Other than being an awesome tactical accessory flashlights are probably one of the more useful items you can attach to your airsoft gun.
Not every field or airsoft game necessarily makes use of ideal lighting conditions and some of the most adrenaline-pumping games can happen at night, in the evening, or indoors doing CQB where airsoft players can’t always rely on their natural vision to stop themselves from missing targets, bumping into things or causing friendly fire incidents.
Taking a page from police and military tactics, mounting a flashlight to your airsoft replica can be very helpful, providing ready illumination on the go without fumbling around with a separate object or taking your hands off your gun.
If you’re looking to shed a little illumination on your game play, this guide will discuss all the things a player might need to consider before buying their first airsoft flashlight.
Advantages of a flashlight in an airsoft game
There are quite a few reasons, besides looking cool, why an airsoft player might attach a flashlight to their gun.
It’s dark. You need to see.
Low light conditions, such as during night games or indoors when entering dim areas, can make things quite difficult for airsoft players for obvious reasons.
Flashtlights can help players identify targets, find their way around and help prevent friendly fire easily and effectively,
Stun your opponents….and influence people
Beyond helping you see better in the dark, flashlights can be used as a tactical advantage in an indoor game, as well.
If you come across an opponent in the dark, a quick flash from a flashlight can briefly dazzle them, interfering with their night vision and leaving them temporarily night-blind.
This can momentarily give you the advantage and let you send of a quick volley of BBs their way.
While this may sound like an underhanded tactic to use, it is actually a fairly common use for flashlights in real-life CQB and low-light tactical operations.
People aren’t calling hits in low light
While it is nice to believe that most airsoft players are honest and will own up to being hit, the reality is that a not-insignificant number of players can and will use the cover of darkness to cheat
A flashlight can help you better track the arc of your BB shot, let you see its impact and help you keep other players honest, putting them on the spot, if you will.
If you are part of a more organized team game you might want to direct your teammates’ attention to a certain area or object, tell them where to go or which target to approach.
Much like a laser pointer, a flashlight’s beam can be used in just such a way and help maintain a maximum of auditory stealth as you move along.
They’re a cool looking tactical accessory
Finally, adding a flashlight to a side rail or under a pistol can add a tactical touch to your airsoft replica that simply looks cool and adds a sense of realism to CQB games.
Potential disadvantages of airsoft flashlights
With flashlights offering so many benefits, one might be excused when wondering why not everyone mounts them to their airsoft replicas.
Largely, it’s because there are some downsides to flashlight use in airsoft that potential users need to consider.
Adds bulk and weight to your airsoft gun
Adding a flashlight to your airsoft gun, whether a rifle or under a pistol, can add some weight to it.
While most modern tactical flashlights use modern, lightweight materials such as polymers or aircraft aluminum to keep weight down, they can still come in at 2.5-3 oz (71–85g) or more, which is something to take into account as it can affect balance and handling to an extent.
Can give away your position
Accidentally triggering your flashlight while waiting in ambush, or worst of all, triggering its strobe at the wrong moment can be a critical mistake that will draw attention to the airsofter in question.
An accidental knock or a wayward finger press can result in a sudden incoming barrage of BBs, and so some airsofters do without for the sake of stealth.
As with any electronic accessory, flashlights require batteries, either standard alkaline, rechargeable, lithium ion or even NiCads.
While it’s usually not too much trouble to keep them in order and charged up for a careful and diligent airsoft enthusiast, they can and will run out of batteries, or lose their charge periodically, which is an added cost to consider.
It’s also another dangerous point of failure that can lead to disaster if they suddenly die in-game.
More of a concern if you’re mounting a flashlight to an airsoft pistol, adding a flashlight will add extra bulk to your weapon and make it a little harder to find holsters that fit and allow you to draw smoothly.
That said, there are plenty of holsters out in the airsoft world that accommodate mounted accessories and with a little research finding a good one isn’t that hard.
They can ruin the look of a replica for some players
Finally, a big part of airsoft revolves around personal taste (how the guns look to their owners) and not every airsofter is into a tactical look.
Some may prefer to run with a stock AK and feel that attaching flashlights and other accessories ruins it, for example.
This is particularly true with vintage replicas but can also be true with more modern airsoft guns where users simply want a clean look.
Other airsofters prefer to maintain a stock look to maintain historical accuracy, and flashlights weren’t always issued to soldiers and police units.
When it comes to airsoft and tactical flashlights, although you don’t have to worry about things like muzzle blast and carbon build up (as airsoft guns don’t involve gunpowder or other chemicals that leave a residue), oroper flashlight placement is still important for proper function and handling.
