Tactical flashlights are referred as such for a reason – namely, because they are used for tactical forces. One of the larger segments of the tactical flashlight consumer market is comprised of police officers.
Police officers need a quality, powerful and dependable tactical flashlight. It’s not an option for them. It is a requirement.
While many departments have a list of recommended tactical flashlights, the final decision is often left in the hands of the individual officer – as long as it meets minimum standards.
So, what features does a tactical flashlight possess that are important to a police officer?
High Lumens Output
Tactical flashlights for police officers need to be bright – and being able to adjust that brightness level is certainly a plus. In most cases, a flashlight with a lumen output of 100 is suitable for most tasks; however, there are instances where a police officer will need to conduct a search and rescue operation, in these cases, an output of 200 lumen or more is necessary. That is why the ability to change total output is a necessity for some officers.
Throw (or Beam Distance)
Throw is typically measured in meters. You can find the throw length on the packaging or in the specs list found in the product details section. Some tactical flashlights have multiple throw lengths listed – depending on if they have variable power capability. When considering throw, it’s important to consider the primary use of the flashlight. If your primary patrol area is residential you will not need a throw length as long as those who patrol a rural area.
Police officers shifts can sometimes be 12 hours or longer. With such a long time away from a charging station, it’s important that your flashlight have a long battery life. Battery life is measured in hours – as it should be. This is measured by turning the flashlight on and measuring the length of time it takes the beam output to drop to 10 percent of its peak.
Police work can be a dangerous job, and there’s a pretty good chance that you will get knocked around a bit during the course of your duties. For that reason, you need a flashlight that can take a licking and keep on ticking. Impact resistance is measured by dropping the tactical flashlight from a set distance – measured in meters – six times. The maximum distance the flashlight can be dropped without losing functionality or showing any physical cracks is its impact resistance.
Waterproof and Water Resistance
There is a difference between waterproof and water resistant. A waterproof tactical flashlight can survive a complete immersion in water. Water resistance means it can continue working after exposure to splashing – say rain. If you work near water, investing the extra money to acquire a tactical flashlight that can survive a full immersion is a good idea; if not, it’s just a nice feature to have. The best way to determine how resistant to water the light is, is to check the IPX rating. When you want a light that is waterproof, look for an IPX-8 rating as it will give you the a great light that can resist water to a specified depth.
Size and Weight
Police officers are required to carry a lot of gear. Given the amount of weight you will be carrying on your belt, a lighter flashlight can often make the difference between a footsore night and an easy one. There is a tradeoff. Lighter flashlights do not perform as well when used as an improvised baton. For that reason, smaller-pocket sized flashlights are normally carried by detective and larger flashlights are carried by those who expect to have several interactions with potentially dangerous suspects daily.