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4 Best EDC Flashlights of 2023 to Light up Your Life

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / March 21 2024

Flashlights are an underrated self defense tool. The best ones can blind attackers and give you the edge, even in the day.

In this guide, we'll cover:

  • What makes a good EDC flashlight
  • Flashlights vs. pistol lights and lasers
  • How flashlights (or pistol lights) can make the difference in a self defense shooting.

On this Page:

  1. Why Carry a Light?
  2. Flashlights vs. Pistol Lights
  3. What Makes a Good Flashlight?
  4. What Makes a Good Defensive Light?
  5. How to Use a Flashlight in Self-defense?
  6. 4 Best Rechargeable EDC Flashlights
  7. References

Why Carry a Light?

Defensive Edge

Real gunfights last a few seconds, and whoever gets the first good hit usually wins. Just 0.10 seconds can be the difference in coming out unscathed, or getting maimed or killed.

Studies have shown that when going from well-lit (photopic) to dim (mesopic) lighting:

  • Reaction times increase by up to 0.25 sec
  • Search times increase by up to 0.88 sec
And these experiments are much more simple than a gunfight.

When it's too dark, it takes more time to find iron sights. You can't ID your target or what it's doing with its hands. But this also happens while a powerful light is shined in your eyes.

A strong light wipes out the disadvantages of darkness and turns it upon your attacker.

If a predator sizes you up and you respond with a powerful light, it show you aren't the easy prey they thought you were. Early use of a light when dealing with unknown contacts can prevent a deadly fight.


When you carry a pistol, or use one for home defense, a light is a safety feature. Why? If it's too dark to identify a target, you must not shoot.

Every year, there are cases of a homeowner shooting at a dark shape in the night, only to realize it was a family member. Don't be that guy. ID your targets with a light before you choose to shoot.

Quality of Life

Flashlights are handy to have on hand. You'll be amazed at how often you use them once you start carrying them. An EDC flashlight is one you can carry with you all the time, everyday, without any discomfort.

Handheld vs. Weapon-Mounted Lights

In a gunfight, handheld lights force you to shoot one-handed. Does that make a weapon-mounted light (WML) better? Not exactly...

Flashlights are great for use around the house, at work, in your car, etc.

Before a fight, you'll can use a flashlight to search, ID a stranger, or to disorient a threat in the dark.

The WML only comes out once you believe you're facing a deadly threat. You risk legal trouble using a WML if you aren't legally justified in drawing a firearm.

Two is one, and one is none. If one light goes dead, the other one ensures you have light when you need it most. Carry a handheld, and put a WML on your pistol.

What Makes a Good Flashlight?

Tailcap Switch

Tailcap switches. On the left is an exposed switch, and on the right is a shrouded switch.

The tailcap switch is on the end opposite of the light emitter. Most defensive light techniques need a tailcap switch. Why? It balances fast use with a strong grip on the light.

It must have a momentary-on or pressure switch feature. You'll need that to use defensive light techniques. If it's only click-on, that's too slow for defensive use. When a light is left on too long, it gives your position away to any attackers. It can also light up the wrong stuff. For example, if you have a flashlight on too close to a wall, the light can reflect back on you. That will make you easy to see, disorient you, and blow out your nightvision.

The switch must not accidentally turn on when you sit down. Flashlights get hot when they stay on for too long. If the light turns on while seated, it can burn holes in clothes, purses, or seating.

How do lights prevent this? Activation buttons:

  • Are recessed in the light
  • Have a protective shroud around it (pictured above, right)
  • Take some effort to press (5-10 lb.)

Here's a quick test: Take your light and push its tailcap against a soft part of your body, like your stomach. Then push its tailcap against the back of your desk seat and car seat (the part where your back touches it). See how hard you can press it without it turning on.

If the light doesn't turn on, you have a light you can carry EDC without having to fear accidental activation. Just make sure the light isn't carried where it will press into something hard, like your hip bones.

Palm activation techniques need an exposed button that's easy to press:

Is it a dealbreaker if you can't do palm activation with your light?

Palm activation isn't as useful if you have a weapon light.

