9 Best Pistol Lights of 2023 [Hands-On Review]

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Want to be sure of your target? Even in the dark?

Yup…that’s probably why you’re looking for the best pistol/handgun light.

Well…we’ve been shooting with a bunch of different lights for a really long time. The oldest one up there is 8 years old with 5k+ rounds through it.

So we know what works from a reliability standpoint. Plus, we’ll show the light patterns indoors and out.

By the end, you’ll know the perfect light for your budget and purpose.

THE QUICK LIST

Why a Pistol Light?

You always want to make sure of your target (remember the 4 Firearm Safety Rules), and unless you have some sweet night-vision goggles…you’ll want a flashlight when it’s dark.

Sure, you can go with a handheld light (check our Best Tactical Flashlights), but a mounted pistol light is already attached and gives you two hands-free with a strong grip.

Plus, it gives the front of your handgun a little more heft, which reduces muzzle flip.

What to Look For

First off…is reliability. You really tend to get what you pay for in flashlights, and you want something that has an impeccable reputation. Unfortunately, that means you’re probably going to start from the $100 mark.

The second is lumens. It’s a measure of how bright the light is, and recently there’s been a push toward the maximum possible.

Sounds great…and many instructors say that a flashlight will incapacitate a bad guy or make them run away. Our take is that it might blind them momentarily…but a determined attacker will still be able to get you.

Another thing about going too high on lumens. If it really blinds the attacker…chances are that it will blind you too, especially if you’re mostly going to be indoors with light-colored walls.

That’s my personal use case, so I prefer 200-400 lumens. But I’ve had police instructors who advocate 800-lumen lights that are great for outdoor work.

Lastly are spread pattern, size, and activation methods. I’ll cover these as we go over individual lights.

Now let’s get on with it!

Best Pistol Lights

1. Streamlight TLR-1

The TLR-1 is my personal favorite and what I recommend to friends. And it is what sits on my home-defense Glock 17.

Good size for compact and full-size handguns. Intuitive and ambidextrous toggle levers for both momentary on and stay-on.

Sits in the perfect zone of lumens with 300, which is enough to light up everything I need, but not so much that I blind myself. You get cool colored light with a center focus. Here are some examples:

And outdoors…it has a good center focus with decent side lighting.

Hasn’t failed in 2000 rounds, and my other Streamlight TLR-2s (up next) has held up for 8+ years. Eventually, I switched from the 2s to the 1 since I wanted something with a smaller profile, and I moved the 2s with the laser onto my night shoot rifle.

Installation is very easy with some rail inserts for different handguns.

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 300
  • Runtime: 2.5 hours
  • Batteries: 2 CR123A
  • Weight: 4 oz

And, of course, I won’t forget the high-lumen folks.

The TLR-1 HL (actually more popular) has a face-melting 1000 lumens if that’s what you prefer.

I’ve been running with this one more often now, and the 1000 lumens is growing on me. Here’s me using it in a recent night competition.

Highly recommend it as well if you want a brighter light.

2. Streamlight TLR-2

The kinda big bro to the Streamlight TLR-1…my TLR-2s has a laser; the “s” designates strobe function. Since I got it so long ago, the new naming convention takes away the “s” but still retains the function.

Like the TLR-1… a good length for compact and full-sized guns. A little taller because of the laser. Same intuitive toggle system.

After 7 years of faithful service on my Glock 17…it now lives on my Stag Arms 9mm AR-15, specifically for night matches.

Beam spread should be close to the TLR-1 for new versions. My old one has a pretty dirty lens.

And outside, you can see the laser, which is pretty visible even on glass.

I found the laser to stay within 2 MOA of where you zeroed it. Perfect for self-defense against man-sized targets, but if you’re shooting clays for competition at 50 yards, I would count on regular sights (Best AR-15 Optics & Scopes).

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Specifications:

  • Lumens: 300
  • Runtime: 2.5 hours, Laser Only: 48 hours
  • Batteries: 2 CR123A
  • Weight: 6.4 oz

Want a higher-lumen version? They’ve got the TLR-2 HL. And also a “G” model for a green laser. More visible, but you’ll have to shell out a little more.

3. Streamlight TLR-7 and TLR-8

I really like Streamlight. The two I use all the time (I also have a high-powered one for rifles) have never failed.

Streamlight sent me their two newer offerings catered towards compact handguns.

The TLR-7A (regular) and TLR-8A (laser) are the two shortest ones above which make them a perfect fit on compact guns like the Glock 19.

Streamlight redesigned the TLR-7A and TLR-8A to have newer rear switch options to make actuating the light easier. Pushing and holding activates the light, and it deactivates when you let go. While pressing it once with purpose activates stay-on.

Here’s me with the newest TLR-7A model with the newer toggling system.

