Weapon mounted lights on a handgun can be one of the more controversial topics in the world of tactical handguns. Some love them; some prefer to use a flashlight in their opposite hand.
If you are looking for a light to mount on your handgun, there are a few things to consider before laying out the money.
First is what gun are you planning to use?
Uncommon handguns or new models of old designs can sometimes be 2-3 years out from holster makers catching up.
What type of carry? Tactical, vest mounted or concealed?
A tactical holster may look cool, but if you aren't in a field where it applies, you'll find it sits in the gear box more than you wear it. The same with a vest mounted holster. Concealed carry of a weapon/light combination takes some adaptation as well. Rarely is the transition easy with the added bulk of the light.
Will the gun/light combination fit in any manufacturers holster?
This is where you'll spend money. It doesn't matter if you get a screaming deal on a light if no one makes a holster for your gun/light combination. This can sometimes take 2-3 years or never depending on the popularity of your light. A bargain basement light will cost you more than its worth if a holster doesn't become available.
Most popular lights specify 1913 Picatinny or Universal rail fitment. Glock rails are very close to both as are the majority of handgun manufacturers. Don't buy a light requiring a specialty mounting system. It will compound your holster problems.
LED or standard bulb?
I was slow to change to LED lights; I couldn't justify the cost while I had functioning conventional lights. It was a financial and practical reason, which I'm happy to say I am over. I run %100 LED lights now. They are durable, not as likely to break when hot, and battery life is far longer. If you are starting out with weapon lights, stay with LED.
The CR123 has been the standard for a very long time, but new rechargeable and Lithium power sources are working into the market. I like the proven CR123, consider your use before deciding.
In my long career, I've found the higher lumen lights can be less desirable in confined spaces than the lower lumen lights. Reflection on light-colored surfaces, windows, and mirrors can blind you or other friendlies. A consideration in your own environment and you have to make your own decisions based on what you want a light to do. In low light, almost any light will remove an opponent's night vision when shined directly into their eyes.
The push/pull type switch is becoming the mandated type over the remote switch in some major departments for safety reasons. A grip mounted switch activated by the middle finger of the strong hand has been the cause of accidental discharges under stress. This possibility occurs when the shooters have sympathetically squeezed the trigger when using the middle finger to activate their weapon light with the same hand.
The push/pull switch alleviates the possibility of this problem. Something to keep in mind when you decide on your pistol light.
The following list of lights is what I've used over the last 27 years, with reliable results.
Streamlight has been around since the beginning of weapon-mounted lights. They have a long history of reliability, and ease of use with the switch easily reached with the index finger of the shooting hand. With a handgun light, I prefer to use the thumb of my support hand on the switch to turn the light on momentarily, the rear-mounted switch on the TLR makes it easy for either hand.
It is an 800 Lumen light and an LED. It uses CR123 batteries. It comes with rail keys fitting the most popular handguns, and most importantly is listed in most major holster manufacturers fitment pages. The entire TLR line is popular, and if you have a common handgun, there is a TLR light to fit it.
To say the X300 line is popular is an understatement.
I have 3, and I've never had a hiccup with the LED version. The LED runs 1.25 hrs per battery change, which lasts far longer in actual use than a new user thinks. It runs on a CR123 battery. It is a 1000 lumen light and is listed on most major manufacturers holster compatibility list.
The switch is a push/pull and can be used with either the trigger finger or thumb on the support hand.
Surefire is the other popular name in weapon lights, and I list it here second only because something had to go first. I like the Surefire lights equally with the Streamlight models. Honestly, the choice between either of them depends on the holster availability, not the light.
INFORCE is a relatively new manufacturer in the weapon light arena with some unique features.
First, it has a slightly longer battery life at 1.5 hours of continuous use. It has a paddle-type push/pull switch and runs on 1 CR123 battery.
It has a lockout feature on the head which keeps the light from turning on accidentally. This can be a good or bad feature, depending on your viewpoint. I am not a fan, but if you buy this, you at least have the option. It is also priced at a much lower point than either of the lights I listed first. An important consideration for people who are using this on the home defense pistol kept in a drawer or lockbox and rarely carried.
This light is also available in a 200-lumen model, with a slightly longer battery life for the user not wanting the high lumen option.
Selecting a pistol mounted light is relatively easy since so many options exist. The end user should decide based on the list of requirements I posted above, then decide what the end use will be.
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Prices accurate at time of writing