Best Pistol Lights

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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.

You can use a pistol light in many of the same ways you’d use a tactical flashlight.

Plus, since it’s attached to your handgun, you’ll never leave the light behind!

There are advantages and disadvantages of every pistol light model so we’ll look at how they attach, how many lumens they output, the battery life you can expect, and more.

And, of course, a good weapon light has to be reliable. No junk flashlights here!

Let’s begin.

The Best Pistol Lights

Streamlight TLR-1 HL Overall Best Pistol Light for Most Railed Handguns

Best Overall – Streamlight TLR-1 HL

Pick up a pistol with a light already installed and chances are high it’s a Streamlight.

That’s because Streamlight hits the sweet spot for power, functionality, reliability, and price.

The Streamlight TLR-1 HL puts out 1,000 lumens of visible light when you turn it on, an immense amount of power for such a small light.

It lasts a long time for that amount of intensity, too, with a battery life of 1.5 hours. If you double-tap the ambidextrous activation pedals then it turns on a strobe mode.

The TLR-1 HL fits on Picatinny rails, Glock rails, and includes mounting keys for other pistols such as the Sig P320 and Smith & Wesson SW99.

It’s also shock-resistant and IPX7 waterproof so it’ll survive your adventures.

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Specs

  • Lumens: 1000
  • Battery Life: 1.5 Hours
  • Power Source: 2x CR1234 Lithium Battery
  • Activation: Momentary, Steady, Strobe
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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.

Klarus GL1 Best Budget Cheap Pistol Light for Little Money

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.

The Klarus GL1 Pistol Light is the only budget handgun flashlight I’d consider using on a serious gun.

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.

Keep the battery topped up, though!

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Specs

  • Lumens: 600
  • Battery Life: 1 Hour
  • Power Source: USB Rechargeable Battery
  • Activation: Momentary, Steady, Strobe
Pros

Easily recharged battery
Good power and reliability considering the low price

Cons
  • 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.

SureFire X300 Ultra Model A Upgrade Pick Great Handgun Tactical Flashlight

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.

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Specs

  • Lumens: 1000
  • Battery Life: 1.25 Hours
  • Power Source: 2x CR123A Lithium Batteries
  • Activation: Momentary, Steady
Pros
  • Extremely durable design
  • Powerful bulb that’s improved by the TIR lens
Cons
  • Longer than other pistol lights
  • Twice as expensive as the competition
Who's It For?

The SureFire X300U-A or X300U-B is for professionals and anybody wanting a professional-grade flashlight and isn’t concerned about the expense.

OLIGHT BALDR Mini Best Small Pistol Light for Compact Firearms

Best Small Pistol Light – OLIGHT BALDR Mini

Compact weapons light can save weight, reduce snagging, and improve weapon balance.

The OLIGHT BALDR Mini is an excellent compact pistol flashlight that’s no less effective for the size.

You get a full-power 600 lumen LED bulb, though the small form factor mandates a small battery. This means you’ll only get 40 minutes of light.

The BALDR mini weighs a scant 3.07 grams.

A nifty feature is that the rail mount adapter is on a slide so you can push the flashlight forward or backward to fit almost any handgun.

The OLIGHT BALDR Mini also has a green laser, but it’s almost an afterthought.

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Specs

  • Lumens: 600
  • Battery Life: 40 Minutes
  • Power Source: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Activation: Momentary, Steady
Pros
  • Doesn’t give up any power for being such a small pistol light
  • Small and light enough to not mess up your pistol’s balance
Cons
  • The green laser isn’t as high-quality as the rest of the unit
  • Short battery life
Who's It For?

The OLIGHT BALDR Mini is a good light for pistols of almost any size if you are more concerned by size and weight than by battery life.

Streamlight TLR-7A Flex Best Flashlight for Glock 19 Compacts

Best Light for Glock 19 – Streamlight TLR-7A

The Streamlight TLR-7 is one of the most well-known pistol lights. The TLR-7A is an upgraded version with better activation levers.

The TLR-7A fits Glock 19s of all generations (except the rail-less Gen 2). The front of the light’s housing is almost flush with the front of the gun, making it an excellent companion.

What I prefer about the TLR-7A over the older version is the rear switch. It comes with two. One is for a high grip and the other for a low grip.

