It was nearly one full year ago that I toured Kel-Tec’s Cocoa, FL facilities, picking up this CL-43 flashlight from their retail store on the way out. Here at TTAG we like to thoroughly test products before publishing a review, sure, but a year of using this as my go-to nightstand and EDC flashlight is just excessive. Therefore, exactly one week prior to the one-year anniversary, I give you the Kel-Tec CL-43 flashlight review . . .

You’ve probably already noticed the unique shape of this light and the unique location of its on/off button. Indeed, the button faces forwards and depresses to the rear.

The idea here was to create a hand-held flashlight meant to be used with a firearm. It’s twice as wide as it is thick, so it won’t roll, and the offset button at the front allows a wrap-around grip and activation with a squeeze rather than a push.

Integrating the CL-43 into one’s shooting grip is easy. Certainly it feels a bit odd to have that 6061 aluminum lump between some of your support hand and the frame, but in practice it isn’t particularly intrusive and is much easier to shoot with than a traditional flashlight. In fact, it’s easier to shoot with the CL-43 held in the manner seen above than to shoot single-handed in the normal, sans-flashlight manner.

For those who demand solid attachment to a firearm, believe it or not that’s possible with this light as well. Kel-Tec sells a Picatinny clamp ($22) designed to fit both the CL-43, seen mounted to a KSG above, and their more traditional CL-42.

There are three CR123 batteries included and pre-installed in there. They’re good for a run time of 3 hours and 35 minutes, which is a lot of flashlight action.

Two machine screws hold the reversible pocket clip (swap it from side-to-side) to the gasket-sealed cap and clamp the cap to the body. The CL-43 is waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes.

A gentle squeeze on the button offers momentary activation, or squeeze it until the click for constant on/off. There are no other modes to become annoyed with.

The bezel, lens, and LED unit can be unscrewed from the front of the body should they require replacement. Bezel diameter is about 15/16 in.

While the light can be gripped shoved into the web of one’s hand and using the trigger finger like a trigger finger…

I actually prefer doing it this way in normal use. It gets pulled out of my pocket with trigger finger indexed along the long side of the light, pointing at the target. The grip is really secure this way, and because my finger is pointing at the target, the fairly focused beam is on-target.

The CL-43 carries easily in a pocket. Its body is about 0.76″ thick, and because it’s about twice as wide it feels pretty flat, stable, and comfortable. More like a pocket knife than a flashlight, basically.

If your pants have a deep fifth pocket, it may even fit in there. The CL-43 weighs about 3.7 ounces.

Dark.

Light.

Dark.

Light.

Dark.

Light.

Kel-Tec’s CL-43 puts out 420 lumens and 6,400 candela. It’s a very bright flashlight. Beam distance/throw is 160 meters (525 feet).

In a year of use I’ve had precisely zero issues with this light. It’s traveled with me all around the country and has lived in my pocket nearly every time I’ve been out and about during after-dark hours. The finish and aluminum are holding up great, and lord knows I’ve banged the pocket clip, in particular, into all sorts of things. Kel-Tec rates the CL-43 for one-meter drops onto a hard surface, though I can’t say I’ve accidently or intentionally tested that.

The CL-43 is available in seven different colors — Cerakoted, I believe — and runs $140. This ain’t cheap, but neither is the light. It’s a solidly-built, yet lightweight tactical light that’s extremely bright, carries easily, and offers unique ergos that actually work.

Specifications: Kel-Tec CL-43 Flashlight

Brightness: 420 lumens / 6,400 candela
Beam Distance: 160 meters (525 feet)
Length: ~3.875 inches
Width: ~1.55 inches
Thickness: ~0.76 inches
Weight: 3.7 ounces
Materials: 6061 aluminum, steel pocket clip and lanyard ring, checkered rubber on/off button
Manufactured In: Made In USA
MSRP: $140

Ratings (out of five stars):

Overall  * * * * *
Kel-Tec is known for inexpensive, polymer-intensive firearms, but their flashlights are nothing like that. Solid and bright with no frills, the CL-43 gets the job done. It’s a quality tactical flashlight that you can rely on, and the funky layout really works.

