How Many Lumens Does A Weapon Light Really Need? [Candela VS Lumen]

streamlight tlr 1 hl on walther pdp
For anyone shopping for a weapon light for one of their guns may ask the question:

How many lumens should a tactical flashlight have?

Currently, anything modern weapon light between 500 to 1500 Lumens with high candela rating (16K o- 50K or more) is what you want for:

  • Positive target identification
  • Threat control while maintain safe distance
  • High candela beam penetrates fog, rain & other ambient lights

More lumen intensity is always better to adapt to changing tactical environments, but this is also a conversation about lumen vs candela.

In this article, you going to get a comprehensive understanding of lumen intensity and candela 

What is Lumen, Lux & Candela

lumen vs candela vs lux
  • Candela measures the strength of the light emission (The Key to reach far)
  • Lumen measures total light output
  • Lux measures the illumination intensity of an area

Note: The difference between lumen and lux is that the lux takes into account the area over which the luminous flux is spread.

Knowing this helps you make purchase decisions!

Based on FL1 standard the bright spot of the light beam is used for Candela rating. Higher the candela, the more concentrated light beam center is.

More candela doesn't always mean good, it can be counterproductive if you use it inapporiately, which we explain why in the next few sections.

How Many Lumens Do I Need For A Weapon Light ?


MODLITE plhv2 head light beam

NOTE: Using high-intensity light for up-close illumination causes washout & blinding effects

Anything over 600 or even 1000+ lumens is good for a weapon light.

Feature X300U VS Baldr Pro R

Surefire X300 throws the beam down range, and the Olight Baldr Pro R has brighter flood beam up close

How To Make Sense Of Candela Ratings

Have you ever shined a 1000 lumen light with just 5000 cd VS. a 500 lumen light with ~16k cd?

Basically this is what you gonna see:

Features PLH 5K VS OKW 18350

High candela light is better for PID & threat control

glock 19 with surefire xh30 TIR beam pattern

The more candela the better it is for keeping a good distance away from a threat, and you can still do the following:

  • Positively identify threats at distance (Not just barely seeing the outline)
  • Penetrates through fog, rain, street lights & other ambient lights
  • Hot beam spot helps control threats at a safe distance

For civilians, 5-20 yards is pretty much the average distances for most documented self-defense cases.

Based on the FL1 standard, whatever distance you think you need, you should look for a light with 2X the range.

Dirty Flashlight Lens Can Dilute Lumen Intensity Even With A Full Battery

clean-weapon-light-lens
clean-vs-dirty-flashlight-lens

Note: Keep your light clean

For Long Distance Positive Target Identification

modlite plhv2 in action 35 ft

For long-distance reach, it's always best to get high lumen intensity light (600 to even 3000+ lumens) & high candela. The higher light intensity travels further than less intense light, and the light can penetrate ambient light and fogs at longer distance.

The hotter the concentrated light spot is, the more candela there is.

This is extremely helpful in tactical situations where police officers and military operators need to be able to focus the light to assess the threat as well as getting good illumination on the surroundings for max situational awareness.

Lumen Intensity Comparison

modlite okw vs plhv2 vs plh 5k head

Different weapon lights have different beam types, candela amount and lumen intensity.

See more of this type of comparison here


Brandon Corbin

Firearm sales for the past 7 years 4 years of experience in hunting and collecting historical firearms Expert in mounting rifle scopes on bolt guns