What Is a Tactical Flashlight and 7 Ways to Use One

What would you do when you are walking in a dark street at night, and you feel that someone is following you but everything is just pitch-black darkness? You tried to rummage into your bag to look for your mobile phone so you can use it as a source of light, just to find out that the battery is empty because you forgot to charge it. Then, you would think to yourself: “Why on earth did I not remember to bring a flashlight with me?”

Sometimes, in life-in-death situations, a common thing such as a flashlight can prove to be very useful. Most regular flashlights, however, are made of low-quality materials that would easily break. So, if you want a flashlight that is more durable and would last longer, a tactical flashlight would be a better option.

As an ex-police officer and judo practitioner, I know how important it is to be able to defend yourself in perilous situations. You must also know about the weapons that are available for your disposal and how to use them in order to protect yourself. One of these weapons is a tactical flashlight. In this article, I am going to talk about what a tactical flashlight is and how it is different from a regular one. I am also going to enumerate some tactical flashlight uses and techniques that you can use in different types of situations.

What is a tactical flashlight?

A tactical flashlight is a type of flashlight that is meant to be used for police and military purposes. It is used in conjunction with a firearm to help marksmen, soldiers and law enforcement officers identify their low-light targets by simultaneously aiming a weapon and illuminating them. Tactical flashlights can be handheld or mounted on a weapon with the beam of light parallel to the borehole. They are generally smaller than traditional flashlights, emit a lot more light, and are made of weapons-grade aluminum for maximum resilience. Although tactical flashlights are intended mainly for tactical use, they can also be used daily as a private defense tool for the average person.

tactical flashlight


Tactical Flashlights versus Regular Flashlights

The purpose of a tactical flashlight is very much distinct compared to that of a regular flashlight’s. Tactical flashlights were initially designed to be used in combination with a firearm to help with target identification in areas where lighting is limited. Instead of using a separate flashlight, a marksman uses a tactical light that would enable him to aim a weapon, and at the same time, illuminate his target.

Tactical flashlights are an excellent innovation for law enforcers, as they could produce a focused light beam that could momentarily blind an assailant or a suspect, and help with target detection. There are also much larger variations of tactical flashlights that can be used as a blunt weapon, similar to that of a police baton.

Unlike regular flashlights, which are often made of cheaper materials, such as plastic and low-grade aluminum or steel, tactical flashlights are generally armor-coated and made of aero-grade aluminum for maximum durability.

In military operations, tactical flashlights are also used with low-light filters to maintain a person’s night vision and illuminate an object. There are even tactical flashlights that can also be used with infrared filters, which, when used in combination with night vision operating devices, can serve as a pointer or can illuminate objects or areas that can only be visible to night vision wearers.

7 Uses of a Tactical Flashlight

Tactical flashlights offer modes of use that typical household flashlights cannot provide. Here are some of the ways on how to use a tactical flashlight:

1. As a Self-defense Weapon

One of the greatest uses of a tactical flashlight is for self-defense.  As you already know, not all flashlights are made the same way, and not all of them can be used to defend you in a dangerous situation. In order for a flashlight to function as a self-defense weapon, it must be small enough so you can easily carry it wherever you go. It must also be easy to turn on and blindingly bright, solid, and reliable.

More or less, all existing tactical flashlights are capable of concentrating and narrowing their field of light into a single beam. They are also extremely bright, as they already packed with high lumens, causing the person who might be about to assault or threaten you to be momentarily blinded. This is particularly the case during night time, as the eyes of the attacker will be more adjusted to reduced lighting. Blinding your attacker in this way will help you escape, which is the main goal in any type of self-defense situations.

How to Use Tactical flashlights for Self-Defense

The simplest way to use a tactical flashlight for self-defense is to shine the light straight in your attacker’s eye. Flashlights with distinct modes enable you to increase the brightness of the flashlight. Shining 960 lumens right in someone’s eye is going to blind them momentarily and offer you an opportunity to getaway.

Some flashlights that are large enough, like the LD75C and the UC45, can be used themselves to hit your opponent. There are also smaller variations of tactical flashlights that you can use to make more powerful punches. What you need to do is to close your hand around the flashlight and then make a fist. This would add more power to the punches that you give your attacker.

Even the bulb of your flashlight can also be used as a weapon. There are flashlights that would allow you to unscrew the lens and expose the bulb inside which you can use to poke your opponent.

Check out this video that demonstrates the use of tactical flashlights for self-defense:


How to Hold a Tactical Flashlight

There are different ways on how to hold a flashlight, depending on what kind of self-defense situation you are in. Here are four of the best ways to hold a tactical flashlight while using a handgun:

1. The Harries Technique

Named after a pioneer of contemporary practical combat shooting, the Harries flashlight technique is a very popular method used for small flashlights. In this technique, you are required to hold your handgun with only one hand. Your other hand holds the flashlight under your shooting hand.

