Importance of Being Picky
When darkness surrounds you and suddenly the world suddenly becomes a much smaller place, you have to be able to depend on the light on your weapon.
The AR-15 as a platform is incredibly modular, but it’s only as good as its weakest piece. The last thing you need is your light to flick off the first shot you fire.
The AR-15 is used for a variety of roles, including hunting and self-defense. In both situations, you are going to need to depend on the light on your weapon.
- When hunting it means the difference between going home with a new trophy, or watching an animal’s butt escape into the brush.
- In a tactical situation, it could literally be the difference between life and death.
Not all lights are made equal and when things go bump in the night you want to be able to bump back without worrying about your light.
With a high quality, well built, and easy to use weapon light you can keep bumping back.
Alternatively, you can pick up a low-quality model and bet your life on it.
If you’ve selected the AR-15 platform as your chosen rifle you are likely wanting something that can keep up with your gun.
You’ll need a light that keeps on ticking when you’re putting a lot of rounds downrange. The last thing you want is for the world to go dark when you need light the most.
To help you be picky we’ve put together a how-to guide for choosing a weapon light for your AR-15 rifle.
No matter your specific situation, you’ll need to consider a few key factors to end up with the best AR-15 light for your needs.
What’s Your Rifle’s Purpose?
This is the biggest consideration you’ll need to make when choosing a weapon light for your AR-15. What is your rifle being used for? This will determine the type of light, the power you need, as well as the overall price and design influence.
A rifle designed for home defense has different considerations than a rifle made for tactical applications. The same could be said for a rifle made for hunting.
Some lights will work well in multiple scenarios, but you should always take the rifle’s main purpose into account.
A rifle designed for home defense doesn’t need a superbly powerful light.
Using a flashlight indoors can be tricky. If it’s too powerful and it’s spitting too many lumens you are going to compromise your own vision. The reflections off surfaces can be a major hassle.
For primarily indoors use I’d advise you to go with something between 60 and 200 lumens. You’ll also want complete control over the weapon light with a pressure pad.
You’ll also want a wide beam to maximize your peripheral vision. The wider the beam, the better the chance you’ll have of disorienting multiple opponents as well.
A hunting light needs to maximize its lumens count to ensure you have a long, and focused beam of light. You want a light that’s super bright, so you can see camouflaged creatures in the dark.
You’ll also likely be hunting out to a hundred yards and you’ll need that extra light range. Having a pressure pad momentary on and off, and a strobe mode isn’t necessary.
Tactical users want to maximize the life of their light on a single set of batteries. This means they may have a larger overall light to fit additional batteries or the batteries being used are bigger and more powerful.
They face some of the same concerns as hunters and need to maximize power output as well. Most tactical guns will need a filter option for when the user moves indoors.
With both hunting and tactical lights, you want to maximize your reach with the beam and the intensity to extend the blinding effect to longer ranges.
The brightness level of your flashlight is measured via lumens. Flashlights range in lumens anywhere from 60 which is pretty low all the way to 800, which is quite blinding.
There are weapon lights that can, of course, get even brighter, but these are special cases. As we talked about above brighter isn’t always better.
In some situations, 60 to 100 lumens is absolutely perfect, especially indoors. Fewer lumens means fewer reflections, which helps you remain comfortable.
Outdoors you can maximize your lumens to spot specific targets, and even blind opponents. Outdoors anywhere from 300 to 800 lumens is going to light up your life, and the potential jungle around you.
Lumens is one measurement, candela is another, equally important measurement to remember.
Candela is the intensity of the light. It is the light source being emitted in one direction. It is what separates a spread out beam from a concentrated one.
One of the biggest downsides to having a high lumen count is the drain on batteries. A high lumen count is going to drain your batteries dry in just a few hours. So, to get a long battery life you’ll need more batteries, which means a larger light.
All About Batteries
Speaking of batteries, you’ll need to make the decision between rechargeable and disposable systems. Rechargeable batteries are often built into the flashlights and they do have a certain level of convenience to them.
The downside is that when they die they are dead. There are no easy means to swap batteries on the fly.
Disposable batteries mean you can keep the light going as long as you got the batteries. The downside, of course, being once the batteries are dead you’re up a creek without a flashlight.
Rechargeable batteries at least give you the ability to ultimately keep using your flashlight.
Battery type is also a consideration if you are on a tight budget.
- Double and Triple-A batteries, as well as CR123s, are actually pretty cheap.
- Proprietary batteries are often expensive, as well as odd batteries like CR2s.
When researching a potential weapon light make sure you research the batteries it takes. As well as the runtime the light has a full charge of batteries.
Durability vs Weight
When it comes to durability and weight you have to make some compromises. The more durable the flashlight the heavier it tends to be. Metal materials like aluminum are extremely strong but often weigh substantially more than polymers.
Aluminum is strong and durable and can be easily waterproofed. However, when you mix aluminum with a high lumens light, and the batteries to power it you’ll end up with a heavy light.
Polymers aren’t as strong as aluminum is, but they tend to be easier to waterproof. Modern polymer materials can be quite rugged, as proven by the Streamlight TLR 3.
These rugged polymers are often impact resistant and more affordable. However, when it comes to shear strength though aluminum is going to be the winner.
Hunters would likely to prefer to keep their weapon’s lightweight, and would likely aim for a lower weight weapon light. Home defenders won’t likely mind weight due to the short period of time they’d be using their weapon.
Now, tactical users can go either way depending on their mission set.
Controls and Options
The AR-15 is a modular rifle that allows you to mount a light just about anywhere you want. With that in mind, you have to ask yourself how much modularity means to you.
A weapon light that comes equipped or can be fitted with a pressure switch allows you to really pick and choose where the light is mounted.
A pressure switch is simply an on button mounted to a wire that can be positioned wherever the shooter naturally grips the weapon.
Without a pressure switch, you have to position the weapon light in an area where you can reach with your hand.
When it comes to flashlight options you should consider the different modes the flashlight has. A standard light beam is one thing, but alternatives are always nice to have.
Momentary mode, for example, allows a user to quickly flash an area, which is often used in tactical situations to quickly scan the room. This allows you to avoid making yourself a target by keeping your light on.
Another mode is strobe which can be used to temporarily blind an opponent and render them temporarily disoriented.
The above features are important for the tactical user and home defenders, but not so much for hunters or recreational shooters. Hunters may want a light that can utilize filters over the beam.
This allows them to turn the light different colors like red to maintain night vision and blue to spot the blood of bleeding game.
Get some advice on where to attach the weapon light from the video below.
The Light Equipped AR
Tossing a light on your AR-15 allows you to dominate the darkness and own the night. It’s always important to remember that purpose-driven weapon lights are the only way to go.
A Maglite in a scope ring is not a weapon light. Use the guide above to research and sniff out the perfect weapon light for you and your gun.