While outdoors, it’s a much more spread out pattern that’s good for searching but still enough in the middle for target acquisition. The laser on the 8A is also very visible.

Installation is also very easy with a rail clamp system, and you can lock out the light from turning on by rotating the front bezel.

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 500
  • Runtime: 1.5 hours, Laser Only: 18 hours
  • Batteries: 1 CR123A
  • Weight: 2.4 oz, 2.6 oz for TLR-8A

Perfect for something from a reputable company that is light, compact, and has a wide spill.

And if you’re looking for the laser, there’s the TLR-8A in the same package.

Here I am running it in a low-light competition with the above tritium SeeAll sight.

There’s certainly the advantage of having a laser, especially for close-up shots — no need to look through your optics.

And now there’s also the TLR-7 Sub for even tinier handguns like the Glock 43x.

4. Inforce WILD2

Replacing their older APL lineup is Inforce’s new WILD series of lights.

The WILD2 is their full-size pistol light, and they have kicked up the lumen count to 1000.

Side paddles allow for constant, momentary, and strobe functions. The paddles are easy to depress and manipulate.

While the hotspot is bright with good spill and the lumen count is high, it should be noted that the WILD2 does use two CR123A batteries to power it, much like the TLR-1 HL.

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 1000
  • Runtime: 1.5 hours,
  • Batteries: 2 CR123A
  • Weight: 4.7 oz

5. Streamlight TLR-6

The TLR-6 family of lights is made specifically for tiny guns that might not have the regular Picatinny rails for other lights or need a much smaller footprint.

Here we have one for the Sig Sauer P365…one of our favorite concealed carry guns. Check out our full review and YouTube video of the P365.

There are laser and no laser models…you can run it in laser only, light only, or both. And we really dig the push-button access for the light.

It’s not the brightest out there with 100 lumens…but it will light up a decent amount at night.

And indoors, it’s more than adequate.

Again, there are tons of models for all the compact/micro guns out there, such as:

  • Glock 42/43
  • M&P Shield
  • Sig P365
  • Glock 26/27/33
  • Sig P238/P938
  • Kahr CM/CT/CW/P/PM/TP

I’m glad Streamlight decided to make so many models of the TLR-6 since it can be a great idea to have a light on a CCW gun. Holsters might be a little more difficult to find, but the target identification may be worth it.

My pick for all those small guns out there…

We’re continually testing new versions of the TLR-6…and the latest has to be on the Glock 43x. Still going strong!

6. SureFire X300 Ultra

The gold standard of pistol lights…if you’re looking for the best, get the SureFire X300U. My friends who have to depend daily on a handgun and light all swear by them.

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It’s much longer than the others, but that puts it out of the muzzle blast even on a full-size that can really dirty up your lens even after one range trip. Plus, since it’s so popular, you won’t have trouble finding a holster.

It’s been proven worldwide and uses the same toggle system as the regular-sized Streamlights.

The light is super bright and very focused.

And outside, you can see the power of its focused 600 lumens. Newer models are at 1000 lumens!

There are also two models of locking mechanisms.

X300U-A” is a Rail-Lock Mount that is specifically for polymer-framed handguns.

It makes it super easy to take on and off your handgun. One of my instructors would keep the light unmounted in his pocket to act as a flashlight. Then when needed, quickly reattach it to his CCW if needed.

X300U-B” is a T-Slot Mount that is better for metal Picatinny rail platforms like some handguns and rifles such as the AR-15. It doesn’t come off easily but will give you a better fit.

You can still use it on polymer guns, but it could end up rattling or causing damage to the rails over time.

Here’s me running it in a competition…

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 1000
  • Runtime: 1.25 hours
  • Batteries: 2 CR123A
  • Weight: 4 oz

If you’re looking for a bombproof, bright, focused light…almost everyone will tell you to get the X300U if you have the dough since it runs about double the Streamlight.

What’s your take on the SureFire? Rate it below.

7. Olight PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie

The people have spoken, and we’ve updated our list after trying out some Olight weapon lights.

First up is their very popular PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie…effectively the main contender to the Streamlight TLR-7 from above.

The main thing the Olight has going for it…a bright light at a lower price.

And now we have a custom code for Pew Pew fans (use code PEWPEWTACTICAL for 10% off).

But should you make the switch?

First up…the basic look and feel.

The main unit has a nice heft and build quality to it.

The quick detach option is nice and lets you avoid dealing with a flathead.

The only thing I can complain about is the lever has a “cheap” shine to it but works great with Glock and Picatinny rail adapters.

I also like the activation buttons where you press down and not an awkward push away on the TLR-7, although the new upcoming A models take care of that.

And with the MINI 2, you can adjust the rail placement from all the way in to far out, so it will fit virtually any handgun.

How about the light that has a 100-lumen edge on the TLR-7?

