Illumination is so underappreciated. We’re used to the lights coming on at the flick of a switch. In fact, we’ve become so accustomed to being able to see everything in front of us at any given time that we often take it for granted. In truth, light is as important a tool as any, and out in the field or during mission critical scenarios it certainly isn’t to a foregone luxury. Even the terrible disasters such as the one we saw in Moore, Oklahoma just a few weeks ago, or with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 remind us that we need to be ready for the worst.
So cast away the silly perception that you’ll always have the luxury of light, and prepare yourself. We’ve assembled a list of the top flashlights for every use, function, and circumstance that will be ready when you need them. Whether it be everyday carry, mounted, utility, or specialty, get ready to see Brown Safe Research Lab’s Top Flashlights for Every Use. We hope you enjoy.
EVERYDAY CARRY FLASHLIGHTS:
The most popular category in the flashlight realm is that of everyday carry (EDC) flashlights. These lights are the right mixture of compact, durable, and versatile, as those who use them need a light that they can carry on them without effort, yet use in a wide variety of situations. Whether you work the night shift or are commonly seen under buildings or where light is limited, here are the top everyday carry flashlights.
Inova X1 – The best slim and sleek low profile light for the money.
When looking for the top flashlights on the market, you might want to start with the Inova X1. Tried and tested since 2003, the X1 makes for the ideal introductory light for those interested in getting their feet wet in the wide world of lumens and LEDs. Cast in either black or silver anodized aluminum with stainless steel bezel and machined flat facets, the X1 is reminiscent of a B-2 stealth bomber (without the price tag). Matter of fact, this flashlight is considered one of the most affordable everyday carry (EDC) flashlights out there.
At just four inches long, the X1’s size makes it the perfect companion for everyday use, and its revised flood beam makes it one of the top flashlights in regards to versatility. The X1 also utilizes the common AA battery, which cuts out the hassle of rechargeable (and sometimes pricey) alternatives.
If you’re truly looking for a top flashlight for everyday carry at a rock-bottom price, you can’t go wrong with the Inova X1. And it’ll keep your wallet (and wife) a bit happier too.
Price: $23.99 – $25.99
Fenix LD12 – The pocket-sized flashlight that can do it all.
Our next top flashlight for everyday carry use offers a bit more flexibility and a bit more output for a few more bucks; the Fenix LD12. Made from aircraft-grade aluminum and designed to withstand the wear-and-tear we often inflict on our pocket arsenal, this light would proudly sit somewhere next to your wallet, knife, multi-tool, and other essentials.
Much like the Inova X1, the LD12 is a simple light that is both versatile and rugged, but the reason it’s one of the top flashlights on the market is because it has been outfitted with a multitude of additional features that are normally reserved for higher price points. In addition to its four brightness levels with the most intense putting out a whopping 125 lumens, this top choice boasts strobe and SOS mode, which come in handy when you decided to go Tom Hanks and end up on a random island. Plus, the LD12 is a smart little bugger – outfitted with an integrated intelligent memory circuit which both regulates beam power (to allow for steady light output) and memorizes which light output you last used…. Well played Fenix.
Fenix (sometimes mistaken as Feniz) also produces a variety of handy attachments for the LD12, including a diffuser lens, diffuser tip, traffic wand, head mount, bicycle mount, and quite a few more cool accoutrements to adapt to whichever situation you happen to be in. This allows the Fenix LD12 to be one of the top flashlights for everyday carry.
WHAT IS A LUMEN?
Lumen – noun - \ˈlü-mən\
A unit of luminous flux equal to the light emitted in a unit solid angle by a uniform point source of one candle intensity.
Lumens are the most common unit of measurement listed by manufactures to indicate the brightness of a flashlight. This is helpful when comparing different lights, but be aware that lumens only tell a portion of the story when gauging usable light. You’ll also want to decide on the size and shape of the beam best suited to your needs, in addition to characteristics like spill and throw.
Sunwayman V11R “révolution” – Big blinding power in an impressively small package.
So you want truly impressive? When was the last time you saw 3.3 inch light fire out 500 lumens of resplendent rage? The Sunwayman V11R is truly an engineering spectacle, and that’s why it is one of our top flashlights for everyday carry use. Whether it is the interchangeable battery compartments or the interchangeable tail-cap switches, the light just screams “Customize me! Love me!”
