6 Best Weapon Lights [Best AR-15 & Pistol Lights]

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Getting a weapon light is a great way to make your gun more versatile and useful in dark situations without needing a handheld light. A lot of defensive situations happen in low light or no light situations, so if you can find a nice, compact light to give you brighter light than whatever ambient light is available you can tilt the scales in your favor in a critical moment.

Not everyone wants or needs a weapon light; weapon lights, especially pistol lights, make the firearm less convenient to carry, require you to buy a new holster, add weight (again, especially pistol lights), and can take a lot of getting used to. If you’re prepping for a defensive scenario or have a job that requires you to carry a firearm, a weapon light can be essential.

Why People Use Gun Lights

There are two common scenarios that people will use weapon lights: home or personal defense, and in the line of duty as law enforcement, military, or similar. I’ve heard of tactical flashlights being used for hunting at night, but for the most part night vision and an IR illuminator will be the better choice in those situations.

Home or Personal Defense

Interestingly, most home burglaries occur between 10am and 3pm since that’s when the house is most likely to be unoccupied. Most burglars in cases like these are just looking for an easy score and are in and out between 8 and 10 minutes.

best handgun flashlight

While this is useful info when setting up your home security system and other things, it also has a few implications for your defensive weapon set up.

Who Breaks In At Night?

I couldn’t find any hard statistics on this, but it makes sense to me that the simple burglar who is not interested in violence and just looking for a quick buck is a lot less likely to sneak in at night than during the day.

So someone who does break in at night is more likely to be under the influence of drugs of some kind, prepared in the event of a confrontation, and/or there specifically to do a member of your family harm. If anyone can point to any statistics on this, please let me know in the comments.

For me, I will always assume that someone breaking into my house at night has the intent to do my family harm. That means that I must be able to control the situation, and a weapon light is an effective tool for that in some situations.

Controlling The Situation With Light

I am not former military, police, or an expert in defensive firearm use, but I try hard to listen when those guys speak, and what I’ve gleaned from them over the years is that defending your home and family starts with plans and practice. You need to know what your goal is and how exactly you’re going to accomplish it in a variety of situations.

For example, your goal may simply be to get the intruder to run away if possible, and put them down if they don’t run. I’m not here to tell you what your goals should be, but some people may be more comfortable attempting to apprehend or corner the intruder until police arrive.

Whatever your goal is, a well-timed usage of a tactical light may be able to help you reach the goal. Activating the light or strobe once you have a visual of the intruder can disorient them and make it difficult for them to make any sort of plan of their own to regain control of the situation. 

They can’t see if you’re alone, what kind of weapon you’re holding, or really anything else besides the light, especially if it’s in strobe mode.

Weapon Lights While On Duty

best weapon mounted light

I have read about officers using weapon lights to do exactly what I described above: disorient, confuse, and intimidate suspects into de-escalating the situation rather than escalating it. It’s common to use weapon lights to temporarily blind a suspect, or use the strobe function to keep them relatively debilitated for those crucial moments before they decide to surrender.

Back when I was a security guard I carried tactical lights even though I did not carry a firearm. I’m a huge fan of using light to control a situation.

No matter what light you choose, you’ll want to get out and do some basic target practice with it and get used to shooting with it as your light source. Safely run drills in your home or wherever makes the most sense to practice the plan you have put in place.

Different Types Of Weapon Lights

Weapon lights come in three varieties: pistol lights, rifle lights, and lights designed for either one.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST FOR VERSATILITY

Streamlight TLR-1 HL Gun Light

Streamlight TLR-1 HL Gun Light

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Light Output: 1000 lumens
  • Weight: 4.18 oz
BEST FOR HOME DEFENSE

Streamlight TLR-2 Gun Light

Streamlight TLR-2 Gun Light

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Light Output: 1000 lumens
  • Weight: 4.78 oz
BEST FOR AIMING

Streamlight TLR-8 G Pistol Light

Streamlight TLR-8 G Pistol Light

  • Material: Aluminum, Polymer
  • Light Output: 500 lumens
  • Weight: 2.64 oz
BEST FOR QUICK ATTACH

OLIGHT PL Mini 2 Valkyrie Pistol Light

OLIGHT PL Mini 2 Valkyrie Pistol Light

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Light Output: 600 lumens
  • Weight: 2.57 oz
BEST FOR DURABILITY

Surefire X300 Ultra

Surefire X300 Ultra

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Light Output: 1000 lumens
  • Weight: 4 oz
BEST FOR COMFORT

Inforce WML Gen 2

Inforce WML Gen 2

  • Material: Nylon
  • Light Output: 400 lumens
  • Weight: 3.2 oz

Pistol lights will be smaller lights than the other two varieties. The light will usually attach in front of the trigger guard and underneath the barrel by way of a rail clamp. The mounting system on different brands of pistol is different, so a lot of pistol lights will come with more than one key to work with whatever handgun you have.