And palm activation has some uses for military or law enforcement, but not so much for civilians. Why? Civilian self defense is a different context. Palm activation frees up your fingers for reloads and clearing jams. But for civilians, reloading in a gunfight is extremely rare - like 1 in 2,500.

A light with no tailcap switch isn't worthy of defensive use unless it's your one and only option.

Convenient Size

What's convenient depends on how you carry it:
  • Keychain: 2.5" long x 0.6" wide (size of 1 AA battery)
  • Small pocket: 4" long x 0.8" wide (a roll of pennies)
  • Large pocket: 5.5" long x 1" wide (a taller roll of quarters)
  • Belt holster: 6" long x 1.5" wide (a hotdog)
  • Purse: Depends on purse size.

Side/Admin Button

Tailcap switch

This turns the light on a lower setting than the tailcap switch. It's nice for use around the house, at the office, etc. It should be easy to reach, but hard to accidentally press.

It's nice to have. A light with no side switch can still be good.

Pocket Clip

Flashlight pocket clip

A pocket clip is great for pocket or purse carry. Look for:

  • A strong grip, or else you'll lose the flashlight.
  • The metal should be strong enough to not get bent out of shape.
  • The wider it is, the less it will mess up your clothes.
  • The wider it is, the less it will mess up your clothes.

No Lanyard

Flashlight lanyard

Lanyards may seem convenient, but they're a liability for a defensive flashlight. They can get caught on your gun or other stuff while clearing jams. If you have to clear a jam while holding a flashlight, use a one-handed technique if you have to keep using the light.

Otherwise, stow the light or transfer it to your bottom two fingers. Then use your index finger, middle finger, and thumb for racking the slide and/or reloading.

No Strobe

Unless you're a student of Ken Good, it's unlikely a strobe function will be worth it in real self-defense.

Why? For one, it doesn't disorient attackers as well as a powerful light constantly in their face.

The strobe also works both ways. It limits the info you have on your attacker(s) each time it cuts off. It's often better to have a strong light constantly on your attacker(s) that you can cut on or off exactly when you want it.

If a flashlight has a strobe function, it should be easy to avoid or disable. If strobe comes on too easily, that flashlight is not for defensive use. Some things to avoid:

  • Strobe turns on after holding the tailcap switch on for a few seconds
  • Strobe is on a button you can easily mash at the same time as the main tailcap switch

Sadly, that rules out many lights that could be great.

What Makes a Good Defensive Light?

These apply to both flashlights and WMLs:
  • Lumens, the total light output. More lumens gives you more awareness in the dark.
  • Max candela, or max intensity. More candela lets you ID and blind targets further away. The light on the right has more lumens, but less candela. In the bottom example, the light on the left could blind the guy that steps out if the user aimed the light. The light on the right easily shows movement in the room, but it can't blind targets. It can only ID them.
  • Momentary-On (AKA Pressure) Switch. It must be quick and easy to reach. This is a must-have for defensive use.
  • Simple User Interface (UI). Two modes at most for the tailcap. The light should stay in its highest mode with a quick press every 1-2 seconds.
  • Shock resistant to 1m or more.
  • Water resistance of IPX7 or better.
  • Dust resistance of IP5X or better.

Lux and Blinding Targets

Lux is candela divided by distance squared. In twilight or dim areas, it takes around 650 lux to cause pain when shined in the eyes. That will blind for a moment and causing a lingering afterimage of the light. Get enough candela to blind targets at the range you expect to fight in:
  • 8,700 candela for 4 yds (across a small room or office)
  • 13,500 candela for 5 yds (compact car length)
  • 19,600 candela for 6 yds (large car length)
  • 26,500 candela for 7 yds (garage)
  • 54,500 candela for 10 yds (large room)
  • 122,000 candela for 15 yds (warehouse)
Most civilian self-defense encounters are within 3-7 yds. That's 9-21 ft. For home defense, check your home layout and find how far you're likely to fight.

