I wanted to cover some of the basics for those teetering on the edge of making a purchase or are simply getting started, this will walk you through some of the basics to help you make a well informed decision and be able to maximize your choice, I will make sure to break it down into some small parts so you can jump through if its a little under you but keep these points in mind, getting something too small too big or just plain wrong means it will break or even worse you wont carry it. Lets dive in.
There are lots of schools of thought here, some forums will claim you need the biggest baddest million lumen power house to make it defense ready. This would be great if you are at home or on the ranch and need the throw and aren’t worried about replacing batteries or lugging it around, most of the torches built now a days can pack a punch into a much smaller package weighing in at anywhere from 200 to 1000 lumens. But even more simply how many do you really need? Most instructors or doctors will tell you anything over 100 lumens is more than enough to dilate the pupil enough to have the effects of temporary blindness working on both humans and animals. Important if your primary function is to defend which will never be out of style. With major technology its hard to find anything in the everyday category over 1000 lumes I don’t think you will need that. The other portion of power to keep in mind would be whats the power source? There are lots of options 14500, 18650, AA, AAA, 123c, and the list goes on. This to me is super important due to the fact its can be hard to find some of these batteries at the corner store and even harder in an emergency situation. Sticking with something along the lines of AA/AAA makes sure you always have batteries or in some cases steal from other devices, a dead torch is no good. The alternate and something I practice is getting a unit with either a charging base or USB compatibility, most of us have a few sources (laptop, external power pack, car) that would allow us to charge on the go and get something up and running in lots of conditions. This is the primary reason I carry two, one smaller running AA/14500 and another that 18650 with a side USB charging capabilities (see MH10 and LD09) to cover most situations and give me the flexibility to carry based on not only environment but also needs. I carry lighter and small in the at work since having too much sticking out of the pocket, then switch over to the power house when off duty to get the extra oomph. Think about this long and hard there are lots of options here and focus primarily on where you spend most of your time, a belt puch with a monster flashligh sticking out is less than business attire but you will need something to defend yourself on the way home and it better work.
Here is another area you will need to spend some time, there are lots of bells and whistles that come built in. These are often things you will need to research before making a purchase. Think about a few things like, reverse polarity protection because you will put batteries in backwards at least once and cheaper models wont help you out when it happens. Power level selection is the most important part you wont always need full power all the time. This will come in handy if clearing an area at night and you don’t want to splash yourself with light giving away your position. Having the ability to scale down will help you light up your target but wont blind you or wash out sights. On the other side of that coin is being able to step it up if you are without weapon in an open location. I travel a lot for work so a good torch is generally all I have since knives and weapons can be tricky to carry/travel with. You can also look for some additions like SOS or the more common and far more function strobe, allowing you to distract and disorient animals or attackers. The operation of the torch is another aspect to keep top of mind for example a twist style may require two hands to operate, in a defensive situation is this likely? No. Same goes with a side button operation where yes it still allows one handed operation but can cause issue if under stress to not only find the button but also push it. Some practice can overcome this but think about what happens if you drop it, or if your dominate hand is disabled it unlikely you have the time to train how to use your side switch in all scenarios. This is where the classic tail cap comes in, its allows ambidextrous operation with little effort and unlike other options will allow momentary on. Especially critical when moving and clearing as well as proper use to avoid making yourself a target or making your movement predictable.
These are some of the less important things to keep in mind, sort of like extras or bonus features. While a key chain attach point may seem like a no brainer its likely you will want to not try and for your keys out of your pocket to see where you are going, also separating them makes it quieter and quicker. Think about clips are the carry option, but even beyond that a reverse-able is even more critical. I refuse to carry a head lamp since it serve one single purpose and is the least tactical light source of all time. This means I chose a torch with a clip that is sturdy but can also revers to attach to a number of items- hats, packs or jackets. There are also other that feature magnetic options for those that to more mechanical work. Water proofing is something likely to come into play, while again most feature some level think about common environments and profession to make an educated decision, if you live near water or flood zones the more the better, if you live in a dessert than its likely a some light waterproofing will be just fine. Its still important since it rains everywhere and some brand even offer an extra o-ring so it can always be in tip top shape. Speaking of tip top, the warranty is something likely come into play and will be very obvious, major brands like Fenix warranty for 5 years/lifetime and something like the Thorfire has 45 days. Again a broken torch shines no light. The defensive bezel is major attraction for some to think about, while its a simple yes or no decision think about your use, if its primarily for defense then you will want it. This will give you a btter striking point to defend or in some cases break a window for escape. But beware I have seen a few posts here and there that TSA might confiscate based on it being a striking weapon. This something you cant plan for and there are no official rules on, they rule is unwritten and changes like the weather. Think about how long and how often you will carry this piece of equipment, it needs to last and be dependable otherwise why carry it. Once you are getting it narrowed down look at the OEM’s site and see what else is available, it may not be super obvious that a decent torch also has some hidden features. Nitecore MH12GT is great looking and a decent size but the details are a pressure switch to weapon mount and filters for different conditions. They don’t outright advertise this so sometimes its best to dig in and see if there is some hidden functionality
This is ultimately your decision, but think about these major factors and narrow the list down to a few, you will likely end up with two (or more) and that’s perfectly fine, most schools of though are two is one and one is none. Having a selection based on mission isn’t a bad idea. Set a budget too, its far to easy to spend hundreds of dollars on a torch, does it make it better? in some ways yes (warranty, build quality) but it also may be missing key features (strobe, runs on AA, tail cap) so it would be a severe trade off and at a larger than average cost. Keep checking back here, I am on a mission to help make these choices easier and to showcase some of the best. The best bet is to think about must have for you (size, battery, add-on’s, size) and start checking off from there, for example my perfect torch the Fenix LD11. It features a common battery in AA/14500, up to 300 lumes, defense bezel and a 5 year/lifetime warranty, waterproof up to 6ft and strobe. Hope it helps and at least carry something, it could get you out of trouble. Sound off below if I missed something or you have a better idea, I would love to hear it.