Considerations with flashlight placement
Something many airsofters don’t consider before it happens to them is that the muzzle of their replica will block part of the light emitted from their flashlight, casting a shadow and reducing the amount of light effectively emitted to some degree.
The only way to eliminate this is to mount the flashlight in line with or extending beyond the muzzle, which isn’t always possible, comfortable or even a good idea.
Although practically every airsofter will deal with some shadowing, playing with placement, mounting and even the angle of the beam (finding your own personal sweet spot, if you will) can minimize its effect for the user.
Some airsofters are right-handed, some are left-handed.
Where to mount the flashlight for maximum comfort and use is a hotly debated issue and each player needs to decide this for themselves.
That said, the dominant school of thought is that a flashlight should be mounted opposite of your dominant hand, i.e. a right handed shooter would mount it to the left side, so that the gun can be held on target and the flashlight easily and quickly operated with the supporting hand, which is in position anyway.
Alternately some users prefer to keep their flashlights on the side of their dominant hand, making it a little harder to activate the flashlight accidentally, and thus a little more deliberate, and preventing accidental flashes.
When it comes to using clickers, pressure pads or other remote activation for the flashlight, the opposite is usually true.
Users tend to want to make it as awkward and as deliberate as possible to prevent accidental activations (since it is a lot easier to do with a pressure pad) and therefore may mount it on the same side as their dominant hand.
Depending on where you’ve mounted a flashlight. it can interfere with getting a good, solid and steady grip on your airsoft gun.
Mounting it too far forwards (for example when trying to minimize shadowing) or backwards may mean you’ll instinctively move your supporting hand up or down the length of the barrel to be able to easily use the light.
This can interfere with your natural shooting position and make your shooting more awkward and inaccurate.
Consequently it’s important to mount your flashlight where it can be activated comfortably without sacrificing stability, which is paramount, wven if it necessitates the use of a pressure pad or clicker.
Airsoft flashlights are usually mounted by a rail system and tend to take up valuable space on your airsoft gun’s barrel.
Improperly mounted, they can easily get in the way of lasers, optics and grip accessories, or prevent these from being attached altogether depending on how many rails a replica has installed on it.
When selecting placement, it’s therefore important to take into consideration what other accessories if any will be mounted and how they will interact in game.
Firing from cover
Depending on where an airsoft flashlight is located on the barrel, it can have a dramatic effect when firing from cover, as they can easily bang into things, catch on objects, expose the user or just awkwardly get in the way.
Airsoft Flashlight Placement Options
Probably the most obvious and common place to mount a flashlight on an airsoft gun is under the barrel, a placement known as undermounting.
For most airsoft pistols, while side mounting is possible (and more unwieldy), this is the primary place you’ll be mounting a flashlight.
With longer barreled airsoft guns, such as carbines and long rifles, this is one of the more popular and obvious placements.
Mounting a flashlight underneath a barrel generally feels fairly natural and leaves the top and sides of the airsoft gun free for other accessories such as lasers and optic sights.
It’s also ambidextrous, with users easily using the light with either hand, and the flashlight won’t bang into doors or walls quite as much as a side mount.
That said, undermounted flashlight can be a bit of a hassle when going prone (since they get in the way) and it can become obstructed if firing over a barrier.
Another common mount for flashlights on longer barreled airsoft guns is a side mount, i.e. where the flashlight is mounted to the side of the barrel.
This can be at the 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock positions (depending on if you’re right or left handed), or be mounted on a bit of an angle at the 1 or 11 o’clock.
Whichever exact position a user chooses, the main idea is that flashlight projects out from the side of the airsoft’s barrel, rather than the top or bottom.
Many prefer this mounting method, as it frees up the bottom of the airsoft gun’s barrel and allows for a more free movement of the supporting hand, allowing users to get a better grip, and it can make things a bit easier if you’re attaching a foregrip or tripod to a replica.
On the downside, mounting a flashlight to the side does broaden your airsoft gun’s profile, extending it out to the side, which can make it harder to navigate around in tight spaces, as it can catch on door frames and narrow openings.
As a result, depending on how dynamic your airsoft game style is, carelessness can damage the flashlight, its mounting system or even the airsoft gun itself.
Another issue is the use of cover in that if a player has to slide out from a corner or from cover, such as when slicing the pie in CQB games, they may need to move out a bit more to either get their barrel or light on target, exposing them to fire.