Weapon lights for rifles will usually be bigger and have a form factor more similar to regular flashlights but otherwise they’re basically the same. They mostly come with mounting hardware compatible with picatinny rails and likely will not have specific adapters for specific firearms.

To be fair, my third category is a bit of a stretch because most pistol lights will go on a rifle just fine with a picatinny mount, but there are some lights (like the Surefire X300 Ultra), that are specifically designed to work well in either situation instead of just passably.

There’s only so much they can do, though, when you’re trying to make something work with a subcompact pistol and a carbine.

1. Streamlight TLR-1 HL Gun Light

best weapon light

Starting off with the Streamlight TLR-1, this gives you an incredibly bright light at 1000 lumens, and lasts for an impressive 1.5 hours at that brightness. The TLR-1 also gives you a strobe mode for situations when that makes the most sense. 1000 lumens is pretty bright for an indoors CQB scenario, so it might make more sense on a duty gun outdoors at night.

To take full advantage of its brightness, the Streamlight TLR-1 has a wide beam illumination that’s a little closer to a floodlight than some other options. The real-life difference is not as big as Streamlight makes it sound in their advertising, but you definitely don’t have as much of a narrow, concentrated beam, and you have more illumination in your peripheral vision.

Where I would say the Streamlight TLR-1 shines (pun intended), is in outdoor scenarios at under 50 yards. You do get good illumination further out than that, but the beam starts to get wide enough that you’re more likely to spill light out into areas you don’t want it. The pressure switch is easy to use and effective on this pistol light.

It would also work well for clearing a large indoor space designed to hold a lot of people like a shopping mall or a high school. If you’re considering a weapon light for home defense, however, you may want to look at a different option. At close range (less than 10 yards), the TLR-1 is just too bright unless you have a lot of ambient light.

Streamlight TLR-1 HL Gun Light

The price of Streamlight TLR-1 HL Gun Light varies, so check the latest price at

2. Streamlight TLR-2 Gun Light

best weapon lights

The Streamlight TLR-2 is a much better pistol light answer for a home defense light than the TLR-1. It’s not nearly as bright at only 300 lumens, but it will last for 2.5 hours instead of 1.5, and is equipped with a red laser to use if you want. There is a model of the Streamlight TLR-2 that does not include a strobe as well as one that does, so you can go with your preference on that.

As you can see from the photo, the Streamlight TLR-2 is a pistol light, but it has a picatinny that should allow it to attach to any picatinny rail even on a long gun. The same is true of the TLR-1. You can get a light that is more specific to an AR-15 or other rifle, but being able to swap the light conveniently from one gun to another is a perk for a lot of people.

What’s great about the Streamlights, both the TLR-2 and the TLR-1, is that they come with more than one rail mount (called “keys”), and can go on a wide variety of standard rails with the hardware that comes in the box. They’re designed to be some of the best pistol lights, but they can also go on a long gun with a picatinny key.

Now, things can get confusing because there are multiple models of both the TLR-2, TLR-1, and the TLR-8, which will review in a minute, to the extent that I started to wonder why they bother having different products at all, but, if you want a laser, then you need to either get the TLR-2 or the TLR-8. The TLR-1 does not have a model that includes a laser.

I’ve picked the model of the TLR-1, 2, and 8 that I think represent the right variety and balance, but you’re welcome to check the rest of the models and make your own call.

Streamlight TLR-2 Gun Light

The price of Streamlight TLR-2 Gun Light varies, so check the latest price at

3. Streamlight TLR-8 G Pistol Light

inforce pistol lights

The line between the TLR-2 and the TLR-8 can get a bit fuzzy at times, but I like the balance that is struck with the TLR-8 G version, because it gives you a bit brighter of a light at 500 lumens and a green laser. The switch is also located on the side instead of the rear, which makes it easier for right-handed shooters to access.

