If you plan on using your AR15 to defend yourself or someone else, then you need a quality weapons mounted light. Bad things happen at night, and it isn’t a good idea to shoot at things you can’t identify in the dark. Unfortunately flashlights and their accessories can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The good news for us is that you can find some of the best budget flashlights for AR15 use for much less. In this article I’m going to review the best budget tactical lights that won’t break the bank. Keep reading for more.
Between my time in the Marine Corps and as a Law Enforcement Officer, I’ve been doing tactical things for 15 years or so. I’ve used someone of the best gear, and I’ve used gear that was procured by mentally insane syphilitic prostitutes (probably).
While the general rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for, this isn’t always true when you’re talking about the best tactical flashlight . The first thing you need to know is that companies in this space spend millions of dollars for marketing and social media campaigns, to get you to buy their widget instead of the next guys widget.
This means that you and I are influenced by factors that really won’t affect real world performance. I’ll give you a perfect example of being sold on marketing versus real world performance.
Several years ago my duty gun was a Sig 226 in 40 cal. I had no issues with the gun, and it worked reasonably well. I was issued a Streamlight TLR 1 pistol light for it, and shot thousands of rounds with it mounted on my pistol with 100% reliability.
Most people would consider Streamlight to be a cheaper, less capable product compared to the industry standard, Surefire. I thought the same way. Which means that when I got the chance to upgrade to a Surefire X300 I did so. After about 5,000 round of 40 S&W, I sheered off several of the screws that held the rails to the light body. I found out that several other officers had experienced similar issues with their Surefire lights.
To put this in perspective, the X300 costs roughly double what the Streamlight costs, and it failed. Surefire fixed the issue but that isn’t much comfort. I still prefer the Surefure on my current 9mm duty gun, as it has a grip switch that I like, and the reduced 9mm recoil doesn’t beat the light up. I should also point out that Surefire switched their X300 mounting system away from plastic rails and screws, which makes it more robust.
The important point here is that cost doesn’t always equate to performance. This is great news for folks who want a great AR15 setup on a budget. Without further ado, let’s get to the 5 best budget flashlights for AR15.
Inforce WMLx Gen 2
I think the Inforce WMLx Gen 2 is the best bang for the buck AR15 tactical light on the market. As of this writing it costs less than $150 dollars, making it a great choice for your AR-15 rifle. The best thing about this light is that it doesn’t require any remote pressure pads or other accessories.
I’ve used tons of pressure pads, and they can work well, but I can tell you that they fail on a semi-regular basis. They require cable management, and they can become snag hazards if you don’t run the cables smartly along your weapons rails. As you’ll see this doesn’t preclude lights with pressure pads from making the best budget flashlights for ar15 list a little later on.
This weapons light has some great features including an 800 lumen output, and a light weight of around 4 ounces. It also has a manual lockout if you really don’t want the light to turn on, like when you’re carrying it in a case. It also has different modes, like a strobe mode.
Lastly it mounts directly to your picatinny rail without needing an adapter. This Inforce tactical light is ready to go right out of the box, which makes it very good value. Quite often you need a special mount, or other accessories to actually use the light in a tactical environment.
I would also like to respond to some of the haters out there that say a plastic flashlight is junk, and no serious user would rely on it. I think you’ll find that they don’t have to consider the best budget flashlights for AR15 use and yet the SEALs are still using them.
This image shows some Navy SEALs from DEVGRU training off the coast of Virginia Beach. If you look at the guy on the left you’ll find an Inforce light mounted at the 6 o’clock position of his rifle. Still think it’s a piece of junk?
I can also tell you that I’ve used an older Gen 1 Inforce WML on one of my first rifles, and it’s still going strong to this day. Sure, there are brighter lights, and some that look a little slicker like this Surefire Scoutlight Pro, but none of my other lights provide this amount of quality for the money. Next, we’ll move on to one of my favorite aluminum lights from Streamlight.
