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Handheld Flashlights For Self Defense: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Imagine walking to your car in the dark after work. You just want to go home and unwind. You think you see something move out of the corner of your eye, but the darkness makes it impossible to see clearly. The next thing you know, you feel something pressing against your side and hear a voice telling you to hand over your wallet. All you want is to see your family again, so you comply. The assailant runs off into the dark, leaving you shaking and feeling relieved to be alive.

According to the FBI, an average of one robbery occurs every minute in the United States, and an aggravated assault happens less than every 40 seconds. Even if you do not feel comfortable carrying a firearm or cannot carry another weapon to work, there is one under appreciated self-defense device, which is a flashlight. There are several potential ways that a flashlight can help protect you from being a target of crime. When used correctly, it may even help protect you against some stray or wild animals. This blog will help you choose the best tactical flashlight for self-defense.

How To Use a Flashlight for Self Defense

Although you can use a flashlight as a weapon if you must, the way to use it for self-defense is to try to prevent an attack in the first place. After dark, a handheld flashlight gives you the advantage of being able to see better. This means that you can process your surroundings and distinguish where there are people or objects.

Being able to see better gives you the ability to make smart decisions. For example, you may decide that it is better to leave the premises or prepare to defend yourself if the assailant is still moving toward you. If there is no threat, and there is simply a harmless person passing by, you can still see everything clearly enough to give you peace of mind. So, how do you use a flashlight for self defense? These are the steps:

  • Turn on your light.

  • Scan the area if you do not know where the potential threat is.

  • If you know where the potential threat is, shine your light there.

  • Keep the beam of light aimed at the person's face.

When you keep your light shining directly in the eyes of a potential assailant, it is much harder for the person to know where to go. You disrupt the person's vision and thinking. A bright flashlight can be nearly blinding at night. Since the person cannot see you clearly, any plans of approaching you are quickly ruined. The person cannot see clearly to shoot accurately or run toward you.

Most would-be criminals do not want to risk running toward a bright light, especially if they think the person holding it might be armed. Also, if there are cameras in the area, the bright light may illuminate the person even more.

If the would-be criminal does not leave, you also have the advantage of being able to see obstacles and surroundings better, allowing you to navigate toward your car, into a building or away from the area.

In a worst-case scenario that involves you being injured or stranded, you can also use the flashlight to signal for help. Learn how to blink it in Morse Code for the SOS signal. For example, if you are out hiking and get lost near sunset, you can use it to signal for help at night. You could also use it to see better and to disorient any wild animals.

Which Handheld Flashlight Is Right for You?

Once you understand how to use a flashlight for self defense, the next step is purchasing a high-quality and reliable product. To determine the right flashlight for your needs, it helps to consider some common features and know what to look for when you compare products.

Lumens vs Candela

Lumens is a measure of total light output, without regard for how focused or dispersed the light is. Candela is a measure of how intense a focused beam of light is.

When comparing flashlights, manufacturers will always put lumens, but not always candela. Make sure to not get misled by the lumens, as a higher number of lumens may not mean higher candela, because the beam may not be focused well.

It is essential to measure the intensity of a beam of light when comparing flashlights and weapon mounted lights. Lumens is a measure of total light output, but the light can be focused or unfocused, depending on the type, manufacturer or model of flashlight. For example, some lights work more like a floodlight, some work more like a spotlight and some can be both, all while technically having the same amount of lumens.

Let’s compare two types of lights and assume they have the same amount of lumens. A spotlight is great for focusing on an object or a person as it is focused and has high candela, and a floodlight is good for seeing more of your surroundings as it is less focused and has a lower candela.

So, assuming we can’t always find a candela rating for flashlights, how many lumens are needed for a self defense flashlight? This is one of the most common questions people ask. A flashlight should have at least 300 lumens to disorient a would-be assailant outdoors. Anything that is not very bright will not properly stop a person. Aim for a light that is brighter than 300 lumens. While 300 Lumens is a minimum for a good self defense flashlight, it is not really the best way to measure light intensity or strength of light in a focused direction and you should always try to measure and compare using candela.


Having a flashlight with various levels of light can be advantageous in some situations. However, when it comes to defending yourself, it is best to have a light that only has one output and is bright enough to be disorienting. When you have to cycle through multiple modes, it can be detrimental to waste that time in a critical situation. If you do choose a defense flashlight with multiple modes, it should be programmable to turn on maximum brightness with a switch.


The switch to activate your bright flashlight must be easy to access. It should be easy to turn on whether you use the light with your right or left hand. If there are multiple switches that you need to operate it, the light is better for camping or standard use. A one-movement switch ensures that you do not waste a second in a critical situation. One exception is a strobe flashlight for self defense. Some lights have a bright, steady beam on the first push of the switch, and the second movement activates a strobe. A strobe can be even more disorienting.


The length and weight of the flashlight are important to consider. It is ideal to have something you can easily carry, whether you prefer to attach it to a utility belt, keep it in a shallower pocket or keep it in a deeper pocket. Pick one that does not make you feel uncomfortable from its carry weight. There are plenty of smaller handheld flashlights that are light, bright and great for tactical use.

Important Features

Many people prefer LED flashlights over incandescent lights. This is because they tend to last longer and are less prone to breaking. Also, the construction should be durable. If you expect the flashlight to come into contact with water or moisture frequently, look for one that is waterproof. It should also be simple enough that you feel confident using it.

tactical flashlight for self defense,  flashlight, edc, delaware, gun shop
Flashlight, knife and firearm are all important components of EDC.

Finding the best tactical flashlight for self defense depends on what you feel comfortable with and the features of the device. Now that you know what to look for and how to use a tactical flashlight to defend yourself, you can decide if you want a simple tactical flashlight, a strobe flashlight for self defense or another product.

Our wide selection of tactical flashlights for self defense gives you plenty of choices to fit your needs and preferences. Our favorite flashlight brands are Streamlight and SureFire - you order using our online store or pick up in store. If you are looking for a weapon mounted light, we have those too - check out our article all about weapon mounted lights for home defense.


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