Most modern handguns have some form of rail system beneath their barrel. This rail isn’t just there to look cool—it provides a place to mount a light. Pistol lights have become quite popular, and we are seeing light use beyond military and police applications.
Handgun are becoming a modern must-have, and if you’re in the market, we are here to help.
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The 9 Best Pistol Flashlights: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best Budget #1: Olight Mini Valkyrie
- Best Budget #2: Streamlight TLR 3
- Best for the Money #1: Olight PL-2 Valkyrie
- Best for the Money #2: Inforce APLc
- Best Overall #1: Surefire X300
- Best Overall #2: Streamlight TLR 1
- Best Compact #1: Surefire XC1
- Best Compact #2: Streamlight TLR 6
- Best Pistol Light and Laser Combo: Streamlight TLR 8
|Category||Best budget||Best for the money||Best overall
|Model|| || ||
|Run time||1 hour||1.5 hours||2.5 hours|
|Mode Operation||Side Switch||Ambidextrous on/off||Ambidextrous on/off|
|Batteries||Customised Li-Ion Battery||1 Lithium CR2||CR123A Lithium|
|Weight||2.5 oz||1.87 oz||4.18 oz|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Budget #1
- Made from T5 aluminum alloy
- Low battery indicator is an awesome touch
- Weighs 2.5 ounces
- Relatively short battery life
The Olight PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie is the modern update to the original Valkyrie, essentially a larger version of the Mini. The Olight brand is rather new on the market, but they are making a big splash and becoming an impressive brand.
The Mini Valkyrie is designed to be ultra-lightweight and incredibly small—as small as you can make a light that can fit on a Picatinny rail.
The Olight Mini Valkyrie is a bright little light and packs 600 lumens in a very small beam. It casts more of a spotlight than a beam, but it’s effective for close quarters combat and concealed carry. It’s also completely rechargeable and comes with a QD mount system that allows you to pit in on and take it off in a flash.
Features and Specs
- 600-lumen light
- Adjustable sliding rail to fit a multitude of guns
- Magnetized charger
The Olight Mini Valkyrie is a small and compact light designed for small and compact guns. It can be used for concealed carry and is perfect in that role. It’s short, lightweight, and best of all, it’s an affordable option.
2. Best Budget #2
- Very strong and surprisingly light
- Rapid-attach rail system is superb
- Surprisingly affordable
- Oddball, expensive battery
Compare prices at: Cabela’s, Brownells
The TLR 3 was the original compact weapon light. It’s fallen a bit out of favor and is no longer the smallest or lightest light, but it is still very well made. The TLR 3 is still a viable choice, especially if you are on a budget.
The TLR 3 is quite compact and runs off an oddball camera battery. It runs at 125 lumens for roughly 1.5 hours before switching into a low-power mode.
The TLR 3 is a small weapon light and sits almost perfect flush with most compact pistols, like the Glock 18. The TLR 3 is IPX7 rated for waterproofness, and it can be submerged up to a meter for 30 minutes and still work.
The ambidextrous controls are quick and easy to use, and the gun will fit all standard rails. There are HK rail variants as well.
Features and Specs
- 125-lumen light
- 5-hour runtime
- Made mostly from high-impact polymer
The TLR 3 can be used for primarily two roles. The first is as a budget home defense light. It blasts a white, bright light designed to allow you to navigate and search. The TLR 3 is also a small and light weapon light that excels for the concealed carrier on a budget.
The standard rail system compatibility guarantees its compatibility.
3. Best for the Money #1
- A bright, strong light
- Quite affordable
- Shoots a long-range beam
- Not well suited for indoor use
The Olight PL-2 Valkyrie is a full-sized weapon light that is an excellent budget weapon light. This full-sized weapon light is made primarily of aluminum, and it’s actually quite well made overall.
The PL-2 Valkyrie shoots forth a massive 1,200-lumen light that sends a beam out to an impressive distance of 257 yards, making this a great outdoor weapon light.
