If you conceal carry daily, you already know how important it is to have quality gear that will give you an edge in a dangerous scenario. Just as changing out the stock iron sights of your pistol or adding a mini reflex sight enhances your sight acquisition, a good weapon light can be just as beneficial.
Since their inception, pistol lights have been a great addition to handguns, providing users with the ability to have a more convenient EDC setup that can quickly illuminate their targets for quicker sight acquisition.
With the benefits of conceal carrying with a weapon light, it’s a simple choice to decide that you want one for your setup. The harder choice comes from the sheer selection available. Which will fit your gun? What’s the price? Which is the best pistol light?
Don’t worry, we’ll answer your questions and break down the different lights available, their benefits, and what the best options are for your pistol.
Pistol lights and their benefits
A pistol light, simply put, is a light that mounts to your pistol. Usually mounted to the light rail of the pistol, it sits directly in front of the trigger guard and under the slide and barrel. While their main purpose is to illuminate your targets, they have more uses than just the obvious one.
Besides being able to light up your target, a weapon light provides other benefits, such as recoil mitigation. Weapon lights have weight to them, with some being heavier than others, depending on the make and model. We know from the laws of physics that every action has a reaction. Whenever you fire your pistol, the recoil you feel is from the powder burning to launch the bullet. The same force that launches the projectile also pushes back to work the slide on your pistol. By adding weight to your pistol, it takes more energy to make the pistol jump up from recoil, making it easier to control when firing.
Weapon lights also remove the need to carry around a separate light to shoot at night with. It’s still a good idea to keep a light in your EDC kit; you never know when you need to shine a light on something without pointing your gun at it. While some people carry individual lights as part of their EDC instead of a mounted weapon light; with one, there isn’t a need for taking your hand off the pistol to operate a light. Instead of operating your pistol with your dominant hand while carrying a light in the other, a mounted weapon light allows you to keep both hands on the pistol, giving you maximum control over it. By doing this, you can have more stability when shooting while still properly illuminating your target.
Every benefit we just discussed enhances your safety and defense capabilities. Whether you are concealed carrying or using your pistol for home defense, being able to properly see your target and control your pistol is key to your safety. With the added weight reducing recoil, your shot placement can be more consistent with practice.
It’s crucial to know your target and what is beyond it. Depending on the model, weapon lights can shine as bright as 1000 lumens, providing more than enough light to see your target and what is beyond it.
Having a light that shines at such a bright intensity can give you an edge in dark environments. If you’ve ever looked directly into a light, you know that staring at it for even just a second can cause intense discomfort. In a defensive scenario, this can prove advantageous to you, as your light can disorient an assailant while providing you with a clear view and sight picture.
You’ll only reap these benefits if you have a good pistol that works for you. Thinking about getting a new pistol for self-defense, we’ve got you covered because we already have an article covering the best handguns for defense.
Which pistol light is best for you?
Getting a weapon light is going to depend on the make and model of your pistol. Each pistol is made differently, some have light rails on the frame (the picatinny rail under the slide) while others don’t. Before buying, it is important to know what is compatible with your pistol. Fortunately, most pistols come with a light rail integrated into the frame. Pistols such as the Glock 19 and Sig Sauer P320 come standard with a light rail. However, pistols like the Glock 43X don’t have a light rail unless you get the 43X MOS version.
If your pistol has a light rail, there are a ton of different options for you since it is the most common mounting type; meaning most lights for Glocks will also work on most other handguns. If it doesn’t, you still have options, just not as many comparatively. There are many manufacturers that make a wide variety of weapon lights for different pistol platforms, so there is likely an option for your pistol.
It is important to keep the size and weight of the light in mind when you are shopping for one. Like we mentioned before, there are a ton of different lights made for pistols, ranging from small low-profile lights with lower lumens, to larger and heavier lights that can shine as bright as 500 or more lumens. Your needs will determine what light works best for you.
If you want to keep a lightweight, minimalistic EDC setup, one of the smaller and lighter weapon lights may work better for you. If weight isn’t an issue and you’re looking for a more versatile and bright light, a standard or larger unit will work best.
Sizes of handgun lights will vary depending on the make and model. Models like the Surefire X300 and Streamlight TLR-1 have a more prominent light housing, giving your pistol a larger overall form factor. In contrast, companies make sub compact lights for smaller pistols and those looking to keep the lightweight, low-profile design of their pistols. Models like the Streamlight TLR-6, Surefire XSC Micro, and Viridian C5L-R, for example, are all smaller weapon lights. Keep in mind, smaller weapon lights tend to have lower lumen counts, making them less bright than their larger counterparts.
The main purpose of having a weapon light is to illuminate your target. That said, different lights have different brightness levels. You’ll see that brightness is measured in lumens and candela. Lumens are the measure of the amount of light emitted per second by its source, in this case, the weapon light.
