Best Pistol Lights: Compact Weapon Lights & Laser Light Combos Tested
Licensed Concealed Carry Holder
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A pistol light is only a tool; the question is what task you have in mind, what you want in one and what you’re willing to part with. Every one of the lights on this list fits someone very well. Maybe that’s you, maybe it isn’t.
Not everyone is best-served by a TLR-1 or Surefire X300. Not everyone should get an Olight PL2 Mini Valkyrie. A 1000 lumen light is not the most necessary for home defense in an apartment, and 200 lumens is not enough if you’re outdoors.
Therefore, consider what your specific needs are and/or are likely to be before buying. You’ll get more from your purchase if you get the best light for you.
In This Article
Comparison of the Best Pistol Lights
Below is my list of the best pistol lights. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of pistol lights.
$89 & Up
How We Picked
Brightness and Beam
We test the brightness of the pistol light throughout their various settings and assess the quality and intensity of the beam.
We determine the estimated battery life for the light and test the battery to see if the product holds up to the manufacturer’s claims.
We test the pistol light’s shock resistance by dropping it from a height of 3 feet onto a concrete floor with a single layer of cardboard.
Ease of Use
We test the activation and controls of the pistol light, including the on/off switch and mode selector, and assess its ease of use.
More on our testing process
Why Use A Pistol Light?
It seems fairly obvious, but the most direct benefit of a pistol light is low-light threat identification. That’s the reason they are used by law enforcement and the military…that much should be obvious and speaks for itself.
In addition, a bright-enough pistol light can temporarily blind an adversary – providing you with a tactical advantage in a heated moment.
Pistol lights also allow for you to maintain the use of both hands (vs. carrying a flashlight in your off-hand) providing maximum control & giving you another means of defending yourself at bad breath distances.
A pistol-mounted light also ensures your light source focuses directly in front of your firearm at all times, making them incredibly useful for beginners and new shooters.
What to Look for in a Quality Pistol Light
Before we get to the actual list of pistol light models, we need to talk a bit about how to choose one.
1. First, look at output
Believe it or not, lumens are not the best measurement of output but are, unfortunately, the most frequently used measurement of output.
Whenever possible, look for candela rating instead. Lumens are a measurement of the volume of light, but candela are a measurement of the intensity of light. In other words, more a 500-lumen light outputs more light than an 800-lumen option, but more candela means brighter light. You don’t need a 1,000-lumen model to get usefully bright light provided the candela rating is sufficient.
Also, consider hotspot and spill quality. The hotspot is the central area of the beam where the light is brightest and the most focused. It’s the part of the beam that provides the most illumination and allows for effective target identification. With a clear enough hotspot cone, in many self defense encounters, you don’t even need to aim — you just fire into the center of the light cone.
The spill, on the other hand, is the outer area of the beam that is less focused. It provides a wide field of illumination but is less intense than the hotspot. The spill is useful for situational awareness and for illuminating a wider area, but if the light is too bright, it can wash out the hotspot; too diffuse, and it’ll impact your ability to see outside of the hotspot altogether.
Look for a balance of both.
2. Next, the controls
Look for controls that can be easily activated or deactivated but offer some initial resistance. What you’re looking for is a light that you can easily turn on when you mean to, but isn’t easy to turn on by accident, such as when drawing or inserting your pistol and light into a holster.
It’s also a good idea to pick a light that can be activated by your trigger finger. It’s recommended that you try the light out in person BEFORE buying, or be ready to send one back if you can’t.
If you have to draw your gun in self-defense you may not have use of both hands. Many self-defense shootings occur at contact distance, and your support hand may be occupied.
Look for controls you can easily activate or deactivate with your draw hand. A WML that integrates controls you can easily activate with one hand means you can use your off-hand to do tasks deal with doors, windows, animals, or guiding others (like kids or elderly folks).
3. Do you want a strobe or alternate lighting feature?
A strobe function is a personal choice, but there’s little evidence that it gives you many advantages outside of anecdotes or idle conjecture. Unnecessary light functions also complicate the operation, which can slow response.
Strobe lights are more useful as a signaling device rather than simple illumination.
4. Integrated Lasers
Lasers, however, can be effective de-escalation tools – some refer to this as “red dot compliance.” Even with a light/laser combo, reflexive activation is key for defensive pistol use.
