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Thread: What makes a light "tactical"?

  1. #1

    Default What makes a light "tactical"?

    I read a lot about "tactical" flashlights and "tactical" use of a flashlight, but it's not clear to me quite what this means.

    I just got an Inova 24/7, and the instructions show how it can be put on a headband, providing "tactical mobility". Now, that sounds pretty important, but I never really thought of walking into the woods to take a leak or squatting beside the car to change a tire as "tactical mobility". Must be, though.

    In reading comments about "tactical" use, it sounds like this might mean shining the light in an attacker's eyes rather than taking some more physical action or, say, spraying some pepper spray in his face, or running away. Is shining a light in someone's face considered to be a "tactical" act? Why is it called that? Or does it mean that it can be used for bonking somebody over the head, or something else? Do I, a civilian, non-cop type person do anything "tactical" that I might need a "tactical" light for? Do I have to pack a Glock and a couple of spare clips along with the lights to be "tactical"?

    And what makes a light "tactical"? I see everything from cheap Coast lights to super Surefires advertised as "tactical". How do you tell? Is there some minimum weight or brightness requirement, or is simple overpricing sufficient to qualify a light? Can you use a non-"tactical" light "tactically"? Can you use a "tactical" light non-"tactically"?

    This is really complicated. Please help!

    c_c

  2. #2

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    from what I read and my understanding, tactical isa minimum of 65 lumens..., may also have other meanings to other people, depending on needs, such as weapon mountable, strobe, etc, etc

  3. #3
    Flashaholic* Jumpmaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    "Tactical" (to me) is primarily a marketing tool -- a buzzword -- used by manufacturers (of all sorts of things) to get people to buy their stuff that usually doesn't really mean anything. Some manufacturers would call their flashlight "tactical" because it's black. It's stupid.

    With respect to flashlights, I had the good fortune to hear directly from PK what it means as far as Surefire is concerned, but don't have time to detail it at the moment...I'll try to do that later though...one of the things was brightness and another was a momentary tailcap switch. I really cannot explain it nearly as well as he did though.

    JM-99

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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Curious_character
    I never really thought of walking into the woods to take a leak or squatting beside the car to change a tire as "tactical mobility".
    FTR, military folks pee and change tires, often on the same trip (or "deployment").

    :-P

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* Stingray's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    To me, a tactical light is a light made to be used when the possibility of confronting an enemy or a hostile person (known or unknown) is present. All this talk in other threads about whether the strobe feature on the small EDC lights qualifies as tactical or not is ridiculous. It's a useful feature IMO and I like it on those lights for other reasons, but those lights were never intended to be tac lights. A tactical light is normally used to locate and identify (and maybe disorient) the enemy, to aim a weapon, to flash and move in close quarters combat, and for a variety of other circumstances. Normally 60 lumens in a useful pattern is considered sufficient and a momentary tailswitch (if it's a separate handheld) is considered optimum. It's generally used in conjunction with a weapon and not as a weapon itself. A Surefire 6P is a good tactical light, one of the first, but it's also a good general use flashlight as well. Many tactical lights are good flashlights too, but most flashlights are not good tactical lights due to the switching, size and power level.
    Last edited by Stingray; 01-04-2007 at 12:53 AM.

  6. #6
    Flashaholic ynggrsshppr's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Just a wild guess, but I would say tactical means that you could hold and operate the light easily in one hand while holding a gun in the other.

  7. #7

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ynggrsshppr
    Just a wild guess, but I would say tactical means that you could hold and operate the light easily in one hand while holding a gun in the other.
    Hey, that's cool. I bought a three-LED, 3-AAA light at the Dollar Store the other day for, of course, one dollar. It has a push button switch on the barrel like a full-size Mag, and it's easy to operate with one hand. I haven't tried it with a gun in the other hand, but don't see any reason it should interfere with it. So that's gotta be one of the cheapest "tactical" lights you can get.

    Or do you have to spray paint it black to make it qualify?

    c_c

  8. #8

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vickers
    FTR, military folks pee and change tires, often on the same trip (or "deployment").

    :-P
    So the troop is being "tactically mobile" on his way to the latrine, but I'm not. Makes sense.

    So what do I have to do to be "tactically mobile"? Hope I don't have to enlist again. Been there, done that, have the fatigue shirt.

    c_c

  9. #9

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    I would say a "tactical" light is one which allows the use of some tactic.

