With more than 30 major brands of flashlights out in the market today, which one is the best? Whether you are looking for the best flashlight for the money, a firm believer of U.S-made goods, or simply looking for guidance on what are the brands the flashlight community trusts, we hope this article can help.
This article will grow and expand with the coming of more players within the market, so do check back every now and then.
Starting with one of the oldest and most trusted brand available in the market for illumination products, Surefire is the brainchild of Dr John Matthews. The Ph.D engineer from Cal Tech founded the company that deals with industrial lasers, called Newport Corporation in 1969. After 10 years of success, he developed and patented the first weapon laser-sight as a hobby. Being the first laser-sight, it was large and unwieldy. Dr Matthews moved on to form another company called Laser Products to focus all efforts on commercializing laser sights for weapons in 1979.
The 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles had Laser Products working with the LAPD’s SWAT team by loaning them laser-sighted shotguns for security use during the games. Over the next few years, Laser Products’ commitment to enhancing law enforcement needs, led it to develop weapon-mounted flashlights, and then to lead the industry in the manufacture of tactical flashlights, which led to the birth of Surefire LLC.
Established in the USA, Surefire prides itself for the “Made-In-USA” labelling for the majority of their products. However for illumination products, in order to stay competitive in today’s global economy, it makes sense to source for LEDs outside the U.S.
Although these cannot be branded “Made In the U.S.A”, Surefire still prides itself for maintaining the highest standards through the selection of only the highest quality LEDs, with as many American-made parts and assembled in the U.S under the highest quality control.
For true believers in U.S-made quality, there are few substitutes for Surefire. In fact, owning a Surefire flashlight is like owning an Apple in the world of illumination products.
That analogy goes for pricing as well. Surefires generally command a premium price compared to most similar range of products available from its competition.
Quality & Innovation
That kind of pricing do not come without justification. Surefire tactical flashlights boast virtually indestructible regulated LEDs, encased in high-strength aerospace aluminum bodies that are anodized and hardened according to military specification.
Surefire also holds many trademarks and patents with regards to technology used for their flashlights. This is something not seen to be widely practiced by other brands of flashlight manufacturers and it seems like there was already an all out patent battle in 2014. Yet another suspiciously familiar reference to our analogy.
Some examples of Surefire’s innovations are MaxVision™ and Intellibeam™, which you can learn more about from the videos below.
The Surefire P2X Fury with Intellibeam™ beam configuration
The Surefire Titan Plus featuring MaxVision™ beam configuration
These branded innovations set Surefire apart from the rest of the competition, highlighting the company’s commitment to remain at the forefront of the industry.
Next in line is Fenix. Their story is the typical entrepreneurial journey of a group of young men in China who got together because they believed the market, at that time, was incapable of producing high quality illumination tools. So in 2004, they got together and formed FenixLight Limited.
To produce lights that met their standards, they headed their own design, machining and electronics through a group of professional engineers. During that time, they sought for dealers in North America through CandlePowerForums and caught the attention of FourSevens, who at that time, owned several online stores selling other brands of flashlights. After understanding from FourSevens that the needs of the North American markets are pretty similiar to their own – reliable and practical flashlights. They went on to create the the L1, the L1+ and eventually the L1P, an AA battery powered, 1 WATT Luxeon LED flashlight with a type III anodized aluminium body, that eventually made it to the North America market. The L1P also got awarded Flashlight of 2005 by users of CandlePowerForums. It even drew the attention of the New York Times.
The rest as they say, is history.
Fenix is one of the few non-American brands that has developed a strong following, folks from the Western hemisphere included. Today, their products are distributed to more than 100 countries.
Back home in China, they work closely with tertiary educational institutes on product R&D and are very active in the sporting arena, nurturing 4 teams from different disciplines: basketball, football, badminton and outdoor sports. In the area of philanthrophy, Fenix founded its own charity fund and provided aid to multiple disasters, including the eastern Japan earthquake, the Chile mining disaster, Typhoon Morakat in Taiwan and Wenchuan earthquake back home.
Quality and Innovation
The determination of Fenix to lead the world of illumination products came with their launch of the P1D/P1D CE series of digital multimode flashlights in 2006, the first manufactuer in the world to produce Cree XR-E microprocessor current regulated flashlights during that time. A time when Cree XR-E LEDs were the brightest LEDs in the market. Their reputation were set in stone.
Another reason behind such a strong brand following is mainly due to the quality of Fenix’s products at a time when most people believed that China was producing mostly junk. The quality of their TK Series of tactical flashlights were able to go toe to toe with the likes of Surefire, which is nothing short of an amazing feat.
Fenix TK16 LED Tactical Flashlight – 1000 Lumens
It is also one of the few companies that publishes the ANSI-FEMA FL 1 specifications for each of their flashlights, another sign of their commitment to quality.
Fenix’s popularity is the price of its flashlights, which are perceived as reasonable by many, considering the outstanding quality comparable with some of the best in the market.
A true underdog, ThruNite was founded in 2009 in GuangDong, China, by a college dropout with a dream to enter the flashlight market. It has since moved to Shenzhen and handles its own R&D, manufacturing, sales and service.
What makes this company different is that it mostly deals direct to consumers. Yup, no middlemen, its straight from ThruNite to you. It has various Amazon distribution points around the world, namely: U.S, Canada, Germany, U.K, France, Italy and Japan. It is also sold by Taobao (part of Alibaba), China. Oddly, for Australia, it does have a couple of dealers there.
They are also known, since 2005, to be OEM manufacturers for flashlights and flashlight accessories for some major companies.
Overall, the brand is very well respected, perhaps due to the owner’s involvement with the community.
Following the steps of Fenix founders back in their humble days, ThruNite CEO David Chen is very active in the CandlePowerForums. Constantly seeking feedback from the community on what they are looking for in a flashlight, and honest thoughts on some of his existing products.
To go a step further to build up it’s community reputation, ThruNite spends it’s marketing dollars sending review units, together with actual products from competitors, to online reviewers in exchange for honest reviews. Definitely a bold and gutsy move, one that flaunts the company’s confidence in its products. This created a surge in YouTube ThruNite reviews, immediately sending brand awareness levels through the roof.
A unique phenomenon that came with ThruNite sending review units to YouTube channel owners, is that it has spawned a trend of reviewing the toughness of the flashlights, sometimes in truly bizarre manners. There are probably more flashlight torture tests tagged ThruNite than any other brands. And why not? The units cost nothing to the channel owners anyway, might as well go all out to create some real entertainment value. So if you’re in for durable and tough flashlights, ThruNite would most likely got you covered with plenty of test videos online.
Here’s a guy turning a bunch of ThruNite’s Ti3s into shotgun rounds and test firing at ballistic gel. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.
Does it prove that the Ti3 is tough? I can’t tell. But it sure answers that obscure question lurking at the back of your head if you were ever curious about what happens if you shoot a flashlight at someone.
The ThruNite Ti3 EDC Flashlight
Quality and Innovation
As mentioned earlier, the innovations from ThruNite actually come from its customers and flashlight enthusiasts, who frequently give their feedback in forums or YouTube reviews on what features they would like, the kind of control mechanisms they would want and even designs they hope to see.
The company’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction has seen them produce durable flashlights with high quality beams and state of the art user interfaces. Something that has put them ahead of most other competition.
By going direct to its customers, ThruNite has been able to offer its products at incredibly competitive prices. The assurance comes from the fact that this is due to their business model, not from cutting corners.