What’s the big deal about tactical flashlight tailcap switches? From a practical standpoint it just might be the most important feature on a tactical flashlight. It is the main control that not only turns the flashlight on and off, but can also give you access to most of the other lighting modes. Here are seven things you need to know.
Just how important are tactical flashlight tailcap switches?
If you use a tactical flashlight as a self-defense tool, the tailcap switch is incredibly important. It can give you instant access to the most important lighting mode for self defense – the strobe. When seconds count, being able to quickly access the strobe and disorient an attacker is critical. It can give you time to evade and run or give you time to draw a weapon.
What do tactical flashlight tailcap switches do?
On a tactical flashlight, the tailcap switch is normally the main on / off switch for the flashlight. It sometimes can be slightly depressed to turn your flashlight on – sometimes called instant-on. It is important to note that although the functionality of a tailcap switch is similar from manufacturer to manufacturer, there really is no industry standard for the way they operate.
What kinds of tailcap switch designs are there?
If you are in the process of evaluating some tactical flashlights, you’ll be happy to know there are really just two tailcap switch designs. One has been around the longest – the single tailcap switch. A later permutation of this is the split or dual tailcap switch. I’ll share the design I prefer later in this post.
Single tailcap switch
The photo below show a single tailcap switch.
It typically turns the flashlight on and off. Some models have “instant on” that allows you to slightly depress the switch to turn on the flashlight. If you choose a tactical flashlight that uses a single tailcap switch, make sure it has this feature. I’d also make sure that the flashlight has “memory” so you can always ensure you are accessing turbo / high mode.
Dual tailcap switch
The dual tailcap switch can be found on many manufacturers tactical flashlights, including those made by Klarus, Fenix, Nitecore. The following photos are of three different dual tailcap switch designs.
As you can see from the photos, three different tactical flashlights, three different designs. Although it can vary from model to model the primary tailcap switch is used to turn on the flashlight. The secondary switch is used to cycle through the lighting modes.
The secondary switch in the dual or split tailcap switch design is extremely important. In almost all models of any brand tactical flashlight with a split / dual tailcap switch, it gives you immediate access to the strobe. That makes the split tailcap switch a must have if you consider your tactical flashlight a piece of your non-lethal self defense.
Which tailcap switch design do I recommend?
I rarely purchase a tactical flashlight without a dual tailcap switch. Having the instant on strobe is vital to me as I have a tactical flashlight on my nightstand. I don’t want to fumble around cycling through lighting modes to get to my strobe.
Do I still buy tactical flashlights with a single tailcap switch? Sure. But I consider my tactical flashlights with split tailcap switches the primary go-to lights when I think self-defense might be in order. Even if you don’t think of your tactical flashlight as a self-defense tool, I love the secondary switch to quickly and easily cycle through the lighting modes.
What is the tactical flashlight side switch used for?
The side switch is typically used as another way to turn the flashlight on and off, cycle thru normal lighting modes, or access specialty lighting modes like beacon or SOS modes. It is sometimes used to assist in programming your tactical flashlight if has completely different lighting mode setups like “tactical” or “normal” or “hiking / camping.” There is no manufacturer standard, so it’s going to vary from flashlight to flashlight.
Flashlight tailcap switches – conclusion
Hopefully, this information will assist you as you evaluate flashlights that you are interested in purchasing. As I stated earlier, I have a strong preference for the dual tailcap switch design. You’ll note that most of the flashlight reviews on this site are of models with dual tactical tail switches. Just think about the way you plan to use the flashlight and select a model that meets those needs.
Do you have any comments, questions or tactical flashlight related topics you want me to cover? Feel free to reach out to me.