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Weapon lights are an important addition to any self-defense firearm.
If you are going to use a pistol to defend yourself then it needs a pistol light.
These accessories are important for following one of the basic rules of gun safety–know your target and what’s behind it–as well as aiding in nighttime navigation and even offering the ability to stun an attacker.
Easy battery installation with no chance of losing the battery door due to a tether
Includes a very powerful C4 LED without raising the light’s price
On the longer side so shorter barrels may throw carbon onto the light, requiring extra cleaning
Who's It For?
The Streamlight TLR-1 HL is a great light for full-sized pistols and a good light for compacts but not subcompacts. It’s a good choice for anybody who wants a powerful, reliable, non-specialized pistol light.
Best Budget Pistol Light – Klarus GL1
There are not many budget weapon lights that are worth the money. Making a flashlight that can survive consistent pistol recoil requires some expense.
I’ve had great experiences with Klarus flashlights in the past. The GL1 keeps up this budget-yet-reliable streak.
It uses a USB-rechargeable battery to power the 600-lumen CREE XP-L2 HD LED. This is an impressive amount of power.
However, the 260 mAh battery can only power the light at full power for a short time. 600 lumens lasts for 10 minutes, usable light lasts for about an hour, and the last half an hour is only about 70 lumens.
This is good enough for a self-defense situation since you won’t want to keep your light on full blast all the time anyway.
Easily recharged battery Good power and reliability considering the low price
Limited battery life
Who's It For?
The Klarus GL1 is a good choice for anybody who is constrained by their budget. Training is more important than having the spiffiest gadget and the Klarus will help you keep up your ammo budget.
Upgrade Pick – SureFire X300 Ultra
SureFire flashlights are the best in the business. However, they are priced that way.
The SureFire X300U is the Ultra version of the well-regarded X300. The TIR lens focuses the 1,000 lumens for a long-reaching central beam and a shorter-ranged wide component for good peripheral vision.
The rear toggles can be used for momentary or constant-on use and you can add a pressure-activated remote switch for automatic light control.
The X300U securely mounts to a large variety of pistols and is known to survive physical altercations that would kill even Streamlights.
The Surefire X300U comes in two models. The A model uses the Rail-Lock system to mount to polymer frames and the B model uses the T-Slot system to mount to metal frames and rails.
The Wristlight is a flashlight worn on your support hand, same as a watch. The lens is angled to light up with your gun’s barrel when you grip the pistol with both hands.
Unlike other weapon lights, you can vary the Wristlight’s intensity from 300 to 15 lumens. This extends the battery life from 1 to 13 hours, so the Wristlight is also a good backup or emergency flashlight.
You can improve the versatility of the Weaponlight by buying a version that’s also a wristwatch!
Allows you to use your weapon light at low power and without aiming your pistol at non-targets
Works with any model handgun
Has to be manually activated separately
The watch versions are not ambidextrous
Who's It For?
The SureFire 2211 Wristlight is great for people who use a variety of handguns or for anybody who wants to wear a flashlight separately from their pistol.
What to Look For When Choosing a Pistol Light
With so many different handgun lights out there, how can you choose?
The primary thing you need to keep in mind is compatibility. No matter how good a light is, if it doesn’t fit your pistol, it’s worthless!
Past that, there are certain features you should keep in mind. Let’s start with the most important one.
A flashlight that doesn’t turn on when you need it to is more than an annoyance. It can put you at risk!
This is why pistol lights are so expensive.
Handguns may not recoil hard but they do recoil back and forth, which can shake apart poorly-designed lights.
Heck, this applies to optics as well, and is why Trijicon had to upgrade the RMR1! The first generation could flicker and turn off from even a 9mm handgun. The contacts would flatten from the slide’s swift back-and-forth motion.
Because of this, you don’t want to even consider cheap pistol lights. Something that would survive being mounted on an AR-15 would break on a Glock.
Once you hit the $50 price point, though, there’s only a small amount of added reliability when you increase the price.
However, if you are active while carrying your handgun, you will want to prioritize more expensive models for their extra reliability.
Pistol lights are measured in lumens2. Generally, the more lumens the light puts out, the brighter it is.