Top 5 Pistol Weapon Lights (2023)

Posted by Modulus Arms on 11th Jan 2023

Top 5 Pistol Weapon Lights (2023)

A pistol mounted light (or at the very least a handheld light) is a must for home defense and generally at any time because you can’t guarantee you’ll always be in a well-lit area. You are accountable for every shot you discharge and a pistol light can help you identify what the muzzle is pointed at in a dimly lit place . Additionally, the weight of a pistol light can also have a noticeable effect on reducing muzzle rise or some perceived felt recoil.

For the best pistol weapon light, there are three factors that are usually used to measure performance: battery life, candela, and lumens.

What is Candela?

Candela describes the weapon light's unit of brightness that reaches the subject, or in other words luminous intensity. One candela, the latin word for candle, is the equivalent to the brightness of one lit wax candle.

The higher rated candela your pistol light is, the brighter and more capable it is of providing a clear, consistent picture — your target, what’s around them, and what’s in their hands. A really high candela light can do this even in an environment of uneven lighting and overcome photonic barriers. High candela pistol lights matter the most when you can’t dictate what environments you are shooting in, whether it’s in fog, rain or other tough conditions that reduce visibility.

How much candela should a pistol light be?

When shining a flashlight, the light that your brain uses to visualize is not just the light that is being shined out of your light. What you're seeing is the light that travels to where it's being shined and then bouncing back towards your eyes. With more candela, there is a greater concentration of photons coming from your light source and that are able to return towards you.

This measure of illuminance is called lux, and can be described as essentially how bright the illuminated surface will appear to your eye. In relation to candela, the formula is provided as:

  • lux = candela • square radian • meter-2

1 lux is approximately equivalent to an object being 3 ft or a meter away from a candle. This is the bare minimum required for most individuals to identify a target.

So let's say you need a pistol light to search and identify targets from 30 meters away.

  • 1 lux = candela / 900 m

You will need at least 900 cd to achieve one lux at 30 meters from your source of light. It is advisable to be able to spot the target and what's around them reliably. A rating of 1000 candela is a suitable range for pistol lights to stand up to the tasks of outdoor shooting, duty and defense.

What are photonic barriers?

Photonic barriers are lights that prevent your eyes from seeing the visuals behind them. This can be easily observed when you’re facing traffic from the opposite direction of traffic while someone has their high beams on or when your mom is coming down to the basement with Dino nuggets for you and introduces light into your dark basement..

What is Lumen?

Lumen is a SI unit of measurement of how far one candela of light travels, one square foot. A higher lumen pistol light means the further the light travels from the source of light. More lumens, more throw.

However, keep in mind that a light can advertise a high lumen while neglecting to bring up their poor candela performance. A light being able to reach far but very dimly is not going to do you much favor in a practical setting. So that’s why many do not consider lumens alone to be a good factor in deciding the viability of a weapon light as it tells you nothing about how focused its beam of light will be or how far it can effectively travel and still provide PID (positive identification)

How many lumens should a pistol light be?

Most average engagement distance in a defensive scenario does not exceed 30 meters or about 100 ft. For this reason, 350 lumens is the suggested minimum for a defensive pistol light. Keep in mind that a light with too much lumens can wash out a reticle if you have a red dot mounted.

Cloud Defensive Enhanced Pistol Light

Cloud Defensive has taken up a spotlight for a line of robust and impressive weapon light that is well worth every penny. Made in Indiana, USA, the OWL debuted in 2019 to boast 1250 lumens supported by 50,000 candelas. Cloud Defensive’s success with the Optimized Weapon Light would be joined by their line of REIN and REIN 2.0. For the past year, Cloud Defensive has been eyeing to move into the market of pistol lights and their announcement of the Enhanced Pistol Light has many people excited.

Official sources have announced that the light would be released late 2021. With no release or further statement on an exact time frame, no one besides Cloud Defensive knows how long the EPL’s launch will be delayed .

We know enough so far that the MSRP of the EPL is expected to be $269.99 USD. If this remains the case then the EPL will be the best value and highest performing pistol light released so far.

Cloud Defensive has been working on their switch design for the Enhanced Pistol Light and has kept much of the switch’s details hidden from the public. Furthermore, the official statement for the EPL switch claims a “user-adjustable /modular” feature. You can expect two light activation modes similar to that of the pistol light toggle switch we are all familiar with, momentarily and constant-on.

