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Published May 11, 2023 11:41 AM
Pistol lights are more than just an accessory—they help you quickly identify targets in the dark which allows for more accurate shots. And while holding a flashlight and operating a handgun can be done efficiently at the same time, these techniques require repeated training to remain proficient. Plus, you have more control when gripping your firearm with two hands.
A quality flashlight attached to the firearm can simplify things, allowing the shooter to keep their entire focus on control and trigger discipline. With that in mind, here are our top picks for the best pistol lights being made today.
How We Picked the Best Pistol Lights
When deciding on the best pistol lights, we considered many different factors for each offering. Since there are so many different types of handguns being used today, it makes sense there’s a range of flashlights for firearms to match. We looked at the following factors when deciding the best of the best:
- Lumens: Just how bright is this flashlight? Is the power adjustable?
- Throw and flood? How far can this light illuminate? Can it light up a wide area?
- Weight: How heavy is the light? Does it reduce recoil?
- Construction: How rugged is the light? Is it built to withstand the heavy vibration of today’s larger handguns?
- Other Features: Does the light have ambidextrous controls? Does it have multiple light intensity levels?
- Value: How does the price compare to the durability and brightness of the light?
Best Pistol Lights: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Surefire X-300U-A
- Lumens: 1,000
- Candela: 11,300
- Run Time: 1.25 Hours
- Length: 3.76 Inches
- Weight: 4 Ounces
- Extremely bright
- Ambidextrous operation
At $324, this is one of the most expensive pistol lights on the market. However, you get what you pay for. The X300U-A is a light trusted by law enforcement and security professionals. The light’s 1,000 lumens are some of the most powerful available. The IPX7 waterproof rating makes this ideal for any who works or shoots in wet weather. The controls are also ambidextrous, making it easy to operate for anyone. Meanwhile, the TIR lens helps focus the light where you need it without becoming overbearing for your peripheral vision.
This light’s biggest downside is the difficulty of mounting it. There are some reported issues with the included screws. Be careful not to strip them when installing the light. Others also report the light rattling after installation. However, another reviewer and the manufacturer note this problem stems from not using the correct plate during mounting. The “U” plates are a universal design meant to fit the rail of firearms like Glock. Meanwhile, the “P” plates are meant for other mounting platforms. So make sure not to rush through installation.
Best With Laser Light Combo: Streamlight TLR-2
- Lumens: 300 – 1,000
- Candela: 12,000 – 20,000
- Run Time: 2.5 Hours (Light) 48 Hours (Laser)
- Length: 3.39 Inches (300 lumen model)
- Weight: 4.72 Ounces
- Compatible with a huge variety of rails
- Rugged construction
- Excellent battery life
- A little bit heavy
- Price tag
Streamlight’s signature pistol light makes our list simply for the bevy of options available to shooters. This light is manufactured with red and green lasers, and with variable illumination levels depending on the user’s needs. The “S” model includes an adjustable strobe, while the “HL” version cranks the intensity of the light up to 1,000 lumens and 20,000 candelas. Streamlight includes keys for fitting the light to Beretta, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, and standard picatinny rails with a clamp system. User reviews rave about the simplicity of the paddle switch and the brightness of the concentrated beam.
However, the downside to this light is the overall size and weight. This is one of the heaviest lights on the market. While that’s great for recoil, it does make finding a holster difficult. Additionally, the $300 plus price might be higher than most shooters are looking to spend. But, when talking about the best lights with a laser, this one is hard to beat.
Best Budget: Sig Sauer Foxtrot1X
- Lumens: 100 – 450
- Candela: N/A
- Run Time: 1.5 Hours
- Length: 2.4 Inches
- Weight: 2.47 Ounces
- Great price point
- Adjustable brightness
- Works best with Sigs
- Stiff buttons
The Foxtrot1X flies under the radar a bit as a budget option for handgun owners who don’t feel like dropping $300 on a quality pistol light. The most interesting feature is a switch that allows the users to adjust between 100 and 450 lumens, thus making the light slightly more versatile for different scenarios. It also has an IPX7 waterproof rating that helps protect against water and debris. Sig made this light’s mounting system compatible with Picatinny 1913 and Sig’s own proprietary rails. Despite the low price point, user reviews praise the durability, as one reviewer wrote after an extremely long session at the range: “At the end of the exercise – the light was still mounted rock solid, the lens cover was still on tight.”
Some user reviews mention the buttons can be a little stiff. And this light does mount best on Sigs. However, this light is easily one of the most affordable on the market, often coming in under the $100 mark during sales.
