Best Pistol Lights [2021]: Which Type is Best for You?

by Travis Pike

January 6, 2021

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Weapon mounted pistol lights are all the rage these days. Some reputable instructors are even going as far as calling a weapon light a necessity. There is good news and bad news about pistol lights.

The good news is there are tons of them! The bad news is there are tons of them! You have options, lots of options. However, with lots of options comes a fair bit of confusion. To help you wade through this confusing mass of weapon lights, we are here to guide you along the way.

Why You Need a WML

Do you need a WML? Well, that’s up to you. I can’t tell you exactly a yes or no answer there, but I can say a WML can be quite handy. Before you can ever take a shot in a defensive situation, you have to establish positive identification of a threat.

If you fail to establish positive identification of a threat, you are slinging lead in the dark for no reason whatsoever. Without PID, you clearly do not know what a threat is and what is not. Inside your home, you can hear a crash of breaking glass, and it could be a threat or a clumsy cat.

A weapon-mounted light allows you to temporarily distract and blind a threat gaining you a second or two advantage. The bright light will enable you to see the threat and prevents them from seeing you by throwing up what we call a photonic barrier.

The word hand in handgun is so prominent because handguns can be used with one hand. A weapon-mounted light allows you to use your pistol and light with a single hand. Maybe your other hand is carrying your child, or it’s in a sling, or it’s on the steering wheel of your car.

Weapon mounted lights are convenient to have. A pistol light won’t replace a handheld light but complements it and gives you another tool for the box.

Weaponlight Sizes

Handgun lights come in three different sizes. They match the size of most handguns in many ways.

Full Size: Full-size lights often pack the most power and integrate both lumens and candela to deliver the longest range beam possible. Full-size lights are predictably intended for full-sized guns. Their longer design allows them to clear the barrel of the weapon to eliminate barrel shadow. Full-sized lights can also fit on compact handguns. Albeit, these big lights add more weight and bulk to a weapon designed to be compact.

Compact Weaponlights: There was a time when full-sized lights ruled, and then people realized, hey, the Glock 19 is popular, so why don’t we make a light that fits that gun. Compact lights are designed to fit flush with barrels sitting around 4 inches long. These lights lack the power and range of their full-sized brethren. However, their smaller size and lower weight makes them easier to conceal and makes them more comfortable for concealed carry.

Subcompact Lights: These are the latest and greatest in small light technology. They are brand new and have been hitting the market in stride. The size and weight are reduced even more, and so is the power of these lights. This new and burgeoning weapon light classification hasn’t necessarily standardized on size, weight, or power. They are providing subcompact lights for the smallest of guns… as long as they have a rail.

Best Pistol Lights by Category

If you know what you’re looking for, feel free to use the links below to jump to any part of this article!

Best Pistol Lights

Best Pistol Lights by Category

Pistol LightDetailsCheck PriceMobile Bottom Line
Best Overall
Surefire X300U
  • Bright and Powerful
  • Durable and Proven 
  • Choice of Armed Professionals
Check Price 
Best Budget
Streamlight TLR-1
  • Excellent mix of candela and lumens
  • Affordable but durable design
  • Constant, Momentary, and Strobe modes
Check Price 
Best Compact
Streamlight TLR-7
  • Fits Flush with the barrel of Glock 19 sized firearms
  • Excellent size to power ratio 
  • Affordable and well designed
Check Price 
Best Subcompact
Surefire XSC
  • Constant 350 lumens
  • Small enough for Micro Compacts
  • Surefire quality and durability
Check Price 
Best for the Money
Inforce Wild2 Best Of
Inforce Wild 2
  • Class-leading 30K Candela
  • Durable aluminum design
  • Excellent price
Check Price 
The Wildcard
Thyrm and Surefire Fury
  • Perfect for non railed guns
  • Handheld light with a no-compromise firearm’s grip
  • Dual fuel battery design
Check Price 

Specs Comparison of the Best Pistol Lights

NameOutputCandelaRuntimeWeight
Surefire X300U1000 lumens11,3001.25 hours4 ounces
Streamlight TLR-11000 lumens20,0001.5 hours4.32 ounces
Streamlight TLR-7500 lumens50001.5 hours2.4 ounces
Surefire XSC350 lumens20000.5 hours1.12 ounces
Inforce Wild2 1000 lumens30,0001.5 hours4.7 ounces
Thyrm and Surefire Fury1500 lumens25,2001.5 hours6.5 ounces

Best Pistol Light Reviews

#1 Surefire X300U : Best Overall

Surefire X300U

The Surefire X300U, or the U Boat, has been the industry standard among armed law enforcement agencies and armed professionals worldwide.

