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Handheld Flashlights: Lumens versus Candela

Lumens vs. Candela Cover

This piece was written by Concealed Coalition’s Territory Training Director Yates Crawford.

When it comes to lighting tools, this is a hot topic in the industry. First, a simple breakdown.

Lumens vs. Candela – What’s the difference?

Lumens is the measurement of a light’s total output. Higher lumen flashlights offer more flood, or a broader coverage area over short distances.

Candela is a measure of peak beam intensity. When activating a high candela light, you will see a bright, pronounced hotspot that travels a far distance. So, what do lumens and candela do for us, and which is preferred?

Lumens vs. Candela diagram
Lumen is the measure of a light’s total output, whereas candela is a measure of peak beam intensity. (Photo credit: learntocalculate.com)

The Benefits of Lighting Types

The argument for high lumen output is that it allows the user to process more information up close, in their peripheral view, whereas that may be lost when using a high candela light. While this is a relevant viewpoint, it has been my experience that I can get flood out of candela, using various lighting techniques, but I can’t get distance, or throw, with lumens when I need it.

One advantage to a high candela light that you will often hear from industry professionals, social media influencers, and yes, even manufacturers, is that it allows for PID, or Positive Identification at extreme distances. This is certainly an advantage, but one that I take issue with because for most users, especially those seeking concealed permit training, any event taking place 100-300 yards from their position is likely not their problem to deal with.

One could also argue that a threat at those distances does not pose an immediate risk of certain bodily injury or death, and engaging at those distances instead poses a great liability risk, with legal repercussions, for a concealed permit holder.

If you talk to me or our Director of Training, Austin Davis, we will tell you that our preferred choice would be a higher candela-rated light. 

Candela offers you a plethora of options that lumens simply cannot. The hot spot that offers PID at extreme distances is the same hotspot that gives you control, or power of authority over a situation at distances that are your problem, where deadly force is not lawfully permitted. When you take a light with, let’s say 80,000-100,000 candela, and place that hotspot in someone’s face, there’s a high probability that they are going to stop whatever it is that they’re doing.

If you’ve never experienced this, then I would encourage you to do this exercise with a friend. In addition, that hotspot allows you to punch through ambient light, often referred to as photonic barriers.

Lumens vs. Candela - Your surroundings matter
Candela offers you a wider range of options that lumens do not when it comes to flashlights.

Your Surroundings are a Key Factor

You see, there are dark spaces in well-lit places, and you need candela to see into those dark spaces. This is where lumens alone will not be advantageous to you. This is also a consideration when we have an increasing number of people moving into metropolitan areas, or maybe their region has seen an economic boom, with structures going up all around them. In large cities, it is never truly dark, but there are many dark spaces in those well-lit places.

The improvements made in lighting technology over the past couple of decades and how it has affected training by advancing our capabilities have certainly been fun to see. I would encourage you to continue (or begin!) going through the Concealed Coalition University library, as there are many learning segments, including discussions, on low light training that would be of benefit to you.

In the coming months, Concealed Coalition will also be releasing a book, written by Austin, that will be available on our webstore that goes into much deeper conversations than what I’ve outlined here. Below is a sneak peak of the cover. Pretty cool, huh? 

The Protector's Playbook cover

We currently offer the first volume of ‘The Protector’s Playbook’ on the webstore, which covers de-escalation & skillful verbal commands, also worth a look.  Remember, the most important word in any self-defense conversation is context. 

So what do you need in a light?

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