Do I know what the best tactical flashlight under 100 dollars is for you? I’ll tell you right now that I don’t. Each person has their own definition of what the best flashlight is. What I can tell you with certainty is that I own and use over a dozen different flashlights of all different types and buy new flashlights each month. You’ll find many of these tactical flashlights featured on this page and in blog posts throughout this site. This site contains dozens of detailed tactical flashlight photos for you to review including my comments on their functionality. Although not every post on this site is about a flashlight that I own, my goal is to review a minimum of one new flashlight a month.
My hope is that you can use this information discover the best tactical flashlight under $100 for your application. In my opinion, everyone needs multiple flashlights to address specific situations. If you only want to buy just one there are many full featured flashlights for just about any budget.
Typical Features of the Best Flashlight
Waterproof rating (IPX)
Tactical flashlights should be waterproof to a predetermined depth. Most tactical flashlights are submersible to about 2 meters. When you look at tactical flashlight specifications you’ll normally see this depth called out in the form of an IPX rating. For example, a tactical flashlight submersible to two meters will have a rating of IPX-8.
Most tactical flashlights will have a drop rating specification. For example, one of my favorite full size tactical flashlights (the Nitecore SRT7 Revenger) has a drop rating of 1.5 meters. Obviously, the accuracy of that rating depends on the force of the drop, the material it’s being dropped on etc.
Some manufacturers go the extra mile to ensure extreme reliability and durability by offering potted electronics. This extra level of exreme durability comes at a cost, but if your life absolutely depends on your tactical flashlight working in just about any condition you can throw at it then this is a feature worth considering. The video below explains what potted electronics are:
Every tactical flashlight will have specific ways that you will access the flashlights various lighting modes. That’s why it’s important to think about how you will be using the flashlight so you select one that operates in a fashion suitable to your application. For example, if the flashlight is primarily being used as a weapon mounted light, you’ll want one that accepts a pressure switch accessory and can be programmed to start in the brightest mode of the flashlight. Just about every tactical flashlight has a “memory” component allowing the light to be turned on in one of the flashlight’s brightness modes you select. Not every light will allow you to start it in the strobe mode.
In general, most tactical flashlights have a tailcap switch. This is the main switch used to turn the light on. In some cases it can also be used by depressing half way for momentary lighting. Some tactical flashlights (like the Olight M18 Striker) use the tailcap switch for accessing every flashlight mode. Depressing the tailcap half way once, twice, etc. will engage the flashlights various brightness modes. Some flashlights (like the Nitecore P10) use a split tailcap switch. One switch to turn the light on, the secondary mode switch to cycle between the lighting modes.
Switches residing on the body of a tactical flashlight are generally a switch that is a secondary one. This means the rear clicky turns the light on and the secondary switch cycles between the flashlight’s various modes. The key thing to consider is the position of the body switch. It need to be in a position that is easy for you to find quickly if you need to cycle to a specific flashlight mode.
A twisty switch works exactly as you would expect it to. Twisting a ring on the flashlight body is used to switch the flashlight between its various lighting modes. Examples of full and mid-size tactical flashlights that use a twisty switch are the Nitecore SRT7 Revenger and the EagTac P200LC2.
Twisty switches are very common in everyday carry flashlights. Typically, to switch lighting modes you twist the head of the flashlight once for low mode, twice for the next mode etc. Two EDC flashlights that use twisty switches are the Fenix E15 and the Thrunite Archer 1C.
Pressure switches are typically accessory switches available for specific models of tactical flashlights that can be weapon mounted. Weapon mounted capable tactical flashlights generally have a replaceable tailcap with a cable leading to the pressure switch that turns the flashlight on and off. The tactical flashlight is placed in a holder that attaches to a picatinny rail. The pressure switch is then mounted on the weapon in a spot easily accessible to the shooter.
Lumens is a measure of the flashlight’s light output. For most people attempting to select the best tactical flashlight for their specific application, the lumens specification tends to be the most important one to consider. Besides the lumens rating, there are design aspects of each flashlight that have an affect on the intensity of the flashlight output. The size, width, depth and type of flashlight reflector impact flashlight output intensity. Most reflectors are smooth silver, although some flashlights have an orange peel finish.
Understanding Flood and Throw
I’m sharing this short video illustrating how flood and throw affect lumens. It is a great example of how two flashlights can have identical lumens output yet one appears to be brighter than the other.
This video was produced by Elzetta Tactical Lighting.
The best flashlight will offer a variety of ways for you to set up the lighting modes. In the next two sections I discuss different ways that various models of tactical flashlights allow you to set up your flashlight for optimum usage.
Some tactical flashlights now have multiple ways you can set them up based on your specific application. An example of a tactical flashlight offering multiple set-up modes is the Nitecore P10. It has three ways you can set up the flashlight – general usage mode, law enforcement mode, self defense mode. Each mode controls the light output settings. For example, if you choose the self defense mode the flashlight will always turn on at 800 lumens and the only other mode available is the strobe. There are a variety of other brands that allow customized mode settings like the P10.