A minority of airsofters may mount their flashlight to the top of their airsoft gun, that is at the 12 o’ clock position.
As with undermounting, it is a fairly natural position and frees up the sides and bottom of the gun for other accessories.
It’s also pretty ambidextrous in operation.
Unlike undermounted lights, a top mounted light has no problems in firing from cover.
On the downside, it can obstruct any optics mounted to the airsoft gun.
Airsoft Pistols And Flashlights: A Special Note On Handheld Vs Mounted Flashlights
Broadly speaking, with an airsoft pistol, due to their ability to be used with one hand flashlights can be used in one of two ways – either held in hand when needed, or attached to the pistol on a rail.
Attaching a flashlight to an airsoft pistol can free users’ hands for better support of their airsoft pistol, for using other airsoft accessories (such as grenades) or for navigating around. ,
They also don’t involve carrying and handling an extra device and, to be honest, look quite cool.
As a result, most airsofters, if they are using a flashlight, choose to mount them.
That said, much like in the real steel world, it is worth considering that a mounted flashlight will give opponents a clearer idea of where to shoot at, compare to holding a flashlight in a crossed wrist fashion.
Mounting a flashlight to a pistol also increases the bulk of your airsoft replica, making it harder to holster and strap on as a sidearm.
Another consideration is that mounting a flashlight to your airsoft pistol may require some accessories and buying specifically sized flashlights that will be mainly used in airsoft, while a free flashlight can be bought and used anywhere and for most purposes, making it a more cost effective purchase even if it is more unwieldy in an airsoft arena.
What to look for in an airsoft flashlight
Obviously, the most basic thing you’ll want out of your flashlight is for it to reliably produce enough light for you to see and navigate around the airsoft field.
After all, the coolest looking, most tactical flashlight ever isn’t worth very much if it’s not much better at illumination than a child’s birthday candle.
Generally speaking, flashlights have two ways of expressing how much light they’ll put out or how bright they are.
A lumen is a standard unit of what’s called luminous flux.
This refers to how much visible light is put out by a light source (your flashlight, in this case) per second.
Most flashlights you’ll see sold in stores range from a hundred or so lumens to ten thousand lumens or more.
As with anything else in airsoft, some manufacturers can exaggerate their claims a bit and the actual light output can fall well short of the claims on the box when tested.
Consequently, users want to look for products that give a lumen rating that is tested by external standards labs.
In the US, for example, you would look for ANSI lumens, which tells you that the device was independently tested by the American National Standard Institute to produce whatever number it claims to produce.
When it comes to lumens in airsoft, the more-is-better adage doesn’t usually hold true since most flashlights in airsoft are used indoors at closer range.
This means you should take a second before buying a 40 000 lumen monster. As amusing as it might be in theory, it might be overkill for what you’re intending and really annoy other players.
When making a decision, it’s important to take into account that 1000 lumens is good for about 218 yards or 200 meters.
We’d probably recommend staying under this limit for most games, since generally speaking 1-300 lumens is good enough for close in play and is least likely to annoy other people if you end up shining it in their eyes.
If you are playing airsoft and you really want a high lumen light, consider one with more fine controlled output (with high, medium and low settings) than can bring it down to indoor-friendly levels.
That said, always consider the size of the field or arenas you’re likely to play in and whether you’ll want to use this flashlight for things like camping or outdoor activities as well.
Most good retailers and manufacturers will give you an idea of beam distance or “throw” in meters or feet, but you’ll have to use your best judgment.
The flashlight you want to purchase may or may not include a measurement in candelas (cd).
In case it does, broadly speaking this is a measurement of how intense the light produced by your flashlight can be – basically the brightness at any point along the beam of light (beam intensity).
Since most airsofters with flashlights will be operating at close range, intensity is really the more pressing concern, as you don’t want to blind everyone in the area, yourself included.
So the real trick is finding a balance between how strong a light is and safety.
Lumens vs Candela
Because lumens and candelas effectively measure two different things, there isn’t always a direct relationship between the two (max light output vs intensity).
Sometimes you’ll see 1000 lumen flashlights rated for nearly 30 000 candela, while other times an 1000 lumen flashlight will only rate at just under 10 000 candela.
So you’ll have to look at both to make a sound decision, unfortunately.
One thing to keep in mind is that the brighter and more powerful the flashlight, the hotter they become.
Even LED flashlights are built with heat sinks to prevent damage and cheaply made, high powered flashlights can actually overheat and burn themselves out over time, especially indoors or in hot weather.
