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How to Choose WeaponLights


Given that most modern handgun and long gun WeaponLights now use LED emitters—and that the output of all SureFire WeaponLights far exceeds the 50-lumen minimum necessary to degrade an aggressor's dark-adapted vision at close combat ranges—there are currently four primary considerations in selecting the proper weapon-mounted light for a given application or mission:

1. Reliability — The light must be reliable, able to handle weapon recoil and expected combat conditions.

2. Output and Beam Configuration — The light needs to provide the necessary output and beam shape (flood, spot, or a combination of both) to locate and identify potential threats at the anticipated combat range.

3. Ergonomic Switching — The light should feature intuitive switching that allows easy operation without significantly altering a fundamentally sound grip on the weapon.

4. Compactness — The light should be as small and lightweight as possible.


Beam configuration refers to the three-dimensional shape of the light emitted from an illumination tool (typically cone-shaped) along with how the light is distributed within that shape. There are two primary beam configurations used by most weapon-mounted lights:

1. Flood Beam, Figure 1, right. In a flood beam, also known as a wide-angle beam, the emitter’s light is focused into a wide cone or near-hemisphere with uniform light distribution throughout the beam. This produces more-natural lighting conditions (more like the sun) and maximizes area and peripheral illumination. But wider-angle illumination comes at the expense of reach, thus reducing situational awareness and target ID/acquisition capability at longer ranges. Typically, wider-angle beams are produced by using smaller-diameter reflectors to focus the beam.

2. Spot Beam, Figure 2, right. In a spot beam, the emitter’s light is focused into a narrow cone. This narrow beam achieves maximum “reach” for the illumination tool’s given lumen output, but it comes at the cost of less area/peripheral illumination at closer ranges, thus diminishing situational awareness in close-quarter and more-confined spaces. Spot beams are achieved by focusing an emitter’s light with either a larger-diameter reflector or a lens that projects the light forward.

Because weapon-mounted-light applications are not typically always long-range or always close-quarter in nature, SureFire LED WeaponLights produce a third type of beam:

3. Beam with Reach and Surround Light, Figure 3, right. These best-of-both-world beams—with both ample reach and sufficient peripheral illumination—provide benefits of both extremes for maximum versatility. SureFire biases individual WeaponLight beams toward spot or wider-angle, depending on the intended application, by using either a precision-machined reflector or one of our patented Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lenses to focus the emitter’s light.


All SureFire LED WeaponLights feature beams with a combination of reach and surround light, biased toward spot, wider-angle, or somewhere in the middle. Lights such as our Turbohead TIR-lensed M900LT and M500LT are heavily biased toward spot configuration, while lights like our best-selling X300® Ultra feature a smaller TIR lens that biases the beam right down the middle for close- and longer-range applications. While SureFire does not produce any WeaponLights with beams heavily biased toward flood configuration <— because their application would be too limited — we do manufacture WeaponLights with reflector-focused wider-angle beams, such as our DSF Series shotgun lights, designed for closer-quarter applications. However, if a true flood beam is needed, it can be created by attaching a SureFire diffuser to the WeaponLight.

Close-quarter applications — Generally speaking, a WeaponLight intended specifically for indoor and close-quarter applications should have a moderate-output, wider (flood-biased) beam. This will:

  • Maximize peripheral vision and situational awareness
  • Minimize hot spots and beam splash-back from light-colored walls and reflective surfaces that can degrade the user's night-adapted vision
  • Provide a broad light cone capable of disorienting one or more opponent’s dark-adapted vision

In close-quarter context "moderate-output" means at least 100 lumens. For single-output WeaponLights the maximum desirable output will depend on the maximum engagement distance expected, as well as considerations concerning the size, weight, and runtime of the WeaponLight (see "IS MORE LIGHT ALWAYS BETTER?" below). Of course, a variable-output WeaponLight permits adjusting output for a particular situation.

Mid-range to longer-range applications — For these applications, a WeaponLight should have high-output, narrow (spot-biased) beam. This will:

  • Increase reach, maximizing target ID capabilities and stand-off engagement range
  • Extends blinding/dominating effect to longer ranges


Given that combat conditions are continually changing, it is nearly always better to have more light available, since it provides greater reach, greater situational awareness, enhanced target identification capability, and enhanced domination through light. However, sometimes more light can be detrimental. Here’s why:

  • In close-quarter situations an excessively bright light can bounce off walls, windows, mirrors, and other reflective surfaces and into your eyes, dangerously degrading your own night-adapted vision.
  • Higher light output usually requires more power, meaning more batteries, which can add weight to your WeaponLight. More weight means a heavier, less maneuverable weapon. The more your gear weighs, the more energy you expend transporting it, which can add up in combat conditions and training exercises.
  • High-output WeaponLights typically don't run as long as lower-output lights powered by the same number of batteries. A shorter runtime means you'll consume more batteries and may necessitate carrying more spare batteries on missions.

A WeaponLight with multiple- or variable-output capability eliminates these issues and provides the best of both worlds—and maximum versatility.


Light Spectrum — White light is not always the first choice for certain operations. When used in conjunction with night vision devices, infrared LEDs provide stealth illumination that’s virtually invisible to the naked eye. Lower-output and colored secondary LEDs, used for navigation, minimize light signature and help preserve dark-adapted vision. SureFire makes V-Series WeaponLights with white-light and IR output capability, as well as Vertical Foregrip WeaponLights featuring lower-light-signature LED navigation lights.

Laser Capability — Along with sufficient light to illuminate a target, some users want a laser sight for effective aiming, particularly in unconventional, highly stressful situations. SureFire X400 WeaponLights offer white-light and/or infrared illumination plus vibrant laser sights in red, green, or infrared.

Switch Selection — In high-stress situations, when there’s no time to think, just react, operating your WeaponLight needs to be second nature. An ergonomic, intuitive, fail-safe switch on your light is critical. You need one that turns on when you need it, off when you don't, and won’t accidentally activate and give away your location. A switch that does all of these things, and allows you to operate your light without sacrificing a fundamental shooting grip, meets all the necessary criteria. Every SureFire WeaponLight gives you all of the above.

Switch Selection Figure1

Mounting/Attachment — WeaponLights can be mounted in a variety of ways: to a railed pistol, an accessory rail on a long gun, as a semi-permanent dedicated forend that replaces a weapon’s original factory forend, or even to a long gun’s barrel or gas tube. SureFire offers WeaponLights that mount or attach securely in many ways, to accommodate virtually any firearm. The three basic attachment methods are shown below.

Mounting Consideration

Picatinny Rail Mount

A thumbscrew clamp or throw-lever clamp attaches the WeaponLight to the MIL-STD 1913 ("Picatinny") rail of a long gun or hand gun.

Barrel or Tube Mount

For firearms without rails, or for those with rails already occupied by an accessory. A clamp attaches the WeaponLight directly to the barrel, magazine tube, or gas tube, depending on the weapon.

Replacement Forends

Replaces your firearm's original factory forend. Light and switching are integrated into the forend without any exposed wires or cables.


Batteries — A high-performance WeaponLight demands an equally high-performance power source. All SureFire WeaponLights for hand-held weapons are powered by SureFire 123A lithium batteries. These 3-volt high-energy cells are powerful, affordable, disposable, and offer significant advantages over alkaline batteries, including:

  • Longer shelf life
  • Better temperature tolerance
  • Higher power density
  • More voltage, smaller size
  • Superior voltage maintenance
  • Built-in fault/heat protection

To purchase SureFire 123A batteries click here.