Best Pistol Lights – Our Picks and Buying Guide
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Having a light on a defensive pistol is vital, which makes choosing the best pistol light important for the safety of you and your loved ones.
However, there are a ton of different weapon lights on the market, making trying to choose one very overwhelming.
In this guide, we’ll go over our top pistol light recommendations to help you narrow down the choices. Then talk about what you need to know to choose the right pistol light to meet your needs.
Our top pick overall is the Streamlight TLR-7. This light balances budget and brightness, plus it has handy features ambidextrous, low profile controls, and the “Safe Off” function helps to prevent wasted battery power.
Here Are the Best Pistol Lights (Our Picks)
My top pick is the Streamlight TLR-7.
I like this light because it’s a versatile option that can work for a variety of purposes.
It has a 500-lumen beam, so it’s bright enough to blind an assailant or use outside. At the same time, it’s not too bright to use indoors either.
The TLR-7 has a narrow beam, which I typically prefer for outdoor use because narrow beams generally have a longer range. For indoor use, I like a wide beam because it fills a room and you don’t need as much range. However, in my experience with the TLR-7, it’s bright enough to still illuminate a room. The 140-meter range gives you plenty of distance for outdoor use.
Like most pistol lights, the TLR-7 uses a CR123A battery, which provides a hefty 90 minutes of battery life. To prevent you from accidentally turning on the light, the TLR-7 has a “Safe Off” function.
To activate this function, simply turn the head of the light a half turn, which causes the battery to disconnect from the contact. That way the light can’t be accidentally turned on, even if the controls are pressed.
And speaking of controls, the Streamlight TLR-7 has low-profile, ambidextrous side switches. What does that mean?
Well, first that the controls sit close to the side of the body of the light so they won’t catch on things like your holster or clothing. Second, it means that the controls are accessible with either hand.
The sight is compact, with a weight of just 2.4 ounces, but it’s also durable. It’s impact-resistant, waterproof, and is protected by a lifetime warranty.
Finally, you get all of that at a pretty affordable price, currently about $120 on Amazon.
If you’re looking for a versatile pistol light for indoor or outdoor use and with impressive battery life, look no further than the Streamlight TLR-7.
The Streamlight TLR-8 is basically the same as the TLR-7 but also has a laser sight.
So with this added advantage, why didn’t I choose the TLR-8 as my overall top-pick?
Well, first, because a 500-lumen beam washes out a laser, you can’t really use the light and laser at the same time. Second, because the addition of the laser means the cost goes up by about 50%.
If you really want to have the option to use either the light or laser, the extra money may very well be worth it. If all you really want is a light, which is also what I’m focusing on in this guide, then I just don’t think the addition of the laser, just in case you happen to want it later on, justifies that much extra cost.
Other than the laser, the Streamlight TLR-8 is virtually identical to the TLR-7.
It has the same 500-lumen beam and 140-meter range. Both lights use a CR123A battery and have a 1.5-hour battery life, though the TLR-8’s battery will last for 18 hours if you just use the laser. They also both have the same “Safe Off” function and both have low-profile, ambidextrous controls.
Like the TLR-7, the TLR-8 is impact-resistant and protected by a lifetime warranty. It’s only water-resistant, though, not waterproof. That means it can be splashed with water, but can’t be submerged. That’s good enough for taking out in the rain, but be careful around puddles and bodies of water.
The addition of the laser does mean that the TLR-8 is a touch heavier, weighing 2.64 ounces instead of 2.4.
The TLR-8 also has windage and elevation screws so you can zero your sight.
The Streamlight TLR-8 is virtually identical to the TLR-7, but the TLR-8 also has a red laser sight.
Olight PL-MINI 2 Valkyrie
The Olight PL-MINI 2 Valkyrie is another sight similar to the Streamlight TLR-7, but it’s a slightly lower-cost alternative (less than $100) for those who have a limited budget to spend on a pistol light.
That’s not to say that the only potential advantage over the TLR-7 is the cost. Another notable feature is the rechargeable battery.
That’s right, to make sure your pistol light is always charged, all you have to do is make sure to stick it on the charger now and then when you’re not actively carrying the weapon.
It’s even a magnetic charger, so you don’t even have to plug the cable into the light or even remove the PL-MINI 2 Valkyrie from your gun at all.
The battery life is one hour, so it’s not quite as long as that of the TLR-7, though the ease of charging helps cancel that out.
This pistol light has a 600-lumen beam, so it’s actually a little bit brighter than the TLR-7, though the range is only 100 meters, so it doesn’t reach quite as far.
Unlike the TLR-7, the PL-MINI 2 Valkyrie comes in not just black, but also tan and OD green, so you can get it to match just about any polymer frame pistol and many metal frame pistols as well.
Finally, the Olight PL-MINI 2 Valkyrie weighs 2.57 ounces, so it falls in between the TLR-7 and TLR-8.
