As important as hitting your target is being able to identify your target. Considering how many self-defense shootings happen in the dark or low-light conditions, having a quality flashlight is extremely important.
Never has there been a time where more choices existed in high-quality flashlights.
LED technology has largely supplanted old incandescent technology. LEDs offer the benefits of brighter light that is a truer white color as compared to the feeble yellow color of incandescent bulbs. Additionally, LEDs are more energy efficient, allowing for longer run times on the same set of batteries. Lastly, LEDs are much more durable, which make them an excellent choice for self defense where things tend to get banged around.
So, what kinds of lights are available?
Lights for Concealed Carry
There are a number of good, handheld white lights available. Sort of like cars, you can get flashlights in a plethora of sizes, styles, colors and price points. These are smaller lights that can be carried with you.
An inexpensive light I like is the Fenix LD20. The Fenix lights are relative newcomers to the US market, producing torches that offer features found in more expensive lights, but at a fraction of the price.
The LD20 is a thin light rated at 180 lumens running on AA batteries. I’ve had the Fenix L2D, the predecessor to the LD20, for more than two years and I have been very pleased with its performance. I have carried the L2D on my police duty belt as a back up to my other lights. Through all kinds of weather, the L2D has not failed. Battery run-time has been excellent.
The LD20 is an upgrade to the L2D, offering a maximum of 180 lumens and variable lighting levels. At maximum output, two AA batteries should get you more than two hours of run time. Street price is around $60.
An added benefit to the LD20 is it is about the same size as a Kubotan. If you have trained with a Kubotan, then you can use the same techniques with this flashlight. It is my understanding that small flashlights are still permissible by TSA, so a self-defense tool on a plane is possible.
The Streamlight PolyTac LED is another excellent light at a modest price. Slightly shorter than the Fenix, the PolyTac LED is still powerful, rated at 130 lumens. Using two CR123A batteries, Streamlight advises this light will run up to three hours at maximum output.
The PolyTac LED comes in three different colors: black, tan and bright yellow. This Streamlight goes for about $45 on the street.
SureFire makes some great, though not inexpensive, lights. One of the easiest to carry is the E1B Backup LED flashlight. The Backup is a mere four inches long and rated to throw 110 lumens for more than an hour off of one CR123A battery. Street price is around $160.
Slightly larger, but cheaper and brighter than the Backup, is the SureFire 6PX Tactical. This LED light is rated at 200 lumens, and with two CR123A batteries a runtime of two hours is expected. Street price is just under $100.
Lights for the House
For something to keep around the house or in the truck, a larger light is generally ok.
The old standby Maglite flashlights have upgraded their D-cell lights to LED technology, making them quite bright at 114 lumens with the two-cell model. A run time of more than nine hours shows the difference between the AA and D type batteries.
I’ve seen these lights go for $25-30 on the street.
If you need a good light for a very cheap price, watch for deals on Woot.com. Woot offers closeout items at rock bottom prices. I picked up three, 2 D-cell LED flashlights on Woot for about $3 each. They are all very bright and seem pretty sturdy. They have gone into various locations around the house to be close at hand in any emergency.
One of the truly innovative advances in handheld lights is the Liberator Tactical Light from First-Light USA. This light wraps around the outside of the support hand, allowing you to use the hand for any other purpose, such as holding a pistol or rifle.
The Liberator is bright with models starting at 80 lumens and running up from there. A fully outfitted Liberator kit can be had for a little over $200. While this might seem like a lot of money for a flashlight, no other flashlight will allow you to make a quick and easy magazine change without having to set the light down.
Flashlights may not be sexy as compared to the latest 60-round AR-15 magazine or Michael Janich-designed Yojimbo 2 knife, but they are critical pieces of equipment in any low light encounter. A flashlight allows you to identify a target and helps you determine if that target is in need of shooting.
Richard Johnson is a veteran police officer and trainer who publishes BlueSheepdog.com, a police training community. You can also connect with Richard on Twitter.