations.
After all, if you can’t see it, then you can’t find it, fix it, identify it, or eliminate it! Nor can you find your way out of a dark situation, or find your loved ones in the dark without some kind of light.
Now, everybody knows a good, working flashlight is necessary whenever there’s a power outage. Likewise, anyone who’s into the great outdoors and spent time outside in low-light or no-light situations already knows the value of good illumination. But beyond those “prepared for” situations, and those “planned for” activities, a good flashlight gives you an advantage in many situations:
- A good flashlight can be used as a safety tool in dangerous situations:
- In conjunction with a firearm for home defense.
- In a pinch, a fierce burst of light directly into the eyes of a threat, possibly followed by a bevel strike, might be enough to get you or your loved ones out of a dangerous situation.
- If you ever get caught in an emergency situation away from your home, vehicle or Bug-Out-Bag based emergency flashlight stash, an EDC light can be used to guide you and others to safety, or to signal others, including rescue personnel, to your location.
- How many of you reading this would have a high-quality, usable light on you if the power went out in your office high-rise, or while commuting on public transportation, possibly several stories underground, or in a tunnel somewhere?
- A good flashlight can also be a real value-add in many non-emergency, everyday situations, used for:
- Throwing light on a car or home doorlock to help find the right key to quickly and easily get inside.
- Trying to find whatever it is that just rolled under that big, heavy piece of furniture, or that fell between your car seats.
- Trying to find or fix something in the truck or under the hood.
OK, so now that you realize why you need a good flashlight we can focus on who makes the good ones, what makes them so good, and give you some specific recommendations. None of which will include those cheap plastic things with weak incandescent bulbs. Likewise, none of which will include that old, heavy, multi-cell “C” or “D” MagLite that used to be THE Standard. I mean, back in the day, everybody had the big MagLite, and likley its little brother, the MiniMag. That was before flashlight technology improved so much, and before we knew better. This post is about hard-use flashlights.
Now, believe it or not, there are a lot of people that really get into these things. People who love to analyze and debate technicalities and specifications to almost crazy and dizzying degrees of detail. (I’m not just talking lumen output, battery types, battery life, size and weight, etc. These people get into things like beam type, throw, side spill, the presence or lack of artifacts, light temperature, LED designs, reflector and lens materials, etc. etc.) Suffice it to say I’m not going anywhere near that level of detail. It’s mostly irrelevant for our purposes. Plus, if you’re still reading this post and learning something from it, you’re definitely not one of those people.
Seriously, flashlight technology has come a long way in the past couple of years. Its a trend I don’t see slowing down anytime soon, especially in the LED (Light-Emitting Diode) arena. The sheer amount of lumen output, the advancements in color temperature, the number of modes available, the design, durability and overall reliability provided by the high-quality flashlights on the market today far surpasses anything available from just a few year ago.
Here are couple of great high-quality, high-output and high-value recommendations for just about every price point. While the manufacturers site is a great starting point for checking out different models and getting technical specs, you can generally find these all for well below MSRP. I’ve included some Amazon links to give you an idea of street prices, and to make purchasing easy.
FourSevens Quark Mini
In terms of light output, number of modes, quality craftsmanship, durability and price, you just can’t beat a FourSevens Quark Mini. It offers a high-quality CREE LED that outputs 189 lumen from one CR123 Lithium battery. It has seven output modes. It’s only 2.3 inches long. It weighs only .62 ounces (zero point six two) and it retails for only $45?!
It’s powerful enough to be your primary home flashlight (though I’d typically recommend something a littler bigger and heavier, with two CR123 batteries and a tail-cap switch), yet it’s small & lightweight enough to be your Every Day Carry light. It’s also relatively inexpensive, so you you’re not gonna be too pissed if it gets banged-up with hard use (not likely), or if it gets lost in the field. That’s high-value.
Every member of my family has a FourSevens Quark Mini 123 hanging on their key chain. It’s pretty much with them at all times, and comes in handy a lot.
The Preon2 offers similar functionality in a penlight form factor. Output is 160 lumen, it has seven output modes and it runs on two AAA batteries. I’d get something a little bigger and heavier as a primary home use flashlight, but this is a great light to use as part of your EDC system, to keep in your vehicle, or to throw in your Bug-Out Bag. It’s thin, lightweight, easy to carry, very inconspicuous, throws a ton of light, and you can get batteries for it pretty much anywhere.
Streamlight has a long history of making lights for law enforcement, fire/rescue, and military uses. More recently they’ve started focusing on the industrial, sporting goods, and auto/hardware markets, basically now making a light for every user, and every purpose. They pride themselves on American innovation, being made by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, and on their customer service.
