Selling More Tactical Lights

From EDC pocket lights to mega-output flashlights and weapon-mounted lights, shoppers are looking for ways to light things up.

Selling More Tactical Lights

Nieteize Inova light

In just the last decade, the market has been flooded with flashlights of every type, shape, and price range to the point that it can be confusing for retailers to understand what the differences are, what will sell, and what is unique enough to attract customers. The problem is that no dealer wants to stock the wrong lighting product mix in a market with technology that changes fast and frequently. The new wave of USB rechargeable lithium batteries has had a huge impact on light design in just the last two years. We have some tips on what to look for when selecting your product mix from both existing and new brands.


Lumens vs Candela

Many customers get hung up on which light has the higher lumen output and often buy too much light output. What they should be more concerned with is balancing lumen output with proper candela, more commonly called beam focus. Lumens is the amount of total light output the light delivers; candelas is the amount of light output focused in a particular direction.

If you had two lights with the exact same lumen output, the tight-focused beam light would appear to be significantly brighter at the center focus areas, but in reality, the broad, wide beam of light is just spreading out the same amount of light. The question you should be asking customers is what they will be using the light for. Using a performance stage as an example, the wider beams deliver a broader light that enhances peripheral vision of a wider visual stage vs the narrow beam that would spotlight more or less just the actor, with limited or little light on the rest of the stage. On the extreme of candela output and beam focus are the focusable predator illuminators, such as Exude, which can deliver 100% of their light output into a very tight, perfect circle at 230 yards with near zero light spill outside the circle.


How Many Lumens to Recommend

Everyday carry (EDC) lights do not need to have jaw-dropping power. The 120- to 300-lumen range is most usable for regular utility and map reading; anything more can deliver light output that’s just too blinding for things like looking under cushions and figuring out which is the house vs the gate key. Usually EDC lights have a soft and wide center beam focus that spreads out consistently, making the light most usable at close range. At 120+ lumens, these lights are still more than adequate for sub-20-yard defensive target identification. You will also have customers, especially those with older eyes, who will appreciate the very low output 25- to 50-lumen range for reading the menu with small print at the unusually dark restaurant. Notably, some very powerful 1,000-lumen lights will also have a low-power output mode that fills this need nicely.

For dedicated tactical lighting, 150 to 1,000 lumens can deliver the power to reach out to 100 yards with the right candela/beam spread and, with strobe effects, can deliver shocking stunning abilities for tactical work. One hundred and fifty to 500 lumens with a decent beam width that can touch each wall within a typical room inside a home is usually considered a good range for room-to-room searching abilities without blinding the user and lighting up the neighborhood like a 1,000-lumen light would. The beam focus is usually a more focused central beam with a soft doughnut around the outside. Some of the more useful lights bridge tactical with EDC light output and can deliver long-running low light output to mid- to high- tactical light output with just a tap of the switch. Generally, these crossover lights have a focused but softer center beam with an outer ring that blends well with the hotter central beam focus point. Most experts recommend a very tight, focused beam if the light is weapon-mounted and a medium focused beam for a primarily handheld room-to-room searching light. Predator lights are extremely tuned to deliver a crisp, consistent circle of focused light for hunting at very long distances.

High output lights will not be covered in this article but can make interesting statement pieces in the store. These lights are often referred to as searchlights or scene lights, since they are most used to turn night into day, with typically 500 lumens to as much as 10,000 — they are so bright that they include blinding damage warnings. Streamlight offers a $700 lithium-powered scene light with a stunning 10,000 lumen output. This category should be considered special-order only but is available from most tactical lighting manufacturers.


Demoing Lights

Nearly 100% of customers will walk up and test a light by shining the light in their hand — but the demo of these often high-dollar and high-margin products can be so much better. For dealers, consider having a dark focal point on the ceiling or even an unused dark office in the shop where customers can test and see the beam focus and lumen output differences of each light. It is always good to have some props, such as a map, to test lower-light EDC abilities, as well as a blank wall to see the output and beam focus without obstructions. Talking about and seeing the differences in the beam spread and lumen output in a typical room can be very educational for customers and help them understand one light can often not do it all. Savvy sellers will offer a variety of lights to demo and also get involved, becoming a prop for the customers to focus the light on so they can see the light in action. Combo lights with lasers also demo well using these methods.


Lighting Categories

Everyday Carry Lights - This has been a huge growth category, from mini keychain lights to large finger-sized lights with output that rivals many tactical lights for short periods of time, usually all wrapped up with a healthy dose of style. This category is powered by everything from wafer batteries to AA, AAA or CR123, and some are even USB rechargeable. Not everyone needs a tactical-level light, but everyone needs a handy light that will slip into a pocket or purse. If the dealer stocks a good variety of these EDC lights that are merchandised well, this will likely be their highest selling category. Most designs have familiar round profiles, however the USB rechargeable formats now offer a lot of new shapes and designs. The Streamlight Microstream and Olight Baton 3 are fantastic pocketable lights for EDC.

Handheld Tactical Lights - When customers think of a tactical light, they typically think of simple dual CR123 battery handheld lights like the Surefire and Streamlight designs that seem to eat CR123 batteries faster than they can be installed. USB-rechargeable batteries have changed the industry significantly in the last few years, with newer, smaller electronics and very long-running and high-output USB rechargeable lithium batteries designed around the light. Nearly every company now is focusing on USB rechargeable lights with similar look and feel of the legacy tactical lights. Flat lights are becoming a big trend in tactical lighting, with examples being the Surefire Stiletto Pro and Streamlight Wedge with 300- to 1,000-lumen output ranges.

Angle Lights - 90-degree-angle lights have been around since WWI, but this entire category is one of the more useful when it comes to getting things done in the dark hands-free. Most of these angle lights can be repositioned at various angles; most feature some type of belt clip or head mount for hands-free operation. Nearly every major light manufacturer now offers some type of headlamp and angled light. As a mobile work light, these lights are generally very focused on delivering good, broad, even working light at hand’s length. Most are very long-running with typical lumens in the 50 to 200 range. The USB rechargeable Fenix WT20R Adjustable Angle Flashlight with body clip is an especially adaptable light that can function as a standard straight light with various angles up to 90 degrees and six output modes from 50 to 400 lumens.

Weapon Lights - There several categories of weapon lights that range from handheld weapon-mountable with/without an adapter and purpose-designed dedicated weapon lights. Picatinny lights are generally the most flexible to mount to a variety of rifles, pistols and shotguns and are the least risky to stock. Many dealers do well stocking weapon-specific light, laser, or light/laser combo models for hot-selling handguns and shotguns.

Many customers like the flexibility of purchasing a really good standard tactical light plus a Picatinny adapter. One of the simpler and more versatile Picatinny mounts for standard 1-inch sized tactical lights are the $13 polymer WM25L Olight Weapon Mounts. Other weapon lights, such as the Surefire Scout series handheld lights, have a familiar tactical light profile but include an integrated thumb screw Picatinny rail mount for dual use.

Dedicated weaponlights including the Surefire X300 Series, Streamlight’s TLR series, and Olight Baldr series are all great dedicated Picatinny-mounted lights that support a variety of applications and platforms at a variety of price points.


Stocking Recommendations

Every geography is a bit different, so it is good to have a discussion with your distributors or manufacturers about what is selling well in your area. Most of the manufactures we spoke with recommended a good selection of keychain, pocket, and hand-sized EDC lights; high-, medium- and low-priced two-cell tactical lights; weapon mount adapters and universal weaponlights that can transition from handgun to rifle. Though firearms are reportedly selling well at near full margins, tactical lights can add significant revenue to every sale.


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