    For example:

    You can use the Gladius' strobe to move in on an opponent without them being fully able to track you. You use that tactic (strobing them to deny vision) to accomplish your goal.

    You can use a red photon freedom on its very lowest setting to adjust your rifle scope to take a long shot. The tactic is use of very dim light of a color that is hard to observe.

    You can use your infrared setting on your Kroma Milspec and your handy-dandy night vision goggles to sneak around in an unlit building at night.

    And so on . . .

    You can see that "tactical" is a perfectly valid descriptor for certain flashlights, but its meaning is so broad that it becomes almost meaningless. Or more often, rediculous. Below is a tactical espresso maker:









    source: http://www.snipershide.com/ubb/ultim...c;f=4;t=005843

    Scott

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    Last edited by beezaur; 01-04-2007 at 01:27 AM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by beezaur
    I would say a "tactical" light is one which allows the use of some tactic.

    For example:

    You can use the Gladius' strobe to move in on an opponent without them being fully able to track you. You use that tactic (strobing them to deny vision) to accomplish your goal.

    You can use a red photon freedom on its very lowest setting to adjust your rifle scope to take a long shot. The tactic is use of very dim light of a color that is hard to observe.

    You can use your infrared setting on your Kroma Milspec and your handy-dandy night vision goggles to sneak around in an unlit building at night.

    And so on . . .

    You can see that "tactical" is a perfectly valid descriptor for certain flashlights, but its meaning is so broad that it becomes almost meaningless. . .
    Ok, I think I've got it now. My objective is to find where the ants are getting into the house, and my tactic is to shine the light in the corners until I see the path. So I'm using the light "tactically" and, as long as I can use it with one hand while holding my .44 Mag in the other, and it's black, it's also a "tactical" light.

    Cool. My $1 flashlight is "tactical" and I can use it "tactically" around the house.

    Thanks for all the illumination. Now I can converse intelligently with all the other good folks on this forum. I hate to use words I don't know the meaning of, but now that I have a solid understanding of the meaning, I can toss off "tactical" with the best of 'em.

    Hey, I picked up this neat tactical flashlight at the Dollar Store! Anybody interested? Not tested with a gun in the other hand, but I'll refund your money if it causes any tactical weapons problems. . .

    c_c

  11. #11
    Flashaholic bones_708's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Surefire pretty much set the standard for a tactical light and most people in the "business" or several different "businesses" have taken those standards and now use them independently of brands. When you mention a tactical light the general expected standard would be

    min brightness of 60 lumen or more
    single hand operation
    intermittent operation
    tailcap operated

    While many people use tactical for marketing and in many different way if you were going to take a pistol class and needed a "tactical" light those would be the standards expected.

  12. #12

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    I should add that a "tactical" light's construction should be rugged. Typically reliability and durability are prerequisites for the tactical label.

    Scott

  13. #13
    Flashaholic* LEDcandle's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Tactical to us consumers probably means 'stealth' and also enabling some kind of stealthy maneuvers. Like black coating to prevent light reflection, bright light + strobe to blind opponents, easy operation with one hand etc...

    Actually, using the term tactical just makes things more military-like and people love military stuff.

    Yes, I believe you can use a non-tactical light tactically though it isn't the best choice. Like using the new orange Lumaray during a night raid. It works fine, provides light and stuff, but leaks out light from its body which will give away your position. That's why you want something that is more concealed and can emit 0.5 lumens of light for you to look at a map or something.

    In reverse, using a Gladius to check out your PC isn't tactical but it still works. Though the tactical Gladius would be a great light to use in the first example.

  14. #14
    *Flashaholic* Illum's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    black, professional looking, simple design, durable....and without all the fancy stuff like big decals or compass in tailcap that kind of thing

    usually very high output, not the typical flashlight

  15. #15

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    its all about the money dude! gc.
    'Whatever you do to the least of my torches, you do to me'

  16. #16

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    OK. So if that's a "tactical light," what's a strategic light?

  17. #17
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Forget all the hype about tactical this and tactical that, tactical is the use an item may be put to, not the item itself.