Just like all aspects of operating a pistol – you have to be smooth, quick, and turning it on should feel natural, otherwise, you’re just introducing delay.
When it comes to color – be it a red or green laser – it’s a matter of personal preference. A general truth about lasers is that a red dot is the most recognizable at a glance (especially if you’re in a situation which would make it difficult to use sights), which makes them an effective point shooting aid rather than as a precision sighting tool – and accuracy wins gunfights. We also cover pistol red dot sights if you’re interested in non-lighted sight options for your handgun.
5. Mounting System & Form Factor
The mounting system is also important, as a light that can only mount to specific pistols or requires something other than universal rail mounts is less than ideal.
Form factor is another criteria; a large pistol light on a compact or subcompact is self-defeating, while a mini light on a larger gun leaves illumination potential on the table. Strive for a balance of fit and size.
Also, if you plan on carrying a pistol outfitted with a light, the holster landscape becomes considerably more limited. If you’re outfitting a popular firearm (like a G17 or G19) with a popular light you’ll find slightly bulkier holsters on offer from Vedder, Falco, We the People, Bravo Concealment, and LAG Tactical, but as you get into less popular pistols your options winnow to near (of often to exactly) zero.
Look for a model with easily replaceable or rechargeable batteries. Dual-AA offers the most reliable power, while AAA configurations will reduce the unit size without requiring more specialized CR123 or CR123A batteries, which are not impossible to find, but not always easy.
Rechargeable lithium batteries will provide the best shelf life and avoid the swelling and leakage that can plague alkaline batteries – ruining your investment.
7. Weather & Water Resistance
Water and weather resistance are important to considerations – and are often features of higher-end models – but are less important than other criteria unless you plan to use your firearm outdoors or in inclement weather.
Ultimately, striking a balance of all these factors will yield the best experience for most people, and that’s what our list of pistol lights offers. Each has its own strong points, some will slide right into your CCW vest without issue while others are more suited for your bedside safe. As with anything in life, determine your top priorities and consider compromising on the rest.
Our Recommended Pistol Lights
1. OLIGHT Baldr RL Mini
A solid choice of compact light for concealed carry is the Olight Baldr RL Mini, which has an excellent balance of factors at sub-$150 asking price.
The Baldr Mini has a white light LED, producing 600 lumens and 4,225 candela’s and includes a green or red laser.
However, the runtime is only 40 minutes with the laser deactivated and only 30 minutes with the laser on. The push-button paddles are ambi, with constant or momentary on.
That said, it’s fairly impressive given the Baldr Mini RL has a 1.29-inch bezel, being only 2.24 inches in length, 1.41 inches in width, and weighing only 3 oz.
The mounting system is a QD clamp mount, with included adapters for Glock and Picatinny rail systems so it’s compatible with a huge array of pistols.
The battery is built-in but is a rechargeable lithium battery that should last for years.
Given the compact dimensions, it’ll be at home in both concealed carry and home defense applications.
Opportunities for improvement
Two things stand out as opportunities to improve the Baldr Mini RL: the runtime on the battery and the removal procedure once claimed. The clamp works well, but the tight tolerances vs. the rail width make removal a little awkward.
All in, given the other features and the modest asking price of around $130 or less from most retailers, it’s a solid light that has found a home on my pistols and PCC build.
2. Surefire X300 Ultra
The SureFire X300 Ultra is a lock for any list of best pistol lights. It’s a proven, rugged, reliable light, with a blisteringly high lumen output and a mount system that works with all picatinny rails.
Controls are logical; ambidextrous push-in paddles that are reachable for many users with the trigger finger. It can be programmed for momentary or constant-on function.
Peak output is 1000 lumens/11,300 candela, with a runtime of 1.25 hours on two 123A lithium batteries. It has a 1.125-inch bezel, overall length of 3.6 inches and total weight of 4 oz.
The SureFire X300 is a service pistol light; the bezel extends well over an inch past the muzzle of common service pistols like a Glock 17. However, holster support is excellent and they’re pretty affordable. MSRP is $299, but Amazon has them for just under $270.
The only drawback is the lack of dimming; the light is on or off and the runtime is rather short as a result. However, it’s solidly built, relatively affordable, and has everything you need and nothing you don’t.