Best for Subcompact: Crimson Trace LTG Lightguard
- Lumens: 110
- Candela: N/A
- Run Time: 1 Hour
- Length: 2.75 Inches
- Weight: N/A
- Purpose-built models for different handguns
- Extremely compact
- The on/off switch position is awkward for some users
Crimson Trace’s Lightguard series of lights are purpose-built not just for full-size firearms, but subcompacts too. These lights are designed for specific makes and models, which helps ensure a perfect fit for smaller handguns like the Glock 42 and 43, Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, Sig Sauer P238 and P938, and the Ruger LCP II. The extremely small profile of the light allows users to continue enjoying the lightweight nature of these firearms. They offer ambidextrous operation and come at an affordable price too. This isn’t the brightest light on the market, but of all the pistol lights available today, these look the most like a natural extension of the firearm.
One of the biggest reported issues is the uncomfortable button placement. As one Amazon user, Mark H. wrote: “The problem I have with this product is the odd design of the controls. The trigger finger instinctively rests on the round CT logo, which is where the activation switch should be. I have to bend my finger at an odd angle to activate.” Of course, as he notes, this is the kind of thing one can train themselves to do, but that’s an extra investment of time at the range that not everyone can afford.
Best Compact Light: Streamlight TLR-7A
- Lumens: 500
- Candela: 5,000
- Run Time: 1.5 Hours
- Length: 2.58 Inches
- Weight: 2.4 Ounces
- Additional strobe function
- Ambidextrous paddle switches
- Extremely bright
The TLR-7A pairs nicely with popular compact options like the Glock 19, Sig Sauer P229, Springfield XD, and the Taurus TH9c. The low profile (2.58 inches and 2.4 ounces) design makes for a lightweight addition to already light handguns. Streamlight also gave this light an ambidextrous paddle switch that is very easy to operate. Streamlight offers the TLR-7A in black and a flat dark earth color, making it easy to match it up with your handgun of choice. Just like the Surefire, there are reports of users having difficulty mounting this light. The TLR-7A comes with a whole host of inserts for the rails that make it compatible with a variety of firearms.
What to Consider When Buying Pistol Lights
A pistol light might seem like a simple accessory, but just like picking the best handguns, there are many factors to consider when purchasing one. The weight of the light can have a positive effect by reducing the amount of muzzle flip and felt recoil. There are plenty of other factors to consider as well, mostly related to the primary use of the gun.
Lumens and Candelas
Most pistol lights will include the lumens when describing the flashlight’s power. However, some will also mention candela. The difference is that lumens represent the amount of radiated light, while candelas describe the intensity of the light at a distance. Lights with higher candelas are better at a distance. Lux is sometimes thrown into the description too. That simply describes the intensity of the illuminated area of light. For shooters anticipating shots at a distance, go for a light with a higher candela.
While some shooters might feel the need to select the highest intensity light they can afford, it’s not always a practical choice. High intensity lights can sometimes blind a shooter’s vision. Not an ideal scenario. Especially when you flip the light on suddenly in pitch blackness. In close situations, a super-bright light could blind the shooter. Think about the situations you are preparing for, and the distances of the expected shots when choosing a light. More importantly, test the light in the dark environments where you intend to use it. This will help identify any issues with a light that’s too bright.
Q: How many lumens should a pistol light be?
Most self-defense experts recommend at least 120 lumens, but most of today’s top options are much brighter than that. Flashlights of at least 300 to 500 lumens tend to be the norm for handgun-specific lights these days. Although there are offerings of 1,000 lumens available. Consider how you’ll be using the light. A brighter light is better for outdoor or daytime scenarios where you need to see more of the environment.
Q: Do pistol lights reduce recoil?
Yes, the weight of a pistol light can reduce the recoil of the firearm. However, the amount of recoil reduced depends mostly on the weight of the light. Some lights are going to reduce the amount of recoil or flip more than others. A good pistol light can help make a heavier caliber like .45 ACP or 10mm much more manageable.
Q: What does throw and flood mean when describing a pistol light?
These two terms are easy to understand. Throw refers to how far the light will reach while flood refers to the width of the area illuminated. Just remember that a floodlight illuminates a larger area, and it is easy to distinguish between the two.
Best Pistol Lights: Final Thoughts
Ultimately, the brightness and rugged dependability of the Surefire are what helped it win the best overall award. Although it was a very close race with many of the other contenders on this list for best pistol light. At the end of the day, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the options we’ve highlighted today.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.