There are some people for whom the words ‘Made in USA’ are the most important part of the packaging of a product. They’re words that carry a certain weight, an assurance of quality and tradition, a sense of community and belonging.
Most of us take pride in our country – we want it to thrive and prosper. And one way to help play our part in that success is to support local companies, keeping our money in our own communities.
For those of us in the US, that’s why ‘Made in USA’ can be such an emotive mark.
Now we’re not for a moment saying that the only good flashlights are flashlights made in USA – there are a whole host of brands manufacturing great products overseas. But we know that it’s important to a large number of us to know where our goods are made, which is why we’re highlighting the brands that we think are doing great work in the US.
No products are allowed to be labeled ‘Made in USA’ unless they fulfil the FTC definition of Complying with the Made in USA Standard:
What is the standard for a product to be called Made in USA without qualification?
For a product to be called Made in USA, or claimed to be of domestic origin without qualifications or limits on the claim, the product must be “all or virtually all” made in the U.S. The term “United States,” as referred to in the Enforcement Policy Statement, includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and possessions.
What does “all or virtually all” mean?
“All or virtually all” means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. That is, the product should contain no — or negligible — foreign content.
Some companies design their flashlights in the US but manufacture them abroad. Others buy in foreign components and put them together in the US, allowing them to stamp ‘Assembled in USA’ on their products.
Where it can get more complicated is in determining the precise amount of foreign components used. For flashlights, the LED is generally the most important components that tends to be sourced from overseas, which means it can be difficult (if not downright impossible) for flashlight manufacturers to produce something that is reliable, cost-effective and still 100% American.
In some cases, the brands or products we list below do claim to be Made in USA, in other cases they acknowledge items such as the LED. In all cases, they’re brands that we think most people would agree are substantially meeting the mark. (We’re not lawyers, and we’re not endorsing any claims about component origin on behalf of manufacturers – we’re simply basing our advice on publicly-available information and what we believe is a common sense approach. However, your ideas may be different!)
The companies and products listed below are not definitive. This is our list of what we like best from the US-manufactured products. If you’ve got your own favorites and think we’ve excluded something we should have included, let us know!
The company proudly boasts: “Every Mag Instrument flashlight, no matter where in the world it ends up, comes from a factory located in the U.S.A. and staffed by American workers” on its Built in America website page. Product packaging also sports a US flag and the tagline “A US Manufacturer”.
Its production facility is located in Ontario, California, a short drive east of Los Angeles, and the company is passionate about its mission to keep flashlight production in the US:
“While its competitors in the flashlight industry are busy exporting flashlight manufacturing jobs from the United States, Mag Instrument is busy exporting flashlights from the United States.”
Nowadays, most of Maglite’s flashlights are LED-bulb models, but there are still a few incandescent bulbs models for the traditionalists or for those who want the Mag styling at a slightly cheaper price.
Our favorite Maglite products lie at either end of the company’s size scale.
The XL50 LED 3-cell AAA flashlight packs 200 lumens and a terrific 6h 45min runtime into a compact, pocketable design, weighing in at 6.38oz with batteries.
It has three modes (high, low and strobe), activated from different numbers of clicks on its tail switch. And, of course, it has the unmistakable Maglite styling.
It’s also available in a ‘tactical pack’ with a pocket clip and color lens set, but unless you specifically need the clip, we think the basic model is the one to go for.
The ML300L, on the other hand, is a far beefier 2-cell D LED flashlight that we believe gives the best balance of power, weight and utility in Maglite’s classic fullsize range.
High power is 524 lumens, with a run time of 6h 30min, while low and eco modes are also available. Focus is adjustable from spot to flood with less than a quarter turn of the head.
As with all Maglites, the ML300L exudes build quality – all the better for knowing it’s supporting American jobs.
Surefire has a detailed page on their website explaining their policy about sourcing components and the difficulties of getting top-end LEDs in the USA. Specifically, they say: “In today’s competitive global economy, and given our mission of ensuring our best-in-class illumination products continue to stay that way, it’s not possible to source every component from within the U.S. We do import a few components – most notably, the finest light emitting diodes (LEDs) from top-notch manufacturers outside the country – to incorporate into our products.”
While the company’s other products, such as rifle magazines, earplugs and pens, can proudly boast ‘Made in USA’, Surefire’s flashlights cannot. Instead, the company says: “All SureFire illumination products are designed, perfected, and manufactured in the USA with the finest materials and components sourced worldwide.”
With that in mind, our favorite Surefire light is the P3X Fury, a classic example of a workhouse flashlight that can command a stunning output when needed. Low power mode is a useful 15 lumens, with a run-time of 53 hours. Press the tail switch a second time, however, and night turns into day with a blistering 1,000 lumens pumped out the front.
As is common with these high-output flashlights, you don’t get to use full power for very long – the step-down regulator will quickly reduce the output (and, more importantly, the heat generated) to protect the circuitry. After five minutes, the output is more like 700 lumens; after 30 minutes, you’re down to 500.
Powered by three 123A batteries, the P3X Fury is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is a favorite amongst law-enforcement personnel.
Following hot on the heels of the P3X Fury is the E2D Defender Ultra, a superb flashlight that performs double duty as an every-day carry light and a tactical light that can help get you out of tight spots.
The strike bezel might mean you have trouble getting this one past the TSA agent at an airport, so be aware before you try to take it on a plane with you.
Similar in concept to the P3X Fury, the E2D Defender Ultra has only two output modes: a day-to-day 5 lumens and a eye-watering 500 lumens. It’s pricey (all Surefire flashlight induce a bit of sticker shock), but you get what you pay for. And with just two 123A batteries on board, it’s smaller and lighter than its bigger brother.
Princeton Tec has been designing and manufacturing flashlights in the US since 1975, with a range of products that skews heavily towards the outdoor lifestyle. Think hiking, camping, scuba diving, and the company almost certainly has a product designed with you in mind.
One nice thing about the Princeton Tec range is the friendly colors they use. Yes, boring old black is here too, but lots of the flashlights come in blues or yellows or neons, making them a lot more family-friendly. And the use of high-impact polycarbonate plastics makes them a little warmer and less threatening than the metals used by other brands.
Best thing of all, though, is the price. New Jersey-based Princeton Tec offers great value. You get a lot of light for not a lot of money.
It might not be the sexiest of flashlights, but our favorite in the Princeton Tec range is the under-rated Amp 1L. And there’s one simple reason: it has a bottle opener. Genius! Aimed at the camping community, the Amp 1L helps you find your bottle of beer in the dark and open it too. What’s not to like?
It also comes with a large carabiner loop to hang it from your tent, plus a snap-on cone to provide area lighting.
Powered by 2 AAA batteries, the Amp 1L will provide 45 lumens for an impressive 72 hours. It’s a great little flashlight, and it’s proudly designed and manufactured in the USA.