Utilizing broad-voltage circuitry, the V11R allows itself to accurately regulate power usage depending on which battery you’re using. This allows for maximum output at the maximum efficiency, to make sure your light burns brighter, longer. While it comes standard with a battery adapter for one 16340 or 14500 battery, utilizing the AA attachment allows you to use the most standard battery in production. Again, customizability is valued by Sunwayman, and that’s why the V11R is one of the top flashlights in the industry.
The Sunwayman V11R is basically the secret weapon in your pocket. It’s sleek, small, and adaptable to your needs. It’s humble, yet impressive, and the Cree XML LED the light utilizes is one of the top flashlight LEDs on the market. Furthermore, Sunwayman’s excellent history of quality customer service has always impressed us, and their willingness to work with customers is rare in such a crowded market such as EDC flashlights. If the V11R is Sunwayman’s vision for the future of handheld flashlights, then viva la révolution!
It’s also worth taking a look at acclaimed flashlight reviewer Selfbuilt’s in-depth review of the Sunwayman V11r, complete with comparison shots and graphs.
Surefire E2D “Defender” – The go-to tactical beast built to take (and give) a beating.
“To say that the Surefire is built like a tank is an understatement.”
- Mike Prunty, the self-proclaimed “Backyard Pioneer” in his review of the E2D.
The E2D Defender is at the crux of tactical, utilitarian, durable, and fashionable, making it an easy choice for our list of top flashlights in the everyday carry category. With a crenelated strike bezel proudly protruding from the front, the Surefire E2D can be your best friend when you decided to walk through Gotham when the Batman’s not in town. Matter of fact, this beast is Batman’s flashlight of choice.
With a virtually indestructible LED emitter, your flashlight will continue to operate, even after you’ve clocked “the Joker” who tried to steal your wallet. And whilst the E2D is a bit larger than other everyday carry lights mentioned before, it’s still small relative to the flashlight world, and it still easily fits in the pocket of your favorite pair of jeans.
It’s an interesting concept; using a flashlight as a method of self-defense. But the truth is that we all need to protect ourselves, and Surefire is known for building some of the top flashlights when it comes to durability, reliability, and capability.
If you still don’t believe that this light is one of the top flashlights available, watch this video. It features Jim, a guy who happened to be in Haiti at the time of the 2010 earthquakes, crediting his Surefire E2D with saving his and other’s lives.
For those who often work under the cover of darkness but can’t be stuck with their hands full holding flashlights, then other solutions need to be devised. So, whether in the field, on a mission, or just doing a bit of mountain biking or cave dwelling on the weekend, one tool you’ll always want to have by your side (or on your head) is a mounted flashlight. On your helmet, gear, or handlebars, a high-quality light can help illuminate your path, keep you out of danger, or simply maximize your experience. We’ve reviewed a few different mounted lights over the past couple months, and found these three to be the top flashlights for mounting in the industry.
Spark SD6-500CW – The mount to anything powerhouse.
Multiple modes. Durable construction. Great output. The Spark SD6-500CW is everything you need in a mounted flashlight, and that’s why we’ve picked it as one of the top flashlights for mounted use.
The Spark SD6-500CW has a variety of really interesting features. Firstly, it can be used as a headlamp with the included strap, or you can screw on the included magnetic base, and use it for a variety of applications. The handy mag base also allows the Spark to be one of the few lights that you can use in situations like in-field vehicle repair, when a free hand isn’t available to hold a light. That little addition alone makes this light one of the top flashlights we’ve seen in some time. It also comes with a tripod mount, so that you can attach it to anything that uses a standard tripod screw.
The SD6-500CW offers four default modes of brightness, and also has a “super” mode, which amps up the output to 500 lumens. And if you’re worried about your light getting hot, Spark has bulked up the casing of the SD6-500CW, creating a large heat sink, and, in turn, keeps your new light cool.
Keep in mind that the SD6-500CW doesn’t have a reflector, so the light has great flood and enables you to see a great amount of what’s in front of you. But, if you’re looking for more of a spotlight, Spark also offers a reflector attachment for just $9.99. The SD6-500CW’s an overall great, adaptable mounted flashlight to have in your arsenal, and that’s why it’s one of our top flashlight recommendations.
