On tactical flashlights


Lee’s note: Here’s another great contribution from Michael Sheesley – a practicing lawyer, firearms trainer and lethal force expert living on St. Thomas, USVI.

Why a Flashlight?

Story and photos by Michael Sheesley, Esq.

I’m back again and writing about something other than guns.

A flashlight is an absolute essential tool to have immediately available if you carry a firearm.  The right flashlight can also be a versatile and effective self-defense weapon.  A flashlight is a tool that can and will be used every day.

If you carry a gun, in my opinion you must carry a flashlight.  In order to properly justify the use force in a self-defense situation you must be able to identify that someone or something is a threat of great bodily injury or death to you.  The majority of self-defense situations occur in the dark.  Face it, bad guys simply do not want to be seen.  Bad guys gain an advantage by using darkness to rape, rob and burglarize people.  The only way to positively identify a threat in darkness is using a portable light source, your flashlight.

Weapon mounted lights are great for some purposes and applications but this article is focusing on stand-alone lights.  For the proper selection of the light to be used in conjunction with your firearm we need to examine the size versus power equation.

It used to be the case that the larger the light, the more powerful the output of the light.  Maglights used to be the standard, holding 3-4 D cell batteries and weighing over a pound.  Flashlights used to have bulbs and run on D cell batteries.  I can still remember the “K-mart special” plastic flashlights that held 2 D cell batteries and graced our kitchen drawer when I was young.  These lights were bright but nothing like todays modern lights.  Modern lights utilize a Light Emitting Diode (LED) and are powered by smaller batteries.  Output of a light is measured in lumens. Lights today with a good LED (light emitting diode) will emit 100 lumens or more of light using two (2) AA batteries.  There are modern lights that will emit 800+ lumens running on 2 123A batteries and weighing in at just ounces.  All these lights typically cost less than $100.00.

I prefer lights that run on AA or AAA batteries.  These batteries can be purchased in bulk for around $0.50 per battery or less.  The batteries are readily available and have a shelf life of 10 years or more.  A Fenix LD10, my current everyday light, will run on its lowest power setting of 5 lumens for 70 hours on a single AA battery.  A 36 pack of batteries purchased at Home Depot for around $15.00 will afford me 2,520 hours of light.  With a twist of the bezel the same light will output 100 lumens.

Lights that run on 123A batteries generally offer a higher output of lumens for the same number of batteries.  For example a comparison of Fenix lights shows a 2 AA battery light will throw out 180 lumens while a 123A light will produce 235 lumens.  However the 123A batteries wear out almost twice as fast.  123A batteries tend to cost about $2.00 each and are not as readily available as AA batteries.  For these reasons I prefer the AA battery powered lights.

The advantages of an LED flashlight include not having a bulb to break or burn out.  LEDs can last 20,000 hours or more.   A LED light can be bumped, dropped and knocked around without damaging the LED and the functionality of the light.  LED lights also have microprocessors that allow varying levels of light output and useful functions such as strobe mode or SOS mode with the click of a switch.

Lights can be effective self -defense tools all by themselves.  Shine 100+ lumens in someone’s eyes at night and you will temporarily blind them.  This will allow you time to escape a potentially life threatening situation or employ other defensive tactics as the situation may merit.  Blinding an assailant gives you time and options.  Mere identification of a suspected assailant following you is enough many times to convince the bad guy to back off and pick another target.  If the suspected assailant happens to be someone who means you no harm then illuminating them with a light has done them no harm.  You have not struck the person, sprayed them with pepper spray or drawn your firearm and therefore avoid any legal trouble.

I suggest flashlights with an on/off switch on the tailcap.  This allows you to naturally hold the light in a position to utilize it as a kubaton.

Most modern flashlights can be used as a kubaton.  Grasp the flashlight in your hand and deliver hammer strikes with the bezel.  At night with the light on you have the dual effect of blinding an assailant while delivering strikes.  A light with an overall length that is slightly greater than the width of your palm are most effectively used as a kubaton. I find single AA battery, double 123A battery and 2 AA battery lights all work for me.

Size comparison of a light using a single AA battery, 2 123A batteries and 2 AA batteries from bottom to top.

Size comparison of a light using a single AA battery, 2 123A batteries and 2 AA batteries from bottom to top.

A 2 AA battery powered light held in the hand for use as a kubotan.

A 2 AA battery powered light held in the hand for use as a kubaton.

Most modern flashlights are made of an aluminum alloy and are particularly strong.  Combined with LEDs there is no bulb to break and lights can deliver a large number of blows to nerve centers or pressure points with no damage.  Many lights are actually made with a bezel designed for striking.  The bezels feature raised ridges that will scrape or cut skin causing pain and possibly leaving blood in the eyes of your attacker should you connect with a good strike to the forehead.

Flashlights can be carried virtually everywhere.  I routinely carry my lights into secure installations, courthouses, airplanes and across borders in international travel.  Flashlights are not recognized as a weapon and I have never been prohibited from carrying my light into a sporting event or similar function.  Needless to say flashlights can be carried where firearms and knives are prohibited.  Flashlights are easily carried on your person.  Many lights come with a holster that can be attached to your belt or clips that allow them to be clipped onto your pocket or other clothing.  A flashlight can be carried in a purse or laptop case.  Many magazine holsters allow a flashlight to be carried next to your spare handgun ammunition.

Magazine holster holding a 17 round Glock magazine with +2 extension and a Surefire G2.

Magazine holster holding a 17 round Glock magazine with +2 extension and a Surefire G2.

I am not aware of any state or locale that has any legal restrictions on flashlights.

I use my flashlight every day.  It is by far the tool that I use the most.  In my opinion a good quality flashlight is a necessary addition for everyone’s daily carry gear.

Michael Sheesley is a practicing attorney, a firearms instructor and a partner in Virgin Arms, a FFL holder serving the law enforcement and civilian community in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Mr. Sheesley regularly deals with criminal matters involving the use of lethal force and is a consultant to expert witnesses.  Mr. Sheesley is a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. He can be contacted at: michaelsheesleypc@gmail.com


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Pingback: On tactical flashlights | The Gun Feed

  2. Another great feature for flashlights is a zoom focus so you can change the beam to match your situation. Most lights have a fixed focus. The manufacturers try to anticipate what the light will most be used for and come up with the perfect beam. With a focusing flashlight, you get to pick the perfect beam and they can be adjusted to almost laser-like focus to view things 1000 yards away. An example of a highly rated one is at the link below:


  3. This post has the entire details about tactical flashlight and how it can be used. Such type of information is very much required these days.

    I have seen that many people are not aware that tactical flashlights can even be used as a tool for self defense.

    This post is like a tutorial for them.

    Thank you for sharing this information with us.

    Great Share!!

  4. This is a detailed and helpful article that does a good job explaining tactical flashlights. I like how you explained that these types of flashlights could also be used as self defense in a fist. I think a lot of people are just getting to accept how incredible these new flashlights are. I am one of them, cheers!

  5. LED flashlights are great, but I’d recommend grabbing more powerful lights than run on lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are becoming more common since they’re also used for vape pens, and provide much greater illumination.

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