My first Duty Light... was a D-Cell Maglite that
resembled a baton. We have come a long
way since then. Fast forward to today and
we carry multiple lights for various reasons.
Here are some useful considerations in the
choice and use of hand-held torches/ flash-
lights with or without the use of firearms.

Output: There is a difference in output; lumens
rating for brightness (at the source) and can-
dela for adequate penetration (think reach).
You should endeavour to find a generous but
balanced amount of these two attributes for
tactical use. Most lights are advertised with
their lumens rating so look for 500 – 1000
lumens as the middle ground. Too much light
isn't always a good thing!

Beam Distance: A longer beam distance
(greater candela) provides better illumination
and visibility at a distance. You should also
consider the barriers that you may need to
contend with e.g. fog.

Durability: Opt for a flashlight with rugged
construction, preferably made from aircraft-
grade aluminium or similar materials, and with
water and impact resistance. Check for ANSI
standards and IPX ratings (for resistance
against dust, and water).

Size and Weight: Consider portability and
ease of handling, if you will be carrying it for
extended periods. Also consider pocket clips
like the Thyrm Switchback or a pouch. It’s
always good to carry a few extra battery
cells as well. Law Enforcement (LE) Carry
methods may differ from Everyday Carry
(EDC) – think body armour, exposure to the
elements, etc. On my personal duty rig I run a
retractable cable for retention.

High-Quality LED: LEDs usually last up to 25x
longer than older-generation incandescent
bulbs. They consume less energy and gener-
ally help batteries last longer. They may pro-
duce more visible light and run for longer.
Colour Rendering: A warmer, yellowish light
beam tends to be more penetrative than
super white light.

Battery Life: Choose a flashlight with long bat-
tery life or rechargeable batteries for extend-
ed use. Drop-in battery cells are a true lifesav-
er when there's no time to charge on a
cable. Built-in cell torch designs often don’t
warn you when they are running low, but
drop-in cell lights can have an output step-
down which is indicative of a low battery.
Beam Type: Decide between a focused
beam for distance (hot-spot) or a wide beam
for broader coverage, depending on your
intended use.

Additional Features: Look for features like
momentary on/off mode for "strobing" tech-
niques used for the self-defence disorienta-
tion of an opponent. Multiple brightness levels
can be helpful for utility and versatility e.g.
searching for your kid’s toy under the couch.
A light with independent controls can be a
true winner. Strong bezels may act as a strik-
ing/impact tool if necessary, albeit this isn’t
the best LE practice as an officer should carry
dedicated impact tools on his person.

Ease of Use: Ensure the flashlight is intuitive to
operate, especially under stress or low light
conditions. A tail-cap button makes this
possible, especially when using gloves. Stay
away from too many buttons and clicks. Less
equals more.

Brand Reputation: Stick to reputable brands
known for producing quality lighting equip-
ment and tools. Most militaries and law
enforcement agencies around the world
choose premium-quality brands and the
prominent firearm instructors do too. These
kind of brands are usually known for reliability
and good customer support.

PS. Do not stress too much about the front of
your light getting a bit warm. Heat is a by-
product of illumination.

We generally supply lights from brands like
Cloud Defensive, SureFire, Streamlight as
many of their models are designed by
tacticians and are suitable for the training
that we provide.

By Ridwaan Syed
SA Tactical Institute
Proud Corporate SAGA Member