It’s definitely bluer on the spectrum and with a very wide throw. Note this is an update, so the camera and outside lighting have changed slightly from the other previous lights.

And inside, you can see that wide-angle throw again.

As a whole, the MINI 2 Valkryie is a very usable light.

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 600
  • Runtime: 1 hr
  • Batteries: Internal, USB charged
  • Weight: 2.6 oz

See that internal USB-charged battery; It’s definitely unique and might be a blessing or a curse.

Now you don’t need to fumble with extra CR123A batteries, but you lose the ability to quickly swap in a fresh set if you run dead.

I’d say if it’s a bump-in-the-night gun you seldom use (but keep charged every few months or so), it can be fine…but if you plan on doing low-light courses, you might want to reconsider.

How about reliability and durability?

So far, there are great comments from users online. We’ve only just begun our test with one range session and a couple of drops on the ground.

But so far, so good.

An excellent value for $89 and now made even better with code PEWPEWTACTICAL that gives you 10% off!

And if you need a holster… there are plenty of options (especially for the MINI)! Check out our Best Holsters for Olight Lights.

And now…a full hands-on review of the PL-Mini 2 Valkyrie.

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8. Olight PL-PRO Valkyrie

Another new update is the MINI 2’s big bro…the PL-PRO Valkyrie.

This one comes in at an eyeball-blasting 1,500 lumens, which makes it the brightest production pistol light out there that we know of.

Its leading contenders are the TLR-1 HL and Surefire series. Again you get tons of lumens at a nicer price. Remember to use code PEWPEWTACTICAL to get 10% off at Olight’s store.

Fit and feel is like the MINI 2…very nice all-around with only the caveat of a cheap/shiny-looking QD lever.

Buttons are also easily reached without the need for a toggle.

The beam also has a very focused center with a decent amount of spread to see peripheral targets.

And inside, you can see the tight center.

The rail isn’t adjustable, but you’re likely only using this on a full-sized handgun.

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 1,500
  • Runtime: 1.5 hr
  • Batteries: Internal, USB charged
  • Weight: 3.25 oz

And with this model, you have the internal USB-charged battery, which takes about 90 minutes to fully charge if it is depleted.

Same pros and cons as the MINI 2 before.

We also had only one range session with it, but it’s survived and thrived. We’ll update as we shoot and torture it a little bit more.

But the PL-PRO is a great weapon light if you love the lumens at an affordable price.

Use code PEWPEWTACTICAL for 10% off!

Of course…a full hands-on review of the PL-Pro Valkyrie.

9. Nightstick TWM-30

Nightstick is a brand you may not be familiar with, but its products are solid.

I learned about this company when I heard many police agencies were buying their weapon lights with gun packages.

The TWM-30 is bright, sending out 1,200 lumens from its LED.

Its beam has a strong, hot, white core, as well as a generous halo thrown at a wider angle for better situational awareness.

Second, they are tough. Made from black anodized 6061-T6 aluminum, the body holds up well under a lot of recoil and is IP-X7-rated waterproof.

Additionally, the battery door is screwed closed so it will not come open accidentally.

The TWM-30 runs on two CR123 batteries, providing a run time of 1.75 hours.

It offers dual, independent switches that are accessible on either side of the trigger guard and allow constant on as well as momentary modes.

Shooters can also access a strobe mode or battery-safe mode with a sequenced button press.

Specifications:

  • Lumens: 1,200
  • Runtime: 1.75 hr
  • Batteries: 2 CR123
  • Weight: 4.5 oz

Miscellaneous

Cleaning

When you train with your pistol light (and you should), I recommend taping it off with masking/painter’s tape. That way, you keep the muzzle blast and resulting carbon dust from dirtying up your lens and reducing brightness).

And when you do shoot at night or use the light, be sure to also clean your lenses. The middle and right lights above are going to require some TLC.

The secret? Use a pencil eraser.

Holsters

And I alluded to holsters. These are all pretty popular lights, so most holster manufacturers will have OWB (outside the waistband) options to cater to your pistol and light combo. You can check out our favorites in Best Holsters Guide.

Batteries

Almost all these take CR123 batteries, so make sure you get the good stuff. I’ve always had good results from Streamlight ones. For CR2 batteries, check out the choices here.

Final Thoughts

Main takeaways…I like everything Streamlight…especially the TLR-1. But if you have the cash, the gold standard is still SureFire.

The main objective is to make sure you pick a light that works for your use case, whether that is for home defense, concealed carry, or on a true duty gun.

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Hopefully, this article helped you get pointed in the right direction when it comes to picking a weapon-mounted light.

What are your thoughts on our picks? Any that we missed that we should check out for next time? Let us know in the comments below! Looking for lights for your long gun? Check out our article on the Best AR-15 Flashlights.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>