    Function: adjective
    1 : of or relating to combat tactics : as a (1) : of or occurring at the battlefront <a tactical defense> <a tactical first strike> (2) : using or being weapons or forces employed at the battlefront <tactical missiles> b of an air force : of, relating to, or designed for air attack in close support of friendly ground forces
    2 a : of or relating to tactics : as (1) : of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose (2) : made or carried out with only a limited or immediate end in view b : adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose

    There is NO such thing as a tactical item, anyone hyping a product as tactical is full of well you know, they simply want to sell their product.

    Any item can be used in a tactical situation, some items may be more or less suited to that use is all. Tactical is the mind, not the item. With this in mind, a "tactical flashlight" may be, depending upon the need, be a very low powered highly focused light, a bright floody weapons light, an infrared light, the uses and options are as varied as the situations that may crop up. Therefore no single flashlight can be "tactical" unless it is used specifically in a tactical situation. It is the actual use that makes it temporarily tactical.

    Ok, sorry will get off my soap box now.
    Last edited by Lee1959; 03-19-2007 at 05:17 PM.
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    Flashaholic* TorchBoy's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Curious_character
    Or do you have to spray paint it black to make it qualify?
    No, I think pink tactical lights are quite acceptable if you're a girl. And camo has got to be OK for guys.

    Edit: Nice post Lee.
    Last edited by TorchBoy; 03-20-2007 at 04:34 AM.
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  19. #19

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    What makes a light "tactical"?

    Answer: Apart from being blindingly bright >100+ lumens, & having the switch on the tail... a tactical light MUST implement a "normal clickie" switching mechanism, such as those found on Maglite switches. It's also known as "Forward Clickie".. basically it means you can lightly press the button and there will be instant light. It's crucial for momentary signalling operation (tactical), and IMHO is the best & most intuitive way to operate a flashlight today. All Surefire lights are Forward Clickie as well as most American brands. They are tactical lights.

    However, ALL Chinese flashlights are REVERSE Clicky. This is a big NO-NO for tactical users as the light can't be used for momentary signaling. It is very counter-intuitive since you must fully depress the switch and then let go for light activation. It also emits loud sound when you 'click' the light on.
    FENIX, LUMAPOWER, HUNTLIGHT, JETBEAM, ULTRAFIRE, REXLIGHT, LITEFLUX, DEALEXTREME are ALL reverse clickies.. that's why I can never buy Chinese lights until they resolve this problem. Here's the full list of these Chinese culprits:

    http://candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=150086

    To sum it up, Tactical lights must
    1. 100+ Lumens
    2. Switch Mounted on tail end.
    3. MUST IMPLEMENT 'Forward Clickie' (ie Normal clickie)
    4. All Chinese lights DON'T qualify for tactical uses. (ie law enforcement, military, or protecting your home from invasion - since the loud click will give away your position to an attacker)

    P.S By 'tactical' I mean a light that's used in potential combat situations against a human attacker. This is the main purpose that people are fulfilling after when they want a tactical light, and is ultimately what we're talking about here.

    Last edited by xiaowenzu; 03-20-2007 at 05:04 AM.

  20. #20
    Flashaholic* Blindasabat's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Curious_character
    or is simple overpricing sufficient to qualify a light? Can you use a non-"tactical" light "tactically"? Can you use a "tactical" light non-"tactically"?
    Ha ha ha ha

  21. #21

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    I would add that the ability (shape, design, shockproof) to be used as a mounted weapon light should be part of the (combat) "tactical" definition.
    "You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
    Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light." -- Roger Waters, Shine On You Crazy Diamond

  22. #22

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Curious_character
    And what makes a light "tactical"?
    Marketing.

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* sysadmn's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Curious_character
    I read a lot about "tactical" flashlights and "tactical" use of a flashlight, but it's not clear to me quite what this means.

    And what makes a light "tactical"?

    c_c
    The Marketing Department.

