Go to any flashlight page on Amazon or eBay, and you'll find lots of different flashlight options. Here's what you need to know about each:
LED Flashlights – Most flashlights today are "LED Flashlights" (for example: SUNJACK LIGHTSTICK ), meaning they use LED bulbs in place of the old incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs are cheaper and more reliable!
Most LED flashlights use one of the following Cree LED bulbs:
XM-L (T6)/(U2), the bulb used in most LED flashlights, with a maximum output around 700 lumens
XR-E (R2), with around 300 lumen count
XP-E (R2), with around 300 lumen count, but larger than the XR-E
XP-G (R5) and XP-G2, which have a higher lumen count (500+) and better beam-throwing capabilities
XP-C (Q4), a low-power LED bulb that is cheap and prone to overheating (BAD!)
XM-L2 U2/U3, another common bulb with a light output upwards of 1000 lumens.
XP-L/HI, available since 2014, has a similar light output above 1000 lumens.
Tactical Flashlight – Tactical flashlights are devices that have been designed for military or police use. Some classic features of military and tactical flashlights include:
The ability to mount to a weapon
Higher lumen emissions
Made with weapons-grade aluminum
Strike plate for use in hand-to-hand combat
Switch placement at the tip for quick turning on
Multiple light settings
"Tactical" and "Military" flashlights are usually the same, though some are designed with law enforcement and others with military use in mind.
Ultra-Bright Flashlight – Also known as a "portable sun", these flashlights offer extremely bright beams (upwards of 3,000 lumens, with some reaching as high as 8,500 lumens). These are usually used by security guards, law enforcement, and the military, but they are always not built with a "tactical" design (see features above).
TYPES OF FLASHLIGHT BULBS
LED – Light Emitting Diode (LED) flashlights have an LED bulb that generates a good amount of light without producing heat. LED bulbs have a VERY long lifespan (around 10,000 hours) and are highly durable, thanks to their lack of filament or glass. LED lights were once pricier, but now they're so common that they're usually the best-priced flashlights on the market.
Incandescent – These are the classic flashlights that have been around for decades. They use a glass and filament light bulb, so they're prone to breakage and have a shorter lifespan. The bulb generates heat as well as light, so energy is wasted—thus the bulb doesn't shine as bright. These are cheap and available EVERYWHERE.
Xenon, Krypton, and Halogen – These flashlights use filament bulbs filled with pressurized gases that help to extend the lifespan of the filament. The bulb burns brighter (by burning the gas) without generating more heat or wasting energy. They are the brightest flashlights on the market, but don't last as long as LED bulbs.
HID – High Intensity Discharge (HID) flashlights have a bulb that uses electricity passing through a ball of ionized gas. They're bulky, pricey, and not as common as other types, but VERY bright.
Shake – Shake flashlights, also known as Faraday flashlights, contain magnets that, when shaken, produce light via electromagnetism. A minute or two of shaking will produce an hour or two of light, but the light isn't very bright. They're used more for emergency flashlights than anything else.