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  • Brightness A+
  • Range A
  • Battery Life A
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

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Surefire X300U Specs

  • Output 1000 lumens
  • Candela 11,300 candela
  • Runtime 1.25 hours
  • Weight 4 ounces
  • Length 3.6’’

Surefire X300U Review

The good ole U Boat is a full-sized weapon light that packs a ton of power. The X300U packs 1,000 lumens and 11,300 candela to shine a way forward.

Surefire, as a company, has a reputation for making bombproof weapon lights. The X300U is no different. Outside of the light’s power, it provides armed professionals and concealed carriers with a no-fail weapon light.

The X300U is IPX7 waterproof and made from aluminum. It’s strong, durable, and shockproof to an insane degree.

The light is a cool white light that shines well beyond most people’s means to make an accurate handgun shot. The beam cuts through the darkness, overrides photonic barriers, and even gives smoke and fog a run for its money.

Surefire X300U Pros and Cons

  • Bright and powerful
  • Excellent range
  • Extremely durable
  • Ergonomic
  • Expensive

#2 Streamlight TLR-1 : Best Budget Light

Streamlight TLR-1

If the Surefire X300U is a little too pricey for you, then the Streamlight TLR-1 might be the light for you.

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  • Brightness A-
  • Range A
  • Battery Life A
  • Value A+

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A

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Streamlight TLR-1 Specs

  • Output 1000 lumens
  • Candela 20,000 candela
  • Runtime 1.5 hours
  • Weight 4.32 ounces
  • Length 3.39’’

Streamlight TLR-1 Review

The TLR-1 HL packs 1,000 lumens and a powerful 20,000 candela. The HL is equipped with a wider beam that fills your vision at shorter ranges and gives you excellent peripheral vision.

The TLR-1 is IPX7 rated, so it can be submerged up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. The main body is made from aluminum and is shock and dustproof. The TLR-1 has a great reputation for durability but hasn’t been tested near as much as the X300U with police and military forces.

The bright beam really fills a room up with light and makes searching and detecting threats easier and more rapid. From concealed carry to home defense, the TLR-1 has your back and does so at about half the price of the X300U.

Streamlight TLR-1 Pros and Cons

  • Excellent power
  • Wide beam
  • Affordable
  • Ergonomic
  • Bulky and Heavier than competitors.

#3 Streamlight TLR-7 : Best Compact Light

Streamlight TLR-7

It’s designed to fit flush with the frame of the pistols in the compact realm. The addition of almost no bulk keeps the gun concealable and easy to handle.

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  • Brightness A-
  • Range A-
  • Battery Life A
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

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Streamlight TLR-7 Specs

  • Output 500 lumens
  • Candela 5000 candela
  • Runtime 1.5 hours
  • Weight 2.4 ounces
  • Length 2.15’’

Streamlight TLR-7 Review

Carry a compact piece that needs a compact light? Well, Streamlight has you covered with the TLR-7. The TLR-7 is my personal EDC light on my CZ P-10C.

The TLR-7 packs 500 lumens of warm light with the same widespread beam as the TLR-1. Albeit, it’s a bit less powerful. With 5,000 candela, you aren’t getting a searchlight from this weapon.

Within typical concealed carry and home defense range, the TLR-7 is powerful enough.

The TLR-7 weighs only 2.4 ounces and is 2.15 inches long, making it insanely small and compact for the power it packs.

The TLR-7 is still IPX-7 rated to resist submersion for 1.5 hours at 1 meter. The TLR-7 is quite durable and is well suited for concealed carry. The little TLR-7 is a mighty mouse of a light and comes in at a great price.

Streamlight TLR-7 Pros and Cons

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Ergonomic
  • Excellent size to power ratio
  • Lowered lumens and candela is evident.

