Taking a stock gun and customizing it to be exactly the way you want is like taking an old muscle car and restoring it. There are a number of modifications you can make to your gun. Whether it’s changing your barrel to different lengths or adding high-end sights, a scope, or an AR-15 flashlight, customizing your gun can be a fun and great way to learn the ins and outs of your weapon.
Regardless of what you do to your weapon, the most important thing is that anything you add to it enhances how it functions. Especially when it comes to personal defense, you want to guarantee that your weapon works the first time, every time. This means making sure to choose good quality accessories.
When talking about flashlights for AR-15s, you want to look at your options and make the best choice based on your needs. To do this, you want to make sure that you understand what to look for and how to match that to how you will use the flashlight.
Handheld vs Mounted AR15 Flashlight
Guns and flashlights have been a common match since someone figured out lighting up where you shoot is a good idea. Manufacturers were quick to figure out how to mount AR-15 flashlights. However, some people still prefer to hold a light in their hand. An important question to consider when buying a light is if you want a handheld or mounted one.
Do keep in mind that if you mount the tactical flashlight, it adds weight. With more weight, you get different handling, which you need to account for. Be sure to take it to the range and become comfortable with the changes in how it handles after installing the light.
You may not like that the handling will change and want to instead carry a light in your hand. Although that’s a perfectly reasonable option, when it comes down to your safety, do you want to have to awkwardly carry a light, or do you want it mounted to your weapon so your hands are free for more important tasks? I think most people would agree that this gives a mounted light an edge, especially when it comes to self-defense or hunting when minutes count.
Why Do You Need a Flashlight?
There are many different uses for an AR-15 flashlight. If you’re out hunting late and need to be able to see on your way back to camp, having a flashlight mounted to your weapon makes it convenient to see where you’re going. In a personal defense situation, having a light can help you see as you’re moving around and help you get the upper hand.
In a completely dark environment, turning your light on toward your enemy may temporarily catch them off guard and blind them. Although I wouldn’t count on that to always help you, but it can give you the edge you need to stay safe.
It’s all about tactical advantage, and having a flashlight increases your chances by giving you the ability to see in the dark and identify a potential threat. It makes you and your AR-15 more efficient and effective.
What Makes a Good AR15 Flashlight?
So, what makes a good flashlight? Well, it depends on what qualities are important to you.
If you choose to get a flashlight that mounts to your AR-15, you want to be sure that you get the most compact, lightweight one you can find. It will certainly change how your weapon handles, but the lighter the weight of the flashlight, the less of an effect it will have. Another reason to keep it as compact as possible is so that it doesn’t impede your line of sight.
You also need to determine how bright your light needs to be. Most recommendations are between 100 and 400 lumens. However, keep in mind that not all manufacturers measure lumens in the same way. The best thing you can do is to try a few out and see which one works best for you.
Will you get a flashlight that stays on indefinitely once you turn it on, or will it have a pressure switch that you control? Personally, my flashlight for my AR has a pressure switch. My reasoning is that if you’re moving through a dark environment and you need to see, it’s better to flash your light on temporarily, just for a second or two, to guide you as you move, instead of it constantly being on and allowing your enemy to see the light. Now you might be saying, “Well, I can still turn my flashlight on and off without a pressure switch”. Yes, that’s very true, but again, it’s all about tactical advantage. Do you want to have to reach forward to the front of your rifle and fidget around trying to find the power switch? Wouldn’t it be better to keep your hands in a constant position on the grip and your finger by the trigger as it should be? When I considered that, it was an easy choice for me.
The 3 Best AR-15 Flashlights
Now that you’ve taken it upon yourself to do some research and educate yourself on the benefits of having a flashlight, the uses for one, and the important things to consider when choosing one, let’s take a look at a few and see what they have to offer.
PL-2 Valkyrie LED Handgun Weaponlight
The PL-2 Valkyrie LED Handgun Weaponlight is defined by one word: bright. With 1200 lumens it outshines the competition. It features a Cree XHP35 HI LED, TIR optic, and anti-reflective lens. With this much power, you can see 245 meters through the beam. Plus, it is waterproof.
It comes with the required CR123A batteries. It has a release mounting system and a locked battery compartment. The power switch is silent, allowing for stealth operation. It measures in at 3.25 inches by 1.44 inches and is 2.82 ounces in weight without the batteries.
Pros: Extremely bright, easy to install, and feels natural when using.
Cons: The battery drains fast, and it runs hot. Some users feel it is too bright and can lead to accidentally causing temporary blindness if you aren’t careful.
PolyTac LED Flashlight
The PolyTac flashlight features C4 LED technology that utilizes a parabolic reflector that outputs 275 lumens. Its nylon polymer case makes it super durable and impact resistant.
It features three different modes. The first mode, high, outputs the brightest light with a beam distance of 195m and a three-hour battery life. The second mode, low, is used in situations where less light is needed in exchange for a higher battery life of 14 hours. The final mode, strobe, is used for signaling or disorienting. The run time for the strobe mode is approximately 5.5 hours. It comes in on the weight chart at 4.2 ounces with the batteries installed and at a length of 5.34 inches.
Pros: Extremely durable. Lightweight. Variable modes for different situations. Works with standard rails (when purchased with optional mount).
Cons: Short battery life when used on high or strobe modes. No pressure switch.
Orion H40-W LED Tactical Flashlight
The H40-W tactical flashlight is made of high strength aluminum for extreme durability. It features a Cree XM-L U2 (cool white) LED that outputs an efficient 500 lumens at 175 yards. This LED is recoil proof due to its indestructible LED emitter.
It’s ready to be mounted to standard Picatinny rails with the mount designed for it. Featuring a constant on switch, as well as a pressure switch, this light is very versatile. Coming it at 3.4oz without batteries and 5.2in long, this flashlight is both compact and waterproof.
Pros: Highest output at 500 lumens. On/off switch as well as a pressure switch. Lightweight. Recoil proof. Works with standard rails.
Cons: Short battery life due to high lumen output (75 minutes).
Lighting Things Up
Of all the AR-15 accessories you can add to your gun, a flashlight is a smart choice. All of these tactical flashlights are versatile, well designed, and well suited for a variety of situations. My personal pick would be the Orion H40-W. Its 500-lumen output at 175 yards is truly impressive. The only downside is the relatively short run time of 75 minutes. However, it’s durable, recoil-proof design, pressure switch option, and compact footprint make it a truly solid flashlight that is well worth the investment.
Now it’s time to make your decision on which AR-15 flashlight works best for you. Just be sure to do a little research when deciding on where to buy the light. Not every website offers these lights with the pressure switch, batteries, and mount included, so make sure to order those accessories along with the light or find an all-inclusive package.