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Weapon Lights & Lasers Frequent Asked Questions

Lumens indicate how much light output a flashlight or weapon light will give you. Think of it like an engine’s overall horsepower. It is roughly equal to the amount of light received by a one-square-foot area at a distance of one foot away from a candle light.

So as the distance from the light increases, more lumens are needed to illuminate the same area. For example, a 100 square foot room in a home would require roughly 1000 lumens to be fully illuminated.

The other measure is Candela. This is sort of like torque in our engine analogy; it's a measure of what your power can do when you focus it. One candela is the light value of one candle, or a flame on a wick.

Candela is used to measure the brightest part of the light's beam, rather than the overall output of the light itself. Meaning the higher the candela measurement of a light, the more capability it will have to throw light into the distance.

Lumens and Candela can help you understand the three main characteristics of a light pattern and distance of illumination.

The three characteristics of light patterns from weapon lights are throw, flood, and spill. Throw is the light's ability to reach out to far distances, like when you're trying to see what's across a field or in a tree line.

Flood is the light's ability to illuminate a wide area immediately in front of you. Spill is the effect produced in a light with a combination beam, where ambient light surrounds the intense spotlight center giving you "best of both worlds" performance. 

To understand how Lumens and Candela can inform your understanding of how a light will perform, let's give an example.

If two weapons lights have a 500 Lumen output, but one light has a higher candela, its concentrated beam in the center of the light will be more intense, and constitute a larger percentage of the light's overall lumen output.

A 500 Lumen light with a higher Candela rating will send more of it's power out into the distance, allowing you to see further. The 500 Lumen light with a lower Candela measurement will cast more of its lumen output into the spill light, making the center spotlight less powerful but offering more ambient light immediately in front of you.

Often times, if lumens are equal, the light with a higher candela rating will appear to be brighter, because the center is so much more intense.

This is especially true if you were indoors and shining each light into a wall from a short distance, as the intense center from the higher candela light will reflect more. Each of these values, as well as what they mean to you, is important to consider when selecting the best weapon light for your AR-15, pistol, or specific application.

In this scenario, a weapon light will be used in intermittent bursts as you move through your home, lighting up areas of negative space and attempting to ensure that it is clear of any threats.

The issue at hand for this type of light is striking the proper balance. Lights used in this application need to have enough light output to effectively do the job without having so much light output that it interferes with your own ability to see and determine that your home is free of threats.

For this scenario, a light with medium output power and a larger cone of light diffusion is a better choice than a spotlight beam alone.

In a room inside your home, a wide beam that can light up larger areas of a room with good efficiency -- allowing you to scan with just your eyes -- is more favorable to a spotlight style light which will necessitate an area-by-area scan of a room with the light itself.

Medium lumens with lower candela!

The other advantage of a wide cone of light that has enough lumen output in this particular scenario is that if an intruder can be disoriented anywhere within the cone, rather than needing to be directly in a narrow beam.

If you are clearing a room with a narrow beam and started scanning on the wrong side of the room, you won’t disorient the intruder and you’ve just exposed yourself with the light’s source.

We briefly touched on the benefits of having a weapon light attached to your rifle for nighttime hunting and varmint control, especially with colored lens filters.

But what if your primary home defense weapon is an AR-15, SBR, or AR pistol and you find yourself securing your home from the outside? If you live in a more rural setting and wish to investigate the area surrounding you home after the sun goes down, you’re going to have much different light requirements than someone who is indoors, inspecting areas of their home in the dark.

Outdoors, you will need those lumens – and likely more of them – to be projected more densely, in a concentrated beam of light that can reach out to further distances. The tradeoff is that less of the immediate area around the light will be illuminated.

However, if you are outdoors and have eyesight acclimated to the low light environment, using a more concentrated light beam at further distances will often allow your eyes to remain able to perceive the immediate environment without illumination.

Outdoor light usage can present many more various situations with their own sets of demands for your weapon light. While a light that combines a wide cone of illumination with a denser, inner beam of light to reach further distances will not be as capable as dedicated lights for each function, in this scenario, a combination light is a good solution.

Being able to do a pretty good job at both near and far applications in one unit on your rifle or pistol is advantageous over choosing a light that does one or the other.

If you’ve taken one thing away from these past few paragraphs, hopefully the most significant thing is the fact that a weapon mounted light should be considered a vital piece of your home defense and overall preparedness solution.

But what’s the best AR light or pistol light for you? We’ve laid out some of the most trusted and highest quality weapon mounted lights for both pistols and rifles. Keep your particular needs and performance requirements and use this knowledge to make an informed decision.

Pistol Mounted Lights

Rifle Mounted Lights

If you're looking for some additional flexibility, a popular solution for a weapon light configuration is to mount a high-quality handheld flashlight onto a rifle with a special mount.

The benefit to this is that you get a EDC (Every Day Carry) flashlight to carry with you all the time – something we’ll discuss further in future articles – as well as the capability to mount your light on your rifle as a weapon light.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send us a message at info@primaryarms.com or call us at 713-344-9600.