When it's darker, like in a night burglary, it may take less lux to blind attackers. Test your lights in your own home, in your own expected lighting conditions. Test them in parking lots, gas stations, and other places you're likely to be at night. See how well they ID a person, what they're holding, and whether they cause eye pain.

Your smartphone has a light meter on it. You just have to download an app to use it. Lux is a good one for Android. Luminos Meter is a good one for iOS.

There's one more thing that can make your light useless in defense even if it has enough candela.

Hotspot Size

The light's hotspot is what you use to blind people. It gets bigger at longer range. But you may have to use it up close, like in your home or near your car. A hotspot that covers someone's whole face makes it much harder for them to resist being blinded. If a hotspot is too small, an attacker can defeat it by putting their palm out.

Unfortunately, it's hard to guess the hotspot size just by looking at the flashlight head. And the candela per lumen ratio only gives a rough estimate of hotspot size. I've tested lights with twice as much candela per lumen as the other. To my surprise, their hotspots were almost the same size.

If you can find a benchmark light for your needs, it's easy to compare. My benchmark for urban defense is the Weltool T2 Tac. Its hotspot is big enough to cover someone's whole face at 3 yds. At 6 yds, the hotspot is twice as big. It's an awesome choice for urban defense.

How to Use a Flashlight in Self-defense?


If you know a threat is nearby in the dark, it's simple. Shine the light at max brightness in their eyes for a moment. If they're within 2 yds, hit them in the face and run. Your flashlight can do the job.

If they're farther away, it depends on the situation. If you can get to safety within 5 seconds, shine the light in their eyes and run.


What if there's someone 5 yds away or more, and you're not sure they're threat or not? Your flashlight can buy you time and info. Shine the light in their eyes and keep it on. While you do, move and keep the light in their eyes. They'll have a hard time telling where you are. And you'll get more info on who they are and what threat they present, if any. If there's cover nearby, you can move to that as you keep the target under control.

If they're not a threat, apologize and move on.

If they are a threat, run if you can get to safety in 5 seconds. Otherwise, prepare for battle. Against a non-deadly threat, your OC spray and unarmed skills are what you have. Against a deadly threat, you'll need a gun.


If you're moving in the dark, it's tempting to leave your light on. But if there's a threat nearby, you're painting a target on yourself. Instead, turn on the light just long enough to see what you need to see. Move a few steps to a better position, and repeat. Indoors, you'll turn on your light every 1-3 seconds. See it in action:

Note how much time there is between presses. Is it 1 second, 2 seconds, 3?

If you think you can use the strobe on a light instead of correct technique, think again.

Laziness will cost you.

Slide By

When you need to cross a doorway or hallway intersection, what do you do? Someone could be watching it. If it's dark enough, you could sneak by. Otherwise, use your light. Start on one side of the gap. Put your light up at the midpoint of the gap. As you move across the gap, keep your hand in the same spot and turn it on for a split second a few times.

Another way to do it is to move your hand the opposite direction you move. So if you're doing right, move your hand left. That makes it seem like you crossed in the opposite direction.

Again, note how much time there is between presses. Is it 1 second, 2 seconds, 3? If your light cuts to Low Mode, any threats will see you.

Avoid Backlighting

Don't let your flashlight light up any walls, trees, or other barriers next to you. If you do, the light bounces back, lighting yourself up. It's like painting a huge target on yourself. Compare backlighting on the left, with not backlighting:

Practice with your light to build coordination with it. If you don't know exactly where your light is pointed when you turn it on, you can backlight yourself.

When using a light with a pistol from behind cover, watch out for backlighting. The light should lead when coming out of cover.

If cover is on your left, your light must be to the right of your pistol. If cover is on your right, your light must be to the left of your pistol.

More Info

Here's an overview from Aaron Cowan , owner of Sage Dynamics:

And highlights from a 16-hour low-light course by Zdeněk Charvát of Hard Task CZ:

These videos will get you started on home practice. Take a low-light course from a local trainer when you can to ensure you're doing the techniques right.

