Lights are advantageous to have and I believe should be part of any home defense weapon that you own. Having a light on the gun will help you to identify targets and may even aid you in buying some time in case there is an intruder. They’re also useful if you plan on using your gun or hunt at nighttime. Plus I think that a well-designed tactical flashlight on an AR looks cool. Regardless of the reason as to why you want to get one, here are some of the best tactical flashlights for an AR 15 reviewed with me showing you the strengths and weaknesses of each so you can choose one that will suit you the best.
After all, for different purposes, you would need a different kind of light. But I go more into detail about that in the buyer’s guide below. You can skip straight to the reviews if you already know what you’re looking for.
Table of Contents
- Buyer’s Guide
- Best Tactical Flashlight for AR 15 Reviews
- SureFire X300 Ultra Series LED WeaponLights with TIR Lens
- Streamlight 69260 TLR-1 HL
- Fenix TK32 2016 CREE LED – Brightest Light for AR-15
- Streamlight TLR-3 Weapon Mounted Tactical Light – Best AR 15 Light For the Money
- Orion H40-W 500 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight with Pressure Switch – Bright and on a Budget
- To Wrap Things Up
As with all things in life, the old adage “you get what you pay for” holds true. Why spend more on a light that’s a little less bright and a bit more durable you might think. And while durability of the product is an important issue, one of the main benefits of a premium priced product is that they tend to have lifetime warranties. This means that you only have to purchase something once and you can, in theory, use it forever. No matter how indestructible something is, eventually there’s a good chance something will happen.
There are also benefits of getting cheaper priced items as well. If you don’t like the item down the line, you won’t feel as bad about discarding it. And if money is tight, you can always get a more expensive light down the line. But if you are thinking of that do note that now instead of purchasing 1 expensive light, you get 1 budget and 1 expensive one, making the final money spent higher as opposed to just getting an expensive one upfront.
Light output is typically measured in 2 things: lumens (the more common option) and candela. Now while they are similar there is a difference between them. Let me explain.
Candela is the measurement of the power that is emitted from a source at a particular direction. As you might have guessed, 1 candela is roughly 1 candle power similarly to how cars are measured in horsepowers.
Lumens are the measurement of the total amount of light emitted from a source. This doesn’t indicate total brightness as the light that is emitted is typically unfocused.
Now, if you want to illuminate the whole area, a room or something like that, a higher lumen light will help you with that. But if you are going to be shining a light at a particular point, a bush in a forest or at a target, then you want to use the candela rating instead.
A good example of a forward focused lens is the TIR lens. I cover the TIR lens and what it does in the SureFire review below but basically, it focuses the light forward. This means that while the sides around you won’t be as bright as a similarly lumen powered light would illuminate, the target you’re pointing at is in return much brighter.
This means that while SureFire and Orion are both at 500 lumens, SureFire’s TIR lens design means that the target will be brighter. That’s about it for the basics of the light output measurements.
Are More Lumens Always Better?
Not necessarily. Allow me to explain why that is. If you plan on using your light in a home defense kind of scenario, having an overly bright light might be detrimental as the bright light might bounce off the walls and the room and semi-blind you as well. And while the brighter lights may be slightly more effective at stunning the intruder, after a point you just get diminishing returns.
Paired with the fact that it also gets harder for you to focus because of the light bounce as well, it’s recommended to just stick with medium lumen lights for home defense scenarios.
Obviously, this isn’t an issue if you’re using it outdoors so in that case just go with whatever brightness you want.
Best Tactical Flashlight for AR 15 Reviews
SureFire X300 Ultra Series LED WeaponLights with TIR Lens
The SureFire is kind of like Leupold – they make premium accessories for guns. Their X300 series LED is no different. Many people consider this and the Streamlight TLR-1 HL to be the top dogs when it comes to AR-15 lights. Let’s see how well the SureFire holds up.
First off, this flashlight is rated at 500 lumens. However, it’s not fully white but biased in the yellow-green spectrum because humans are more sensitive to that range. At first that sounded like just marketing to me but once I looked into it, they were actually correct. I’ve included the graph of light versus eye sensitivity on the right so you can see for yourself.
Next up let’s discuss the design. The flashlight itself features a very nice and solid rugged design and is very easy to put on and off. This is thanks to its quick detach rail system which, unlike the Streamlight, can be quickly placed without need to screw it on with something like a key or a coin.