I’ve handled pistols with flashlights that fit other people but not me. The TLR-7A removes this weakness.

The closest thing this light has to a weakness is that it’s only a 500-lumen light, but that’s still enough for a pistol light.

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Specs

  • Lumens: 500
  • Battery Life: 1.5 Hours
  • Power Source: 1x CR123A Lithium Battery
  • Activation: Momentary, Constant
Pros
  • Customizable activation levers
  • Small and light yet still durable
Cons
  • Lower brightness than most other modern pistol flashlights
Who's It For?

The Streamlight TLR-7A is a perfect flashlight for the Glock 19 and it’s also a great choice for other similarly-sized pistols.

Crimson Trace Lightguard Best Ambidextrous Lgith for Sig Sauer P365

Best Light for Sig Sauer P365 – Crimson Trace Lightguard

The Sig P365 is an excellent pistol, especially for women.

However, those engineers at Sig Sauer made the rail thinner than the Picatinny standard, which reduces flashlight compatibility.

There are a few models designed specifically to fit the P365. Of these, I’ve found the Crimson Trace Lightguard to be the best.

It fits perfectly onto the front of the P365’s trigger guard, flowing around the front and first half of the bottom.

Activation is via a button on either side of the unit, lower than the trigger. This is a good spot for many people but can be awkward for some.

The Crimson Trace Lightguard outputs 110 lumens, which is not much compared with the competition. It’s enough for lumination but not disorientation, except in a pitch-black situation.

What about Sig’s FOXTROT365?

That light is also designed for the P365 but it’s weaker, harder to change the batteries, only has a pressure switch (no momentary activation!), and is three times the price. No thanks!

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Specs

  • Lumens: 110
  • Battery Life: 1 Hour
  • Power Source: 2x 1/3N Batteries
  • Activation: Momentary, Steady, Strobe
Pros

Fits the Sig P365 perfectly
Surprisingly inexpensive

Cons

The activation buttons may not be in a good location for every user
Low lumen output, reducing daytime disorientation potential

Who's It For?

The Crimson Trace Lightguard fits the Sig Sauer P365 perfectly and is a much better value than the FOXTROT365.

OLIGHT PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie Best Flashlight Fits Sig P320 XCompact Pistol

Best Light for Sig P320 XCompact – Olight PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie

Much like the P365, the Sig P320 XCompact is not compatible with all weapon lights.

You don’t need to get a P320-only light, though. The OLIGHT PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie works perfectly fine.

The PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie can be thought of as a different version of the BALDR Mini except, instead of a green laser, it includes a magnetic charging port.

I’m a big fan of magnetic chargers. They make it easy to keep your flashlight topped off.

The PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie puts out just as many lumens as the BALDR Mini but with less intensity. However, it is a more durable unit, with IPX6 waterproofing instead of IPX4.

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Specs

  • Lumens: 600
  • Battery Life: 1 Hour
  • Power Source: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Activation: Momentary, Steady
Pros
  • Fits the awkwardly-sized Sig P320 XCompact as well as other subcompact models such as the Ruger SR9C and the Springfield XDS
Cons
  • Less light intensity than other 600-lumen pistol lights
Who's It For?

The OLIGHT PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie is for anybody who wants a good light for their subcompact pistol or wants the simplicity of a magnetic charger.

Nightstick TCM-550XL Police Pistol Light for Glock 17 Full Size Handguns

Best Light for Glock 17 – Nightstick TCM-550XL

The Nightstick TCM-550XL is a competitor to the Streamlight TLR-7A but may be a better choice for the full-sized Glock 17.

As you can tell from the model name, the TCM-550XL puts out 550 lumens. It’s more intense than some 600-lumen lights, though, with over 4,600 candelas of intensity.

The TIR lens keeps your target well-lit and allows you to observe what’s around it, too.

The Nightstick is an efficient flashlight because it has a battery life of up to 2.5 hours! That’s an hour longer than the competition’s best.

The body is tough aluminum and IPX7 waterproof.

The activation lever, however, can make or break this model for you. It’s more sensitive than the Streamlight TLR-7A.

Not everyone likes the sensitivity.