    I'm just waiting for the "Strategic" lights. Qualified for use in B-2s? Capable of being strapped to a cruise missile? Just the thing to shine in a diplomat's eyes during negotiations?
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    Flashaholic* 2xTrinity's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Another one that I will list is that a tactical flashlgiht will usually have a well concentrated, "stealthy" beam. A lot of Surefire's LED flashlights for example use Total Internal Reflection lenses to concentrate all of the light into a beam, without spill, which might give away ones position. For the sake of an everyday carry light, or a practical light though, I actually prefer more of a flood light -- the typical Cree LED pattern is quite useful IMO -- tight centered hotspot, with ridiculously bright spill for providing peripheral vision. Great for looking for dropped items, not so great in that you can easily give away position in a combat situation with such a wide flood light, or create irritating glare for others around.

    a tactical light MUST implement a "normal clickie" switching mechanism, such as those found on Maglite switches. It's also known as "Forward Clickie".. basically it means you can lightly press the button and there will be instant light.
    I agree that this is something I'd like to see more of. Simple one-mode flashlights should all use forward clicky IMO. A lot of the Chinese lights use reverse clicky as it's easier to implement a two level resistor switch, or use with a computerized UI, such as Fenix or Rexlight.

    Any sort of multilevel light with electronics, tactical or otherwise, should use a capacitive switch IMO -- similar to a key on a keyboard, or the button used on the Photon Freedom. With one of those, the switch itself is not actually completing the circuit, so it can be designed to be absolutely quiet, to accept mutliple consecutive clicks, or to do things like "click and hold" for dimming. (A hard "lockout" switch somewhere else on the light, or perhaps a twisty for lockout to prevent accidental turn-on is a good idea with this type of switch) Also, there are no mechanical components to wear out/break. It should be easy to extend such a system to work with external controls such as gun mounted switches as well.
    Last edited by 2xTrinity; 03-20-2007 at 02:22 PM.

  25. #25
    Banned cutlerylover's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    I always thought a light had to have 2 thing to make it tactical...more than 65 lumens (surefires standard for tactical) and some kind of impact device, normally a bezel with soem kind of points or jagged edges on it by design...just my opinion...

  26. #26
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by enLIGHTenment
    Marketing.
    Spot on...

  27. #27
    Flashaholic* sysadmn's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Quote Originally Posted by beezaur
    I would say a "tactical" light is one which allows the use of some tactic.


    You can see that "tactical" is a perfectly valid descriptor for certain flashlights, but its meaning is so broad that it becomes almost meaningless. Or more often, rediculous. Below is a tactical espresso maker:

    Remind me not to ask for the double shot.
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  28. #28
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    Ohgeez Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Your intent!

    Maybe we should start our own "non-tactical" group.

    We'll call ourselves "CPFers for the ethical treatment of flashlights."

    Flashlights don't kill people. People talking on cellphones while driving kill people!!!

  29. #29

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    I have a tactical maglite,its a 6D.trust me,if i hit some one...there down!! bright as well

  30. #30

    Default Re: What makes a light "tactical"?

    Since I actually use "tactical" lights on a daily basis while employing "tactics" I feel mildly qualified to comment on this.

    As previously mentioned "tactical" is a marketing term. It means if all you do is sit behind a computer screen in camo boxers, then you HAVE to buy this item!!

    For quite a few years in the Marine Corps my "tactical" light was a AA Mag with a red filter, and a small red LED keychain light. For real field work a light needs to be able to put out just enough to read a map with it 2" away from your nose without alerting enemy recon units (that might have NVG's) to your presence. I had little use for a light capable of blinding an opponent. If he was close enough to "blind" then he was more than close enough to shoot. I needed something that was easy on batteries and lightweight. Durability is a primary concern. In the field the light was generally used more for briefing teams and comm tasks than for "tactical" patrolling.

    I do realize that military tactics have changed and the vast majority of our current conflict has to do with MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain). A weaponlight is crucial to operating in windowless buildings in broad daylight. Your eyes cannot adjust fast enough from bright desert sun to dark rooms. In this environment, a "tactical" light can give you an edge by illuminating your target and blinding you opponent who's eyes have hopefully adapted to the dark.

    In a Police role a "tactical" light would be one that allows you to identify suspects and weapons easily. The "blinding" effect of the light is desirable because you want to be able to disorient suspects without actually causing them physical harm. A prime example would be using all the white light available from a police cruiser to blind the occupants of a motor vehicle prior to the officer approaching. Since the suspects are blinded they could not possible acquire a target should their intention be to harm the officer.

    When you start identifying individual features that make a light "tactical" you are giving in to the marketing hype.

    Identify what "tactics" you employ. Then determine what features would compliment those tactics.
    Last edited by LoneWolfUSMC; 03-22-2007 at 06:03 PM.

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