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We spend a large part of our lives in low-light conditions, much of it on foot. Attackers often use the cover of darkness to take their victims unawares. Put two and two together: carrying a good handheld light is a no-brainer. Simply put, you can’t avoid or shoot what you can’t see, and you can’t see in the dark. The first rule for low- and no-light self-defense . . .

Have a flashlight.

A quick beam of light into a hidden corner can identify and temporarily immobilize an attacker, and save your life. A quick flash of illumination can mean the difference between shooting an attacker and the wrong person.

Both in my former life in the Navy and my current job(s) as father, husband and Training Director at The Range at Austin, I consider a handheld light a mission-critical part of my standard load-out.

And yet I still see gun owners — carrying a metric boat load of spare ammo —  who don’t carry illumination.

There was a time when handheld flashlights’ size, bulk and weight made it difficult for the average Joe to comfortably carry and conceal portable illumination. Those days are long gone. There’s now a huge variety of small, sturdy, dependable, concealable, pocket-clip-equipped, handheld flashlights.

Why not carry a light? Many gun owners claim they can’t find a reliable, discreet method to conceal a flashlight without looking like a dork. Many more won’t consider carrying a compact light because of its diminished performance. Why bother?

It’s true: you can only pack so much illuminative power in a small package. But some light is better than none, just as any gun is better than no gun. In fact, I encourage students to carry a smaller, compact handheld light over a jumbo “face melter” for one simple reason: you’re more than likely to carry a pocketable light.

As my kids might say, are we there yet? Good.

I put personal defense flashlights into four categories; concealable handheld lights, handheld lights, pistol-mounted lights and rifle-mounted lights. Even if we’re just talking about white light (ignoring infrared), there’s no single light that can accomplish all those missions.

I’ll go into light choices and deployment techniques — strobes, handheld, weapon mounted, room clearing, etc. — in future articles. For now I’ll leave you with two pieces of advice: buy the right light for the job and buy enough light.

There was a time when 65 lumens was the bomb. Technology has advanced to the point where you should carry a flashlight that puts out a minimum of 200 lumens. Add a sturdy pocket clip with a push button tail-cap and you have a party.

These modern 200+ lumen daily carry lights aren’t cheap — and rightfully so. Flashlight companies have invested heavily in new technology to make their products, smaller, brighter, more robust and more durable.

Do some homework before you invest in a daily carry flashlight; including the price, availability and lifespan of the batteries required. (Hint: buy spares and replace batteries as soon as their performance diminishes.) But don’t delay. Not to coin a phrase, but the life you save may be your own.

What light do you carry?

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. earn more about his passion and what he does at

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  1. funny thing is how many gun owners think they can see in the dark. They say lights are nothing but bullet magnets. What is true is that many carriers have not spent much time in actual dark. Just low light. Huge difference. Huge.

  2. Why not carry a light? No real reason nowadays. I use a Thrunite TN12 and always have a TI3 in my watch(or 5th) pocket when I don’t have a spare magazine in there. The TI3 isn’t perfect because dazzling an attacker with it would be difficult without a good button. The TN12 is a little large for my taste, but it lights like a mother(&%^%) and instantly comes on to dazzle the eyes or pie(cut) a room. I would like to get a single AA light for a good compromise.

    I like your message. BUY A LIGHT! Really though what adult doesn’t at least carry a light and a blade? I’m sure both could get you out of or through quite a number of serious jams.

  3. I guess Im a dork.

    I carry a Nebo mini redline – pretty small.

    My briefcase has a Nebo 100 lumen light and a 30 lumen work light.

    Have at least three in my Truck – 2 Maglite 3D LED and Mini-Mag LED.

    Everything is harder when you can’t see.

  4. Sponsored posts should be marked as sponsored posts. Product placements are at best a shade removed from fake news.

    That said, flashlights are entirely optional, though leaning heavily toward superfluous. What one needs while kicking down doors in Khandahar is not necessarily the same as what one needs while navigating the local shopping center.

    • How’s this a sponsored post? What’s he shilling? All I see is a guy who has some pretty obvious/clear connections to the TTAG editorial staff (via The Range), who’s done a guest post. He’s not told you to pay him money for training, nor has he told you what flashlight you should buy (beyond recommendations for brightness).

