Duty lights have gone through numerous evolutions over the course of the last decade. We have seen the once standard one-size-fits-all flashlight morph into mission and unit specific lights.

Scott Smith Bio Headshot

Duty lights have gone through numerous evolutions over the course of the last decade. We have seen the once standard one-size-fits-all flashlight morph into mission and unit specific lights. Today your options include "pocket" lights that illuminate a yard and miniature blinking LEDs that grab bystanders' attention as well as lights in a range of shapes and sizes that run on a variety of battery types. You may find one or all of these lights fit your needs.

5.11 Tactical

One of the most innovative lights on the market is 5.11 Tactical's Light for Life. It's available in a large size, the UC3.400, and a smaller size, the PC3.300. Both get their charge from a high-output capacitor, much like those found in a camera flash. The difference is that the flash dumps its light all at once. The Light for Life slowly dissipates its light, giving you at least an hour's worth of runtime.

Both lights can be fully charged in 90 seconds. Unlike nickel cadmium or nickel hydride batteries, the ultra capacitor allows you to leave the Light for Life on its charger without diminishing the capacitor's ability to recharge and hold that charge.

I have used both the PC3.300 and the UC3.400 and find them both to be excellent lights. The UC3.400 gives you 90 lumens for 60 minutes and will reduce to 25 for 30 minutes and finally 15 lumens for 30 minutes. The smaller PC3.300 has three outputs: 200 lumens, 70 lumens, and a strobe. Runtime is 45 minutes in standard mode, plus you can use it in a reduced output reserve mode for a one-hour runtime.

I keep a PC3.300 in the charger rack in my POV. This way I have a light at hand at all times. I know agencies that keep the UC3.400 in racks for use in emergency situations. With a 50,000-hour LED light and capacitor that can be charged thousands of times, these lights will outlast most of us on duty.


BlackHawk has been a leader in duty gear for military and law enforcement for more than a decade. About five years ago, BlackHawk added flashlights to its product line. The Legacy L6P is but one example.

I like the Legacy because of its polymer body. This material makes the light more durable and not as cold to the touch in the winter. The body also has nice big checkers for a good purchase in all conditions, with or without gloves. And to prevent the light from rolling, its tail cap and light bezel have seven sides.

Other notable features on this 90-lumen LED light include its operation and its two- to three-hour runtime. The Legacy's tail cap is a two stage button; simply push for momentary, and push until it clicks for constant on. This set-up requires only gross motor operation and can be easily operated with either hand. Attention to these details shows why BlackHawk is a leader in tactical gear including duty lights. The company's Legacy L6P will no doubt serve you well for many moons.


Brite-Strike Tactical Illumination Products is a company that is built by cops for cops. A couple of patrol officers started it to build lights with features cops need and want. And the company's Tactical Blue Dot series fits that mission.

The company's Tactical Blue Dot 198 light is sized small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or comfortably in a pants pocket. Yet it's long enough to be a last resort impact weapon-which is when the light's crenulated tri-strike crown on each end can come in handy.

The Blue Dot 198 is rechargeable can be had with a couple of versions of end caps: high/low/strobe, or momentary/high output, both with an output of up to 198 lumens. This allows you to decide what will best serve your needs. And each Tactical Blue Dot comes with a lifetime warranty, a ballistic nylon holster, and an AC Battery charger.

Several friends of mine have used the Blue Dot 198 and they like the feel of it and the way it looks. It is a solid light and I can personally attest to it having survived a nasty Pittsburgh winter of rain, snow, wind, and ice, which says a lot for any light.[PAGEBREAK]

First-Light USA

If you are looking for a mighty mite of a light, First-Light USA's Tomahawk is one to consider. It looks like the old plastic angle light many of us were issued in the military or purchased at the military surplus store. However, it's much more advanced. It can be had with just a white light, a strobe, multi-color (red/blue or red/green), multi-color strobe (the red/blue is for LE only), and a night vision version.

My test model is the multi-color in red/blue with a price tag just shy of $300. To activate the Tomahawk you depress the horseshoe-shaped button; if you want the red or blue lights use the two front buttons. The right button selects the color, while the left button sets the brightness. When the colored lights are on the white light can be operated by pushing the horseshoe button.

Keeping the Tomahawk close at hand isn't a problem. It has a clip that will attach to your duty belt or MOLLE vest and it does secure the light. When attached to your belt or vest you have hands-free use. A finger loop even allows you to use the Tomahawk while shooting. I found it works well using a traditional two-handed shooting grip. The Tomahawk is a distinctive duty light that will serve you well on and off duty.

Inforce/Emissive Energy

One of the most innovative lights I have seen is the Emissive Energy Color Police LED. It has many distinctive features, the least of which is its carbon fiber body. Using this material drastically reduces weight without sacrificing the durability and toughness of the light's tube.               

You can use the Color Police LED as a bright white light with momentary and constant on or an alternating blue/red light in slow or fast mode. It can serve as a standard light or as a signal light when setting up a highway checkpoint. To switch between these various modes you simply rotate the tail cap. The red/blue will automatically activate, and the push button switches to white light.

Another thing I like about this light is its size. It's small enough to clip in a cargo pocket or carry on a duty belt. You will find this ideal sized light will run for two to 72 hours with an output of 11.5 lumens to 225 lumens.

Emissive Energy did its homework when building this one. The Color Police LED offers bright light, color strobe, and a long runtime. What more could you ask for?


