There’s neither strict criteria nor a solid definition for what constitutes a custom flashlight. So when I list a flashlight in this guide that simply means I consider it custom.
So you’ve stumbled upon the rabbit’s hole that is flashlights, and as you work your way up in the hobby, you notice that there’s some flashlights that cost upwards of four figures. Custom flashlights are an interesting aspect of the flashlight hobby; I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: It would be better to think of many custom flashlights as functional jewelry.
Once upon a time, they were the progenitors of bleeding-edge, flashlight technology, and yet this is no longer the case. There are numerous budget flashlights that are functionally on par with or superior to custom flashlights. In fact, the budget flashlight world is synonymous with pushing the envelope in terms of not only cost, but also functionality.
But that doesn’t mean that custom flashlights are automatically excluded from stacking with the best. And in fact, I firmly believe that custom flashlights still make some of the best EDC flashlights. Budget and mainstream flashlights are absolutely honed in on chasing specs and extra features; as a result, they tend to ignore how these factors translate to real life. Hint: It doesn’t always carry over nicely.
The problem with the custom market is how saturated it is. There’s a lot of lifeless custom flashlights – that is to say, very well-made flashlights that neither break the norm nor do anything particularly special. So I’m here to help sift through the riffraff and to showcase some of the more exceptional custom flashlights. No affiliate links or any of that crap. These are my honest opinions; I don’t hesitate to call something bad when it’s bad, so vice versa holds true. You may not agree with them, but you sure know where I stand.
#1 Frelux Synergy1 [$95+]
Perhaps one of the only custom flashlights that can be had for $100. The Synergy1 uses a side-by-side AAA battery format that stomps the traditional stacked, cylinder AAA format. The user-interface (LMH) might be simple, but this is a custom flashlight that punches well above its weight.
Pros: Custom-level build quality, unique design, and a compelling price.
Cons: UI might be lacking flexibility to satisfy some users.
Grade: A ★★
#2 Mechforce Mechtorch [$180+]
Unlike the Frelux Synergy1, this one doesn’t have anything special going on. It’s on this list just because it’s a good value compared to other customs. You can get a Dr. Jones H17f for an additional $20, plus it’s a solid titanium host. Comparable performance and build quality in a titanium host at half the custom flashlight going rate? Yes, please.
Pros: Full titanium build, decent design and build quality.
Cons: Clip non-compatible with standard torch clips, cringeworthy design aesthetic (totally subjective, it’s just not my thing).
Grade: B+ ★
#3 HDS Systems Rotary [$285+]
The Rotary uses the cleverest and most convenient of UIs: Simply turn the dial clockwise for more light and vice versa for less. Don’t be fooled though, the Rotary is packing a ton of programmability and additional features. And although the output might seem lacking, HDS Systems individually calibrates each flashlight that leaves the shop, so you know you’re getting a true X amount of lumens. If you can get over the lack of a decent clip, this is one of the greatest EDC flashlights in existence.
Pros: Best UI, completely overbuilt, myriad features and flexibility.
Cons: Large size and lack of a decent clip.
Grade: B+ ★★★
#4 Oveready BOSS 35 [$400]
This is easily, and without a doubt, one of the most iconic custom flashlights today. The bodily design is exceptionally ergonomic, and feature-wise the BOSS is a standout. Perhaps not quite as good as some other flashlights in practical use, but more than enough to earn it a spot on this list. Add on to this an eco-system of support accessories and you have quite the formidable package. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this torch.
Pros: Standout design and driver features, strong accessory support system, and readily available.
Cons: Driver is limited in the lamest way: You can only program four modes per mode group, and you’re screwed if the Lux-RC programming site goes down. Oh yeah, did I mention this flashlight is programmed through the web?
Grade: A ★★★
#5 Okluma DC1 [$300+]
Honorable mention on this list. Does this flashlight actually do anything particularly exceptional? Nope, not in the slightest. It’s well-built, well-designed, carries nicely, and yet it’s not really pushing any creativity boundaries. But it’s not exactly supposed to because it’s a reified Mac’s Tri-EDC.
Pros: Stellar build quality, iconic design, and you could do a lot worse when purchasing a custom torch.
Cons: Cost is high, and the stock driver is lacking.
What follows are my thoughts on a variety of other custom flashlights/brands that I have actually handled and played with. Please don’t be too offended if you don’t agree: This is 100%, subjective opinion as is everything else on this list.
Barrel Flashlight Co M2JN [$495+]
Good build quality, and a slick flashlight design compromised in the pursuit of bling and photogenic glory. Interchangeable sleeve is non-waterproof and prevents the use of 18350 batteries. Lacks all basis for practical use and appreciates better for Instagram photo shoots.
CWF Arcadian [$700+]
I’m already removed from the CWF Facebook group for my thoughts and review on this one. Gotta love that I’m too honest for my own good sometimes.
CWF/Ti2 Design Pele [$600]
Not exactly a standout, but not outright bad either. Solid design work/fundamentals and is at least somewhat progressive in terms of driver innovation. Limited flexibility with Dragon driver is a trade-off. Still is overpriced for what it is.