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Streamlight Protac HL-X
The Streamlight Protac HL-X is a great offering if you want a light laser combination. Interestingly enough, this light actually includes a laser emitter inside the bezel of the flashlight. At the time of this writing this option goes for around $150, which makes it great value, especially if you like a light laser combo.
Just like other Streamlight Protac rail mount lights, this light has a built in mounting solution. It also features a very long battery life of 22 hours. Compared to other weapons lights, this option provide excellent run time.
There are some downsides however, this light is heavy. If you check the specs below it comes in at 10 ounces, which is 2.5 times the weight of the Inforce above. It’s also 6 and a quarter inches long, cue Tender jokes. This means that this light would work well for a full sized rifle, but probably wouldn’t work well for a smaller SBR or sub gun.
This light will save you some more money because it includes a USB rechargeable battery. It can also run on two CR123 lithium batteries as well. This is convenient for those that don’t want to remember to charge batteries. I find that rechargeable batteries work well in my experience.
It includes mounting hardware and a remote pressure switch which features momentary, and constant on buttons. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I can tell you from experience, that it sucks to hold someone at gun point with a momentary only pressure pad. Constant on is a good idea.
If you don’t mind the weight and size, then this might make a good choice for you. It’s very bright, and can actually be dimmed if you don’t need all 1,000 lumens. I think you can see why it made the list of best budget flashlights for AR15. Next we’re going to talk about our most economical setup, which is actually a Surefire light.
Surefire G2x Flashlight
I bet you never thought you’d see a Surefire light in a budget list! Well I’ve cheated slightly. The Surefire G2x is actually a handheld flashlight. As of this writing you can purchase it for just about $80. To make it a weapon mounted light you need this mount from GG&G (Amazon Affiliate Link). This makes it one of the best ar-15 flashlights for those on a tight budget.
This is an old school setup that was made popular by the likes of Kyle Lamb, a former Delta Force Operator. Back in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there weren’t very many quality white lights for rifles, which meant that Operators often mounted handheld flashlights in ring mounts.
This light and mounting method comes in right around $110 dollars at the time fo this writing. The mount is roughly $30. This style of setup is normally mounted at nine o’clock on your rifle and activated by your off hand thumb.
I think this would work well in a home defense setup, for someone who doesn’t want a light that needs to be mounted at all times. If you plan on using the gun with a light more often, then I would probably look at one of the lights with a dedicated mount built into the body.
This setup also means that you can take the ring mount off, and use the light in handheld fashion if you don’t need a weapon light. This provides added flexibility and can save you additional money by not having to buy another type of light. Next let’s talk about a great compact light for smaller AR15s.
Streamlight TLR RM1
The Streamlight TLR RM1 is a great compact light for smaller pistol style AR15s. If you have a shorter barrel then you probably want to consider this light. As of this writing the RM1 can be purchased for right around $150. This is a good deal considering all of the accessories, like the remote switch, that you get with the light.
This is also one of the lightest options, coming in at 2.74 ounces. It’s half the weight of the next lightest light, the Inforce WMLx. This is partially because it only takes one CR123 battery. This does have the side affect of limiting light output to 500 lumens.
Personally I’ve found 500 lumens to work well for home defense, but don’t expect to light up the night if you’re using your gun outdoors for some night time plinking. For most compact AR15 style pistols, like my POF Renegade Plus, you tend to need the remote pressure switch.
You have less rail real-estate to mount a light, and as a result most folks tend to mount it on the 3 o’clock side, putting the pressure pad around the 12 o’clock position. This is generally the most comfortable option.
Streamlight TLR 8
The Streamlight TLR 8 is the most compact light laser combo you can purchase. It’s meant to be a pistol light for something like the venerable Glock 19. However, just because it’s marketed for pistol users, doesn’t mean it won’t work well for an AR15, especially a compact AR style gun like the Sig Sauer Rattler. At the time of this writing you can pick one up for about $205.