You will need to apply isometric pressure between the two backs of your hands enough to hold an imaginary paper. Applying too much pressure will affect your accuracy. If you are using a large flashlight, you can lay the flashlight’s body on the forearm of your shooting hand.

2. The Rogers (SureFire) Method

The Rogers technique requires you to use a specific flashlight that has a combat ring and an on/off switch at the tail cap. It is also known as the SureFire method since many of the SureFire flashlights are designed specifically to be used for this type of technique.

To employ this method, you need to hold the flashlight between the index finger and the middle finger of your non-shooting hand, the same way as you would hold a cigar. Then you need to press the tail cap against the palm of your hand.

Best used for the two-handed grip, this technique is easy to carry out if you know how to hold your weapon with both hands.

3. The FBI Technique

Used by FBI agents, this method is a flexible and easy way to hold a flashlight. Just like the other techniques, you are also required to hold your pistol using one hand. The hand that holds the flashlight should be kept far away from your body, above your head or on your side.

This method is beneficial because when your attacker also has a firearm and sees the light coming from you, he’s going to aim and shoot in the direction of the light. So, if you keep the flashlight away from your body, you will be less likely shot by your attacker.

4. The Neck-Index Technique

This method is best suited to those who use a handgun that is not fitted with night sights. Next to your cheekbone, you will keep the flashlight at the same level as your eye. This will make it easier for you to follow the light beam, and react faster to your opponent’s actions.

Although this technique could give you more accurate results, placing the light source close to the vital areas of your body could potentially put you at risk when your attacker is also armed with a weapon.

2. To Illuminate Your Surroundings

A tactical flashlight, just like all other flashlights, has a primary purpose – to provide light in the darkness. But unlike the regular flashlight, a tactical flashlight can be small enough to fit inside your bag or pocket. This makes it easy for you to carry it wherever you go, especially when you are walking alone at night, passing through dark and unsafe streets and alleys. If you feel that you are in danger, you can just easily get it out of your bag or pocket and light it up.

Apart from keeping you safe from possible attackers or thieves, using a tactical flashlight to light up your way can also help you prevent accidents. It will help you see the path you are walking on, so you can easily avoid stepping on rocks or holes in the streets that may bring you harm.

Counting Lumens Levels

Whether you are trying to blind your attacker or just trying to illuminate a space, you must know the right level of brightness that you need for your tactical flashlight. The brightness of a flashlight is measurable in lumens. Tactical flashlights have different lumens levels, depending on their use.

Below 60 Lumens

Tactical flashlights with lumens below 60 have enough brightness to illuminate a tiny space or room indoors. However, they most probably would not disperse so much light when used outdoors. This level of brightness will not be enough to temporarily blind your potential attacker, but if the lumens were higher than 15, it can still mess with your assailant’s night vision.

Below 150 but Above 60

Tactical flashlights within this lumens range are good enough for outdoor use or for lighting up an open room.  A lumens level of greater than 100 should probably be sufficient to temporarily blind an aggressor as long as it is dark or there is not much lighting in the area. To momentarily blind your aggressor, you should do it quickly so he or she won’t have enough time to get used to the level of brightness in the room.

Below 300 but Above 150

This range of brightness is much better than the previous ones, and lumens nearer to 150 would be enough to blind an individual momentarily in an illuminated area during night-time. Lumens near 300 would be enough to trigger blindness indoors during the day and. enough to illuminate a big room or a large outdoor area.

Above 300

Bright enough to light up a football field, the amount of lumens is very big. Tactical flashlights with this level of brightness could cause severe harm to people’s eyes when they shine straight. Many regular flashlights would need to have a burst mode and specialized batteries to achieve this level. Tactical flashlights that are used in rescue operations have a capacity of more than 700 lumens.

The Strobe Mode

There are also some tactical flashlights that are equipped with a strobe mode. Mostly used by police officers, this mode is tactically designed to disorient a prospective aggressor. A tactical flashlight that is in strobe mode casts a quick and very bright flashing light in a variety of patterns that can cause confusion to people.

3. To Search For Something

A tactical flashlight can also be used when looking for objects not only at night but also during daytime. Even when it’s bright outside, you may still need a source of light to see through a dark storage room or attic to search for stuff. It would also be difficult for you to look for things that have rolled under your bed or behind your furniture without the aid of a flashlight.

There are various types of tactical flashlights and each of them has different modes and modifications that can be very helpful in a variety of situations. Make sure to do your research and choose the best tactical flashlight that would suit your needs.

tactical flashlight

The Throw and Flood Modes

The light of a flashlight can have two modes of spreading. It could stretch farther vertically, or spread further around you. Each of these modes is designed for a particular purpose. The term “Throw” is used for the longer ray of light that has a well-defined beam, whereas the “flood” is the wider ray of light that illuminates your environment but does not reach too far. Flashlights with excellent flooding are usually great for seeing things close-up.  Those that have a good throw are more helpful for seeing objects that are remote. Tactical flashlights that provide both options have a button or knob to switch between modes.