Dark Sucks/Prometheus Lights
Really, really good design fundamentals and thought process. Nothing exceptional, but I can’t critique much about their flashlights save the price and marketing lingo.
A master of design miniaturization and intricacy. Makes some really special stuff and all his flashlights have pushed new envelopes. Pricy, but I’m always looking forward to see what this guy is releasing.
Don’t deal in hype too much (with the exception of their more recent, limited metal runs), and know exactly what they’re designing. They only have two models…but that’s all they need. The price-value on their lights has slowly diminished, and yet they are exceptional lights nonetheless.
Lux-Rc Minion [$400+]
Crazy impressive performance and flexibility in such a small package. Ultimately falls short in practical use simply because of its design, unfortunately.
The grandfather of custom flashlight makers. Made great strides for the custom flashlight world, and has taken a backseat in recent years. His flashlights are showing their age, but are appreciated nonetheless.
Muyshondt Aeon MK. III [$295]
Unique, original design based around the CR2 battery format. Honestly, not poorly built at all despite allegations of manufacturing origin. Cell choice is baffling though, and the cost of ownership is high. Let’s not talk about the warranty and maker support, mmkay?
Notta Design Beam [$550+]
I can’t say I have much experience with this one, but I did get to play with it briefly. Very well built with excellent design cues, and uses a new, unique driver. One of the few single-LED custom flashlights right now. Somewhat difficult to actuate switch because of how recessed it is. Totally overpriced for just an aluminum model.
If Hanko is the king of hype then this is the king of customer service and brand loyalty. Definitely pricy…but not outside of reason. One of the few brands trying new stuff; their new DC0 flashlight looks like it has a lot of potential.
Lots of unique, innovative designs. They’ve shown that they can build off existing platforms or simply make their own from the ground-up. Feels a bit stagnant in recent years to be honest, but hopefully that changes with Lux-RC having released an updated 371d driver.
Not strictly what most would consider a custom maker because his stuff is mass produced, but on that line. Decent build quality and designs that meld budget firmware with custom-esque hosts. Always interesting to see what he comes out with next.
Sinner Customs Tri-EDC (any iteration) [$350+]
Poor build quality even for a custom, and utilizes the most menial of drivers. Design is shorter than most other 18350 flashlights, but fatter in diameter as well. Base, original Sinner Tri-EDC might have been passable for the price at one time. Subsequent iterations are not at all desirable.
Grade: D+ (newest) / C- (older)
One of the most underrated custom makers due next-to-zero marketing presence. They did work for some of the other custom makers in the day. Good build quality, however components of their flashlights are dated. A pseudo McGizmo in this regard.
Here are my thoughts on some other brands and their flashlights that I have not yet had the opportunity to play with, but pretty much know what to expect. Take from this information what you will.
Makes the Ferrari of the flashlight world. Pretty much the most expensive and advanced flashlights commercially available. Can’t say much else about this maker, but I’d love to own one of their flashlights one day.
Deadwood Custom Works
Nothing special from their Huckleberry model. A bit better pricing than most custom makers, but that’s what happens when you’re the new guy on the block. Tombstone model looks interesting. I don’t think it’ll be a hit, but I definitely liked that Deadwood tried something new.
Has one flashlight in a variety of different bodily shapes. Props to this maker for at least recognizing their flashlight does nothing new. If their other work is any indication..it’s really well built and I’d like it sans the price.
A Canadian maker who brought back the single-LED format to customs. Solid work, but again nothing special here. Their aluminum model was a decent value at one point when it was on sale. Is currently working on a commissioned flashlight which I’m very much anticipating seeing the result of.
Hanko Metal Works
The resident king of custom flashlight hype. Makes exceptionally well-made flashlights that have nothing special function wise. But wow, they sure are pretty.
Your average custom flashlight maker. Really well-built stuff and decent design. Can be a bit pricy but nothing ridiculous. I really, really like Laulima’s clips actually and think they’re something special.
Known for his right angle-lights (probably one of the few custom makers to use this style) and unique anodization work. Components are dated and the flashlights are a bit niche/pricy overall. Cool to look see nonetheless.
Reever Arms Citadel
One of the newest guys on the chopping block. Lots of hype around the Citadel, but it doesn’t seem like anything special. Fair price and cool design.
One of the few makers still doing manual work. Creative designs that don’t quite push the envelope but are very cool to see nonetheless. Stellar build quality from what I’ve seen.
If you want a blinged out, tritium-glorified flashlight, this is the guy you turn to. Build quality is passable – not exceptional, but OK. A bit pricy, but where else are you going to get flashlights this photogenic?
The king of one-offs in the custom flashlight world. Exception work all done manually and incredibly creative designs. Too bad they’re literally impossible to get your hands on.
Yellow Day Energy
THE newest guy on the chopping block. Wreck-It flashlight looks exactly like it sounds, and doesn’t look like anything else notable.