Tactical Lights Glossary

The Tactical Lights Glossary

There are plenty of factors to consider when buying a tactical flashlight. Do you want rechargeable or disposable batteries? How many lumens are you after? Do you know what a lumen measures? We've broken down the key characteristics when it comes to the flashlights. Use this tactical lights glossary to know exactly what you're carrying.

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aluminum body:
A flashlight with an aluminum body is incredibly durable and resistant to scuffs, dents and bending.

ANSI/NEMA Fl1 Standards:
These give consistency when it comes to flashlight performance. They make it easier for you to compare styles when you're in the market for a new flashlight. There are six tests that measure performance variables: light output, peak beam intensity, impact resistance, water resistance, beam distance and run time. A flashlight doesn't have to meet all six standards; rather, a manufacturer can choose for a light to only meet a few of them. Note that these ratings are completely voluntary; a flashlight manufacturer doesn't have to abide by them.

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beam distance:
Measured in meters, how far a flashlight's beam will reach while still deemed "useful."

beam pattern:
This refers to how far a light will reach or how wide of an area it will cover. A spot beam has a narrow focus. A flashlight with a flood beam will light up a wide area, but the beam won't reach as far as a spot beam.

The head of the flashlight, which screws onto the body.

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A candela measures the brightness of the flashlight's beam (rather than total light output, which is what a lumen measures).

CR123 batteries:
A lithium-celled battery has a longer run time and typically higher voltages than your typical AA battery.

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disposable batteries:
A flashlight with disposable batteries will almost always be less expensive upfront than rechargeable varieties. Plus, it’s easy to have spare batteries on hand, and they usually have a longer run time than rechargeable batteries.

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halogen bulb:
A flashlight that uses a bulb filled with this type of gas will cast an exceptionally brilliant white light. Its efficiency will increase too. A xenon bulb will have these same characteristics.

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impact resistance:
This measurement indicates how many meters a flashlight can be dropped from onto concrete without breaking.

incandescent light:
An incandescent bulb uses a thin filament, which an electrical current passes through. When this filament heats up, it produces light. Incandescent bulbs may not be very durable because of the glass inside the bulb, but they do produce an impressive amount of light.

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light output:
How much light a flashlight emits (measured in lumens) without taking into account focus, direction or how strong the beam is.

lithium batteries:
Lithium batteries have a better shelf life than alkaline batteries, and they have a higher power output than their alkaline counterparts.

LED stands for light emitting diode. Rather than using a filament like an incandescent bulb, light is transmitted through a semiconductor. LED lights have a long lifespan, which will save you hassle and money in the long run. They are not as powerful as an incandescent bulbs, but their run times are far longer.

A unit of measurement that indicates how much total light a flashlight will emit.

The amount of light in a total area. A lux is one lumen per square meter.

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This will seal the flashlight so dust, debris moisture do not become trapped inside.

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peak beam intensity:
Measured in candelas, a flashlight's peak beam intensity tells you how bright the light is at its brightest spot (called the hot spot).

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rechargeable batteries:
A flashlight with rechargeable batteries will be more expensive up front than one with disposable batteries, but in the long run, you'll end up spending less because you won't be paying for new batteries. Additionally, rechargeable batteries are more eco-friendly than disposable batteries.

run time:
Measures how long a flashlight will run on a single set of batteries. A flashlight's run time will depend on which brightness setting you have it set on. A brighter setting will eat up the battery quicker than a duller setting. Flashlight packaging usually denotes the run time when the flashlight is on its highest setting. Additionally, extreme temperature, either hot or cold, can affect how long a flashlight's battery lasts.

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A flashlight with a strobe function will temporarily disorient whoever is looking into the strobing light, giving you an upper hand.

Per ANSI/NEMA Fl1 standards, a flashlight that can work properly after being under more than a meter of water for more than four hours.

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Per ANSI/NEMA Fl1 standards, a flashlight is water-resistant if it can be hit with water from all angles and still work properly.

Per ANSI/NEMA Fl1 standards, a flashlight is waterproof if it can be completely submerged in one meter of water for a half hour and still work properly.

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