Picking the Right Pistol Mounted Light: A Comprehensive 

May 26, 2022

Picking the Right Pistol Mounted Light: A Comprehensive 

 

Gone are the days of when people bought into the false tactics of a light being a liability to use is a defensive situation.

Here at TXC Holsters, we are strong believers in the use of pistol-mounted lights on defensive handguns, and fortunately we live in a technological time that provides options for pistol-mounted lights that generations before could not conceive of.

So, some of you are probably still asking “why would a light on a handgun be of any real use to me?” Simply, you can only shoot, what you can see. Products like night sights and red dots only allow you to aim in darkness, but they don’t give you any type of information about the target you are attempting to identify–no visual, no target.

Enter the X1: Beacon

We believe so much in the importance of a light on a handgun for everyday carry, that we developed our X1: Beacon – the light-bearing offering of our minimalist holster lineup. The X1: Beacon comes with a standard plastic clip by default but can be upgraded to tuckable soft loops or Discreet Carry Concepts Mod 4 clips. It comes standard with an attached Modwing on the front, and built-in concealment wedge on the back to maximize comfort and reduce printing, even with a full-sized “duty” light.

The X1: Beacon supports several lights, and each light offers its own pros and cons. We thought this would be helpful to highlight as you shop for your own light setup. Below is a list of lights we think would be worthwhile considering. The X1:Beacon supports these options and others, but for simplicity sake, if you are purchasing a new light in 2022 we would recommend you to consider one of these five main lights (below). Soak up our pro/con lists on each light below, as we compare their stats and our overall impressions.

 

Surefire X300U

($329 MSRP / 1000 Lumens / 16.5K Candela)

View in Marketplace > The long-time reigning champion of the full-sized “duty grade” lights, the powerful Surefire X300 Ultra is virtually indestructible. Featuring a high-performance LED that generates 1,000 lumens of stunning white light focused by a Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens. The emitter generates a “middle of the road” color temperature with a blend of throw and spill that is ideal for close to mid-range target identification. Activation of the X300 is done by the ambidextrous switches at the rear of the light. Simply push in the switch on either side for momentary or flip up or down for constant-on activation.

Pro:

  • Full-sized duty light with massive holster support
  • Decades of proven durability and reliability
  • Mounting system that is nearly universal to any picatinny style rail
  • Aftermarket support for switch modifications

Cons:

  • Highest dollar-to-lumen output of all the lights on this list
  • For its nearly identical size, the output is significantly lower than the PL350. However, the X300 turbo will compete with the Modlite option. However, the turbo is rumored to be priced in the $370 range.

 

Streamlight TLR1-HL

($156 MSRP / 1000 Lumens / 16.5K Candela)

View in Marketplace > This light a great budget alternative to the X300U if you are wanting a full-sized “duty” light. Its performance on paper is almost identical to the current version of the X300U, at half the price. Overall, it is slightly shorter than the X300U, but runs on the same 2xcr123 fuel source. It uses similar rocker-style switch to the X300U and the PL350, but varies in functionality. Example, if you press down on the left side, the spring-loaded switch will return to “off” once you release it. Constant on is achieved by rocking up on the left side, where it will detent into place. It is ambidextrous, but functionality is reversed if you’re a left-handed shooter.

Pro:

  • Full-sized duty light
  • Extremely affordable X300U alternative
  • Sturdy rail interface screw

Cons:

  • Strobe mode that cannot be disabled (but CAN be accidentally activated)
  • Non-adjustable switch length/functionality 


Streamlight TLR7A

($132 MSRP / 500 Lumens / 5K Candela)

View in Marketplace > Once updated from the original TLR7, the “A” revision brought all the features needed to make this the perfect compact-sized weapon light. Don’t let its lumen and candela figure fool you. With a good reflector and a slightly warmer-than-average color temperature that’s optimized for mix lighting environments, this little light definitely swings above its weight class. With its updated switch design, activation is fully ambidextrous with a single tap for constant on or a hold for momentary. If you need a light for comfort and concealability without sacrificing performance, this is the light.

Pro:

  • Great performance for the size
  • Awesome switchology

Cons:

  • Rail “keys” to fit the light to the length of different trigger guards (from different gun models) are extremely cumbersome to get installed, but required to achieve best fitment on your handgun.
  • Lack of a good guide for common firearms models and with which rail insert key to use

 

Streamlight TLR7 Sub

($136 MSRP / 500 Lumens / 5K Candela)

View in Marketplace > If the TLR-7A swings above its weight class, the TLR-7 Sub is just cheating. There isn’t much to say about the 7sub, besides the fact that is identical to the TLR-7A in every way besides its rail compatibility. While the A is meant for picatinny rails, the Sub works on micro rails like the P365 and the 43X/48 MOS. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best open for lighting to ever come to the world of subcompact pistols.

Pro:

  • Same pros as the TLR7A

Cons:

  • The only firearms it works on are “micro” pistols, which usually sacrifice a lot of capacity, handling, and ballistics to achieve high concealability and comfort.

 

Modlite PL350

($330 MSRP / 1350 Lumens / 54K Candela)

View in Marketplace > The PL350 is the beast of these lights. If you are someone who wants performance over every other factor. At barely more cost than an X300U, you get a light that is the same size with absolutely insane performance. The lumen and candela rating make this light blinding up close, and fully capable of positive identification well out to 100 yards. If that sounds more like a rifle engagement distance, you’re not wrong… the PL350 uses the same light heads as the Modlite rifle lights. The biggest flaw of the PL350 (to some people) is the lack of a momentary function. Many defensive handgun instructors lament the use of momentary on a pistol light, but that didn’t influence the reception of this feature omission by the public. It’s up to you whether that is a feature you need or not.

Pro:

  • Rechargeable battery with a convenient front-loading swap that doesn’t require you to dismount the light
  • Cross-compatibility with Modlite heads and batteries
  • No momentary (depends on who you ask if this is a pro or a con)

Cons:

  • Rail adapter keys that, like the TLR7, require tuning to get the most optimal fitment
  • Public complaints of rail keys and switch tabs breaking
  • No momentary (depends on who you ask if this is a pro or a con)

 

 

Conclusion

There are an incredible number of options, but the best option is incredibly dependent on what handgun you own (or plan to own). Gear selection should always be dictated by context; ask the questions below when considering a new piece of gear:

  • “Does this purchase fit into the ecosystem of gear I already have? If not, is it a good fit in the long term?”
  • “What need does this fill?”
  • “Will I have to change other aspects of my equipment to fit this purchase?”
  • “Am I considering buying this out of impulse or because it’s a good fit for my needs?”

GEAR IS FUN, but we do encourage you to be deliberate in your purchases? We hope that this information helps you in your decision-making process when considering a pistol mounted light.

Stay mission-ready. Stay confident.

– TXC