This can force users to use them on low power, which sort of negates the purpose of buying one.
Runtime with a flashlight is typically measure in hours.
All things being equal, the more powerful the flashlight (or the higher the setting it is operating on) the shorter its expected battery life.
Users should look at runtime at each setting, high, medium and low power (as well as strobe and other modes), to get a good sense of how and how long they’ll be able to run their flashlight in game.
Something to consider with a tactical airsoft flashlight is the type of battery it runs on.
Flashlights can be designed to run on pretty much any type of battery out there, from disposable and rechargeable standard alkaline batteries you can buy at a local gas station, to reusable and rechargeable lithium ion and nicad batteries and integrated batteries that are rechargeable but not replaceable.
When buying a flashlight, pay attention to the type of battery it runs on.
While integrated batteries are convenient, they aren’t usually replaceable and if something goes wrong it means replacing the whole flashlight.
Rechargeable batteries are ideal, especially if you can remove them from the flashlight while doing so as you can buy a spare to use while one is recharging.
While disposables are cheap to buy initially, and are usually widely available, they can be a little more expensive in the long term since you’ll run through more of them over time.
If you do buy a flashlight with replaceable batteries, check to make sure that they are commonly available where you live as you don’t want to be using a weird variant that you have to order online and have delivered.
Adding a pressure pad is a personal decision that everyone will have to make for themselves.
If you’re mounting a flashlight to your airsoft gun, a pressure pad can add a level of convenience and accessibility by removing the need to reach out and manually press the flashlight button.
They also allow players to more easily turn their flashlight on or off while keeping their hands holding their gun properly and on target.
On the downside, they add extra wiring that needs to be taped down to prevent snagging, and increase the likelihood of an accidental flashlight activation, which can give away your position and result in a hail of BBs heading in your direction.
For that reason some users prefer to eschew a pressure pad or clicker, preferring the more difficult and deliberate motion of reaching for the flashlight’s button themselves when they want light.
Although most flashlights sold for airsoft come in white light only, players can add filters that change the color of the output beam.
Rule of cool aside, although filters exist for pretty much any color out there and have real effects on play.
Green and red filters are the most commonly used for tactical reasons. Red light tends to be ideal for outdoor lowlight games as it doesn’t disturb your night vision as much, while green light is harder to see from the side in the dark.
Although not strictly necessary, the ability to add a filter without a lot of home crafting can be something to look at as it can add a little more functionality and realism and a lot of flavor to airsofting.
To be as useful and flexible as possible, users should look for airsoft flashlights that have different adjustable modes that can be set depending on the situation that arises.
Good flashlights will allow users to adjust the intensity of their beam using high, medium and low settings.
While single mode flashlights are pretty cheap, the ability to adjust the intensity can be probably the most useful feature a flashlight has, letting you put it on full blast or lowering the intensity to save battery, to avoid over exposure or to placate the refs/other players.
Momentary On can be a useful feature, as well.
Essentially the flashlight operates as long as its button (or pressure pad) is being pressed, giving users far finer control over the flashlight and letting them illuminate the area for as long or as short as possible.
It also makes signaling and pointing things out a lot easier, and makes accidental flashes a lot less severe than only having Constant On.
Some flashlights come with a strobe function, which causes the flashlight to rapidly turn on and off in succession (like a strobe light – hence the name).
The idea here is that it can confuse and dazzle opponents as you run and gun, making it a great stunning tool.
On the downside, it can be highly distracting to the user as well as the intended target, it can annoy refs and other players and it is potentially dangerous to players with epilepsy.
To be honest, the feature doesn’t always work as well as advertised, and many flashlights become erratic and some not working properly at all when the function is activated.
Combination flashlights exist and integrate flashlights into other accessories, such as lasers, IR pointers or even foregrips.
On the whole these are pretty cool, providing extra features, convenience and usefulness, while freeing up space on your airsoft gun for more comfortable shooting and handling.
On the other hand, these combination devices tend to be a lot bulkier than their individual components and, as they have multiple features, they tend to have a slightly reduced battery life as well.
Another thing to consider is that players can get confused in game and may accidentally use the wrong device at the wrong time, especially if they are being manually activated.
Used properly and in the right context, airsoft flashlights can be a highly effective accessory that provides a lot of functionality to an airsoft game and should be considered as a valuable addition to an airsofters arsenal.
Will Martin – Will has been into airsoft and paintball for well over 10 years, and has done it all – from upgrading and fixing gearboxes as a tech to building custom airsoft loadouts for his friends to supporting off those friends as a DM.