Brightness, Strobe and Beacon Modes
Tactical flashlights will offer various preset brightness modes. These all vary by flashlight model. A unique lighting mode offered on some flashlights is an extremely low lumens setting. Thrunite calls this mode the “firefly” mode. This mode is typically just a few lumens (3 to 5) and can be used to locate a defensive item or a phone without attracting any unneeded attention, for reading, and for preserving the battery life of the flashlight. Most tactical flashlights offer a strobe mode while only some offer a beacon mode. If you are a hiker or climber I really think a beacon mode is essential. If you were hurt you could simply point your tactical flashlight straight up and leave it in beacon mode as a signal for potential rescuers.
Tactical Flashlight User Interface
Accessing the modes of your tactical flashlight is done through your flashlight’s user interface. For example, if your flashlight has a tail switch and a body switch that has to be pressed in certain combinations to access the various functions of the flashlight. If you can try and review the flashlight user interface information before you make a purchase. If you feel like the user interface will be too difficult to easily memorize (making it difficult to quickly get to the lighting modes you require) you may want to consider another flashlight model. Some manufacturers are offering specific switches (for example, split tail cap switches) to immediately access certain flashlight functions. Nitecore and Klarus are two companies doing this.
Full Size Tactical Flashlights
If you the best tactical flashlight for you is a full size model, here are full size tactical flashlights I own and others that I think are worth considering.
|Manufacturer / Model||Max Lumens||Key Features||Own it? Used it? Bucket list?||Price Point|
|NiteCore SRT7 Revenger||960||Smart-Ring technology (infinite lighting modes) plus colored LED's, strobe, beacon modes||Own it.||$$|
|ThruNite TN11S||990||Side switch to immediately access strobe. Very economical price point.||Own it.||$|
|Olight M22 Warrior||950||Capability to be weapon mounted.||Used it.||$$|
|Surefire P2X Fury||500||Limited lifetime warranty. Shock proof, IPX-8 waterproof||Bucket list.||$$$|
|Fenix TK22||920||Anti-roll, can be weapon mounted, dual spring design for impact resistance||Used it.||$$|
|Klarus XT11||820||Has an excellent defensive accessory strike bezel available for it.||Bucket list.||$$|
Mid-size Tactical Flashlights
If you the best tactical flashlight for you is a mid-size model, here are mid-size tactical flashlights I own and others that I think are worth considering.
|Manufacter/Model||Max Lumens||Key Features||Own it. Used it. Bucket list.||Price Range|
|Nitecore P10||800||Multi usage modes, Strobe ready split tail cap switch||Own it.||$|
|Olight M18 Striker||800||Dedicated "self defense" flashlight with aggressive strike bezel||Own it.||$|
|ThruNite TN12||1050||Lots of lumens for the money. Good build quality for price point.||Own it.||$|
|Nitecore P12||950||High efficiency circuit board provides up to 520 hours runtime on low.||Used it.||$|
|Fenix PD35||960||Tactical tail switch with momentary-on function. Anti-slip/roll design.||Bucket list.||$$|
|SureFire E2D Defender||200||Long run times (up to 76 hours, tail stand capability and strike bezel.||Bucket list.||$$$|
Everyday Carry Flashlights
If you the best tactical flashlight for you is an everyday carry (EDC) model, here are some EDC flashlights I own and others that I think are worth considering.
|Manufacturer/Model||Max Lumens||Key Features||Own it. Used it. Bucket List.||Price Range|
|Fenix E15||170||Super small, 3 lighting modes||Own it.||$|
|ThruNite Archer 1C||281||Firefly lighting mode to maximize battery life.||Own it.||$|
|Mini Cree Led Flashlight||approximately 125||Super duper cheap||Own it.||$|
|Olight S10R Baton||400||My favorite EDC flashlight. Easy recharge. Magnetic flashlight base||Own it.||$$|
|EagleTac D25C||453||Super bright with tailcap clicky||Bucket list.||$$|
Some tactical flashlights offer different types of LED options. If you’ve never owned a tactical flashlight before the differences in the LED types probably won’t mean too much. After you’ve used a few different flashlights you may finding yourself appreciating the nuances between LEDs. Typically, you’ll see LEDs called out as “cool white” or “neutral white.” Each LED has a color temperature and some put out a “colder” (bluer) light while others put out a “warmer” (more yellow) light. There isn’t one better than another and this all boils down to personal preference.
Typical Tactical Flashlight Accessories
Tactical flashlights can have a whole host of accessories. Typically, a flashlight comes with a holster and a lanyard plus some spare o-rings. Other accessories that are typically add-ons are filters and diffusers (opaque and colored), pressure switch tail caps, weapon mounts, and strike bezels. In general, tactical flashlights at higher price points tend to offer the greatest amount of additional accessories.
Power Sources and Charging Options
Tactical flashlights are either powered by standard replaceable battery types or rechargeable batteries. Bear in mind that not all tactical flashlights can necessarily use rechargeable batteries. The type of rechargeable battery you choose may also be important. Some rechargeable batteries come in different configurations (for example, flat top style) and may not work in your particular flashlight. Most major manufacturers offer their own lines of battery chargers and batteries so this makes selecting the right ones easier.
Selecting the Best Tactical Flashlight under 100 dollars – Conclusion
I hope this information helps you select the best tactical flashlight under 100 dollars for your given application. The choices I have listed in the Full, Mid and EDC tactical flashlight sections just scratch the surface of all of the various configurations of tactical flashlights available. Although there are many places to purchase a tactical flashlight, I normally buy mine at Amazon.com.