The main draw of the Olight PL-MINI 2 Valkyrie is the rechargeable battery, but it’s also a decent bit cheaper than the TLR-7 despite otherwise comparable features, so it’s a good option for gun owners on a budget.
Our next recommendation is the Streamlight TLR-6.
First things first, I want to note that this particular light isn’t as generalized compatibility-wise as most of the other lights on this list. It comes in a bunch of versions for different guns, so make absolutely sure that you’re choosing the right one for your pistol of choice.
With that out of the way, let’s talk features.
The Streamlight TLR-6 is a low brightness option, with a 100-lumen beam.
This low brightness level is good if you’re looking for a pistol light for indoor use only and aren’t worried about the ability to blind an assailant.
The other advantage of this low light level goes along with the fact that it has a built-in laser sight, like the TLR-8. However, since the TLR-6’s light isn’t as bright, you can use the light and laser at the same time without washing out the laser too much.
No, the laser won’t be as visible as it would be without the light on, but it will still be visible and you’ll be able to see the area around the laser at the same time.
The TLR-6 is also incredibly lightweight, just 1.16 ounces. In large part, it’s able to be that compact due to using a pair of CR-1/3N batteries. These batteries allow for an 11-hour battery life if you’re just using the laser sight or a 1-hour battery life if you’re using the light along with or instead of the laser.
The light and laser can both be operated with the ambidextrous push-button controls. Screws allow you to set the laser’s elevation and windage.
Like the Streamlight TLR-8, the TLR-6 is impact-resistant and water-resistant, but it’s also shock-resistant. It comes with Streamlight’s lifetime warranty and is available in black and FDE.
Want to be able to use both a laser sight and a pistol light at the same time? The Streamlight TLR-6 allows you to do both.
Our second low-powered pistol light is the Viridian C5L. Like the Streamlight TLR-8 and TLR-6, the Viridian C5L is both a laser sight and a pistol light. Unlike the two Streamlights, however, it’s available in two different laser sight colors, red and green.
First, let’s talk about what both models have in common, then we’ll talk about why the difference in color matters.
Both models have a 100-lumen constant beam that allows you to run the light and laser sight at the same time without washing out the laser sight. They also both have a 140-lumen strobe beam which can theoretically be used to disorient an attacker.
According to Viridian, they both incorporate Radiance technology to help widen the beam, though Viridian doesn’t seem to explain exactly what that means.
They also both feature Instant On capability, which Viridian explains much more effectively. When you pair these lights with Viridian TacLoc holsters, the light will turn on automatically when you draw your pistol from the holster.
So what’s the difference between the two models, aside from just the color you see when you flip on the laser sight?
Well, green lasers are actually brighter than red ones. That means that the green laser model has a much longer range. On the other hand, the red laser model doesn’t require as much power, so it has a much longer battery.
Let’s talk about what that looks like in real life.
The CGL Green has a daytime range of 100 yards and a nighttime range of 2 miles, but a 1-hour battery life when you use the laser and light at the same time and a 4-hour battery life with the light constantly on and no laser.
The CGL Red has a daytime range of only 25 yards and a nighttime range of a single mile. On the other hand, it has a 1.25-hour battery life when you use both the laser and light and a very impressive 20-hour battery life with the light on.
Both models of the Viridian C5L are great for those looking to use a pistol light and laser sight at the same time, and the Instant On capability is particularly cool. Which model is right for you, however, depends on whether you want to prioritize sight range with the Viridian C5L Green or battery life with the Viridian C5L Red.
Streamlight TLR-1 HL
The Streamlight TLR-1 HL is our first high-powered pistol light recommendation.
The beam is a hefty 1,000 lumens and has a range of a whopping 283 meters. In other words, this light will light up the entirety of most yards and then some to spare.
But please, for the love of God, do not turn this thing on indoors. It will not be a fun time for your eyes. And especially don’t do it in an actual defensive situation. Blinding an assailant is only an advantage when you can still see.
To operate the beam, the TLR-1 HL has an ambidextrous power switch, but unlike the other Streamlight pistol lights we’ve reviewed, the switch is on the rear of the unit rather than the sides.
Another cool thing about the TLR-1 HL is that it’s particularly versatile. It comes with a bunch of different adapters that allow you to use this light with just about any popular handgun. No adapter is required to mount the TLR-1 HL to standard Picatinny rails or Glock rails.
The Streamlight TLR-1 HL offers similar durability to our top pick, the TLR-7. It’s impact-resistant and IPX7 waterproof, plus it’s covered by Streamlight’s lifetime warranty.
As for the battery, the TLR-1 HL uses a pair of CR123A batteries and has a 90-minute battery life.
It’s hefty for a pistol light, weighing 4.32 ounces.
