Jeff Cooper once wrote, if your pistol is not within reach as you read this you haven’t learned the lessons we teach at Gunsite Academy. Similarly, I would suggest that your tactical flashlight should be within reach or on your person at all times.
I recently asked a group of female students if they carried a flashlight and they all produced their phones, so I suppose I had better define a tactical flashlight. While a phone may be helpful for finding your keys or reading a menu it doesn’t meet my criteria for a personal tactical light; that is, a light with a focused beam projecting enough light to identify a threat and temporarily disrupt someone’s vision.
Back in the "Dark Ages," the first truly useful tactical flashlight was the Surefire 6P. It was a revelation at the time casting a 60-lumen beam in a small, handy light. With an easily broken halogen bulb and a run time of only 20 minutes it had to be used carefully and sparingly. And it was expensive, probably something like several hundred dollars in today’s currency. These days we are the fortunate recipients of major advancements in light technology. Modern lights with LED bulbs are inexpensive, cast very bright beams, are almost unbreakable and have run times measured in hours and hours.
One measure of light or brightness is lumens and tactical lights are marketed according to their lumen rating. In my opinion, a light with a focused beam in the 250-lumen range is the starting point for a serviceable tactical light. Higher ratings of 500 or 1,000 lumens are even better but the trade-off in maximum lumens is a light too big to carry all the time. As an example, I keep a light by the front door that throws an amazing 3,200 lumen beam but it’s too large for daily carry.
I wasn’t there, but I’m told on 9/11, many hundreds of lives could have been saved if folks trying to escape the twin towers had flashlights. Even cell phone lights would have been helpful, but this was well before smart phones became available. Imagine if the wonderful lights we have available now had been available and people, even some of them, had been carrying one in their pocket?
You’re going to use your light thousands of times more often than your pistol so why not carry it every day? Need to see into a dark space? Dropped something under the seat of the car? Can’t see to put your key in a lock or fear stumbling on a dark path or stairs? But what if a suspicious person approaches you at night? Instead of pulling your pistol shine your light in their eyes while loudly telling them, “Stop! Don’t Come any closer!” and moving away towards cover.
And should you find yourself in the dark in a situation where your pistol is needed you MUST be able to identify the threat. Remember, we only shoot at clearly identifiable threats about which we can articulate the need to use deadly force: “He had a gun, he said he was going to kill me, I feared for my life.”
Carry a good quality light all the time. My current favorite is a Streamlight Micro USB. With a 250-lumen beam on high it has a run time of several hours, is waterproof (mine has been through the wash several times) and requires no batteries being USB rechargeable. Better yet, you can find it on Amazon for about $28. That’s a real bargain for a tool you will use every day and will be there, on your person, should Evil come to you.