The higher the lumen count, the brighter the light will be. Candela measures how bright the light is at a specific angle. Tighter projected beams of light have higher candela, making them appear brighter in a specific area. For example, if you have a 750-lumen light with 60,000 candela, it will appear very bright when shined at a target. However, if you have a 1000 lumen light with 15,000 candela, the projected beam will not be as intense, appearing to be not as bright as the other light even though it has a higher lumen count.
Having a high lumen count is great for projecting a bright beam of light, but extended use can cause your battery to drain rather quickly. If you have a newer model handgun light, you can expect a run time range of 1 to 2 hours. While this seems like a short amount of time, keep in mind that your light will not be on or in use all the time. At most, the light will be on for seconds when you are shooting, so it’s okay to opt for a light with a higher lumen count. It often sounds a lot more difficult than it is, but to new light owners, it can be a daunting process.
We can catch you up to speed on what to expect when shooting in the dark.
Something else to consider is the throw and flood of the light. The throw of the light is the distance where the beam of light reaches its peak brightness, so if your light has a throw of 200 yards, you will light be able to effectively illuminate up to 200 yards away. Flood is the amount of space that a light touches. If your light has a high flood adjustment, your light beam will not be as focused and will instead shine on a greater area. Higher flood vastly shortens your light’s throw, but it can light up more of your closer surroundings.
It’s important to find the balance in these measurements. You may be inclined to go for the brightest light possible, but there is such a thing as too much light. You want to be able to see your target from a distance without blinding yourself in the process. Remember that a high candela light will have a narrow beam, while a low candela one has a wider projection.
Next, we’re going to look at some recommendations for weapon lights. Please note, we are looking at some of the most common handguns to conceal carry, so your personal gun of choice may not be included in our list.
Many of the lights that we are going to mention are cross compatible with different firearm platforms. Regardless, always check the manufacturer’s website of the light of your choice to see what it is compatible with. The last thing you want is to purchase a weapon light, only to find out that it doesn’t work with your pistol.
Lights for Compact and Full-Size Pistols
Most compact and full-size pistols come standard with an integrated light rail. Pistols like the Glock 19 and Sig Sauer P320C are compact pistols; pistols like the Glock 17 and P320F are full-size pistols. Both of their frames come standard with an integrated light rail. This is the same for the Glock 45/19x and P320Carry, as they are characterized by their full-size grip and compact slide.
The integrated rail makes a majority of compact and full-size pistols compatible with the most common weapon lights available. If you want a larger light with a higher lumen count, you can use the Surefire X300, Streamlight TLR-1, and the Inforce WILD 2. More compact, low-profile lights include the Streamlight TLR-7A, Streamlight TLR-7 Sub, and the Surefire XC1-C and XR2-B. These lights allow you to have a lighter overall pistol weight while still projecting bright lights. Though not as bright as the larger lights, they are still effective.
Lights for Sub-Compact PISTOLS
Sub-compact pistols don’t usually come with integrated light rails. While they can, it isn’t common to see them. Guns like the Glock 43 and Sig Sauer P365, for example, don’t have standard light rails. Because of this, they require different mounting systems. The most common workaround for sub compact pistols that don’t have a light rail is to mount them to the trigger guard. Clamping onto the trigger guard, they are easy to mount and have similar controls to standard lights. With all the models available, it’s hard to determine what the best compact pistol light is, but we can give you some brilliant suggestions.
For pistols without light rails, lights such as the Crimson Trace Lightguard, and the Streamlight TLR-6 are great weapon lights to use. Since every pistol is different, each of the models must be specific to your firearm. Fortunately, they have a variety available for purchase, with fitment for different models; when shopping online, be sure to double-check the fitment and compatibility to make sure the light you want will work on your firearm.
Affordable Light Options
Like most pistol accessories, prices can range from very low to very high. Weapon lights are no exception, with some top-of-the-line models being as much $350+. That said, there are still solid options that don’t make you break the bank.
Brands like Crimson Trace, LaserMax, Olight, Viridian, and Streamlight all make budget friendly weapon light options for a variety of pistol models. Each of these brands has weapon light models under $150, and work well for EDC purposes.
Models like the Olight PL3 Valkyrie, Streamlight TLR-6, Crimson Trace Lightguard, iProtec RM230LSR, and LaserMax Spartan are all good options for those with low budgets. Of course, there are always more options than can be noted in this blog.
Light Compatible Holsters
A factor that keeps some people from utilizing weapon lights on their pistols is that you will need to get a holster that can fit and retain your weapon light. Pistols with lights attached won’t fit in standard holsters. You’ll need to get a new holster that is light bearing.
