Everyday carry (EDC) refers not only to your concealed carry firearm but also to all of the related gear you should carry EVERY day. You don’t just strap on a firearm on the days that you might be traveling to a high-crime area of town or when you have a “premonition,” so you should think about your other EDC gear just as regularly. Let’s take a look at the key factors in choosing a tactical flashlight for everyday carry (and we can rule out the app on your iPhone here and now).
Reliability trumps every other consideration. You should not be selecting your EDC flashlight from the checkout line at a big-box store. “Two for the price of one” isn’t a bargain if neither works.
Your tactical light might be called to duty in a crisis or, if nothing else, can come in really handy more times than you expect. If you can, purchase your light from one of the same companies the military and police do. Your life and the lives of your loved ones are certainly worth more than bargain basement prices.
Everyday Carry Pocket Comfort
“Comfort” is not the first word that comes to mind in conjunction with an EDC tactical light. Normally (I am guilty of this), the discussion centers around lumen output and run time. But in thinking about the EDC mission, I realized that comfort is actually more important than lumens. All the lumens in the world won’t matter if they’re sitting on top of your dresser at home when you find yourself in a darkened alley or a major power outage.
Not everyone has the luxury of dressing with their light mounted on a belt. If you think about it, wearing a belt-mounted light everywhere advertises that you are not only prepared for darkness but also prepared for a gunfight. My EDC light always rides in my trouser pocket. Larger-sized EDC lights get pretty uncomfortable banging against my leg after four to six hours. Size and weight matter in EDC gear comfort, whether the operator is standing, walking or sitting. And sharp bezel crenulations will wear out your pocket liner in a hurry.
As LED tactical lights have developed over the years, power output in the 200- to 600-lumen range seems to be more than adequate. Above 600 lumens, the lights often aren’t pocket-comfortable. I would say 600 lumens is the ideal combination of light output and everyday carry comfort.
EDC Light Operating System
You can also go too small in terms of an EDC light to the point that it is difficult to hold on to or operate in a high-threat situation.
The control system is important. Switches must have momentary and constant-on tail-cap functions that can be controlled with only one hand. The reason I review Streamlight lights so often is that they consistently have the best operating controls on the market (in my opinion), although there are other decent lights out there. Surefire and MAGLITE are other companies that have been around just as long, and First-Light USA makes a highly versatile series of tactical EDC lights as well.
Another valuable asset these days are lights with multi-fuel power sources, such as lights that can interchangeably use rechargeable or lithium/alkaline cells. Packing along alternate fuel sources in your gear bag can be critical in long-term power-outage events.
Conclusions on Tactical Flashlights
When making a tactical light selection for everyday carry, check out retailers who can let you handle the various models available. This way, you’ll get a feel for pocket comfort and operating controls before purchasing. The reliability of the brand name will speak for itself. If you can’t afford a higher-priced light, have the salesperson show you other brands he or she is familiar with that are lower cost. In the end, the selection of an EDC carry light should follow the rule of holster selection: “Don’t buy a $1,000 gun and stuff it in a $10 holster.” Likewise, don’t buy a $1,000 gun and back it up with a “trash light.”
*Featured photo used with permission from First-Light USA.
About Scott W. Wagner
Scott W. Wagner is a criminal justice professor and police academy commander from Columbus, Ohio. He has been a police officer since 1980, working as an undercover liquor investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, patrol officer, SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader. Scott is currently a patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. He has been a police firearms instructor since 1986 and is certified to instruct revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.