The PL-2 Valkyrie uses a quick-detach mounting system that allows you to mount your light without ever having to place your hand near the barrel. The PL-2 Valkyrie system has ambidextrous on and off switches for quick and easy access. The PL-2 also features a strobe mode for blinding an enemy.
The PL-2 is both impact-tested and waterproofed.
Features and Specs
- 1200-lumen brightness
- Must have a full-sized gun to run it
- Uses 2 CR123A batteries
This is a budget light designed mostly for duty use. However, it could be used for concealed carry if you are a big fan of full-sized guns. It’s bright, clear, and perfect for outdoors use, but it is slightly bright for indoor use.
4. Best for the Money #2
- Lock-out mode ensures it doesn’t accidentally come on when traveling
- Incredibly lightweight
- Compact and easy to carry
- Not completely waterproof
What I like about Inforce is they are not afraid to make lower powered lights. The APLc can be found in a 200-lumen variant that is very comfortable for use inside buildings and even a vehicle.
The APLc is also an awesome budget light that is designed to be sleek and smooth. The C in APLc stands for “compact,” and it is indeed a very compact light. It sits flush with the barrel of most compact guns and is also quite light at less than 2 ounces.
It’s made mostly from high-impact-durable polymers. It’s also water resistant, and the beam is designed you fill your field of view with crystal-clear light.
Features and Specs
- Textured, ambidextrous paddles
- 200 lumens of light
- 5 hours of battery life
The Inforce APLc is most definitely a concealed carry light. It’s ultra-small and very lightweight. Compatible holsters are easy to find for carry purposes as well. The 200-lumen brightness does allow for comfortable indoor use, and it can do double duty for home defense.
5. Best Overall #1
- The strongest light on the market
- Insanely bright and clear beam
- Excellent battery life
- Very expensive
The Surefire X300 is the professional’s weapon light. It’s extremely well made, durable, and the choice of police and military professionals. It’s an incredibly powerful light designed for duty.
The Surefire X300 is a rock-solid reliable light and comes in a number of different lumen levels. This includes 600- and 1,000-lumen lights. This light casts a powerful beam that covers great distance with ease.
The light’s beam is also impressively wide, and having both depth and breadth is rare in a single light. This is only possible because of the TIR lenses and impressive lumen rating. Furthermore, the Surefire X300 is built from aluminum and will go to war and come back. It’s shock, drop, and water resistant.
Features and Specs
- Multiple lumen models
- Offers continuous beam and momentary settings
- Shock, impact, and water resistant
The Surefire X300 is an awesome light for both home defense and duty use, but it’s one of the larger lights on the market. The 1000-lumen model is perfect for duty use, and the 600-lumen model is perfect for home defense.
6. Best Overall #2
- Very affordable for such a high-quality light
- Crystal clear bright light
- Ambidextrous controls
- Somewhat heavy
The Streamlight TLR 1 is Streamlight’s full-sized flagship pistol light. The TLR 1 is the main rival of the Surefire X300. It’s also a lot more affordable but still not exactly a budget light.
The TLR 1 is an outstanding device and offers an amazing beam of light. It acts more like a spotlight than a concentrated beam, but it can absolutely fill a room full of light and provides an awesome degree of light power.
The TLR 1 offers both a low-powered 300-lumen variant and a HL 800-lumen light. These two models allow you to use the light for different roles with ease. The TLR 1 is also a very strong optic that is water resistant and shock-proof. It’s an impact resistant light that can take an absolute beating.
Features and Specs
- Continuous, momentary, and strobe functions
- 300-lumen model has 2.5-hour runtime; 800-lumen model has 1.5-hour runtime
- Comes with a multitude of keys to accommodate different rails
The Streamlight TLR 1 is an awesome weapon light and one of my all-time favorites. The TLR 1 is a very dependable and strong light that can serve double duty as a home defense light as well as a duty light.
7. Best Compact #1
- Small and lightweight
- Perfect for all railed handguns
- Ideal for concealed carry use
The Surefire XC1 is a very compact weapon light designed for either compact or subcompact weapons. Surefire has rearranged the internals to make it flatter, lighter, and easier to hide.