3. Streamlight TLR-7/TLR-7A
The TLR-7 series is a compact pistol light, perfect for concealed carry guns as well as home defense handguns. It has better controls than the TLR-1’s paddles (which rotate downward and are hard to reach for those with short fingers) with side- or rear-mounted push-buttons.
The TLR-7 has side switches, and the TLR-7A has rear-mounted low- or tall-profile switch buttons. The rear-mounted switch housing adds to the overall length (2.58 in vs 2.15 in) and width (1.27 in vs 1.18 in) but not too badly.
Both lights feature a 500 lumens/5000 candela output, with a 1.5 hour runtime on a CR123A battery. A single push activates constant on, and holding the switch is the momentary feature, and there is strobe function. The clamp system attaches securely to any Picatinny rail.
Both retail for about $140 or less, depending on where you get it. Holster support is very decent, depending on the handgun you attach it to, and TLR is one of the most trusted names in the business.
While a longer run time would be preferable, the TLR-7 and TLR-7A are simple, affordable, and perfect for use on compact pistols.
4. Streamlight TLR-8 and TLR-8A
The TLR-8 and TLR-8A also bear mention here as they are the same light as the TLR-7 and TLR-7A, but with the addition of a red or green laser. Both are offered with either color, whichever is your preference.
Run time with laser is unchanged; 1.5 hours at 500 lumens/5000 candela.
Again, these are more suited to a concealed carry pistol, as neither will extend past the muzzle of a Glock 19 or comparably sized pistol. An excellent choice of weapon light.
5. OLight PL2 Mini Valkyrie
The Olight PL2 Mini Valkyrie is likewise a good choice for compact to subcompact pistols with a Picatinny rail mount.
It has a 1.26-inch bezel, and at 2.07 inches long by 1.28 inches wide, is very compact. The beam is an LED, but is closer to the blue light of an HD headlight than a white light beam. There is no strobe function. It produces 600 lumens but only 2500 candela, so it isn’t the brightest.
The PL2 Mini Valkryie has a QD mount system, making it very convenient to put on and take off. Holster support is very decent, depending on what firearm you mount it to.
Battery life is not impressive at only 60 minutes runtime from the proprietary battery. The good news is that it’s rechargeable via magnetic USB cable, but the bad news is that you can’t quickly swap it for fresh batteries if need be.
Could you get better? In terms of features, sure…but not for $80, which is about what they go for. If you needed a pistol light, but couldn’t necessarily spend half what most pistols cost on the light…it’s a pretty solid option.
6. Nightstick TCM-550XL
Another solid pick for the budget-conscious is the Nightstick TCM-550XL, almost the same as the TLR-7/7A/8/8A in size and output…but often found for around half the purchase price or slightly.
It fits compact pistols, and won’t protrude past the muzzle of Glock 19/S&W M&P 2.0 Compact, etc.
The mounting system is the same; it attaches to any standard rail system via a locking screw.
Power comes from a CR123 battery, light from a Cree LED. Output is 550 lumens and 4,612 candela with a 2.5-hour runtime. A slightly less intense white light (that’s about 10 percent less intensity vs the TLR-7/TL-8), but you get it for a lot longer.
The controls are dead logical, with ambidextrous push-in paddles on the rear of the housing. You tap for constant on, hold for momentary on. You can choose the standard model which lacks it, the model with strobe function, and Nightstick now makes a model with a red or green laser.
The tricky part is finding a holster, as Nightstick unfortunately enjoys less cachet amongst the holster companies, but more are coming around. An excellent choice for concealed carry or home defense.
7. Crimson Trace Lightguard
Crimson Trace specializes in serving the sometimes underserved by making a series of lights for specific makes and models of pistol. The Lightguard series is made for specific subcompact pistols, which are (of course) the concealed carry pistol du jour.
This is important as these guns lack a standard rail, so a gun-specific mounting system has to be developed. Currently, the Lightguard is offered for the M&P ShieldSpringfield XD-S and 26/27/33 pistols. While not a light, Crimson Trace also offers shotgun-specific “Saddle” laser sights for Remington and Mossberg shotguns if you’re looking to outfit your favorite tactical or pump shotgun with some additional hardware.