4 Best Rechargeable EDC Flashlights

The best EDC flashlight depends on what you're wearing. If you're in sports wear or medical scrubs, a 4" light might be all you can carry. For those who always have a purse, cargo pants, jacket, or belt holster, a 5" light is a better choice.
  1. Best EDC Flashlight (4")
  2. Best Large EDC Flashlight (5")

Best EDC Flashlight (4")

These lights will fit with most outfits and in small purses. Even when you have no pockets, you can clip them to a hat, collar, or waistband. They carry so well you can forget they're on.

Best Defensive EDC Light: Weltool T1 Pro Tac

The Weltool T1 Pro Tac has amazing output for its size. It's under 4" long and just 0.8" wide. Its UI is more for defensive use. To use Low Mode, rapid tap it 4 or more times and then tap or click on. Otherwise it turns on High. The tailcap is exposed, but takes a lot to press it. I can't get it to turn on accidentally.

So what are the problems? The tailcap is so hard to press that palm activation doesn't work. Its pocket clip is only 6mm wide. It slipped around in my cargo pocket despite having a stronger clip than the Macrostream. It fell out a few times on its own, so I had to change where I carried it.

Best Admin EDC Light: AceBeam TAC AA

The AceBeam TAC AA is bigger, but still easy to carry. Its hotspot is about the same size as the Weltool T1 Pro Tac's.

The downsides? Its pocket clip is 8mm wide at the top, but it tapers down to 6mm at the bottom. So it's more secure than the Weltool, but not enough.

Its UI is too complex for many defensive techniques. Here's an example. You're searching for a threat in the dark. They'll know where you are if you keep your light on. So you must keep the light on for just a second at a time, hustle to a new position, and repeat. It can take 2 seconds before you turn on your light again. The AceBeam TAC AA switches modes if you press the tailcap again in 3 seconds or less. With this light, you can go from Turbo to Low mode on accident. If you do, you give away your position without any chance at blinding nearby threats.

This light should have been made to have its mode change be in 1 second or less, not 3. It's a shame. It was so close to being an awesome light.

Which is Right for Me?

Get the T1 Pro Tac if you want the smallest defensive light you can get. Or, if you're serious about using your light defensively. The AceBeam TAC AA is for more casual users.

Updated hourly

Weltool T1 Pro Tac
Check price @ Killzone Flashlights

AceBeam TAC AA (Cool White)
Check price @ Amazon
540 lumens 1000 lumens
21060 candela (blinds up to 18 ft.)
3.5" hotspot at 1 yd
19600 candela (blinds up to 18 ft.)
4" hotspot at 1 yd
3.8"L x 0.7"W (body) 0.8"W (head) 4.1"L x 0.9"W (body) 1.0"W (head)
2.3 oz 2.7 oz
Tail Tail
1m 1.5m
  • Controls for Defensive Use: Tap or click for High Mode. Do 4 rapid taps and then click to enter Low Mode.
  • Low Mode (86 lumens) for admin tasks.
  • Tailcap takes a good amount of pressure to turn on. Not likely to turn on accidentally.
  • Great balance of power and size.
  • To recharge, remove the battery and plug a USB-C cable into it.
  • Pocket clip is too narrow and not strong enough to stay in some pockets.
  • Small hotspot.
  • Low, Medium, & High Modes for admin tasks.
  • Tailcap is shrouded. Not likely to turn on accidentally.
  • Great balance of power and size.
  • To recharge, remove the battery and plug a USB-C cable into it.
  • Choose a "Cool White" version for best light output.
  • Controls for Varied Use: Momentary-on cycles through each mode unless you wait 3 seconds. Otherwise it turns on the last used mode.
  • Pocket clip is too narrow and not strong enough to stay in some pockets.

Best Large EDC Flashlight (5")

These lights will fit with most outfits and in medium purses. You'll be aware that you're carrying them, but they will still be comfortable.

Best Rural Defensive Light: Surefire EDC2-DFT

The Surefire EDC2-DFT is all about candela: 100,000 candela & 700 lumens. That's 143 candela per lumen! So you give up awareness and spotlight size for beam distance. This light is better for defense outdoors than indoors. You can blind people at 40 ft. in twilight, and farther in darker areas.

