Streamlight vs Surefire – Which Is Better? (ANSWERED)

streamlight vs surefire

Photo by Jeff Eaton / CC BY

I recently had occasion to listen to a heated debate full of passion, one that made me rethink my very place in the universe, and indeed the very nature of reality itself.  Nah, it was just the usual argument over which top-shelf high-end tactical light was best.  Ask three people their favorite tactical lights, and one person will say Streamlight, another will say Surefire, and the third will shake an angry fist at you, and start ranting about how those newfangled lights and accessory rails are needless frippery, and besides there is no way to mount one on his grandpappy’s flintlock musket.

Don’t be like that third guy, though.  Embrace technology and be thrilled at the fact you can hang a freaking flashlight off your favorite gun, and not have those awkward moments of fumbling for a light and handgun at 3AM when the neighborhood crackhead comes around looking to do unspeakable things to your wallet and steal your wife (or, if you’re a wife, to your husband, which is even worse!). Or something like that.  Anyway, check out the contenders in the war of Streamlight vs Surefire Lights:

Surefire vs Streamlight Round 1:  Surefire X-300 vs Streamlight TLR-1


Right off the bat, the Streamlight usually is cheaper than the SureFire (though, check current prices to make sure).  If this is an important consideration for you, stop right there and buy the Streamlight, and use the cost savings to buy ammo.

However if you are willing to look beyond price, let’s take a closer look.  Each light fits a standard Picatinny rail and can be fitted with remote endcaps (more on that later).  The TRL-1 wins with a 630 lumen output as opposed to the 500 lumens of the X-300.  In addition the TRL-1 includes a strobe feature, where the X-300 does not.

Each is designed to optimize light output in a tight beam, and marketing materials are almost identical sounding at times.  Conclusion? Take the extra cash you save by buying a TLR-1 and buy the person you share a bed with a really nice dinner to make up for the fact you just bought yourself a less expensive flashlight. And if your bed is empty, spend the dough you just saved on some online dating profile.

Bottom line:  SureFire may impress the gear junkies at the range, but you probably aren’t hardcore enough to tell the difference in an actual firefight, and neither is the bad guy or coyote who just got lit up by your Streamlight.

Surefire X300 Ultra VS Streamlight TLR-1 HL Review

Streamlight vs Surefire Round 2 – Streamlight TLR-2 vs. SureFire X400

This time, we have the laser equipped Streamlight TLR-2 going up against the SureFire X-400 with laser.  This is basically a recap of the X-300/TLR-1 fight, only with fricken’ laser beams!  Oh, and the X-400 is usually more than the TLR-2, but we’ll see in a moment these are two lights that look similar on the surface but fill two radically different roles.

The old reliable TLR-1 is upgraded with a red laser (although a green laser version is available but with a somewhat weaker light) and remains far and above the best choice if you are keeping to a price point. If you are a private citizen or a cop who keeps their gun holstered or in a rack  more often than not, the TLR-2 is the only way to go.

stream light TLR-2,s Test in HD.

But, if you are a bona-fide door kicker or one of Uncle Sam’s boys or take your light into Really Bad Places, drop the extra cash and run with the X-400. Why? Because it’s built for that kind of work.  It comes with a high powered, daylight visible 5mw green laser, nylon screw windage and elevation adjustments, and in general is the sort of rugged, overbuilt light/laser that you can feel confident taking everywhere.

surefire x400 ultra green AT NIGHT

Bottom line, if you carry a gun professionally and have a regular expectation of using it or demand simply the very best, get the X-400. Otherwise, save your money and grab the TLR-2.  Neither one will let you down, but the X-400 really won’t let you down.

Streamlight vs Surefire Round 3 – Remote Endcaps

So far, the lights we looked at are all rigged to be controlled with a switch on the body of the light. Well and good for pistols, or if you prefer to run your rifle that way (I do but I also have my light in an odd spot that is easy to reach with my supporting hand), a lot of folks like to have a remote control switch for a long-arm mounted light.

There isn’t much to say about these except that they work and are made by their respective factories.  Grab one if you need one. Or think you might need one. Or are bored and want to max out what you can do with your light.   Like everything SureFire’s remote endcap (see it here) is true warfighter-grade stuff.   Streamlight’s switch (see it here) is usually affordable and almost a  no brainer to buy unless you only plan to run your light on a pistol.

Surefire vs Streamlight – Conclusion Picking The Best Light

Really, you can see that in the Streamlight vs Surefire battle, the key issue is one of price.  If you have a bottomless wallet, or are part of a government agency spending tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow, then SureFire is the first and last choice to make. They are very nice lights, and will probably outlive the heat death of the universe, which is somewhat handy if you plan to live that long.  Otherwise, for mere mortals who don’t get shot at regularly in harsh environments, I see no reason to grimace and open my wallet that wide.

What is equally important is that any of these four lights will give you command of the night.  In a hostile situation, be it home invasion, a mugging or chasing a criminal, having a bright light at your disposal can give you an edge, and sometimes one that can end a fight before it starts.

Bright lights are blinding and disorienting, and the edge a blinded opponent gives you can mean the difference between forcing submission and having to pull the trigger. Many defensive uses of weapons end without a single shot being fired, and with a good light, those numbers can increase.

3 responses

  1. Thank you for a very informative article. Based upon the information provided, I’m going to stick with Streamlight.

  2. I’ve got both streamlight and surefire, streamlight is the way to go unless you like giving money away for nothing. The quality between both are pretty comparable just one costs less.

  3. I have been using Steamlight now for 15 years professionally and can attest to the durability and reliability. The new Xl20 series now used by CHP is by far off the hook. I use the stingers for day to day work and are compact powerful and awesome. If you really need to melt the foreground the Xl20 rechargable full size will actually light up a wall in full daylight. I have been poo pood by by gun buddies and law enforcement brethren about the surefire and don’t see it. More expensive and less light. You decide but Streamlight is a great product.

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