Specs vary by model, but the output is around 100 lumens (depending) of white light, with a 1 hour run time on two 1/3N batteries, which you may want to stock up on as they’ll be tough to find in stores. Controls are simple on/off buttons on the side of the light housing.
They aren’t the most seamless looking, but for some handguns, the Lightguard may be your only option – and having a functional pistol light is better than having none at all. Plus they’re only about $100 in most cases, so they won’t break the bank.
8. Nightstick TWM-850XL
The full-size companion to the 550XL and — much like the TLR-1 vs the TLR-7/TLR-8 — the TWM-850XL offers more light but a larger footprint, making it more of a duty or home defense light than concealed carry friendly.
The white light LED produces 850 lumens or 15,000 candela, less than the TLR-1 HL but more than the standard TLR-1. Runtime on two CR123 lithium batteries is 1.75 hours, which is pretty generous for the output.
The bezel is 1.2 inches in diameter, and overall dimensions are 3.75 inches long by 1.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches in depth, with weight at 5.4 ounces. It’s a bit heavy, but is durable with a 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum housing.
Controls are TLR-like, with two rotating buttons at the back, with momentary or constant on function. A second model, the 850XLS, adds strobe function. It fits standard rails and includes adapter kits for popular proprietary rail systems.
Holster support is better than one might think, and the 850XL can be found online for less than $90. That’s a lot of light for the money.
9. Surefire TLR-1 Tactical Light
The Streamlight TLR-1, along with the Surefire X400, is the standard by which other pistol lights are judged. It isn’t perfect, but it’s head and shoulders above many other options.
The 1.47-inch bezel produces a wide white light beam. The standard model produces 300 lumens/12,000 candela, the TLR-1S adds strobe function, and the TLR-1 HL bumps output to 1,000 lumens and 20,000 candela.
The TLR-1 and TLR-1S have 2 hours run time, the TLR-1 just 1 hour of regulated run time and you’ll hit 10 percent battery at 1.5 hours.
The mounting system is compatible with all Picatinny rails, with tool-less adjustment to dial it in. It also fits proprietary rails such as Glock, Beretta 90two, select Smith and Wesson and others, with the included rail key.
Controls are ambidextrous toggles on the back of the housing, with momentary, constant on and strobe function. On a full-size gun, the paddles can be hard to reach with the shooting hand, so support-hand operation may be required for some users.
It’s big, however, at 3.39 inches long, 1.47 inches wide and 4.32 oz in weight, with onboard power coming from two CR123A batteries. The bezel extends past the muzzle on basically everything except maybe a longslide 1911…so it’s not great for compacts. I found that it added noticeable weight to the front of my pistol.
Holster support is generous, as it’s literally the most popular pistol light there is. Again, not perfect…but it’ll do until perfect shows up, and since prices start at just under $150… you can’t get one that’s much better.
10. Surefire X400
The Surefire X400, along with the TLR-1, is one of the standards by which other weapon lights are judged. It is rugged, reliable, and proven on long guns and handguns.
The X400 has a white light LED with a 1,000-lumen output (11,300 candela) with a 1.25-hour runtime on two 123A batteries. It comes with your choice of red laser or green laser, as well as your choice of a focused 1.125-in diameter (X400U) or wider 1.25-in diameter (X400UH) bezel.
It’s more suited to use on duty handguns rather than pocket pistols or carry compacts; dimensions are 3.6 inches long by 1.25 inches wide, and weight is 4.9 oz with an anodized aluminum housing. The light also includes a remote switch system, as it’s fine for double-duty on a long gun.
Controls are ambidextrous push toggles, with momentary on or constant on function. It fits standard rails and includes adapters for proprietary rail systems. Holster selection ranges depending on what gun; popular service pistols are easily accommodated.
The X400 is certainly a worthy investment – but invest you must – as MSRP is a stout $599. However, if you want a bullet-proof light that works on multiple platforms, you won’t go wrong.
- Shine Retrofits, Lumen vs. Candela, April 3, 2014
- Swindon Advisor, Tom Seaward, Taser use by Wiltshire Police officers doubles, January 5, 2020
- Brian Marshall, The Case for Laser Sighting, June 30, 2019
March 15, 2023 — Following a comprehensive reassessment of this guide our current pistol light recommendations stand. We’ve updated images and links where appropriate.
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