Light bearing holsters are essential if you want to add a weapon light to your EDC. Since adding a light to your pistol changes its geometry, your holster has to fit the contours of the pistol and the light in order to properly retain it. Luckily, there are a lot of holster options available.
Brands like LAS Concealment, Safariland, and Black Point Tactical make some of the best holsters for pistols with lights. Their holsters are made to fit with a plethora of different pistol and weapon light combinations, with each offering proper retention to make sure that your pistol doesn’t accidentally fall out when moving.
When looking for a holster, there are a few things you should look for; adjustability, safety, concealability, and comfort.
Adjustable holsters can be altered to better fit your body shape, whether that be with an adjustable belt clip, or an adjustable cant. It gives the user more control over the holster to adjust it to be as comfortable as possible.
Having a safe holster minimizes the risk of accidents and gives you more confidence when carrying every day. Make sure that the holster you’re looking at properly covers the trigger guard. If it doesn’t, we recommend looking for another option, since a proper trigger cover is necessary for your safety when carrying.
Next, you want to make sure that your holster has good concealability. The whole point of finding a good holster is to make sure that you can adequately conceal your pistol. Ideally, you want your holster to hold your pistol in place securely while still being able to draw it easily. Most modern holsters have retention screws or adjustments built into them, so you can freely adjust the retention to your liking.
Last, your holster needs to be comfortable. If you’re used to carrying without a weapon light, your holster is smaller, big enough to just fit your pistol securely. Now, with a light added, your holster options are going to be much larger than they previously were, since there is an extra device to accommodate.
It’s crucial to make sure that your holster is comfortable. Read customer reviews and watch product reviews online. If possible, this can get you an objective opinion on the holster. If you do this, keep in mind that everybody is different, so if something is comfortable for one person, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you.
With all of this in mind, your best option for a holster is going to be an Inside Waist Band holster (IWB) or an Outside Waist Band (OWB) holster. OWB holsters provide more options for where you can carry your pistol, but they protrude farther away from your waist and are harder to conceal since they sit on the outside of your waist. In contrast, an IWB holster sits on the inside of your waistband and is held secure, closer to your body. This makes IWB holsters much easier to conceal in lighter clothing, lowering your chances of printing.
While printing is more of an issue with OWB holsters, it can still occur with IWB holsters too, depending on the size of your pistol and how tight your clothes fit. A plethora of holsters can be found online; some good ones to start with are LAS Concealment, Safariland, and Black Point Tactical.
These manufacturers make solid holsters with durable materials that provide great retention. When it comes to finding a holster, there is a lot of information to take in. Luckily for you, we have a great blog to read that’s all about finding the best holsters.
Additional Considerations And Misconceptions
With your weapon light and holster selected, you may ask yourself if you need anything else to round out your EDC pistol. Other options like night sights and mini reflex sights can be used in tandem with a weapon light to give you a better overall sight picture.
Night sights are installed in place of the stock iron sights on your pistol. They have an isotope of hydrogen known as tritium encased in the sights that give off a glow at night, making it easier to see your iron sights in the dark.
While they aren’t completely necessary if you plan on using your light when shooting in dark environments, they are a great backup in case your weapon light went down. It’s worth noting, however, if you plan on training using night vision goggles or NODs, night sights can hinder your ability to acquire a target. Especially if you have a mini reflex sight on your pistol, the added light from night sights can make your sight picture overly bright, rendering your dot sight and irons ineffective.
Mini reflex sights are another great addition to your pistol. Adding a mini reflex sight to your pistol allows you to acquire targets quicker without the need of iron sights. They often don’t affect the ability of the pistol to be holstered, and when paired with a light, it allows for rapid sight acquisition.
Last, one of the common misconceptions about weapon lights is that they give away your position. While they emit a bright beam of light that stands out in a dark environment, it doesn’t necessarily give an assailant a target to attack. As we mentioned before, pistol weapon lights can be extremely bright and cause pain and discomfort to anyone who looks directly at the beam, effectively blinding them temporarily. Some lights have a strobe effect. Using a strobe light allows you to still see your target while simultaneously disorienting them.
Weapon lights can be a valuable addition to your EDC pistol. Though there are many weapon lights to choose from and new holsters that you will need, the benefits of being able to illuminate a target in the dark without needing to use your off hand is worth it.
Remember, just because a certain setup works for someone else, doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. So, if you plan on adding a weapon light to your pistol, remember to take your personal needs into consideration, and always check manufacturer websites and compatibility lists before buying to make sure the light you want fits your pistol.
There is a lot to consider when purchasing a weapon light and we couldn’t talk about it all here. Our weapon light guide covers everything else you need to know about them.
Always, remember to stay safe, keep practicing, and keep following us to stay up to date on the newest trends in the industry.