I got a rechargeable Streamlight Stinger as a gift one year, and it’s outstanding. It’s billed as “The Standard flashlight in law enforcement the world over”, and with good reason. It’s a solid piece of hardware, throws a lot of light and holds a charge for a long time. It’s made with a black anodized, machined aluminum housing, a Xenon gas-filled bi-pin bulb, an adjustable focus beam and puts out 90 lumen. Mine came with chargers for both the house and a vehicle, but different packaging options are available, and you can always add chargers. We were camping with another family two summers ago, and when I broke out my Stinger late one night, the comment I got from my friend was, “Oh, there’s the Sun.” It really is like rechargeable daylight.
It’s a bit on the pricey side, and too heavy / bulky for EDC, but it’s absolutely perfect for home emergencies, to keep in your vehicle or for the Bug-Out-Bag. Just make sure to keep it charged. When I’m going someplace where I absolutely need a bright, tough, heavy-duty, dependable light that I know won’t let me down, I grab my Stinger. There are many good reasons you’ll see these hanging in Police, Fire and EMS departments across the Country.
Streamlight Professional Tactical Line
If the Stinger is more than you’re looking for, something from the Streamlight ProTac line should fit the bill as a more economical, good all around choice. Check out the PolyTac as a high-value option. It’s relatively indestructible, small, lightweight and it throws 130 lumen of light. My friend who made that “there’s the sun” comment obviously saw the light, and he picked up the PolyTac not long after our camping trip.
Like Streamlight, Surefire has a long history of making military grade, battle ready flashlights, weaponlights and lasers. Their products are used extensively in real-World hostile, wartime situations by the military. They pride themselves on quality craftsmanship, reliability, durability, customer service and their no-hassle warranty. (Though you’ll probably never need that warranty.) My Dad came across SureFire while he was on-the-job, and their thing at the time was big-time lumen from small packages, like the now discontinued E2E Executive Elite. It was really revolutionary, unheard of illumination excellence at the time, especially for the output, size, weight and indestructible construction.
SureFire G2X Tactical
Though potentially pricey for a battery operated light, the G2X Tactical that outputs 200 lumen from a relatively small and lightweight package makes a great primary home flashlight, or even all around choice. I have a couple of the now discontinued, older and less expensive variants, with incandescent bulbs. Those old ones only put out 60 lumen, (very low by today’s standards), but they still work, they’re still tough as nails, and they get the job done. Those old G2s are my general use lights. Point being that when you decide to invest in a high-quality product, you’ll get years of dependable, reliable service from it.
Coleman Max Ultra High Power LED
Coleman makes great, good quality family camping and outdoor gear at very attractive price points. Their higher-end stuff, like their legendary lanterns, some of their camp stoves and bad weather clothing are extremely high-quality and high-value. While they’ve always made ok generic flashlights and ok battery operated lanterns, some of their more recent LED flashlights are interesting. One example in the Coleman Max or Ultra High Power LED. It puts out 130 – 137 lumen, which is a ton of light, runs on common, found anywhere AA batteries (though you need 6 of them), and can be had for cheap. If you’re looking for an incredibly versatile, high-quality flashlight for all around use, there are better options listed above. However, if sheer output for dollar is your goal, give this one a look because it does make a great home use, or vehicle use flashlight. It’s built pretty well and its relatively tough, just not as indestructible as others I’ve listed, so it might not live up to repeated hard-use. Also, its size and weight make it too big, bulky and heavy for me to pack on trips, or to use for outdoor activities. Shop locally, and if you can find one for ~$25-30 then pick it up, but otherwise for ~$40, the Quark Mini 123 is a much better way to go.
Final thoughts and some quick tips:
While built for “your-life-literally-depends-on-it” durability and reliability, if there’s any downside to SureFire and Streamlight, it’s the price – even on some of what they consider their lower end models. Also, depending upon what’s going on in the World and which model you choose, they can be hard to get. Priority is given to Military and Law Enforcement personnel – as it should be – and those folks tend to snatch them up quickly. Plus, while they’re definitely cool to have, worth the investment and will last a very long time, not everyone needs that level of performance.
- For an all around high-output, high-quality flashlight, and especially when carried as part of your EDC system, you just can’t beat the capability, size, weight and function of the FourSevens Quark Mini. But for even more versatility, a Nutnfancy tip is to combine your Quark Mini with a Fenix headband for an incredibly lightweight, yet extremely powerful, multifunction headlamp. It puts my not-that-old dedicated headlamp to absolute shame.
- Don’t knock that “girlie” bright yellow option where offered… it’s A LOT easier to find in the field when you drop it –especially when it’s not on, when it’s dark, and nobody else has a light.
So, now you that know why you need one, and what you should get, GO GET IT so you’re prepared to Light it Up. Not only when the next major blackout, hurricane, or Nor’Easter comes rollin’ through, but anytime you need to, or just want to! Just make sure you keep it charged and/or to have some extra batteries on hand: at home, in your vehicle and in the Go-Bag!