Best Tactical Weapon Lights For Handguns and Rifles: Ratings & Reviews

Weapon lights are all the rage these days. Police around the country are equipping themselves with a variety of different lights for both their handguns and rifles. These lights are also so prevalent with the military I challenge you to find an infantry unit not using one model or another. Weapon lights offers something more effective than night sights could ever hope to be. A weapon light allows a police officer, soldier, or civilian positive identification on their target. This identification includes an effective means of determining the intentions of a person, and if they are armed or not. A weapon light is an invaluable tool to keep in the ‘box.’

SureFire X400 Ultra-High Output LED and Laser Weapon Light, Red

Surefire is the premier name in tactical weapon lights. A favorite of both the police and the United States military, the Surefire brand has an expansive line of weapon lights, suppressors, and lasers. The Surefire X400 is one of their flagship weapon lights. The X400 provides a blistering Ultra High 500 lumens of direct light, enough to cause temporary blinding of a target. The X400 is at home on either a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. The model has an optional pistol grip and forend switch for long guns. The X400’s intense beam is for target identification, as well as a searchlight for evidence in low light.

The X400 is constructed from an impact, shockproof, ruggedized aluminum. The Surefire X400 is designed to be rugged, and to be ran hard and put away wet. I mean that literally, this is a mil-spec light that resists moisture and water. The Surefire works in the most diverse environments and is capable of operating in diverse temperatures, from Alaska to Afghanistan this light will shine on.

The Surefire X400 has a quick detach rail clamp, that bolts on and holds on. Regardless of recoil or rounds fired once the light is locked it doesn’t come off until you want it off. The Surefire X400 also features a bright laser, in either red or green. A laser is, of course, an efficient low light aiming device, however during the day this laser is hardly visible past twenty feet. The X400 uses two 123 batteries for a total of 1.5 hours continuous run time. The runtime may seem low, but when you are running 500 lumens in a compact unit you are bound to burn batteries. The X400 is a rugged, powerful weapon light at home on any firearm with a rail.

Streamlight 69261 TLR-2 HL High Lumen Rail-Mounted Tactical Light with Red Laser

The Streamlight TLR-2 is a popular handgun weapon light that is a good deal more compact than your average weapon light. Although nothing stops this light from being mounted on a rifle, it is somewhat small and under-powered for most rifle duties. The max power is a respectable 160 lumens and combined with a 2.5-hour continuous battery life makes it an efficient weapon light. The laser, when ran by itself, can last 48 hours. The power source is two 123 batteries.

The TLR-2 has several different options available for it, including a green laser variant, red laser variant, and a variant featuring a strobe. The last variant is the HL model with an increase in lumens, for a total of 300, with around half the battery life. The TLR-2 is fast and easy to mount to all 1913 and Glock rails. The TLR-2 features ambidextrous controls at the rear of the light, which have an option for always on mode, or momentary. Momentary is an option that allows the user to flash the light when necessary, and immediately turn it off. This aids in maintaining light discipline. The TLR-2 with strobe has an additional control option to activate the strobe.

The TLR-2 is made from anodized aluminum and is impact and shock resistant. The bulb has a lifetime burn of 50,000 hours and is made from impact resistant Boro float glass. The TLR-2 is rated to IPX4 for water resistance, meaning it’s water resistant, but not submersible. The light can get wet, but is not advised to be in a heavy rain for more than five minutes. The TLR-2 is dependable, bright enough for most work, and quite affordable for the quality the light provides.

Surefire Ultra High Ouput LED Weaponlight, Black

The Surefire X300 is another high-quality Surefire weapon light. The X300 features the same blinding 500 lumens as the X400 but focus the light into the yellow-green spectrum. This spectrum of light is optimal for most human vision. The beam is focused, enough so to blind a perpetrator, but provides sufficient peripheral light for objects outside your focused vision. The Surefire X300 is capable of attaching to any Picatinny, and universal rails. Rail adapters are also available for the H&K series of weapons. Surefire has even produced their own MR adapter mounts for handguns that lack rails.