4. For Emergency and Survival

We never know when an emergency will strike, so it is very important that you are well-prepared in case it happens. Make sure to always have a tactical flashlight at home or in your bag in case of an emergency. Natural disasters like earthquakes, storms, and hurricanes can happen anytime. You don’t want to find yourself stuck in the dark when the electricity goes out in your home or someplace else.

Tactical flashlights nowadays are compact, with led lights and heavy-duty batteries that would last long. They also have modes that are specifically designed for survival purposes.

The S.O.S. and Beacon Modes

There are tactical flashlights that have SOS and Beacon modes, allowing them to flash a bright beam of light at certain time intervals.

The SOS repeating patterns are three short bursts, three long bursts, and then again three short bursts of light. A lot of flashlights these days have built-in SOS patterns so you won’t need to do it manually.

Beacons are used to draw people’s attention to a specific location and send signals as well. A tactical flashlight, if set to beacon mode, will produce long flashes of light at slow repeat intervals.

The S.O.S. and Beacon modes are useful in emergency situations where you need to send off a message to your rescuers. Instead of shouting or waving your hands, you could reserve your energy by just signaling for help using your flashlight.

5. To Start a Fire

You can start a fire using a flashlight in three different ways. The first method is by breaking the light bulb, which you would need to do carefully to make sure that you don’t break the inner filament. To start a fire, you can use a little bit of tinder, such as wood or paper, on the top of the light around the filament and then switch the light on.

The second technique is by using the glass lens from the flashlight cap as a magnifier. You can start a fire by positioning the lens so that the sun’s rays can pass through it onto the tinder.

The third one can only be done using tactical flashlights with extremely concentrated lumens. When these flashlights are used to shine on tinder, they are capable of starting a fire and burn flammable materials.

6. As a Useful Tool

Some tactical flashlights have serrated edges that can be used in breaking through a car window when you need to quickly get in or out of your vehicle in case of an emergency situation. These flashlights can also be used in search and rescue operations when rescuers need to break into a glass window to get into a house to save the people trapped inside.

7. In Special Situations

To adapt to specialized situations, tactical flashlights can also be equipped with accessories such as filters. Light filters come in various colors and are used for different purposes.

Often used by military professionals, red filters can improve your ability to see during night-time. Green filters, on the other hand, provide a soft adjustment to night vision and can be used for hunting since it doesn’t drive animals away.

Blue and yellow filters are great for blood tracking and are often used for investigations.

Characteristics of a Good Flashlight

You already know the importance of using a tactical flashlight and how you can use it for your own advantage. You might already be contemplating purchasing one by now. But before you do that, you first need to learn about the qualities of a good flashlight so you would know what to look for. Here are some of the factors you need to consider when selecting a good tactical flashlight:

a) Lumens Level

As I previously mentioned, tactical flashlights have different brightness levels which can be measured by lumens. It is, of course, better to choose a tactical flashlight that has a high level of lumens. However, if you don’t want to carry around a large flashlight with you all the time, you should also see to it that the size of the flashlight is not compromised. Also, take note that higher lumens mean greater battery consumption. Try to discover the right balance between the lumens level, weight, and battery life of your tactical flashlight.

b) Durable Shell

Instead of purchasing a tactical flashlight that is made out of plastic, it would be better for you to choose one that is manufactured using a more solid material such as an aluminum alloy. Tactical flashlights made of military-grade aluminum are very hard, robust and lightweight. Also, make sure to choose one that has a durable bezel that can protect the flashlight bulb well while causing harm to your aggressor.

c) Must Be Waterproof

It is very important to choose a tactical flashlight that is waterproof so it would not easily break even if it gets wet. It would be a disaster if your flashlight suddenly stopped working when you need it the most, just because its inner components were damaged by rainwater. This won’t be much of a problem since most flashlights are tightly sealed to protect the electric components inside from moisture.

d) Should Have Multiple Configurations

Most tactical flashlights will have at least 3 configurations that include Low, Medium, High, Strobe and SOS. The LMH configurations are used to select the brightness of the flashlight. This allows you to set the brightness to “High” in order to blind an attacker or to “Low” if you want to save the power of your battery.

The SOS and strobe settings have very similar functions, and it is to set the flashlight on and off at a set interval. These features particularly serve as distress signals when calling for assistance in an urgent situation.


Tactical flashlights are one of the best innovations ever made that play a very important role not only in law enforcement and search and rescue operations, but also in the everyday lives of civilians who need to defend themselves from the possible dangers that they may encounter. In my over 14 years of experience in self-defense and personal protection, I know how essential it is to have a handy weapon that can be used by people of any level of proficiency. Not all people can use guns and not all have the license to use one, but anyone has access to a tactical flashlight and it is always available for use anytime, anywhere.

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