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Specs

  • Lumens: 550
  • Battery Life: 2.5 Hours
  • Power Source: 1x CR123 Lithium Battery
  • Activation: Momentary, Steady
Pros
  • Easy to activate levers
  • Long battery life for a pistol-mounted flashlight
Cons
  • Activation levers may be too sensitive for some people
  • Does not fit many handgun models
Who's It For?

The Nightstick TCM-550XL was designed as a light for law enforcement officers using the Glock 17 and shines on that gun, provided you like sensitive activation switches.

SureFire 2211 Wristlight Best Weapon Flashlight without Picatinny Rails

Honorable Mention – SureFire 2211 Wristlight

What if you want a pistol light that’s not attached to the handgun?

SureFire has you covered with the 2211 Wristlight Series.

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!

This turns the Weaponlight into an excellent survival watch.

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Specs

  • Lumens: 300, 60, or 15
  • Battery Life: 1, 4, or 13 Hours
  • Power Source: USB Rechargeable Lithium Battery
  • Activation: Steady
Pros
  • Allows you to use your weapon light at low power and without aiming your pistol at non-targets
  • Works with any model handgun
Cons
  • 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.

Reliability

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.

Brightness

Pistol lights are measured in lumens2. Generally, the more lumens the light puts out, the brighter it is.

There are some outliers, though.

For example, the Nightstick TCM-550XL puts out its 550 lumens at about 4,600 candelas of intensity and the OLIGHT BALDR Mini is only about 4,200 candelas at 600 lumens.

Generally, though, the brighter the better.

That’s because it increases your chances of disorienting an opponent, which can improve your possibility of surviving.

There are a lot of opinions on how many lumens you need to disorient someone and not a lot of hard data.

The generally accepted rule is that you need around 100-150 lumens to disorient someone in the dark and 200-300 lumens to disorient someone during the day.

The distance between your light and your opponent’s eyes will add to this requirement, of course.

So, it’s better to err on the side of caution and go for the brightest light you can. Even if it cuts down on battery life.

Battery life does not matter all that much. Most self-defense situations are over in moments, not hours.

Just make sure to keep your batteries topped off!

Ease of Use

The most subjective aspect of buying a weapon light is how easy the light is to use.

Most pistol lights have two rear levers that flank the front of your trigger guard.

Tap them to turn the light on or off, or hold them down for a momentary brightness until you release the lever.

Other lights have side buttons in front of and below the trigger guard you tap.

Which activation method you prefer depends on your grip and finger length, so you’ll have to experiment.

You can practice without a light installed on your gun to see which finger movement feels more comfortable or borrow a gun with a light from a friend.

Power Source

I favor rechargeable batteries over replaceable batteries.

Replaceable batteries tend to last longer than rechargeables, which seems like a strong advantage.

Also, you can change them in the field.

However, you cannot top off replaceable batteries!

You can plug in a rechargeable pistol light every night so it’s fresh for the fight every time.

I’m not concerned about getting into a three-hour-long firefight in the middle of the night. If that happens I’ll have time to grab and use a separate tactical flashlight.

So, I’d recommend using a light you can keep topped off.

Final Verdict

Though all of the flashlights on this list make good pistol lights, there are three that stand out to me.

First is the budget-oriented Klarys GL1. That’s because it’s cheap enough to outfit almost anybody with a weapon light yet is still reliable.

The second standout is the Streamlight TLR series. If you favor power then get the TLR-1 HL. The TLR-7A is otherwise an excellent, ergonomic choice.

Finally, the SureFire X300U-A is an extremely rugged pistol light that’s durable enough for military use. Go with the X300 if you need the reliability.

Keep in mind that the light you choose has to fit your gun!

Which one does your pistol wear?

FAQs

What Pistol Light Does the Military Use?

The US military uses a variety of pistol lights, typically bought from the market though some are issued.

The SureFire X300-A has a National Stock Number3 and is in use by the military.

How Many Lumens Is Best For a Pistol Light?

The more lumens the better.

There’s no single agreed-upon minimum for a defensive flashlight (I’ve seen figures from 70 to 300 lumens).

I’d recommend at least 300 if you want more than just illumination, though.

Are Pistol Lights Worth It?

Yes!

Pistol lights are an inexpensive addition to your firearm that can prove indispensable if you need to use your pistol in the dark.

Resources

  1. https://www.surefire.com/product-education/nsn-list/
  2. https://www.trijicon.com/frequently-asked-questions/category/rmr-faqs

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