The X300 is not limited to the handgun realm. In fact, the X300 has the choice for an optional pressure switch that replaces the pistol centric rear controls. This pressure switch allows the light to turn on as soon as the user grips the appropriate area of the rifle. Not to leave handguns out, because the X300 is also compatible with the DG switch, which acts like a pressure switch, but optimized for a pistol’s grip.

The X300 does lack the addition of a laser, for those not concerned with the optional laser the X400 offers they can find themselves saving nearly two hundred dollars by choosing the X300. Surefire gets a lot of flak by the community for it’s high prices, but the X300 is priced at almost the same level as anything by Streamlight. The X300 is made just as tough as the weapon’s it’s mounted on. The service life of the X300 uses two standard Surefire 123 batteries and has a continuous run time of 1.5 hours. The lack of a laser also drops the weight from 4.9 ounces to 4 ounces. Nearly an ounce gone, and as any soldier worth his salt will tell you ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.

Streamlight 69240 TLR-4 Compact Rail Mounted Tactical Light with Laser Sight

The TLR -4 is Streamlight’s entry into the ultra-compact weapon light. This model sits almost flush with compact weapons like the Glock 19 or SIG P229. The TLR-4 is light, at only 2.8 ounces with the battery. This keeps the weapon nice and balanced when equipped with the TLR-4. The light cuts weight by using a single battery. This does cut the effective run time to about an hour and a half at a 125 lumens.

The TLR-4 was not made for the extended engagements police and military may find themselves in, but for the average concealed carrier. This light is dim compared to the Surefire lights but is also almost half the weight of the X400. The TLR-4 manages to fit a laser underneath the light to provide a night time aiming option. The laser can run 11 hours continuously when used by itself.

The controls remain ambidextrous and the light features a momentary and a steady on/off options. The TLR-4 cuts more weight by mixing in a healthy dose of a tough and reliable polymer. Some may cringe on the idea of a polymer weapon light, but they still mount a light to a polymer pistol frame. The high impact polymer used is just as reliable as metal. The TLR-4 does use an aluminum face cap to protect the lens and bulb. The lens is made from the strong Borofloat glass for maximum protection and durability. The TLR-4 snaps on from he side and only needs one hand. This is a feature I like because sometimes you need a light, but can’t be pointing a pistol at everything. The light is easy to pop off and use for handheld functions. The TLR-4 is a good weapon light for compact pistols and is priced at a point it’s hard to say no.

Viridian C5L Universal Sub-Compact Green Laser Sight with Tactical Light

We’ve covered the light for compacts like the Glock 19, and these pistols may be known as compacts, but for most concealed carriers they are anything but. The Smith and Wesson M&Pc and Walther CCP are much more compact and much easier for everyday carry. These weapons still feature rails and can still feature weapon lights. The Viridian C5L allows you to mount a weapon light, without compromising the size and concealability of your firearm.

The C5L is compact but still features a combination light and laser. The C5L has a 100 lumen light that can also strobe at a 140 lumens. The power source is a single CR3 3 volt battery that last 1 hours continuous use light and laser use, 4 hours constant laser, and 7 hours for the laser on pulse mode. The Viridian uses their famous green laser on this model that is not only bright at night, but easy to see in the day.

The C5L fits flush on most subcompacts, neatly between the muzzle and trigger guard. The unit features a rounded profile with nothing to poke, prod, or catch during the draw. The controls are ambidextrous and are located on the right and left side of the unit. They take the form of easy to press buttons, which are nice and large, and the finger finds them naturally. The Viridian is good for the civilian concealed carrier looking for a lightweight (2.3 ounces), compact, and powerful weapon light for everyday carry.

Light it Up

Choosing a weapon light is all about the mission at hand. What is your goal with the light? The five lights presented here are all known to be quality pieces of gear, but each fulfills a different mission. To choose the right weapon light, you need to understand why you need it. From there it’s all a matter of choice.

Ed Hawkins is a long time recreational firearms owner, having owned many different firearms over his lifetime. While his trusty CZ 75B is his favorite, Ed also enjoys frequent trips to the range with his AR-15. Ed is part-owner and managing editor at ArmsBearingCitizen.