There's always a lot of discussion about what light is best for a handgun. I realize there are tons of gun mounted lights out there but two of the most popular are the Streamlight TLR 1 and the Insight M3. Here's a little comparison of the two.
I've used both lights for a long time and like both but there are some differences you may want to consider if you're looking to outfit your home defense handgun or self defense handgun with a light.
Cost: Winner––-Tie. Both guns can be found anywhere from $90 to $105 online and in most gun stores around the country.
Light Output: Winner––-TLR (by a little) When it comes to lights, the amount of lumens usually is what people look for first. When I went through the police academy in 2000, the instructors used to recommend at least 40 lumens for a weapon light. Nowadays, almost all major weapon light manufacturers make lights of 60 lumens or more. In my opinion, a weapon light should be at least 90 lumens. I've found, in testing on unsuspecting friends and relatives, that 90 lumens or more will cause a brief stunned response when shined in the face of most people. That is exactly the response you should be looking for in a gunfight; that brief moment will give you the upper hand you need to win. Who wants to be in a 'fair' gunfight? Not me.
Both lights meet my criteria. The Insight provides 90 lumens while the Streamlight has an output of 160 lumens. The big difference is the type of light though. The TLR uses C4 technology that the M3 lacks and that makes the light seem much brighter and 'white-er.' A photo of the two lights is shown below, the photo will do a better job of describing it than I ever will...
The M3 is on the left, the TLR on the right. The M3 has been focused into the smallest dot possible.
So, for sheer brightness, the TLR is the winner. However, the M3 has more ambient light which may help provide more situational awareness.
Ease Of Use: Winner––-M3. Both lights work by using an ambidextrous momentary/steady on/off switch that is either operated by the users off hand thumb or firing hand trigger. (I recommend training with the off hand thumb) So, operation is a tie. However, the M3 is easily mounted by depressing two tabs on the outer case of the light. Removing the light uses the same tabs. The TLR requires that you use a specific insert for the particular type of rail you're using. So, for a 1913 rail you need the 1913 insert, for a Glock you need the Glock insert and so on.... This isn't really an issue if you keep the light mounted on your gun at all times. However, some people only have one gun that they use for concealed carry and home defense. Many do carry a gun with a light concealed, but most do not. If you are one of these people, the M3 may be a better choice. You could carry your firearm all day long in a concealment holster then just pop the M3 on when you get home. You could do the same with the TRL I suppose, but it takes a few seconds longer. Is it an issue? I suppose it depends on your preferences...
Battery Life: Winner––-TRL. The TRL is rated to run for 2.5 hours while the M3 is rated to run 1 hour before the batteries will need to be replaced.
Overall impressions: Both lights will serve you well. They're extremely durable and both companies stand by their products with warranties. Both are also combat/duty proven and used by military and police units across the country. If I could only have one.... I'd probably take the TRL. I just like the brighter light and have a dedicated home defense gun as well as several other carry guns. But, I don't have to make that choice and feel very confident using and recommending both. I just wanted to outline some differences so you could make a better decision.
For a ton more photos of these lights mounted on different handguns to see which is a better fit for your gun, check out the full review here:
Great review, thanks! I'm looking for a light or laser/light combo for my Sig Pro 2009, and the TLR 1 is one of my top choices. Seeing this only solidifies that.