Another company that offers distinctive high quality lights is Inova. You will find a variety of lights in the Inova family but the "T" Series seems to be the best suited for duty use. The T-4 is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery, which will hold a charge for what seems like forever when not being used. When you are using this light on duty, the 200-lumen light will drain the batteries in approximately two hours of constant use. If you use the light off and on the charge should last an eight-hour shift. Fortunately the charger will run on your cruiser's DC power.

This light's aircraft-grade aluminum body and lens bezel have beveled checkering. The spacing of the checkers is such that it feels aggressive but it is not. It gives a good grip in wet or dry conditions, with or without gloves, and it won't snag

The switch is mounted forward on the barrel, near the bezel. It gives you several light modes: high or low output, strobe, and momentary and constant on. Simply depress it for momentary, double click for high, in high wait a second and depress the switch for low, and from high output a quick double click will make the light strobe. This may sound complex, but it really isn't; a little practice and you will catch on.[PAGEBREAK]

Insight Technology

If you are looking for a weapon-mounted light I would suggest Insight Technology. You can mount the company's new WX150 on your handgun or any long gun with a Picatinny rail using Insight's patented Adjustable Slide Lock. This gives you a universal lock bar or a slightly thicker one for a Picatinny rail, ensuring a snug fit.

The WX150 gives you 150 lumens of output for two hours on a pair of CR123A batteries. You are also given three light options: push the ambidextrous toggle up for constant on, down for momentary on, or down and then quickly up for strobe.

In case you decide to take a swim, the WX150 is water resistant to three feet. This should prevent you losing illumination if your light falls into a puddle. I know from experience this can happen when you are in a hurry and forget to fully lock the light to your handgun rail. If you haven't done it yet, you will.

I have mounted the WX150 on my duty Glock 21, SIG P226, and Smith & Wesson M&P 9 as well as the rail of an AR-15. The toggle switch is easy to operate on any of these weapons, and the universal locking bar fits them all. I found the WX150 will fit holsters designed for Insight's M3 light, so you won't need to purchase a new holster (you will still have to check the fit to your gear).

The folks at Insight Technology must understand that many of us own and are issued various weapons, because the WX150 was built to function well on them all and with existing duty and concealment holsters. This makes the WX150 even more impressive in my book.


You can illuminate areas, search vehicles and buildings, temporarily disorient suspects, and direct traffic all with Pelican's 2490 Recoil LED. This one light runs on four AA batteries and has an output of 51 lumens.

It provides useable white light out to 30 yards or so, yet it won't blind you when you're using it to search under a car seat. If you need to use the 2490 as a traffic wand, simply remove the lamp head, insert one of four colored lenses, and screw the included cone on. You now have a traffic/marker light.

You will find the 2490 is much lighter than your heavy-duty tactical light saber because it is made from tough polymer, not machined aluminum. This means it won't weigh you down if you stick it in a cargo pocket, so you can easily carry it there for when you need a versatile light.

I like the light's on/off switch, which is an easy-to-use toggle. It positively clicks on/off but does not make sounds that could betray your location.

If you are concerned about the light's toughness, let me put your mind at ease: I stood on it (at 240 pounds I'm not a fly weight) and it didn't break.

And since this light will be used in wet weather, the lens/wand threads have an O-ring seal. While I don't suggest using this as a dive light, it will function in a monsoon. I tested mine by turning it on and hosing it down for five minutes while watering my garden. The light didn't flicker or fail. I am sure if you get out a firehose the seal could be defeated, but I only want it to survive the rain like a duty light should.


If you are looking for a versatile light, I would suggest Streamlight's Stinger DS LED HP. This is the latest version of the successful Stinger Family and the most versatile to date.

What's so new about the Stinger DS LED HP, you may ask. To start it gives you three light outputs: high (200 lumens), medium (100 lumens), low (50 lumens), and a strobe. This variable output gives you a runtime as long as seven hours on low or as short as two hours on high output. If you drain the nickel cadmium battery it will take about 10 hours to charge-or you could purchase the Smart Charger and it will charge in Sabout two-and-a-half hours.

Thanks to its Cree LED and distinctive reflector, when used on high Streamlight's Stinger DS LED HP gives a narrowly focused useable light out to 50 to 75 yards depending on your eyes. This might not sound like a lot but it will allow you to make out little branches and individual leaves at that distance; therefore, you will be able to make out a weapon and facial detail.

The other new feature on this Stinger is dual switch operation. Streamlight gives you a tail cap or body button. Both buttons function identically: push to activate, hold down to reduce output in constant on, or a quick double click for strobe. Should you need momentary on (which is only high output) do not click the button. These features should be enough to pique your interest to check out the Stinger DS LED HP for a duty light.


Last but not least, SureFire's AZ2 is a dual output LED light. At first glance it looks like a 6Z with its push-to-activate tail cap and mid body grip rings on a Combat Grip Body. But when you look more closely you'll see there are five lights in the bezel. Four are low output (35 lumens) and the center LED provides the high output (150 lumens).

How does one change from low to high output? The answer is simple: push the tail cap deeper. Need less light back off the cap and only the low output LEDs are on. This keeps the operation of AZ2 simple and uses only gross motor skills.

Like all SureFire lights the AZ2 is virtually indestructible. I have dropped, kicked, and accidentally tossed various SureFires. Their Mil-Spec anodized aerospace aluminum bodies have survived and so have the lenses; guess I'm lucky they haven't hit lens first. My 10-year-old 6Z has been all over the country and I would anticipate nothing less from the AZ2. If you keep it in CR123A batteries (it requires two), this light should last you a career.

About the Author
Scott Smith Bio Headshot
Retired Army MP
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