Regarding the batteries and the battery life, this light comes included with CR123A batteries. The battery life on this is around 1.5 hours if you leave it on straight, and all night if you use it more sparingly.
You get the option to either have momentary and constant on with the switch that comes with this flashlight. One thing that sets the switch on the SureFire apart from others is that it’s a truly ambidextrous switch, so you can easily use it regardless whether you’re left or right-handed.
The lens design is TIR which stands for total internal reflection. TIR lenses have many pros over normal lenses including a compact/small size and higher optical efficiency. Basically, they focus the light straight ahead as opposed to spreading it out over a wider range. It’s not super concentrated as you still need to see the peripherals while aiming but more light is focused in the middle which helps at illuminating your target so you can get a clearer aim.
Finally, this product is made here in the USA which is plus for me. Now onto the cons, as it’s not a review without looking at both sides for a fair and unbiased evaluation.
The biggest issue with this flashlight is that there have been a few people who had durability issues with the holder, in particular, the screw that connects the rail and clamps. However, this is mitigated with the lifetime warranty that is offered by SureFire, so if anything goes wrong, you can bank on them helping you out.
The second con is that it is more expensive that many other counterparts. As I stated earlier, this light is similar to the Leupold brand as they offer premium gear at a premium price.
So, to wrap things up, if you’re looking for highest quality gear, then the SureFire is a good choice. It has a nice and bright flashlight, a convenient ambidextrous switch and a lifetime warranty. But if you’re on a tight budget then you might want to look into some of the other options.
|Quick detach system|
Streamlight 69260 TLR-1 HL
Streamlight is one of the most popular and recommended gun light manufacturers and their TLR-1 is one of their best offerings. However, is it actually good or is it just another overhyped light? Let’s find out
First thing that you will notice about this light is that it is bright. Very bright in fact, with its rated lumen count being an impressive 800 for the HL model. This light comes in a wide variety of options including normal brightness, high lumens, far ranged all with some variations of either basic, or with green or red lasers.
Some of the options available even feature a strobe light. The strobe light has a lot of benefits over a normal light. It disorients the suspect, causes a disruption in the target’s vision which interferes with their ability to use force and decreases their direct and peripheral vision. All great things to give you the edge.
However, for primarily home defense you might want to skip out on the high lumens version and go for the basic brightness as the high lumens is actually bright enough to blind you a bit as well. If you’re out in the woods or something like that however, then the high lumens will benefit you well.
This light, like the SureFire, also features a TIR design which helps to concentrate the light in front of the gun. TIR designs are beneficial when you want your light to be focused straight ahead along with some peripheral vision as opposed to a broad light that covers a wide but shorter area.
Included with this light are 2 CR123A batteries and the total battery life on this is 1.25 hours if you use it straight. The range of light for the HL version is 245 meters.
Some other details include a length of 3.39 inches and a weight of 4.18 oz. The candela rating on this is 15,000. Finally, it is IPX7 waterproof which means you can submerge it in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. It does come with a limited lifetime warranty but the warranty on the cover switches is only 2 years. Conveniently they also happen to offer a lot of replacement covers. I wonder why.
Overall, this is another great option for those that want a high-quality light for their AR-15 thanks to its quality, ruggedness and the brightness along with its many variants to suit your needs.
|Lots of variants||Only 2 year warranty for cover|
Fenix TK32 2016 CREE LED – Brightest Light for AR-15
Are the flashlights you’re looking at right now not bright enough for you? Do you want something that’s closer to having a sun on your gun as opposed to a light? Well I can’t help you much with the sun part, but for a really bright light the Fenix TK32 is one of the best tactical flashlights that you can get for the job.
The rated lumens for this gun are 1000. That’s double of the SureFire light and 25% more than the Streamlight’s TLR 1 high lumens edition. The high lumens of this light also give it an impressive 422 meter beam throw. However this is on its absolute highest power setting which is dubbed “Turbo”. Here’s a list of the light strength modes and their respective throws and battery lives (note that this is total run time and not continuous as I’ll discuss further below).
|Low||8||170 h||131 ft.|
|Medium||100||15 h 25 min||453 ft.|
|High||350||4h 45 min||804 ft.|
|Turbo||1000||1h 50 min||1385 ft.|
As expected, the highest setting causes the light to heat up and fast. This is an issue for flashlight that don’t have any kind of heat protection as you might leave it on for too long and start damaging it. Fortunately though, the Fenix does have an overheat protection system in it so that it won’t damage itself.