#4 Surefire XSC : Best Subcompact

Surefire XSC

Sub-compact lights are new to this world, but Surefire is trying very hard to be the king of these lights. So far, they are the undisputed champ.

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  • Brightness B+
  • Range B
  • Battery Life B-
  • Value B

Our Grade

B

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Surefire XSC Specs

  • Output 350 lumens
  • Candela 2000 candela
  • Runtime 0.5 hours
  • Weight 1.12 ounces
  • Length 1.94’’

Surefire XSC Review

The XSC Micro Compact fits on guns as small as the Springfield Hellcat and provides a consistent 350 lumens.

Admittedly the 2,000 candela leaves you a little low on the range side, but it’s still the most consistently powerful light in the subcompact range.

Like any Surefire product, the XSC is made to last and will kick it day after day without issue.

The XSC packs a rechargeable battery, which allows the size to stay small and the power to stay high.

Going with a disposable battery would mean an increase in size or a loss in power. The Surefire XSC’s battery is removable, and replacement batteries are also available. This somewhat solves the issue of a dead battery when you still need light to rock and roll with.

Surefire XSC Pros and Cons

  • Small and light
  • Replaceable rechargeable batteries
  • Consistent high power level
  • Short run time
  • Expensive

#5 Inforce Wild2 : Best for the Money

Inforce Wild2

When we say best for the money, we are looking at both the cost of the light and its performance. The Inforce Wild 2 is powerful, well made, and priced to move.

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  • Brightness A
  • Range A+
  • Battery Life A
  • Value A-

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A

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Inforce Wild2 Specs

  • Output 1000 lumens
  • Candela 30,000 candela
  • Runtime 1.5 hours
  • Weight 4.7 ounces
  • Length 3.5’’

Inforce Wild2 Review

The Inforce Wild 2 blasts out 1,000 lumens of light backed by a potent 30,000 candela. That kind of performance is rare in the pistol light world.

The Inforce Wild 2 is a brand new light on the market but seems to be making a dent in the worldwide handgun market.

The Wild 2 is made from aluminum and designed to be durable. It’s dust and shockproof and waterproof up to 66 meters. The Wild 2 is powered with two CR123 batteries and will run for 1.5 hours.

The Inforce Wild 2 is still priced below, and I mean way below, the Surefire X300U. It’s not as cheap as the Streamlight but performs better. The Wild 2 is a full-sized weapon light that might be new to the market but seems to be making a big splash.

Inforce Wild2 Pros and Cons

  • Powerful with a high candela
  • Ergonomic paddle design
  • Three functions
  • Hefty
  • Unproven by professional users

#6 Thyrm and Surefire Fury : The Wildcard

Thyrm and Surefire Fury

A combination light created by a handheld Surefire Fury light and a special Thyrm attachment.

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  • Brightness A+
  • Range A+
  • Battery Life A
  • Value B

Our Grade

A

Reviewed by Travis Pike

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Thyrm and Surefire Fury Specs

  • Output 1500 lumens
  • Candela 25,200 candela
  • Runtime 1.5 hours
  • Weight 6.5 ounces
  • Length 5.6’’

Thyrm and Surefire Fury Review

Let’s say you have a Glock 43, a Walther PPS M2, a J frame revolver, or a pocket 380 ACP. Not a whole lotta room to add a light there. So what is a concealed carrier to do? Well, a little company called Thyrm makes a device called the Switchback.

The Switchback is designed to attach to the Surefire Fury and add a ring to the light to allow for an easy grip on the light while gripping your handgun.

The Thyrm Switchback is a simple device that allows you to engage a handheld light without compromising the grip on your gun.

The Surefire Fury is like any other Surefire light and is made to be durable and bright. It packs 1,500 lumens and can be powered by a rechargeable battery or two CR123A batteries.

The Fury, combined with the Switchback, gives you a potent and powerful option when you have a gun that’s not exactly compatible with traditional weapon lights.