Price: $99.00 and up (with attachments)
It’s also worth taking a look at GoingGear’s video review of this great mounted flashlight, if you’d like a second opinion.
Surefire Minimus – The tried and true hands-free tactical light.
And in the blue corner, making its second appearance on this list, weighing in at just 3.3 ounces, the one, the only, Surefire!
When the Research Labs team here at Brown Safe decided to bury ourselves in research to become as familiar with the industry’s top flashlights, one of the few lights we had extensively battle-tested was the Surefire Minimus. Helping one of our crew members find his way back while dragging a deer through the forest was just one of the instances where the Minimus came through. And it’s because of its constant ability to perform that we chose the Surefire Minimus as one of our top flashlights.
Surefire has always been a top flashlight choice for tactical professionals, law enforcement officials, and a plethora of other professions and the Minimus continues that Surefire record of excellence. Whether it be the sleek, simple design or its “virtually indestructible LED emitter”, this is a stellar mounted flashlight to have.
The Surefire Minimus’ lowest mode is just a single lumen, but boasts the ability to stay alive for up to 50 hours – making this flashlight a solid choice for those operators who need to be prepared to finish the job no matter how long it takes. When the task at hand calls for a bit more, the high mode on this bad boy clocks in at around 100 lumens. It also features an SOS strobe mode, which is a handy feature considering we’ve never expect to find ourselves in trouble, but prepare for it anyway. Surefire has even created a video that showcases the Minimus’ abilities as a top flashlight in low-light situations.
Nitefighter BT40 – Cool and clampable with major league light output.
One of the newest lights sure to please hardcore tacticians, the Nitefighter BT40 is a drool worthy light built to turn night into day. That is, if you can ever find a vendor that has it in stock. With four Cree XP-G (R5) LEDs and an output of 1600 lumens, the BT40 is one of the most powerful mounted flashlights we’ve ever seen, and that’s why it’s one of our top flashlights for attaching to whatever we can squeeze its mounting bracket around.
When we received the Nitefighter BT40, we realized very quickly what caliber of flashlight this was. Professional, durable packaging, foam inserts, and a damn good looking flashlight inside. The light itself is crafted from high-quality aluminum, giving it strength and durability while keeping the weight low. It also has a much more unique design than the SD6-500CW or the Minimus, much because its intended applications are a tad bit different.
While the Spark and Surefire are primarily used for being mounted on your noggin, the Nitefighter BT40’s primary purpose is to be mounted on a cylindrical bar approx. ½” in diameter, like your handlebars, in your tent, or other unique locations where a mounted flashlight could be handy. It can still be used as a headlamp, but we found its standalone battery pack makes it much more useful when not attached to your head.
Although the Nitefighter BT40 throws out 1600 lumens, don’t be so concerned about sucking up the juice from the battery. The BT40 boasts the ability to stay on its maximum output setting for up to 2.5 hours. The light is also designed to have great heat dissipation, so that you can keep a cool head in tense situations. Although Nitefighter is a newcomer to the flashlight scene, the BT40 impressed all of us at the Research Labs, and that’s why it’s one of the top flashlights on our list, and definitely one of the mounted flashlights we’ll continue to use in our coming adventures.
Whether it’s in your closet, next to your bed, in your tool bag, or on your belt, these are the lights you always want to have around. We’re talking high-powered, capable, and utilitarian lights that are no-frills and ready for when you need them most.
Dereelight Nightmaster XR-E – High-powered handheld searchlight.
I think the only words that can be used to describe the Dereelight Nightmaster is “handheld spotlight”. The Nightmaster boasts an aspherical lens that focuses its beam upon a fine area. Jack Baxter of Airsoft International shows a video of the beam out to 120 meters, showcasing the power of the Nightmaster. It’s truly a “you have to try one” type of product.
But the features on the Nightmaster don’t end with the beam. The Dereelight Nightmaster also allows great versatility when it comes to its batteries. Out of the box, the Nightmaster accepts two CR123A batteries, but when attaching the battery tube extension, you’re able to put a total of four CR123A batteries. This allows you to both increase the life of your Nightmaster when it’s necessary and to make it smaller when it’s necessary.