It’s also pretty affordable, selling for only a little more than the TLR-7.
If you’re looking for a high-powered option, the Streamlight is a great option that’s also affordable.
Surefire X300 Ultra
The Surefire X300 is another fan-favorite option that I personally love an awful lot. I’ve carried this one a good bit, and I have to say that while I find the 1000 lumen beam a bit overkill, this is a rock-solid light.
Yes, 1000 lumens is probably more than you need, but if you want something that has a super-powerful light, this is a great choice. It’s equally at home on a rifle or shotgun too, so you can always swap it over if the urge strikes you, making it a great all-in-one solution.
The light itself uses a precision TIR lens that helps give the beam a large center spot, while still providing a good throw out to the sides as well. The beam has an effective range of around of about 230 yards with this lens.
The controls are ambidextrous and offer both a momentary-on option as well as a toggle on/off option.
Battery life is pretty good with 1.25 hours on high, and the light is powered by two CR123A batteries that, thankfully, are included for once. The light weighs in at just 4oz with those batteries installed.
The light body is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is hard-anodized to meet military wear specifications to help it resists scratches and corrosion. It’s all IPX7 waterproof and available in a variety of color combinations.
The Surefire X300 Ultra is one of the most powerful lights on the market, and is equally at home on both a pistol and a rifle, making it one of the best do-it-all lights you can buy for the money.
Buying Guide: Finding The Pistol Light That Is Right For You
You can’t go wrong with any of the pistol lights recommended above, but it’s important to know how to choose the right one for you. Let’s talk about what we look for to identify a high-quality pistol light and to choose the right pistol light for a particular set of needs.
The main point of a pistol light is the beam, so let’s talk about that first.
There are two major considerations when it comes to the beam of your light: brightness and range.
Brightness is measured in lumens. Lights are available in a huge range of brightnesses. They start as low as 100 lumens, which is about the brightness of a standard flashlight, like a Mini Maglite. They can go up to over 1,000 lumens, which is about twice as bright as a standard 40-watt lightbulb.
Most pistol lights fall around the lower end of that range, from about 100 to 500 lumens. That’s great for most situations.
100 to 150 lumens is enough to illuminate the area without being so bright that it heavily interferes with your natural night vision.
If you want a light that will blind attackers, you’ll want to stick to the 400 to 600-lumen range. This is bright enough that it makes it hard to look at without blinding you behind the light.
You’ll only want to use a very bright light, around 1,000 lumens, outdoors. Otherwise, the light can reflect back off of surfaces and blind you as well, especially if you have white or otherwise light walls and flooring.
Brightness is important, but so far is the range, also called throw. Whatever you call it, it’s simply how far the light travels.
The range is related to brightness, yes, and generally the brighter the light, the longer the range. However, it’s also related to intensity, which is measured in candelas. Don’t worry too much about the number of candelas. The average person doesn’t need to get that technical.
Instead, just look at the range provided by the manufacturer. The right range ultimately just depends on what your needs are. For indoor use, you don’t need much of a range. Presumably, you’re not trying to light up your indoor football field.
For outdoor use, you can go with a larger range, especially if you’ll be using your light on a large piece of property, like a farm or homestead. If you’ve just got a small backyard, a more moderate range will do the job.
Obviously, longer battery life is better. Longer battery life means fewer battery changes, saving you money. More importantly, it means that you’re less likely to experience a battery failure in mid-combat or just while investigating a funny noise in the backyard.
Most pistol lights have a battery life of at least an hour, though it’s rarely much more than that.
In addition to battery life, battery type also matters.
The vast majority of pistol lights rely on one or two CR123A batteries, though some lights use other types. Ultimately, the type of battery only makes a difference to you in a couple of ways.
First, it impacts the overall size of the pistol light, but we’ll get to that in the next section, so let’s put a pin in that for a minute.
Second, it makes a difference in availability. CR123A batteries can be found in most stores that sell batteries. They’re also pretty cheap. Other battery types may be trickier to find in person, so you’ll need to order them online.
It’s always a good idea to have extra batteries on hand, but it’s especially important if your light uses a battery type that’s not easy to find in stores. That way you’re not stuck without a weapon light for a couple of days while you wait for your new batteries to come in the mail.
There are also some weapon lights that have rechargeable batteries. This design has pros and cons.
The benefit is that you don’t have to worry about keeping extra batteries on hand, just stick the light on the charger once in a while.
The downside is that there’s no swapping out batteries when the battery is dead. You have to wait for the dead battery to charge before you can use the light again.
If you opt for a rechargeable design, look for one that doesn’t require you to take the light off your pistol to charge. Magnetic chargers generally allow for this, while those that plug in are less likely to.
The number and type of batteries that a pistol light uses play a relatively large role in the overall size of a pistol light. Sometimes more batteries are necessary, such as to power a brighter light. For example, don’t expect a 1,000 or more lumen light to operate with fewer than two batteries.
