Choosing A Flashlight for Every Day Carry

Here are some considerations for buying an every day carry light for personal defense. How the light will be used falls into three general categories for most of us.

Light Usage

1)   Navigation – Moving through an area during a power outage, camping, hiking or during a tactical or defensive situation.

2)   Locate and or Identify – Finding something dropped under a desk. Locating a missing family member. Locating and identifying an unknown contact or subject in a parking lot.

3)   Challenge and Control – Combined with strong verbal commands the light reinforces a verbal challenge of an unknown person. This can have a powerful effect on the human eye in reduced light conditions. A handheld flashlight also makes an excellent impact tool if necessary. A quick burst of bright white light combined with a strike can be effective, helping you escape a bad situation.

Alternate Usage

1)   Communication with friends, partners, family members or team mates

Choosing A Flashlight for Every Day Carry

You may need that light to help defend yourself.

Criteria For Selecting a Handheld

You may use the light during a personal defense situation. Making an informed decision and choosing a quality flashlight is essential. When you need that light it will matter.


  1. What will be your context of use? Civilian or Law Enforcement Professional?
  2. What will be the most likely distance you will be using the handheld? Indoors, looking between vehicles in a parking lot or taking a 25 yard shot?
  3. How much real estate do you have to carry the light EVERY DAY? A pocket, pouch, handbag, duty belt or chest rig with multiple pouches? Some simply don’t have the real estate on them to carry a larger handheld on them consistently.


The light must be able to sustain dropping or impact without losing its ability to operate. This applies to all flashlight components: body, reflector, bulb and switching mechanism.

Water resistant

Water must not affect the lights ability to operate. Operating in wet, rainy conditions or dropping in water shouldn’t effect it.


A minimum of 350 lumens is recommended.  A 600-1000 lumen light is even better; more light means better information. Better information about the situation means better use of force decisions. Be aware your own light can effect your eyes if proper techniques and tactics for using that light aren’t practiced.

We have found a decent output level between 350-600 lumens to be effective for every day carry (I carry either a 350 lumen Streamlight Pro-Tac 1L-1AA   or a 650 lumen Elzetta Bravo with high output head and flood lens) Outdoors, a high output light (500+) has distinct advantages depending on the application and context in which it will be used.


The distance the light will travel and effectively illuminate your desired subject. A minimum reach or throw of 15 yards is recommended for a flashlight for every day carry. Most flashlights available today provide reach well beyond this distance. While the flood lens on one of my lights works great indoors it lacking when I have to spotlight something at 25 yards.

Actuating Mechanism

The on/off switching mechanism of the light. A silent, elevated, momentary on off pressure driven tail cap is recommended. This means the switch does not have to be fully activated or “Clicked” on for the light to work. In the dark, noise discipline is an advantage. Clicking a light on and off can give position and direction of travel away. A momentary on/off tail cap allows a single burst of light with each press. An elevated tail cap allows the light to be activated from a greater number of hand (shooting) positions than does a recessed tail cap.

Choosing A Flashlight for Every Day Carry

While a smaller light is convenient it may not live up to the task at hand, especially during a defensive situation. Top- 600+ lumen Elzetta Bravo (PFC model) with Raven Concealment Pocket Clip with integrated O-ring. Bottom- 30 lumen Streamlight Microstream.


Like a defensive handgun, the light can’t help if you don’t have it. It must be comfortable to carry. Some of the more “tactical” type lights can be sizable in hand in a pocket a pouch or on the belt.  A handheld light approximately 1 in diameter and 4 inches long tends to be an all around good size for most people.

Variable Output Lights


The Fenix PD32 (top) is a variable output light. It has low, medium and high output setting with a lockable switch to lock the light into a single desired mode of operation. The SureFire 62X (bottom) is a single high output light. Both lights have elevated, silent, pressure driven tail caps.

Variable output lights capable of extreme output are now commonplace and readily available. These type lights can “cycle” through different output settings. Low, medium, high, strobe, SOS. This type of light, while good for navigation, camping or walking the dog is not recommended for personal defense.

A single output light is recommended.

Low Light, Stress & Multiple Tasks

Attend a low light training class prior to purchasing a light to learn why. You may rely upon that light in a life or death defensive situation. Simple tends to be better.

Operating a handgun, a light, moving, searching, locating, identifying and accurately engaging can be difficult. A lot’s going on in the dark. With variable output lights theres too much thought required by the user to select the appropriate output setting in the moment. Often the user just cycle’s through the various settings randomly. Never utilizing the best one for the situation. This is due to the numerous other factors the user is thinking about during a stressful situation.

A single output light is recommended.

Low Light Training and Handheld Carry “Hack”

I first saw this hack when reading Tiger McKee’s excellent book “The Book of Two Guns”. Not a new trick but it is very helpful. Using this $0.25 “O” ring allows the user more space in the hand and better dexterity when handling both gun and a light.

Choosing A Flashlight for Every Day Carry

Recommended Handhelds & Accessories


Streamlight 66604 USB 250 Lumen

EDC –  Every Day Carry

Streamlight ProTac 1L AA

Fenix PD35Tac

Elzetta Bravo

Eletta Alpha

Surefire 6PX

Surefire P2X Fury Tactical

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