At the turbo setting, you can get somewhere around 15 minutes of it running straight before going down to a lower lumen setting in the previous TK32 editions so you can expect roughly the same if not better performance. Similarly, at high setting, the previous version could go for a straight 2 hours 55 minutes before lowering lumens.
The light is also IPX8 waterproof which means that it will be fine if you lower it into water up to 2 meters for 30 minutes straight. Can’t quite dive and use this gun, but it’s a nice feature to have.
The 2016 version of the TK32 improves upon its older versions by redesigning the body to have a better grip and adding a new reflector. However, the new version is also more prone to rolling off the table so I hope they fix this in their next iteration.
Something unique to the TK32 is the fact that it has a separate high red beam and green beam option. They’re supposed to make it easier to search for some animals.
In conclusion, this is a great and bright flashlight that you can equip with your AR-15 with no issues.
Streamlight TLR-3 Weapon Mounted Tactical Light – Best AR 15 Light For the Money
Do you want a nice and solid flashlight for your AR-15 but don’t need any bells and whistles on it? And are you not willing to spend a lot in order to get the flashlight? The TLR-3 might be a good choice for you then.
What you see is what you get with this flashlight, as it’s a simple flashlight attachment that does what it says. The build itself feels lightweight coming in at only 4.8 oz.
This light can be paired with both a Glock or any gun that has a Picatinny rail. So if you want to use it with some of your other guns if you have any, then this light will work well.
The light is IPX 7 certified meaning that you can submerge it under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. And while it’s unlikely you’ll be taking your gun underwater, this just shows how well the waterproof capabilities are.
When firing this light has good stability and there weren’t any issues. And at 10% output, you get around 1.5 hours of continuous light which is pretty decent.
However, now for the cons. As with all things, you can’t have your cake and eat it too as there’s a price to pay for the lower price. First thing is that it is only 125 lumens. Now that’s a good or a bad thing, depending on what your use for the light will be. If you’re inside of tight hallways or CQB then this low lumen might be good for not blinding you. But even in those places, a higher lumen can potentially be more beneficial as it could blind the target for a longer time.
The other thing that I’ll mention is that the switch feels kind of cheap. You can turn in clockwise or counter clockwise to have the light on continuously or temporary, respectively. But when you use it, you get the feeling that and hard use might damage it. But that’s not much of an issue thanks to the limited lifetime warranty that Streamlight offers.
|Great price||Low brightness|
|Does what it says|
Orion H40-W 500 Lumen LED Tactical Flashlight with Pressure Switch – Bright and on a Budget
Now, if you’re on a budget AND you want a bright light then the options are much more limited here. The Streamlight TLR-3, as reviewed above, is a pretty solid light but it only outputs 125 lumens which is not enough for many situations and especially outdoors. The Orion H40-W not only goes down in price, but it also increases the lumens all the way to 500 lumens.
The lumens aren’t part of some marketing gimmick, you are actually getting the 500 lumens while you are using this product. Additionally, you also get a pressure switch that’s included with it so if you’re looking for a good tactical flashlight with a pressure switch then the Orion will do the job.
The light itself is water resistant, which is always nice to have, and it features a 160 meter throw distance. The body is made from hard anodized aluminum. Anodizing is basically an electrochemical process which turns a metallic surface into a mure durable and corrosion resistant finish. Basically, it makes it so that the aluminum can’t form any corrosion on its surface to prolong its lifespan and make it tougher. This is a common technique that is used in all kinds of things from cookware to tactical gear.
The light is also at a decent weight, coming in at 3.4 oz. Although that’s the weight without the batteries in.
Now, some things that could be improved on are the overall quality and the pressure switch durability. While the shell it tough, the construction and quality control are somewhat lacking with a few reports of people receiving defective lights. The pressure switch is also not really reliable and is prone to breaking if not used with care.
Unfortunately, there’s also no warranty to count on down the line as the product comes with a short 1 year warranty. But then again, that tends to be the case with any lower priced item.
So if you’re fine with not the absolute best durability and want to save a lot of money while getting a decently bright light at the same time, the Orion is a very good choice.
|Excellent price||Quality control lacking|
|Bright||Switch durability questionable|
To Wrap Things Up
So there you have it, the reviews of various light so you can find the best tactical flashlight for AR 15 tailored for you. Streamlight offers some solid choices, Fenix is great for those looking for maximum, SureFire is a very good TIR light and Orion is good for those on a tight budget. Between these choices, you should be able to find something that will suit your needs well. Until next time.