To charge it, you have to take the battery out. But the battery has its own USB charging port, so you don't need a charger.

The downsides? The price. For one of these, you could buy 2 other lights with similar performance. The size can make it harder to carry. It's nearly 6" long, and the 1.3" head is wider than the body. I find anything wider than 1" to be annoying to carry.

The user interface (UI) is good for outdoor defense, but not for urban. It switches from High to Low Mode if you press the tailcap more than once in 2 seconds. That's fine for outdoor use. For indoor use, defensive techniques have you using the light once per second.

Best Urban Defensive Light: Weltool T2 Tac

The Weltool T2 Tac is the opposite of the Surefire: 46,500 candela & 1900 lumens. That's about 25 Candela per Lumen. The spotlight is awesome for any urban defense encounter. The body is only 0.9" wide and the head is 1". It's easy to pocket carry.

Its UI is like the Weltool T1 Tac. To use Low Mode, rapid tap it 4 or more times and then tap or click on. Otherwise it turns on High. The tailcap is exposed, but it takes a lot to press it. I can't get it to turn on accidentally.

So what are the problems? The tailcap is so hard to press that palm activation doesn't work. Its pocket clip is only 6mm wide. It slips around in my cargo pocket, but hasn't fallen out yet. And to recharge it, you have to remove the battery and put it in its own charger.

Which is right for you? Get the EDC2-DFT for outdoor use, or if you get annoyed easily. Get the T2 Tac for indoor use or for a much better value.

Updated hourly

Surefire EDC2-DFT
Check price @ Amazon
Compare Prices

Weltool T2 Tac
Check price @ Killzone Flashlights
700 lumens 1900 lumens
100,000 candela (blinds up to 40 ft.) 46500 candela (blinds up to 27 ft.)
5" hotspot at 1 yd
5.9"L x 1"W (body) 1.3"W (head) 5.3"L x 0.9"W (body) 1"W (head)
5.6 oz 5.0 oz
Tail Tail
1m 1m
  • Simple controls: Tap or click once for High Mode. Tap or click again within 2 seconds for Low Mode.
  • Low Mode (25 lumens) for admin tasks.
  • Good tailcap design. Not likely to turn on accidentally.
  • To recharge, remove the battery and plug a micro USB cable in.
  • Small hotspot for urban use.
  • Expensive.
  • Wide head makes daily carry less comfortable.
  • Small hotspot for urban defense.
  • Perfect hotspot size for urban defense.
  • Controls for Defensive Use: Tap or click for High Mode. Do 4 rapid taps and then click to enter Low Mode.
  • Low Mode (53 lumens) for admin tasks.
  • Tailcap takes a good amount of pressure to turn on. Not likely to turn on accidentally.
  • Small and narrow enough for daily pocket carry.
  • To recharge, remove the battery and use a charging tray.
  • Pocket clip is too narrow.

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  1. Luminance Information Is Required for the Accurate Estimation of Contrast in Rapidly Changing Visual Contexts (2020)
  2. John Correia: Lessons Learned from Watching 20,000 Gunfights (2019)
  3. Rōnin (Low-Light Pistol) Course -Arcadia, CA (2018)
  4. My 'Vanishing Victim' Drill using a Flashlight and Gun (2016)
  5. Effects of absolute luminance and luminance contrast on visual discrimination in low mesopic environments (2016)
  6. Fixation durations in scene viewing: Modeling the effects of local image features, oculomotor parameters, and task (2016)
  7. Understanding Candela, Tactical Flashlight Brightness & Beam Distance (2015)
  8. Luminance contrast and the visual span during visual target localization (2012)
  9. Characterising mesopic spectral sensitivity from reaction times (2006)
  10. Basic Vision: An Introduction to Visual Perception (2006)
  11. Integrating neuronal coding into cognitive models: Predicting reaction time distributions (2005)
  12. Handbook of Psychology, Experimental Psychology (Ch. 4) (2003)
  13. Evaluating Light Source Efficacy under Mesopic Conditions Using Reaction Times (1997)
  15. Loss of Vision from High Intensity Light (1966)