The Best AR-15 Lights – Brighten Up

in Authors, Gear Reviews, Laser & Lights, Travis Pike

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

The adaptive, modular rifle handguard is responsible for a great many jobs and small businesses in the United States. Who knew attaching a rail to a rifle could launch a number of industries? One of those industries is the weapon light market. The market for AR-15 lights is absolutely massive, with lots of great lights and even more crap-tier lights. With that in mind, what are the best AR-15 lights? That’s a loaded question, but we’ll try to answer it today! 

Why Do You Need An AR-15 Light? 

That’s the golden question. You might not need a light for your AR-15. However, if your rifle is being sued for home defense, then a light is mandatory. A good light allows you to establish positive identification of a potential threat. It allows you to tell friends from foes and ensure if you take a shot, it’s on a genuine threat, not a teenager sneaking back in. 

Other uses include range management. Anyone who has livestock knows that plenty of threats come at night. Being able to see, aim, and shoot quickly can be invaluable. This includes predators like coyotes or those darn invasive hogs. A white light makes picking them off at range accurately easy. 

What Makes a Good AR-15 Light? 

That’s the big question. In the modern era of 2023 and beyond, we want to find a good balance of lumens and candela. A ton of lumens without much candela isn’t a great combination, and vice versa. Lumens is the sheer brightness of the light, and candela is what propels all that light. To maximize range, overcome photonic barriers, and downright blind whatever the light is pointed at, you want that good mix. 

You typically want a light that attaches easily to a rifle. You also want an easy way to activate the light for many that involves a pressure pad and remote switch. Shooters also want to fight the right combination of size and weight to ensure their rifle isn’t weighed down. 

With this in mind, what are the best AR-15 lights on the market? 

Surefire M640DFT 

Surefire is the preeminent name in weapon lights. They built their reputation on unbeatable lights that were nearly unbreakable. They had plenty of contracts with the military, as well as local, federal, and state police forces. Surefire were innovators for decades but slowed down until only recently. They’ve been pushed into innovating and creating the new Turbo series of weapon lights. The Surefire M640DFT-Pro is the classic full-sized Scout light that’s turbocharged and is one of the most powerful lights they’ve ever produced. 

The Best AR-15 Lights - Brighten Up
Surefire upped their game with the Turbo Series

The Surefire M640DFT Pro throws out a mighty 700 lumens backed by a blistering 100,000 candela of white light power. For reference, the standard M640 has 1,000 lumens but only 11,300 candela. With nearly ten times the candela, the M640DFT throws your beam extremely far and allows you to overcome nearly any photonic barrier out there. It cuts through smoke, fog, and other bright lights with ease. It’s Surefire’s best AR-15 light. 

The M640DFT features a dual fuel design, and the choice of the battery affects your power. The Surefire 18650B gives you the full 700 lumens and 100,000 candela. You can use two CR123A lithium batteries to get 600 lumens and 90,000 candela. Additionally, the light uses the new Pro mounting system that allows you to choose between M-LOK and Picatinny rail adapters. You can also change the angle of the light to allow it to fit tight to your handguard without an issue. 

Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 

Cloud Defensive is a new name in the weapon light world, but they are known as one of the biggest innovators in the industry. They are one of two companies that have forced innovation into the marketplace. The Rein 3.0 is their newest light and is one of the more powerful lights on the market. It’s an absolute beast of a light that throws a lot of light while not being obscenely large or heavy. 

The Best AR-15 Lights - Brighten Up
The Rein 3.0 is a powerhouse

The Rein packs 1,250 lumens that are backed by 100,000 candela. That’s a lot of light coming out of a very powerful head. It throws a beam far enough to identify targets out to a couple of hundred yards. It’s best paired with a magnified optic to get the most out of the light. That powerful head is 1.3 inches in diameter, making it quite large but still smaller than the Rein 2.0. The Cloud Defensive Rein 3.0 is shorter in both height and length than the original two models, making it surprisingly compact. 

