How to Use a Tactical Flashlight

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Flashlights are considered must-have items around these parts.

I have half a dozen lights floating around my person, EDC bag, and “bugout” truck. So, light is never far away.

Some of them are tactical flashlights, such as my Klarus XT11GT and Klarus XT12S (which are both excellent, by the way, though they have their differences).

Tactical flashlight or not, I don’t use my flashlights the same way when something goes bump in the night.

Though the word “tactical” has been diluted over the years, there are ways to tactically use your light. Done well, it can help you get an edge over a burglar.

But how do you use a flashlight tactically?

And does your flashlight need to say “tactical” on the package?

What to Look For in a Tactical Flashlight

The answer to that second question is “no.”

Though purpose-designed tactical flashlights will work better, I’ve successfully used a cheap camping flashlight as a tactical light in the past.

Proper technique can provide a level of tacticality to any flashlight.

Klarus Upgraded XT11GT 2000 Lumens LED Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight
The Klarus XT11GT is an example of a tactical flashlight


There are ways in which tactical flashlights are superior to normal flashlights.

Tactical flashlights will:

  • Be brighter
  • Survive harsher impacts
  • Withstand rain and water
  • Have a strobe mode
  • Have a strike face
  • Be recoil resistant
  • Throw their light into a more concentrated area

You can find some of the best tactical flashlights in this article.

Tactical Flashlight Functions

Once you have a tactical flashlight or three, you are able to use them for the following tasks.

Obstacle Avoidance

The primary purpose of any flashlight, a tactical light will help you to avoid objects.

You don’t want to run into the table when you’re clearing your house, do you?

However, you don’t want to keep the light on as you repeatedly sweep the area.

Using a flashlight to tactically avoid obstacles involves the Flash and Scan technique, which I’ll describe later.

Tactical flashlight uses obstacle avoidance target identification save a life
Who is at the end of that dark hallway?

Identify Threats

The most important function of a tactical flashlight is to positively identify your target and whatever is beyond.

One of the most important rules of firearm safety is to never point your weapon at anything you do not wish to destroy[1].

Your flashlight will allow you to follow that rule so you don’t mistake a home invader for your teenage daughter sneaking back into the house!

Disorient Attackers

Tactical lights are bright.

Extremely bright.

I’m sure someone has accidentally swung a light into your face when camping. That made it hard to see for a while, right? Not to mention the temporary blind spot?

Double or triple that visual disruption with a tactical flashlight.

It gets even worse when you’re exposed to strobe mode.

Flashlight bright light blind attacker covering eyes disoriented
Photo by TMMY PHTOG (CC BY 2.0)

Bright flashing lights won’t permanently disable an attacker but they can disorient one and give you the seconds you need to make the next move[2].

That bright light will also make you harder to aim at, if engaging someone in close vicinity. It can also block the other person’s view of your body, leaving them vulnerable to kicks to their sensitive bits.

Make sure to aim the brightest part of the light’s pattern in the bad guy’s face for maximum effect.

As a Melee Weapon

Most tactical flashlights are hefty for their size, have a durable metal body, and sport a strike face; a ring of tooth-like projections around the lens’s bezel.

In other words, a tactical flashlight makes for a great strike enhancing tool.

It’s even better if you can jab that strike face into a vulnerable area on your attacker’s body, such as the neck.

A tactical flashlight isn’t as good a weapon as a self-defense knife but it’s better than your bare fist!

How to Hold a Tactical Flashlight

Holding a flashlight seems obvious but there are correct ways and incorrect ways to hold one.

Without Another Weapon

If you’re using the flashlight by itself then you want to carry it with in strong hand.Streamlight 88040 ProTac HL 750 Lumen Professional Tactical Flashlight Hammer Hold Bezel Forward Downward

Use your offhand for other tasks such as opening doors.

You want to keep the light in your dominant hand so you can use it as a melee weapon with as much power behind your strike as possible.

I favor holding the flashlight with the strike force on the same side as my thumb.

Striking from that position is faster and has a longer range than if the bezel is held downward, but a downward grip may be more comfortable for some people and may allow you to turn on and off the flashlight more easily.

Mounted to a Rifle, Pistol, or Shotgun

Weapon-mounted lights are extremely convenient.

You grab one item and you’re ready to rock.

You can also set up the flashlight with a momentary switch so you can activate it from afar only when you need it to be on, keeping you stealthily in the dark except for when you need the light.

However, if you have time, I recommend using a separate flashlight.

That’s because mounting a light to your weapon requires you to aim your gun at unidentified targets in order to identify them.

I’m sure you keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot (Right? Right?) but this is still dangerous.

Alongside a Handgun

One of the better combinations is to carry a flashlight and a pistol or revolver at the same time (or a pistol mounted flashlight).

Grab the flashlight with your offhand with the lens on the same side of your hand as your pinky.

Hold the flashlight up, near your face, with your hand next to your head, but not too close. This is called the FBI hold.

Your handgun should be in your dominant hand, pushed all the way forward, with your arm rigid to brace against recoil.

This is different from how you’ll see flashlights held in cop shows, but that’s a good thing.

The oft-portrayed method of putting your wrists together and resting your gun hand on your flashlight hand has several weaknesses, as do other, similar methods such as the Ayoob and Harris holds[3]:

  1. It does nothing to mitigate recoil.
  2. It means you have to shine the light on an object to see if it’s a target or not, violating that important safety rule.
  3. You can bump the magazine release on certain pistol models.
  4. It wraps up your offhand so you can’t use it to defend against sudden attacks as easily.
  5. You can get your hands mixed up from stress.
  6. Bad guys might shoot directly at the light, so you don’t want it in front of your center of mass!

Keeping the flashlight near your head puts it in a prime position to protect your head and allows you to control your light and gun independent of each other.

The light can also illuminate your gun’s sights, allowing you to be more accurate even without night sights!

Tactical Flashlight Techniques

How to properly use a flashlight without giving away your position do not leave it onThere are several techniques you can adapt to use your flashlight more effectively if you’re in a life-or-death situation, or merely don’t want to get caught.

Leaving the light on constantly will turn the light into a beacon in the dark, revealing your position to hostile observers.

Use these techniques to maintain both situational awareness and stealth.

Flash and Scan

This technique requires a flashlight that’s either momentarily on or has a fast on-off switch.

Don’t try it if you have to scroll through lighting modes to turn off your flashlight!

  1. Stand still
  2. Turn the light on
  3. Quickly scan your environment and observe any threats or obstacles to form a mental map of the area
  4. Turn the light off
  5. Move, using that mental map
  6. Repeat

If you see a threat, then move quickly, in an unpredictable manner.

An armed intruder is likely to attack your last known position, which is where your light was shining from.

Obscure the Light

If your light doesn’t turn off quickly then you can emulate this functionality by covering the lens.

You can use your hand to cover the light, though some flashlights can get hot enough to cause discomfort.

If you’re carrying something in your other hand then you can push the flashlight against your chest.

A toothy bezel can render this ineffective though, so practice first to see if any light bleeds if you try to cover the light.


Tactical flashlights are a wonderful addition to any prepper’s arsenal.

They not only provide illumination but can also be used as a self-defense tool, both with their light and with a physical strike.

However, you have to use them correctly or the flashlight will work against you.

Next time you can’t sleep in the middle of the night, grab the flashlight from your nightstand and clear your house. Practice using your light as little as possible.

Do you have any tips for tactically using a flashlight?



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