The XC1 comes in 300- and 200-lumen models and runs of common AAA batteries. This model is designed for Picatinny rails, and the XC1 is made from aerospace aluminum.
The XC1 is a rock-solid and reliable light, made with the strength and durability of Surefire weapon lights. The XC1 has ambidextrous controls and both momentary and continuous beam settings. The Surefire XC1 is a professional grade weapon light and one you can depend on.
Features and Specs
- 200- or 300-lumen weapon light
- Front-facing battery compartment
- Made from aerospace aluminum
The Surefire XC1 is a perfect concealed carry light. Surefire is a big company, and they can produce some outstanding lights supported by a variety of holsters. The Surefire XC1 is light, small, and adds barely any bulk to your gun.
8. Best Compact #2
- Changing settings is quick and easy
- Lightweight and compact
- Impact and water resistant
- Have to take it apart to install it
Compare prices at: Cabela’s
Let’s say you have a gun that doesn’t have a rail or has an oddball rail. Guns like the Glock 42, the P365, and some of the Micro XDs lack rails, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a light. The TLR 6 is purpose built for individual guns, so ensure you choose the right model for the right gun.
The TLR 6 is both a light and laser that connects around the trigger guard and locks the light into place. No rail required.
The TLR 6 casts a bright 100-lumen spotlight designed for close-range use. The included laser is very bright and easy to pick up via the eye. The TLR 6 does allow light-only, laser-only, and combined light and laser settings. The TLR 6 is an outstanding light and one of the few designed for guns without rails.
Features and Specs
- 100-lumen light and red laser
- Light is designed to fill your vision
- Ambidextrous controls
The TLR 6 is an easy-to-use light, and it’s one of the smallest and lightest lights on the market. The TLR 6 is a concealed-carry light, and it makes it very easy to carry the light day in and day out without adding bulk. This is an outstanding light and my EDC choice.
9. Best Pistol Light and Laser Combo
- 140-meter beam distance is impressive
- Weighs only 2.64 ounces
- Uses a common CR123A battery
- Short battery life
Compare prices at: Bass Pro Shops
The Streamlight TLR 8 is a compact light and laser combination that is brand new to the market. It’s a small and lightweight light designed to fit flush with compact weapon lights. This provides users with a light that fits a Picatinny-rail-equipped light.
The TLR 8 itself is designed to pack a lot of punch into a small package. It shines bright at 500 lumens, which provides a great balance between power and comfort.
The TLR 8’s laser is a bright red that’s easy to see, adjust, and use. The Streetlight TLR 8 is both water and impact resistant and is made from anodized aluminum. The light has ambidextrous controls and is quick and easy to mount to your gun. It’s an awesome and modernized compact light system.
Features and Specs
- 500-lumen light and 5-nW laser
- Uses a TIR lens to shine a bright and clear light
- 5-hour runtime
The Streamlight TLR 8 is a compact light that is strong enough to be a duty light but is likely best used for home defense and concealed carry. The small size and battery life are not the best for duty, but if your duty weapon is small, it can work. This small light packs 500 lumens, and that’s more than what’s needed for most people.
Why Do You Need a Pistol Light?
Only a few years ago, the idea of using a weapon light with your everyday carry gun seemed absurd. It added too much bulk and was too heavy for daily carry. Well, things change. Not only have lights gotten smaller, but the idea of a handgun light has become more mainstream.
I’ve personally been carrying a gun with a weapon light for years, way before it was popular. To this day I carry a weapon with a light, although the light has shrunk quite a bit. I have continued a carry a light for a lot of reasons, and let’s talk about why you need a pistol light.
A handgun light is a tool designed to allow you enhance the versatility of your handgun and the way it can be used. There are a variety of reasons you need a handgun flashlight.
A handgun equipped with a weapon light allows you to keep both hands on your weapon when fighting in the dark. The old school method of having a light separate from your gun has its place, but the modern weapon light is the superior option for lighting the way.
If you are in the dark and in a gunfight, the ability to use both hands is priceless.