Thyrm and Surefire Fury Pros and Cons

  • Perfect for non railed guns
  • No special holster needed
  • 1,500 Lumens!
  • One-handed use isn’t an option

Best Pistol Light Buyer’s Guide

Before you dive into buying a light for your handgun, there are a few considerations you need to make. Choosing the right light should be done with an understanding of how it works. If you are just taking my suggestions, you may find yourself with a light that doesn’t suit your lifestyle or gun.

Weight and Length

You are still sticking a light on something designed to be lightweight and compact. You have to consider the weight and length of the light and the reason why you are sticking it on your gun. A Glock 19 with a Surefire X300 is just as long at the front as a Glock 17… so why not carry the Glock 17?

Obviously, it’s all up to you. As a big guy, the extra weight a light adds to my gun is hardly noticed. My petite girlfriend, however, notices every extra ounce and is often annoyed by it. When shopping online for weapon lights, break out a ruler, a pen, and a piece of paper and draw the dimensions out to see how the light will affect your weapon.

Holster Compatabilty

You have a handgun, so you need a means to carry it, correct? When choosing a pistol light, you’ll have the fun requirement to try and find a holster that fits both your gun and your light. Before investing in a light, you need to slow down and make sure you can find a holster that accommodates your chosen style of carry.

The good news is more and more companies are creating light bearing holsters. Crossbreed has been big in investing in creating OWB, Appendix, and IWB rigs for light-bearing firearms. Bravo Concealment, Alien Gear, and more are producing holsters for light-bearing firearms.

Controls

How do the controls are your light function? Are they ergonomic? Easy to reach and easy to engage the different functions of the light with? Some lights have paddles, others have switches, and it’s important for you to be able to reach and easily engage the light.

Also, consider the switches from a functional perspective. Do they have a weak point that could disable the light? The lights listed in my selection are known to have great switches, and they don’t fail the user. Lights like the Olight PL Pro have switches that can be disabled when something gets between the switch and the light’s body.

Lumens and Candela

Lumens and candela work together to broadcast a bright and powerful beam. Lumens are the intensity of your light, and candela is the usable light. A high lumen light is a bright light, and a high candela light is a light that packs range.

High lumen and low candela lights are typical of smaller concealed carry designs and are better suited for up close and personal engagements. Lights that combine a high lumen and candela count gives you a longer range bright light better suited for duty and full-size handgun roles. There is no downside to having a higher lumen or candela count other than the fact they require a bigger and heavier light.

Durability Concerns 

Anything you carry for defensive use needs to be tough, well made, and dependable. Duty and concealed carry guns need to be reliable, as does anything else strapped to the gun. Without a proven background of law enforcement and military use, you should definitely pay closer attention to the pistol light’s IP rating.

An IP rating (IP ratings explained) is a score given to something that helps describe just how tough it really is. You’ll often find this score on various optics such as binos, spotting scopes, riflescopes, and weaponlights. 

Other Factors and Features

When looking for your pistol light, you’ll often run across other advertised features. While some of them are blatant gimmicks, others can be quite nice.

Is It Waterproof?

It should be at least splash-proof. Preferably submergible and capable of resisting water. You never know when you might get caught in the rain while carrying concealed. Electronics are fragile and prone to damage when exposed to water. When you hit that go button, and nothing happens because your light got wet, you’ll regret not investing in a more durable light.

Shockproof?

Stuff happens. You can bump into a wall, a table, or a chair, or you fall in a non-violent accident. Is your light capable of withstanding that kind of blow? What about the stress and shock of firing your weapon with the light equipped? You’ll need to train with your weapon light, and it needs to be able to absorb the shock and awe of a life roughly lived.

Aluminum or Polymer?

Polymer has come a very long way and has become a go-to in handgun design. On weapon lights, polymer can work fine, but weak polymer points exist. On weapon lights, the biggest weak point is where the light attaches to the gun. The rail attachment point should be aluminum. We’ve seen numerous issues with this specific weak point from quality weapon light manufacturers.

Beyond that, it’s all about reputation and the polymer construction used by each company.

Light It Up

Is a pistol light a necessary requirement for concealed carry? That’s a debatable topic. For home defense, a white light is a must-have. The good news is lights come in various sizes, price ranges, and configurations. You can find the right light for home defense, concealed carry, or whatever other goals you are trying to accomplish.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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