ThruNite TN12 CW – Brightest 18650 Flashlight for the Money

ThruNite TN12 Cool White (2016) – Brightest 18650 Flashlight for the Money

Max Lumens1050
Low Lumens0.4
Battery Life (Max)1.58 hr.
Battery Life (Low)1776 hrs.
Battery1 x 18650
2 x CR123A
LED BulbCree XM-L2 U2 Cool White
Length5.63 In.

The category of single cell 18650 flashlights comes with many competitors vying for the title of the best tactical flashlight. However, only one can be said to come at a steal. That will be the ThruNite TN12.

The TN12 as of this date should be at its third iteration, with the latest one at 2016. Both 2014 and 2016 editions have a turbo output of 1050 lumens but the 2016 version has a more significant spacing between the high mode and turbo, with a high output of 370 lumens instead of the 800 lumens found in the 2014 version. This was probably after some feedback that most can’t tell the difference between high and turbo. Other than that, the 2016 TN12 is built to be tougher with a thicker head. It also has a stainless steel side switch for better feel in the dark and lastly, improved focusing optics for a better quality beam.


Smooth Reflector for Balanced Throw and Spill

The smooth reflector in the TN12 produces a very good general purpose beam with a clear hotspot and decent corona with a soft edge between the two.

Here’s how the beam performs at night:

The beam spill is not overly wide but well-balanced to provide good illumination of a distant target’s immediate surroundings, all while keeping the target sufficiently lit.


6 Versatile Modes of Operation

The TN12 2016 edition has 6 versatile modes. The standard modes are well spaced-out and very useful with low (11 lumens), medium (145 lumens) and high (370 lumens). A turbo at 1050 lumens if you ever need that extra punch out in the open or to light up a room. You can set it upright on a tail stand on a flat surface if you ever need to use it as a candle.

Finally, it has a firefly mode of 0.4 lumens if you need to read something in the dark without blinding yourself. Ironically, having an ultra-low firefly mode in a powerful flashlight is a true indicator of the flashlight’s versatility: Powerful when needed, yet able to be discreet when preservation of night vision or light discipline becomes a priority.

Here’s a demonstration of the different modes and their run-times:

Lastly, there is a strobe mode at 800 lumens that is activated by holding down the side switch. Useful for disorienting and gaining a tactical advantage during a confrontational situation.


Tough as Nails

Previously in the 2014 version, there were multiple torture tests online that had it failing after a couple of drop tests, but ThruNite obviously noted that and made the 2016 version a LOT tougher.

The black anodized aluminium is now thicker at the head to allow it to withstand even greater shocks.

The following is probably the most extreme YouTube video of the durable TN12 2016 being dropped, run over, frozen, smashed and end up… still working…

Test Methodology: Absolute Zero F*c*s Given


Final Thoughts

The TN12 at turbo is really the brightest flashlight for the money. The 2016 edition embodies some of the best features based on the collective feedback from fans of the TN12. The modes are spaced out to make the LED flashlight a very versatile illumination tool that is ideal for every possible use case in the dark.

The size of the TN12, at only 5.63 inches, makes it a great Every Day Carry (EDC) flashlight and its toughness makes a great survival or even a self-defense tool in case you need a hard, hand-held smashing device. You can be sure the flashlight will still work when the job is done.

Overall, for the price, the quality of the flashlight is simply amazing. Definitely a highly recommend if you’re looking for the best 18650 flashlight for the money.


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*Images courtesy of ThruNite. Videos courtesy of WeAllJuggleKnives, InnerBark Outdoors and CombativeAirsoft


Do you have a TN12 2016? How has it worked for you?