July 12, 2022
Never pull the trigger on a firearm unless you’re sure of your target and what’s behind it. That’s a fundamental tenant of gun safety, so having a white light accessible in low- or no-light scenarios is a must-have. A good handheld light is fine, but mounting a white light to your pistol is even better. Mounting a white light to your pistol means there is one less thing to grab if you have to defend yourself in the dark, and it also provides the ability to keep two hands on your pistol.
Pistol-mounted lights aren’t new. They’ve been around for years, and there are many proven options on the market. What is increasingly new is the number of high-lumen-output models. The days of 150-lumen mounted lights are over, and new pistol lights have far greater output along with better run times. Greater light output translates to identifying targets at greater distances in the dark, especially when outside. While runtimes have improved, high-output lights generally don’t run as long as their lower-output alternatives, so it’s important to also consider how easy it is to swap batteries.
It’s also important to consider holster compatibility, since adding a light won’t fit with a current holster. The more lights one owns generally means having a similar number of compatible holsters. High-lumen pistol lights can offer different types of beams, too. Some are optimized for outdoor use while others can serve a dual indoor and outdoor function. Like a pistol, it’s a good idea to handle a light in person when possible before buying, so we’ve put together a list of proven options to get you started on the right path.
The SureFire X300 series is one of the gold standards for high-lumen pistol lights, and it’s one of the preferred brands by law enforcement around the country. They reach an impressive 1,000 lumens, which is ideal for indoor and outdoor use. At 1,000, lumens it can run for a respectable 1.25 hours, but the light does need to be removed to swap the two 123A batteries. Fortunately, it’s available in several attachment options that make it quick to swap batteries.
It uses a paddle-style activation that offers ambidextrous use as well as momentary- and constant-on functions. The X300 series is completely waterproof and built from high-quality aluminum. It has a nice, tight beam to engage targets at medium distances, but it also can illuminate an entire room without excessively blinding splash. SureFire also offers dual-spectrum models that are compatible with night vision at the cost of fewer lumens.
Streamlight has one of the most extensive lines of pistol lights on the market today. Their latest offering is the TLR-10, a 1,000-lumen white light with an included green laser sight. It’s powered with two 123A batteries, providing 1.5 hours of runtime. The TLR-10 is ambidextrous and features a safe-off function to prevent accidently activating the unit.
The green laser sight is visible during daylight and exceptionally visible at night, and the laser sight can be turned off to end-user preference. The TLR-10 is lightweight and constructed from high-quality aluminum, but it only has an IPX4 water resistant rating. Streamlight has one of the most extensive lines of aftermarket holsters on the market, and there are even several competing pistol-light manufacturers that design their lights to fit Streamlight holsters.
Viridian is known for its extensive line of green laser sights, and they also offer a series of laser/light combo units. A unique option they offer is the XTL Gen 3, which is actually a 500-lumen white light with a 1080p HD camera. It’s powered with a removable, rechargeable battery, and it’s rated to IPX7 waterproof.
Five hundred lumens is solid output, but an HD camera is an interesting upgrade to a standard white light. It provides the ability to record range sessions, training or competitions to playback and improve shooting ability. A camera is also a great asset if you ever have to use a pistol in self-defense for civilians and law enforcement. The camera also includes a microphone to record sound, providing reassurance should it ever be necessary for justification in court. One of the greatest features of the Viridian XTL Gen 3 is that it’s compatible with most Streamlight TLR1 holsters, which are very common holsters on the market today.
Modularity is the name of the game with Modlite, hence the name. Its PL350 pistol-light series has several options that are well supported by holster manufacturers. The PL350 body is designed to fit all Modlite slim heads, and it’s designed to be compatible with future heads not currently in production. Heads can be quickly swapped to optimize the light for end-user preference.
It's powered with a rechargeable 18350 battery, which is removed from the front without having to remove the light from a pistol to swap batteries. The PLHv2-PL350 light package hits a blistering 1,350 lumens, and the OKW-PL350 hits 680 lumens. Both provide a lot of light, and it’s a great feature that both lights use the same body and switch. It uses a PHLSTER ARC paddle-style activation switch, which is ambidextrous and offers several different styles of activation for various shooting styles.
When looking for high-output pistol lights, don’t be alarmed to see some expensive price tags, but Olight is a reputable brand that offers high-lumen pistol lights at highly affordable prices. The Olight PL-Pro Valkyrie is a 1,500-lumen light that has a solid 1.5-hour runtime, and you can find it on the shelves for less than $150.
The Olight Valkyrie can also pull double-duty on carbines and other long guns with its optional remote switch. On pistols, it’s activated with ambi switches at the rear of the unit. The downside is that it’s quite large for a pistol light, and there aren’t as many holster options, but it would prove effective on bedside guns that don’t live in holsters.