The Dereelight Nightmaster can also come with the XSearcher head, which is easily swappable. The XSearcher head is considered one of the most powerfully concentrated beams on the market, making it a must-have for those who need a handheld spotlight.
Price: $99.00 and up (with attachments)
Malkoff Hound Dog – Best mid-size light to go the distance.
A small mom and pop shop out of Enterprise, Alabama, Malkoff has puts its name on the map as a premier custom flashlight manufacturer. Gene Malkoff, the owner, called me personally to talk about his line of flashlights. His passion for the art of illumination was apparent, and it was excited to get such a personal touch on such an impersonal product. Gene suggested that I review the Hound Dog, simply due to its sheer power, durability, and utility.
The great thing about the Malkoff Hound Dog is its simplicity. Clicky button in the back for either momentary or consistent on, and a rotating head to switch between high and low output. Simple. Another reason why you may want to consider Malkoff is how custom you can build your light. You can choose the head (such as the Hound Dog) and the body (pictured is the MD4). Malkoff also offers drop-in LEDs for your Maglite, Streamlite, or Surefire flashlight.
The Hound Dog features the famed Cree XM-L2 LED, spitting out up to 1,100 lumens. It is powered by four 123A batteries (if you go with the MD4 body). This light was designed for far reach (throw) to be able to hit targets far away, but its beam isn’t nearly as concentrated as that of the Dereelight Nightmaster, mentioned above.
Read more about the Malkoff vision by taking a look at this feature in American Cop Magazine. Gene describes how his ideas for flashlights were born from his own frustrations and struggles with what was on the market at the time.
Price: ~ $180.00
LED VS. Incandescent Bulbs
LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode and they produce light electronically by changing energy state. The light produced is white, typically last 100,000 hours, and produce less heat than incandescent bulbs.
Incandescent bulbs contain a filament wire that when heated produces light. The color of the light emitted has a yellow tint, average lifespans range from 10 to 30 hours at the highest output and jump to 50+ hours at lower settings, and incandescent bulbs produce much more heat than an LED.
AE Light AEX25 – The time-tested mega light.
If the AE Light AEX25 had to be categorized, it would easily be the tried and tested grandfather of this group of top flashlights. Utilizing an HID bulb and having been released back in 2007, the AEX25 has only grown wise with age. Considered one of the most powerful utility flashlights during its heyday, the AEX25 is still very powerful when compared to the best utility flashlights today. The maximum output on the AEX25 is 1,500 lumens. The only downfall is that the ‘ol guy has to take a few seconds to get up to maximum output. How fitting.
One of the more unique features that the AEX25 offers over some more modern utility flashlights is that’s it’s “explosion proof”. AE Light explains it best on their website: “Based on the results of the tests it has been concluded that the AEX25-EP meets the intent of the standard for satisfactory operation in an explosive environment and would not cause an ignition of an explosive atmosphere during normal operation.”
So there you have it. This top flashlight won’t be igniting your explosive stash. The AEX25 is also backed by the reputation of its creator, AE Light, who has for years has provided their gear to police departments, NASA, the military, and other quality-demanding professions, businesses, and organizations. If you want tried, tested, powerful, and explosion-proof, then the AE Light AEX25 is your top utility flashlight.
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently”
- Apple Computer Corporation, 1997
Our last category of top flashlights is specialty flashlights; those lights with features or details that truly surprise, astonish, or impress. From lasers to works of art, these specialty flashlights are created in the name of innovation and pushing the limits, and truly amazed us in the Research Labs.
Wicked Laser Arctic with Phosforce Attachment – Turn your Lightsaber into a flashlight.
When you consider the world of flashlights, rarely do you consider it to be the realm of innovation and uncharted territory. But Wicked Laser has turned that preconception on its head with the Phosforce attachment on their Artic model, forcing itself on our list of top flashlights for specialty uses.
It converts a blinding 1.0/1.4 MW laser diode into 500 lumens of neutral, harmless light. How much more specialized does it get? The Wicked Laser phosforce attachment uses the same technology used on BMW and Mercedes headlights, making that much more of a conversation piece.
Wicked Laser truly pushes the limits and attempts to innovate in a realm once considered founded and finished, and for that, they deserve recognition. When moving from bulbs to LEDs, much resistance was put up, but LEDs have flourished and prospered with continual innovation. Could laser-power be the next move with flashlights?