    • I feel like you could say the same about carrying a handgun. You don’t NEED that! Until you do…
      I carry a WML, and a handheld light. No reason not to carry a small light, and they have uses aplenty other than self-defense.
      I like my Eagletac D25C Ti. It is never in the way, and always there when I need it. I could do without the strobe modes, but otherwise it’s great.

      • right there with you. 980 lumens in the pocket and another 800 in the holster. Until flashlights can replicate the sun they wont be bright enough. light = data I want all the data and therefore all the lumens.

    • I don’t live in Kandahar, but I use my EDC flashlight(s) every single day, for locating dropped parts, to reading installation directions in poorly lit areas, to finding the cat so we can bring her in at night. An Olight S10R (I carry two of them) takes the space of a half-roll of breath mints. You can fit a blinding tactical light in the size of a spare 9mm mag.

      • I’ll save typing and agree with you. I use my light multiple times per day, more even than my knife, and it gets used nearly every day. I can’t imagine not carrying a light now that I’ve done it this long.

      • Agree 100% Young eyes may not consider it as a necessity but the older I get the more light I want. Even something as common as looking under my desk for a dropped item in a lighted room is made easier with a light. I’ve been carrying an pocket flashlight in some form for many, many years.

  5. I’ve got an EagTac T25L-R that I’ve been pocketing but its a bit much so I’ll probably be moving that to a rifle light at just under 2000 lumens, and a D25LC2 Tactical that is fantastic as a pocket light. The D25LC2 Tac puts out 1200 lumens from a less than 1 inch diameter less than 5 inch long package.

    Oh, and a AAA keychain light is a good introductory for people, I’ve got a Prometheus Beta-QR that I love, beautiful light in the 1 to 85 lumen range, perfect for reading a map, lighting a path, or enhancing a photo when the big stuff is a bit much.

  6. I’ve carried a Las lender F1r for a couple of years now, rugged, rechargeable, smallish and1000 lumens. Not cheep but worth the money.

  7. Always carry a small pocket all thick metal pocket flashlight. Before retired Professional pet sister, always had it with me for late night visits. Also good for self defense,since has very thick lense. I have dropped it on concrete and asphalt without any damages. Very bright similar to LEO flash light. Purchased from Amazon and gave to relatives last year for Christmas. They live out in the country not much light pollution.

    • Wow, I guess I’m just a sick puppy, but I’d love to hear what a professional pet sister does. Are there pet brothers, too?

  8. For months I’ve carried a Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA. It puts out 300 lumens using one CR-123A battery. But it can also take a single AA battery, giving somewhat less light. It can fit nicely in the bottom of a pocket and has a sturdy S-shaped clip.
    It is compact and sufficiently bright, but still has the flexibility of being able to use AAs in a pinch.

    • I’m running the standard 1L, just takes 123’s. I’m constantly using it for dark spots on trailers. (I unload trucks for a living) Even without the tactical ninja uses for a light, if people carried one, they’d realize how much they’d actually come in handy everyday.

  9. Streamlight Protac 1L, using the single 123. It’s a tiny light, but does plenty of output for anything I could conceivably need it for. A Surefire XC1 is the next thing on my list. Not having to worry about a light in one hand with a gun in the other is a huge benefit in my mind. Having to draw and use both light and gun at the same time would take hundreds of repetitions and it’s much easier to just run a weapon light by itself.

  10. I dont need a fleshlight, every time I pull the boom switch on my Glock it lights up out the front, so I can see what I’am shooting at (or towards).

  11. Surefire Titan Plus. About the size of a tube of chapstick (3.375″ long, 0.5″ dia), so can fit in just about any pocket anytime. Rated output of 300 Lumen @ 1hr, 75 @ 2 hrs, and 15 @ 7 hours. Takes single AAA size (comes with an eneloop NiMH rechargeable). I use this daily, probably twice as often or more compared to me EDC pocket knife. Its unobtrusive, super handy, not too heavy (2 ounces)…. I really like it, can;t recommend it enough.

  12. A flashlight saved my ass several years ago before Chicago had CCW. When I was walking my dogs I came upon a drunk man that was kicking the shit out of his equally drunk wife. Yelling to stop, the man turned on me twice, only for me to hit him in the face with 200 lumens. (Surefire E2E) Stopped him cold. Cops came and I walked away. Gave that flashlight to my wife, and I now carry a 320 lumen surefire. Worth every penny.

  13. I know it’s late, but I really like my Olight S2. It goes from .5, 10, 80, 400, 950 and 950 lumen strobe. The only downside is that the button is on the side.

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