This ultra compact weapons light includes a red laser underneath the 500 lumen bright light. It is activated using the buttons on either side of the light body. This allows you to mount it pretty much anywhere on your rifle where you have a picatinny rail system.
I think a laser is a good idea for home defense, as it provides you an intermediate option, prior to using lethal force. Most folks understand what a laser beam on their chest means. Provided you have the time and space to do so, being able to give someone a chance to leave can save you a lot of time and money. Even the most justified shooting will still involve months, if not years of investigation.
This compact light/laser combo gives you a lot of options in a relatively small package. It also allows you to run it on your concealed carry pistol if you need it for dual purposes. Now that we’ve covered the 5 best budget flashlights for AR15 use, let’s cover my personal preferences for a tactical light. Be warned my setup isn’t cheap, but it is nice.
Surefire M 340C Mini Scoutlight Pro
This light certainly isn’t the best budget flashlights for AR15 but it is one of the most compact weapons mounted lights for your rifle. It isn’t compact in the sense that its overall shape is small. It’s compact because of the innovative mounting system that allows the light body to swivel, keeping it extremely close to your rail. It also features a compact light head. Check out this video for all the details.
This light setup with, with my preferred tape switch, and adapter is about $480. Is it 2 or 3 times better than these other offerings above? Absolutely not! It is a great quality light and it fits my needs very well, but that doesn’t mean you need to drop big bucks on this light.
Next we’ll talk about a few other items you might need for a good budget rifle build. Including some optics, and a great value fighting suppressor.
AR15 Accessories: Optics, and Suppressors
To be perfectly honest most AR15 users are best served with a red dot optic. These optics are very flexible and are the most forgiving for use at night, with all vision types. However, given your specific circumstances you might find that a low powered variable optic would work well for you.
I highly recommend reading this article where I cover the pros and cons of red dot optics and magnified optics. This will help you find a good option for you. The good news is that you can get a great quality red dot optic for less than $150.
Most folks think of suppressors as something Special Forces use and not as a practical self defense piece of equipment. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you’re allowed to purchase and own a suppressor where you live, then you should really consider getting one.
Obviously they reduce the noise coming from the muzzle, which is incredibly deafening indoors, but they also reduce muzzle flash, especially at night. This doesn’t sound like a big deal until you’ve basically blinded yourself after one or two shots, and have no idea where the guy you just engaged went. That’s a problem!
I prefer a K can style suppressor, that is light, and short. Check out my review of the Dead Air Sandman K. It’s a great value suppressor that can be mounted on any rifle provided you use a Dead Air muzzle device. I have several of them and have shot that suppressor on both 5.56m and 7.62m rifles.
We’ve talked about a lot of minutia so far, so I think it’s important to review some of the more important points about the best budget flashlights for AR15 use.
Any of these lights can be considered one of the best budget flashlights for AR15 for a variety of uses. If you plan on lighting up your house, or short ranges then feel free to use one of the smaller, more compact lights. If you might need to use them outdoors you should go for one of the brighter options.
Some internet gun personalities will talk about using lights that are too bright, and this being a detriment to your vision. Personally I’ve never had an issue with, even with lights that are over 1,000 lumens. You can look at high beams from a car and not fall down in agony. I think you can look at a flashlight for a second.
Best Budget Flashlights for AR15 Practical Considerations
Don’t underestimate the form factor. If you have a full sized rifle, then you can go with anything you want. If you have a short AR15 style pistol or rifle, then you’re probably better off with a smaller setup.
As always, you need to actually train with the rig you use. Some rifles won’t work well with certain lights or setups. For example, you might find that you can reliably shoot the pressure pad off your rail if you mount it too close to your gas block, on some rifles! Not that I know from experience or anything.
If you’re going to use this gun to defend yourself or others you should definitely put several hundred rounds through your light / weapon setup to ensure you know how to works. This ensures that it’s reliable, and gives you confidence in your equipment.
If you have any questions or comments put them below, and I will get you an answer. Now get out there and get training!
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