READ MORE: The Micro Rein By Cloud Defensive

The light is also a dual fuel design that allows you to use an 18650 battery or two CR123A batteries. Predictably the output is reduced significantly with CR123 batteries, but the light is still perfectly useable. The Rein uses Cloud Defensive’s Remote Switch that allows you to change the angle the wire leaves the light to keep it tighter and to improve cable management. It’s well thought out and likely my personal favorite AR-15 light. 

Modlite PLHv2-PDW350 

Modlite is the other company that’s made the world of weapon lights move forward to increase their power, useability, and general usefulness. This company has tons of great light options, and I haven’t chosen their most powerful option. The HOG might beat the PLHv2-PDW350 in power, but it’s tough to beat the PDW350 in efficiency. Not everyone needs a massive weapon light on their gun, and if you have a smaller, lighter carbine, SBR, or AR pistol, then maybe a smaller but still powerful light is for you. 

The Best AR-15 Lights - Brighten Up
The Modlite PDW is perfect for smaller guns

Modlite has a ton of great lights, but the PLHv2-PDW350 impresses the hell out of me. The light is remarkably compact and very lightweight. Yet, it still finds a way to throw 1,350 lumens backed by 54,000 candela. It outperforms most standard weapon lights, like the original Surefire M640 series, but it’s super small and perfectly useable at short to moderate ranges. The PLHv2 head is the more versatile option for the end user. 

The PLHv2-PDW350’s main compromise is its battery life. As you’d imagine, the 18350 battery can’t last forever, but the light gives you about 40 minutes of run time. That’s more than the average user needs for home defense, and for other roles, you can swap batteries out the front for a quick top-off. It’s ready to mount to Picatinny rails. It’s, without a doubt, the best compact AR-15 light. 

Streamlight Protac HL-X

So far, every one of the best AR-15 lights on this list is quite expensive. We are talking several hundred dollars. If you are a light nerd, it’s no big deal, or if you are using SOCOM money, again, no big deal. If you are the average home defender, then you might not need such a powerful and mighty big light. The average shooter, firearms owner, and home defender, needs a budget-friendly option that still packs a bucketload of power in the form of the Streamlight HL-X

The Best AR-15 Lights - Brighten Up
The Streamlight HL-X is powerful and affordable

The Streamlight Protac XL-X costs just north of one hundred bucks, and that’s an inclusive package deal. That includes the mount, cable, remote, and clicky cap. Not a bad deal. What’s a little more than a hundred bucks get you? Well, the light throws 1,000 lumens that’s backed by 27,600 candela. That’s a fair bit of power for such an affordable light. It even outperforms some of the less turbo-infused powerhouses. 

That power gives you about 100 minutes of power on high mode. There is a selectable low mode that drops you down to 80 lumens. Eighty lumens works okay for an admin light and can be handy to have for non-tactical tasks. The HL-X is simple and affordable but also powerful and durable. 

Goonbeam Long V2 

Last on my list is Goonbeam. Goonbeam seems to have come out of nowhere, and they’ve quickly released several very powerful lights for both handguns and rifles. Goonbeam is a brand new company, so they are nowhere near as proven as other lights, but I think we should give a small company a chance, especially when they are putting lights like the Goonbeam Long V2 out in two configurations. They offer a Max Lumens and Max Candela model.

The Best AR-15 Lights - Brighten Up
GoonBeam is new, but seems promising

The max candela variant offers you 700 lumens backed by 80,000 candela. The more lumens model offers you 1,400 lumens with 55,000 candela. That’s a lot of light in either direction, and they sell these lights directly to the consumer for right around a hundred bucks. Its Streamlight prices with near Modlite power. However, remember the company isn’t as proven or tested. I would say they are the best new company for AR-15 lights. 

The Goonbeam series also comes with a remote switch, a pic rail adapter, a clicky tail cap, a battery, and a USB charger. The Goonbeam series of weapon lights are a complete package. They are seemingly well-built and offer affordable power. How they last in the next few years will be interesting to see. 

The Best AR-15 Lights and You 

Like most things with guns, if you want a good option, you have to pay for it. Don’t accept less than you need, and certainly don’t invest in brands like Olight with a track record for failure. Lights are finicky, and they are also important. There is a reason why the same companies come up over and over again, and it’s a good reason. Invest in the best. 

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