Imagine trying to conduct a reload when you have to drop your flashlight, grab an extra magazine, find your flashlight, and then get back to shooting? It’s not easy, and with a weapon light, this isn’t going to happen.
Another advantage is one-handed shooting with a light accessible. If you have to open a door, carry a kid, or simply safely climb stairs in the dark, you can and can do so with a weapon and a light accessible.
Inside the home, a weapon light is a must-have. If something goes bump in the night, you can grab your gun and light as a combined package. A light is a must-have because you need to be able to positively identify a target when you pull a trigger.
A gun light ensures you’re engaging an actual threat and not your teenage kid sneaking in.
A pistol light can even disable an attacker for a few seconds for you to gain an advantage. A good bright light is blinding and gives you a quick and dirty advantage in a gunfight. Every second and every advantage you have in a fight is worthwhile.
A pistol flashlight also adds additional weight to your gun, and this can be a good thing. A pistol flashlight sits at the end of your gun and acts as a counterweight. This reduces muzzle rise and allows you control your gun while firing it. It makes shooting accurately quickly easier.
A handgun light is an awesome tool, one you should take advantage of.
How to Choose a Light
There are lots of different light sizes out there, with some so small they fit inside the guide rod of your handgun. Light size is a very big consideration when it comes to choosing a light. Different roles and different guns require different lights.
If a gun is designed for duty use or home defense, the light can be as big as you want it. Bigger lights often offer numerous advantages. This includes a longer battery life, a brighter light, as well as built-in lasers, a strobe function, and easier-to-utilize switches.
For concealed carry or for very small guns, you might want or may have to use a smaller light. When you are trying to conceal a weapon, less bulk is better, and smaller lights are more suited for this role. Additionally, super small guns, like the S&W shield or the SIG P365, have to carry smaller lights.
It’s pretty easy to look at weapon lights and see big lumens as a good thing. Why purchase a 600-lumen light when 1,000 lumens are available? That’s a good question, but believe it or not, brighter is not always better.
Brighter lumen levels are better for lights that are going to be used outdoors more than indoors. In an outdoors situation, a brighter light with the right beam can effectively light up distant targets. Indoors, a brighter light can be too bright and hurt your eyes, especially if it reflects and hits your eyes.
Dimmer lights around 400 to 600 lumens are perfectly suitable for indoor use and are still bright enough to blind a bad guy. When choosing a light look at the lumens and try and decide what works best for you and your situation.
When it comes to weapon lights, especially handgun lights, you need a light that is bright, powerful, easy to use, and reliable. It’s a light attached to a gun, so a cheap piece of crap from China isn’t going to do it. You want something well made, preferably from a reputable company like Surefire, SIG, Streamlight, Inforce, etc.
Home defense use is as strenuous as other roles. Home defense guns often sit in a safe or on a nightstand, and they aren’t beaten and abused. Handgun lights on home defense guns can be big but shouldn’t be especially bright. If they are too bright, they may blind you. I prefer lights in the 400- to 600-lumen range for indoor use.
If you are a police officer, security guard, or are in any role where a gun is a must-have, you should take the time to pick out the best light possible. Lights from companies like Streamlight and Surefire make duty-quality lights.
For duty use, I suggest powerful lights in the 800- to 1,000-lumen range. These bright lights are better suited for outdoor use.
With concealed carry, you want to go as small as possible. Smaller lights are easier to conceal, and lights like the TLR 6 and TLR 7 are quite small and easy to conceal. You want a reliable light because it’s also going to be carried every day.
How it Attaches to Your Gun
Most guns sport a Picatinny rail or something very similar. A Picatinny rail system is a standardized rail system for mounting accessories. However, some gun companies like to be different. HK, for example, uses a proprietary rail system that makes attaching lights difficult without the proper mount.
Other guns are too small for a Picatinny rail, and guns like the SIG P365 have a proprietary rail because they are too small to fit a standard Picatinny spec rail. Ensure you understand how your weapon’s rail works and what will fit it.
Are you looking to buy a light for a specific gun? Then take a look at our:
Fits a Glock 18??? Holy crap how many people out there are running fully automatic pistols?
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