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28 Responses to Gear Review: Kel-Tec CL-43 Flashlight

    • In the Surefire world one battery is 300 lumens, two batteries is 500, and three batteries is 1000 lumens. Most gun/gear companies cannot compete for long in the flashlight game because they can’t put forward the resources. Just ask Leupold.

  1. Sorry, but there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever own a Kel-Tec anything ever again. 2 broken ejectors in less than 1,000 rounds on my P11 was enough to destroy my confidence in the brand. (The trigger sucked too, but at least that part didn’t break on me.)

  2. It’s 2017…who holds a flashlight anymore? I mean, there aren’t enough guns with rails and weapon mounted light options available?

    • I guess anytime you need a flashlight you are just going to pull your gun and aim it at whatever you are working on?

      • While I’ll admit that there have been times I’ve done just that (800 Lumens from a TLR-1 did a remarkably good job of outshining the remaining headlight of a buddy’s beater civic once…)

        I usually carry a dedicated EDC in addition to my weapon light. And a 40 dollar Streamlight Poly Tac and a 100 dollar TLR-1 gives me much more flexibility than this contraption–for the same price.

  3. I was behind this until the 1 m stuff and the price. I have had good luck with Kel Tecs in the past.

      • Lithium ion and the like are fine for EDC – daily use. For a light meant to be kept near your firearm, CR123 is far more reliable…

  4. Mucho agree with the CR123 comment, as well as the extreme price and the limited drop specs.I think I’d pass, please tell them to focus on building more PMR/ CMR 30 products instead,

  5. Interesting idea for a product but the CR123s just don’t cut it for me….expensive and I have plenty of good lights that run on standard batteries.

  6. That wasn’t exactly the most positive response to a product reviewed at five stars I’ve ever seen. Something like 0-9-1 so far . . .

    • LOL for sure. I happen to really like it, but I understand that $140 for “a Kel-Tec” flashlight is weird and I get the comments about the drop rating.

      For all interested parties: I’ll contact Kel-Tec to ask about the drop rating and water resistance rating. According to the ANSI FL-1 standard, if a flashlight isn’t tested via the full drop-rating protocol you aren’t allowed to make a claim above 1 meter. They also require test results to be rounded down to the nearest meter, should something go through the official process. Likewise, IPX7 is a standard, base-level water resistance rating.

      Streamlight ProTac is 1-meter drop rated and has the same IPX7 waterproof rating. Olight and Fenix are 1 meter drop rated, though most are IPX8. Some Nitecore claim 1.5 meter drop rating but according to the ANSI FL-1 standard they’re supposed to round that down and should be stating 1 meter. I can’t find ratings on SureFire? Mag-Lite’s “magtac” tactical light brand are rated for 1 meter drops but just say “water resistant.”

      I dunno, guys…seems fairly standard? I’ll ask, though.

      • For $20 more I can get the aqualite pro 100. A light that I can swim underwater with all day. Takes a rechargeable lithium battery and delivers 1200 lumens – 3 times what your light delivers. All for about $160. Takes a very cheap and common 18650 lithium ion rechargeable battery.

        For $20 less than your light, I can get the aqualite 500 lumen version. Still brighter than the kel-tec.

  7. What if I told you that you could get a holster that accommodates a WML and the light itself for about the same price?

  8. It’s 2017…there are people that still hold a flashlight? There aren’t enough guns with rails and weapon mounted lights?

  9. I’ll wait 3 weeks for a $10 chinese version that has better specs, thanks.

    Kel-Tec works because they have innovative ideas, bad QC- and sell in a federally restricted and regulated market that doesn’t allow overseas competition (922(r)) and outright forbids chinese competition.

    A flashlight? $140 @IPX7? 1 meter DROP? Lol. Good luck. Kel-lite was selling themselves as throw proof down a hallway in the 1960s, with incandescent bulbs.

  10. Interesting that a gun company’s most successful product since birth is a flashlight. Sounds like it takes a fair bit of abuse but the specs on it are terrible for a tactical flashlight. I like the design but the battery cost issue is a deal killer. I used to live in Cocoa so I’ve been rooting for these guys to be successful but their record isn’t that great. Dang it you guys…get your crap together so I can buy a gun that works from you!

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