The beam is tighter than the TLR-1 and this is a good option for a duty firearm. The green laser is more easily visible in daylight and it works as a compact pistol light. It’s IPX4 water resistant so it should have decent weather resistance. All in all it’s a solid light source that is practically the same light as the TLR-2 with slight (but potentially important) differences.

You can get a red laser version of it and a more stripped-down model is available for a more affordable price without sacrificing quality of the basic functions. It can also be used with light and laser on at the same time or just the laser if you want. This is definitely a contender for best pistol light.

Streamlight TLR-8 G Pistol Light

The price of Streamlight TLR-8 G Pistol Light varies, so check the latest price at

4. OLIGHT PL Mini 2 Valkyrie Pistol Light

weapon lights

For such a tiny light, the OLIGHT PL Mini 2 really packs a punch. It’s designed specifically for compact and subcompact pistols, and may well be the best pistol light for subcompact pistols on this list. That said, the OLIGHT PL Mini 2 does not include a laser, so if that’s a deal-breaker you’ll want to move right along.

You get output of 600 lumens and a long throw of “up to 109 meters”. Honestly, the OLIGHT PL Mini 2 is my pick for a self defense scenario. A lot of people choose compact pistols for concealed carry, and in a self-defense situation where you need to draw your firearm, it will most likely be at night, possibly dimly lit, and with a little bit of distance, so the OLIGHT PL Mini 2 is perfect.

The brightness of the light can disorient the assailant without being too bright for your eyes, and for the most part the light will not limit your maximum engagement distance more than your own abilities, experience, and firearm will. Compact guns are notoriously difficult to get accessories for, and short of a handheld flashlight, this is a great option to pair with a concealed carry firearm.

It’s hard to say definitively that this is the best pistol light for outdoor use in a defensive scenario, but the PL Mini 2 is certainly my personal pick. One last unique thing about this little guy is that it has a built-in rechargeable battery via a magnetic USB charger. You may consider that a pro or a con, but at least you don’t have to buy a bunch of extra batteries.

OLIGHT PL Mini 2 Valkyrie Pistol Light

The price of OLIGHT PL Mini 2 Valkyrie Pistol Light varies, so check the latest price at

5. Surefire X300 Ultra

The SureFire X300 Ultra is probably one of the most versatile weapon lights on this list. While most other weapon lights like the PL Mini 2 are designed for a specific size or type of firearm, the X300 Ultra is designed to go on all of them from an AR-15 to compact pistols and everything in between.

It’s not a particularly small light, but it will mount on a compact pistol just fine. The SureFire emits light in a yellowish green spectrum that is supposedly easier for your eyes to process, and while that may be true, I could only tell that the SureFire was a different color if I put the beam side by side with a different light.

It’s not going to be great for concealed carry, though, because it’s nearly 4 inches long by itself and noticeably larger than some other options. The SureFire brand is popular with law enforcement because it’s a no-frills option that is very bright, waterproof enough to withstand rainy conditions with no problem, and it can go on whichever weapon they want.

The light source is a TIR lens that focuses the light into a tight beam that can throw a long distance. The one issue I have with the Surefire X300 Ultra is that it does not have a strobe function. Police applications are one of the few places where strobing has a solid purpose and offers a lot of value, so missing it here is unfortunate.

Surefire X300 Ultra

The price of Surefire X300 Ultra varies, so check the latest price at

6. Inforce WML Gen 2

best rifle light

None of the other lights do basic as well as the Inforce does. It has constant, momentary, and a strobe function, but nothing else. It has 400 lumens of power and can run for 1.5 hours on it. It’s waterproof down to 66 feet and comes with just a picatinny mount.

Mounting can be done without tools, but replacing the battery does require removing the head and is not a particularly fast process. The light only weighs 3.22 ounces, and I am a bit concerned about how it would deal with recoil on a medium or large bore rifle over the long run. That said, it should work great on an AR-15 or a handgun.

It would work as a pistol light theoretically but it would be mounted upside down and would only go on if the pistol had a picatinny rail. My only complaint with it for rifles is the swapping of the battery.