We have seen the main body housing of the light and the light heads. The Enhanced Pistol Light’s heads are interchangeable and it can be configured in two versions, a carry light and a duty light. The elongated head of the EPL-D, the duty variant, extends a bit past the frame of a standard Glock 17 when mounted. On the other hand, the EPL-C focuses on a smaller profile with a smaller head. These removable heads are key to frontal battery swaps, eliminating the need to take the light off of the pistol frame to change the batteries. Cloud Defensive has announced compatible holsters which will be made available upon the EPL’s release. When that might be... is anyone's guess.



  • 1100 Lumens
  • 70,000+ Candela
  • Rechargeable 18350 battery
  • Longer head

All Cloud Defensive lights come with lifetime warranty and 30-day Money back guarantee for both domestic US and international customers.

Surefire X300U

Surefire X300 Ultra was introduced to the consumer market back in August 2018 as Surefire’s successor to their previously popular Surefire X300. In contrast to its recent year peers, the X300U underperforms for the price of $359.99. Yet it still holds its own in the market with contracts to thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. Not everyone needs a pistol light powerful enough to put a lighthouse to shame. Years of being a staple pistol light has given the Surefire X300 a safe choice when looking for a light with ample compatible aftermarket items and holsters.

  • 1,000 Lumens
  • 11,300 Candela
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes of battery life
  • Compatible with more holsters than any other pistol light
  • CR123A batteries
  • Water resistant enough to survive 30 minutes underwater of a meter depth

Surefire X300 Turbo

As an answer to the trend of drastically increasing weapon mounted lights' candela rating, Surefire came out with a new line of 'Turbo' lights. So there is a X300 Turbo and a Turbo version of the Scout light (for carbines or rifles) as well. With the updated light we still have the Type A and Type B versions. But you get the additional candela which gives you a tighter and hotter beam, which means less spill light to light up surrounding areas. 

  • 66,000 Candela

Modlite PLHv2-PL350

The most impressive modlite pistol light available is their PL350 light body mated with a PLHv2 light head. This is a weapon light that can break through the tinted windows of vehicles and push through the photonic barrier of vehicle headlights. The PLHv2-PL350 is the highest performing light on the market currently, however it is worth noting that it does so without a momentary-on toggle switch and with a noticeably shorter battery life. On the subject of batteries, the typical CR123A batteries are not compatible with the PL350 due to excessive heating. Modlite runs their lights on rechargeable 18350 batteries with the PL350 body lasting around 35 to 40 minutes on one charge.

  • 1350 lumens
  • 54,000 Candela
  • Around 35 to 40 minutes of battery life
  • Rechargeable 18350 battery

Streamlight TLR-1 HL

Streamlight’s TLR-1 High Lumen is the successor to the older TLR-1 with a longer throw albeit similar candela performance. The TLR-1 HL is a budget friendly pistol light trusted to last well although not to the same durability as the Surefire X300U. It can be seen sported in night competition shoots and reliable duty use for the starting price of $125. Compared to the Surefire X300U, the TLR-1 HL has slightly more spill rather than a focused brighter beam. Depending on your environment, this can be an advantage to your peripheral vision.

Additionally, the TLR-1 HL has a slightly shorter length than the X300U. This conveniently allows the TLR-1 HL to fit into holsters meant for the X300U, but holsters meant specifically for the TLR-1 HL won’t accommodate the X300U.

  • 1,000 Lumens
  • 12,000 Candela
  • More spill than other lights
  • CR123A batteries
  • 2 hours and thirty minutes of battery life
  • Water resistant enough to survive 30 minutes underwater of a meter depth

Are Inforce Pistol Lights Bad?

Inforce’s pistol lights are recognized for their distinctive body’s streamlined profile. Beyond the sleek aesthetic lies a history of poor quality control, sloppy switches and fragile mounts, and frequent reports of the APL breaking with light use.

Inforce’s WILD1 starts at an MSRP of $139.99. Even in the realm of budget lights, it would be more reasonable to buy a TLR-1 HL for better performance and quality.

What pistol light does the military use?

Night vision, one of the holy grails of personal equipment, is considered by most to be a huge investment that is beyond the grasp of... aggressively budget minded people. The US military exists on a budget to equip active duty personnel with all the NOD tubes they could possibly need to see in the dark.

What pistol light is best?

Streamlight’s TLR-1 HL is the best budget pistol light for your money or if you simply want a stop-gap while waiting for Cloud Defensive’s Enhanced Pistol Light to be released. For durability, the X300U is the most proven pistol light standing behind Surefire’s lengthy experience and military contracts.

Until the EPL hits the consumer market, other than the battery life, Modlite’s PLHv2-PL350 is likely to remain the best performing pistol light available today.