Wicked Laser Torch – Nearly too hot to handle…and that’s a good thing
”…if you want or need an extremely bright lantern/flashlight/handheld spotlight, there are none brighter than the Wicked Lasers Torch…”
- Dave Rees of the Gadgeteer
Wicked Laser is known for having some interesting products, and the only one that could top their Phosforce attachment would be their Torch flashlight. Wicked Laser’s approach with the Torch is apparent: invent an angry flashlight. And angry the Torch is. Utilizing a focused lens, bulb, and reflector, the Torch’s intense beam is powerful enough to burn paper (or your old pager), and that’s why it’s one of our top specialized flashlights.
Clocking in at 4100 lumens, the Torch is as specialized of a flashlight as it gets. Sadly you can only run it for about five minutes before risking nuclear meltdown (of either your hand or the battery), but those five minutes will be the brightest of your life.
Wicked Laser is very prone to making wacky, out of the blue products, and the Torch is no exception. Everything down to the battery pack is custom (and expensive). If you’re truly looking for that “you guys gotta see this” toy, the Wicked Laser Torch will be that toy. Just be careful not to literally burn your own face.
Orbita Lighthouse – The stylish multi-function flashlight.
At Brown Safe, Orbita has become a household name. For nearly a decade now, we’ve utilized the industry-leading Orbita watchwinders in our custom safes, and have been impressed by the level of dedication and quality. Now, Orbita has announced a venture into a new industry: flashlights.
Orbita has now released three different models: the Slimline, the Goldlight, and the Lighthouse. Today, we’re taking a look at the Lighthouse: a unique luxury flashlight that maintains a very bold presence. The Orbita features six different modes, including one where you can activate all eight of the side LEDs, creating a candle-like presence, which is perfect for reading or maintaining low light output for a longer amount of time.
But more appealing than its modes is the Lighthouse’s style. Orbita provides the light in five different styles, including stainless steel, carbon fiber, and three different exotic hardwoods, allowing the Lighthouse to conform to your style. It’s the ideal luxury flashlight to have on your nightstand.
Though a newcomer in the world of flashlights, Orbita has quickly made an impact, telling us that their flashlights are selling wonderfully. In our experience with the Orbita Lighthouse, we’ve seen function meeting form to create a beautiful flashlight with a wide variety of applications.
Price: $155.00 – $295.00
Prometheus Alpha – Highly refined light for those who appreciate craftsmanship and quality.
When considering flashlights, very few of them strike one as artistic, but the Prometheus Alpha is the exception, not the rule. Handcrafted and made with artisan precision, the Alpha is one of the finest looking flashlights we’ve ever seen, and that’s why it’s on our list of top flashlights for specialized use.
When we first stumbled upon Prometheus Lights and their owner, Jason, we were stunned at how responsive and kind he was to our requests and questions. In spite of having to fill thousands of new orders from his recent Kickstarter project, Jason promptly sent us a Prometheus Alpha Ready-made (apprentice package) for review, and we were stunned when we received it.
Jason goes the extra mile with his flashlights. Packaged as if it came from a jewelry store, the flashlight comes in a custom cardboard tube, and the accessories come in a small, drawstring bag. Unveiling the Alpha makes you want to cleanse yourself with holy water beforehand. Once you finally get to using the Prometheus Alpha, the feeling is still there. With one of the most powerful outputs we’ve ever seen, the Alpha makes the ideal, all-around flashlight. It’s not too big as to not carry with you, it’s much brighter than almost any flashlight in its size, and its style makes you feel like Sean Connery. Actually, putting the Alpha next to a Walther might be insulting to the flashlight.
If you truly want the crux of bright, stylish, durable, and amazing, support a local, small-time American manufacturer and get the Prometheus Alpha. You won’t be disappointed.
Price: $225.00 – $299.00
Have you found which one works for you yet? Do you know which light you want for your car? Your home? Perhaps your emergency survival kit? Being prepared is always key, and that’s why we’ve provided a variety of the top flashlights in a variety of different price ranges to fit your needs, budget, and style. Hopefully, as we become more and more aware of how valuable it is to have light, the more prone we’ll be to preparing for when it’s not even there.