When I first started in law enforcement, everyone on my department carried a Maglite, which was the standard at the time and needed three D-cell batteries to power it. They were awesome for breaking out windows and using as a baton, but at a meek 80 lumens, they really were awful lights. Eventually, some of us began to switch to the new LED versions, which were far better and — providing around double the lumens of light output — actually almost functioned as a flashlight. Although these lights were not the brightest, they were seemingly indestructible and the batteries lasted forever (around 80 hours).
Technology has come a long way. Today, the choices are more varied. With more options for lighter and brighter versus durable with a long runtime, you can decide on the best tool for you based on your patrol or tactical needs. Based on runtime, lumens and size, you have several great options when it comes to selecting the right light for your belt.
LED flashlights today have different modes ranging from two to three hours of runtime up to 24 hours of runtime. You can pay a little more and get a device that really packs a punch with 1,500 lumens for three and a half hours — you can even opt for a rechargeable battery! Of course, the runtime will vary on the lumens you get, but the options are still out there. Size matters, too. Some of these powerful lights are as small as 5.6 inches, though you might pay a little more for that compactness. Streamlight, SureFire, Modlite and Fenix are all reliable brands that have great selections for law enforcement needs.
Here, I’ve listed the standout from each company so you can select a great option for yourself based on your needs.
SureFire has a popular offering in the Fury DFT 1500. It runs on a single 18650 rechargeable battery or two CR123 batteries and produces an impressive 1,500 lumens for three and a half hours. It is much smaller than other lights, measuring at only 5.6 inches. Although SureFire has a solid reputation of offering outstanding products, the biggest downside to this product is the price tag at $200.
Streamlight has a great option in the Stinger 2020. It is slightly longer at 7.67 inches; however, it is brighter at an impressive 2,000 lumens. Even while blazing that out, the Stinger 2020 still boasts a two-hour runtime. The Stinger 2020 also has two additional modes of operation that offer 850 lumens, which is plenty bright for the vast majority of law enforcement applications, with a runtime of four hours and a 100-lumen mode for administrative tasks, which allows for an unbelievable 24-hour runtime. The Stinger 2020 also has a strobe function that runs for three and a quarter hours. These runtimes are achieved by a USB rechargeable battery pack. Although the battery pack is new, it is still compatible with Stinger chargers, or it may be charged outside of the light with a USB cable.
There are a couple newcomers to the game of law enforcement gear coming in at both the high and low ends of the pricing scale. At the high end is Modlite. Their most popular handheld light is currently the PLHv2. It is similar in size to the SureFire and Streamlight offerings at 5.37 inches long and weighing only 5.4 ounces. This light produces approximately 1,350 lumens for a runtime of one hour and 15 minutes. It runs on a single 18650 cell and is not capable of accepting CR123 batteries. This light will cost you around $300. That’s a lot to a guy like me … you decide if it’s worth it.
Another manufacturer is Fenix, which has gained popularity in the law enforcement community over the course of the last few years. They have the PD35 V2.0. This light is similar in size and weight to all three of the above-mentioned lights, at 5.43 inches long and 4.9 ounces. On its highest setting, it is capable of producing 1,000 lumens for three hours. Like the Streamlight, it has other modes of operation including 350 lumens for five hours, 150 lumens for 12 hours, 50 lumens for 29 hours and a ridiculously low map-reading setting of just 3 lumens for 430 hours. It runs on either a single 18650 battery or two CR123 batteries. This is the cheapest included and can be found for around $70.
All of these make great lights for any law enforcement officer. There are many different roles within our job and certain lights may be better for certain roles. For my particular use as a patrol officer on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, I am primarily concerned with output and runtime. Although, I have always been a proponent of the saying, “You get what you pay for.” Do your due diligence and get the right tool for the job.