Inforce WML Gen 2

The price of Inforce WML Gen 2 varies, so check the latest price at

Buying Guide

What To Look For

I have always been leery of putting anything that requires batteries on my defensive firearms. I just know that the one time I need it for real will be the one time I forgot to swap out the battery and I’ll be in trouble. For this reason, I’m always on the lookout for which option has the longest lasting battery.

best gun light

With weapon lights, this is hard to do. The best pistol lights will still only get up to about 2.5 hours of juice, and since most of them are either off or at maximum brightness, there’s not much you can do to extend that. For some reason, rifle lights don’t offer any better life despite being a lot bigger and having what seems like a lot more room for batteries.

Beam Size And Shape

This can matter a lot. Of course, just about every beam is going to be shaped basically like a circle, but you can have a surround light that has a broad range or you can have a focused beam that puts a lot more light into a smaller area.

pistol lights reviews

A lot of shooters, myself included, favor a versatile beam that is wide enough to give me a full view of my target area but concentrated enough to have that bright, disorienting effect on my target we talked about towards the beginning of this article.

It’s tempting to try and find something that won’t be too bright indoors but bright enough outdoors, and wide enough indoors but not too wide outdoors. While this may certainly be possible to find, it may be best to just get two separate lights, one for each purpose. If money is an issue, then of course compromise makes sense, but indoor and outdoor use are so different.

Ideally you’d equip yourself with the best tool in every situation, even if you have to scour the best gun deals for a long time to get there.

Mounting System

The best pistol light options that I’ve seen come with multiple keys and/or adapters to get the light attached to whatever you want the pistol light on. Some pistol manufacturers stick with picatinny while some have their own type of rail. It’s also good to pay attention to where the on/off switch on the light ends up in relation to your trigger finger and other fingers.

Do You Need a Strobe?

I know a strobe light is the hot new thing in the world of weapon lights, but some of the best pistol lights don’t even have a strobe feature, let alone an integrated laser light. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t hurt anything to have the strobe functionality, but it’s definitely worth asking yourself if it's worth paying extra to get it.

Nobody expects to be shooting their firearm accurately when their pistol light is flashing on and off again at a rapid pace, and the experts I’ve talked to say that it’s harder to discern when your target is moving and how when you’ve got the strobe on.

If you want it as a way to de-escalate situations then more power to you, but it seems to make the most sense in a law enforcement scenario where your goal is to subdue the suspect as opposed to putting an end to a threat in your home.

FAQ's

How Many Lumens Should A Weapon Light Be?

This completely depends on how the weapon is being used. If it’s being used exclusively for defending your home, I feel like anywhere between 300 and 500 lumens is a good bet. It won’t be too much for your eyes but it will be too much for the eyes of whoever you’re shining it on.

brightest weapon light

I would say 500 lumens is just about the sweet spot for an all-purpose light. If you want a reliable light that is going to work well as a pistol light or for a rifle and can go either indoors or outdoors, I would argue that 500 lumens is right about where you want to be.

For exclusively outdoors, I’d recommend between 500 and 1000 lumens. That said, The best pistol lights don’t need to be any more than 500 lumens even if they are outdoors because there’s no way you’re going to be shooting your handgun far enough that you’ll need that much power. It’s always funny to me when I see a pistol light at 1000 lumens.

What Rifle Light Does The Military Use?

Generally, the military doesn’t use a whole lot of weapon lights. In the event of needing to clear a building or something where stealth is not needed but better visibility than NVG is, SureFire has a number of models designed specifically for military use, but I can’t find any confirmation that the military actually uses them. Even the Surefire X300 would be a good choice in that situation.

What Should I Look For In A Weapon Light?

You want to find a light that has the brightness you need out of it, compatibility with your firearm, and the features that are important. If features aren’t particularly important to you, then you get to save some money with something really simple like the OLIGHT PL mini 2.

Final Thoughts

Getting a rifle or pistol light is often more expensive than people assume, and while there’s not as much to consider as there is in regards to an optic, red dot, or the firearm itself, there are certainly things to consider that can make the difference between a perfect light and an unusable one.

You can always hunt for gun deals and you may be able to get a little light at the end of your tunnel (alright, so that wasn’t a great pun). What lights have you used and loved? I would love to hear about your experiences with them in the comments.

If you are looking for shotgun flashlights, Then checkout our article on Best Shotgun Lights

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