However, as long as the light fits on your pistol, the spatial dimensions of your light are less important than its weight.
Pistols are carefully balanced so that the weight of the gun is towards the back. This makes them easier and more comfortable to shoot. Lights, fitting beneath the barrel of the pistol, necessarily add weight to the front of the gun. To help keep your pistol as well-balanced as possible, the less your light weighs, the better.
Remember, however, that brighter lights require more batteries, so there is a bit of a balancing act.
Fortunately, pistol lights in general tend to be lightweight. As long as you’re training with your pistol to get used to the difference in feel, you shouldn’t have a problem getting used to the difference from your weapon light.
Compatibility with Your Pistol
Obviously, you need your pistol light to actually work with your pistol of choice. Even if your gun uses a standard Picatinny rail, things like the shape of the trigger guard or frame may require specifically shaped pistol lights.
Fortunately, most lights are designed to work with as many pistols as possible and come in multiple versions to work with even more pistols. In many cases, a pistol light will come with different keys or adapters so the same light can be used on a bunch of different guns.
As long as you don’t have a super obscure pistol or some weird modifications, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a version of the top pistol lights, like the ones recommended here, for your gun.
The links above should lead to the most versatile option of the pistol light, but always double-check the compatibility of the light with your pistol before buying.
Generally, the lights we’ve linked to will work with Glock rails and most standard Picatinny rails. If your pistol has a different rail style, you’ll want to be especially careful when checking compatibility.
When in doubt, go to the manufacturer’s website to find a complete list of compatible handguns.
The last thing you want is for your light that can’t stand up to regular use or otherwise breaks a few months after you use it. You might as well just light the money on fire and get the light directly at the point.
Look for a light that’s impact-resistant and at least water-resistant. Waterproof is better though, especially if you want to be able to use your pistol light outside. Aluminum and polymer are durable body materials that will help protect the delicate electronics inside the light.
It’s also nice to have a warranty. Many companies, like Streamlight, offer limited lifetime warranties so if there is a problem, you can get your light repaired or replaced. Other companies offer warranties that only cover the light for a few years.
Ease of Operation
As with anything firearms-related, especially when it comes to defense, you don’t want your light to be overly complicated to use. Of course, you should always plan on training with any defensive accessory to develop essential muscle memory for a defensive situation. Still, there’s no reason to make it harder than possible.
Choose a light with controls that are easy to reach while you’ve got your gun in a positive grip. Most pistol lights are ambidextrous, so it shouldn’t matter if you’re right or left-handed. If you’re a lefty, you probably already know that you should always confirm left-handed-friendliness just in case.
There are a couple of questions that are asked the most about pistol lights. Let’s take a look at them so you never have to wonder again.
Olight makes one of my absolute favorite pistol lights, the PL-MINI Valkyrie Tactical Light. They also have a variety of other good pistol lights, like the Baldr series of weapon lights.
However, they’re far from the only good weapon light company out there. Other favorite pistol light companies include Streamlight, Surefire, Viridian, and Crimson Trace.
Pistol lights generally fall somewhere in the 100 to 1,000-lumen range, but where in that range your pistol light needs to be really depends on what you’ll be using it for.
For indoor use, stick to the lower end of that range. If you just want enough light to see, 100 to 200 lumens is enough. If you want to be able to blind an assailant, go with about 400 to 600 lumens.
Don’t go any higher than 600 lumens for indoor use, though, or you risk blinding yourself along with your attacker.
For outdoor use, live it up with the higher end of that range. Since there aren’t walls on all sides reflecting the light back at you, you don’t have to worry so much about accidentally blinding yourself.
Plus, if that noise in the bushes turns out to be an animal pest, a sudden bright light just increases the odds of them getting scared and running off.
My pick for the all-around best pistol light is the Streamlight TRS-7.
Not only does it have a moderate brightness level that’s practical for both indoor and outdoor use, but it also has extra useful features like low profile, ambidextrous side controls, and the “Safe Off” functionality to prevent you from accidentally running the battery down.
Plus, the CR123A battery is easy to find in a pinch.
And to top it off, all of that comes in at a very reasonable price. It’s inexpensive enough to be affordable for the average gun owner, but not so cheap that Streamlight had to compromise on quality.
Of course, everyone’s needs and wants are different, so there’s no single light that’s best for everyone. Depending on your particular needs and wants, you may find that one of our other recommendations may suit you better.
With the information and variety of recommendations here, however, you should have no trouble picking the best pistol light for you.
Corporal Dalton is a former Infantry Rifleman who served with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. After leaving the Marine Corps, he started an online business where he focuses on teaching self-defense tactics. His two major passions are hiking and shooting guns. He has been a member of the NRA since he was 6 years old and is a strong supporter of the second amendment.