What Are The Ridges On A Flashlight For?

What are ridges on a flashlight for?

Almost every flashlight that’s been produced over the last 20 years have ridges ridges running throughout the frame. Are flashlight ridges just another fancy way to increase marketing potential or do they serve an actual purpose? Well it depends on where the ridges are and the type of flashlight you’re using. Some of those ridges provide a practical purpose and others simply add to the aesthetics.

Why do flashlights have ridges? There are three different types of ridges found on flashlights: temperature regulating fins, tactical bezel ridges, and knurling. The fins that run horizontally across the flashlight body are used to regulate temperature, ridged bezels allow the flashlight to be used as an impact object, and knurling ridges improve the flashlights grip.

Now that I gave a brief description lets go over how each of these flashlight ridges are used. In the rest of this post I’ll explain how each flashlight ridge improves the performance of the flashlight and explain whether or not they’re necessary.

What Are The Fins and Ridges On A Flashlight For?

The fins and ridges on a flashlight serve multiple purposes. How they’re used depends on the location of the ridges and the type of flashlight you’re buying. Here are a few of the most common reasons why flashlights have ridges.

  1. The ridges that run horizontally across the flashlight reduce heat buildup in the frame to prevent overheating.
  2. Sharp ridges on the front bezel can be used as a brute force impact device(smash windows and self defense).
  3. Knurled edges on the flashlight handle improve grip and stabilize the light.
  4. There’s no denying the aesthetic value of ridges and fins on a flashlight.

Now that I’ve explained most of the different types of ridges, it’s time to ask an important question. Do I really need to look for a flashlight with ridges or are they another unnecessary feature?


1. Temperature Regulating Flashlight Fins And Ridges

Temperature Regulating Flashlight Fins And Ridges

The fins and ridges on a flashlight play an important role when it comes to temperature regulation. Ridges increase the surface area of the aluminum frame. Aluminum is great at dissipating heat so increasing the surface area will speed up the heat transfer away from the sensitive electronics/LEDs.

It’s similar to how a heat sink (pictured above) works in a computer. The increased surface area will take longer to heat up and there’s more surface area for heat to transfer out of the object. So in theory, the fins should allow heat to transfer out of the flashlight faster than it can be generated.

This is far more important on high lumen flashlights. Increasing the lumen value means that the flashlight uses energy (increased energy=more heat) and burns through the battery faster. Most people are under the misconception that LED flashlights don’t get hot, but that’s not true.

A 1000 lumen LED flashlight will produce a similar amount of heat to a standard incandescent light bulb. Anybody that’s touched a light bulb immediately learns that it can get ridiculously hot fast. All that heat would be quickly burn your hand if it wasn’t for the aluminum frame and fins.

2. Using Tactical Flashlight Bezel Ridges As An Impact Object

Using Tactical Flashlight Bezel Ridges As An Impact Object

Modern tactical flashlights almost always have bezel ridges so you can use the flashlight as an impact object. Whether or not you ever need to use it will depend on your job and the situations you put yourself in. It makes sense for law enforcement, first responders, military, security guards, etc., but I’ve never found a use for a tactical bezel.

Being able to smash windows is the main use for a flashlight bezel ridges. It turns the flashlight into a glass breaking tool so you can easily smash car/house windows. Being able to quickly enter a vehicle is crucial for first responders like law envorcement, firefighters, EMTs, etc.

The sharp edges are used to increase the striking force over a small area. Force applied to a small impact area will magnify the effect. It’s similar to the difference between being stabbed by a sharp sword or poked by a broom. The ridges magnify the amount of force since you’re hitting a smaller impact area.

Can I Use Bezel Ridges For Self Defense?

There’s also the idea that tactical flashlights can double as a personal protection tool to fend off attackers. That would work a lot better with a large flashlight, but smaller pocket sized lights won’t offer much protection.

I guess smaller flashlights add weight to your hand and you could use it strike down on somebody, but punching will almost always be a stronger attack. Using the flashlight as a deterrent to light up the area so you can see your surroundings and using it as a blinding tool will be far more useful.

3. Knurling On Handles Improves Grip

Knurled Grip Flashlight Ridges Increase Grip

Old school flashlights would usually use rubber, but knurling has become far more common now that it’s cheap to add knurling with a CNC machine. Nowadays, almost every type of flashlight uses some kind of knurling to increase the grip.

Knurling is a fairly basic concept. It’s just a raised grip (usually metal) that helps bite into your hand improving the grip. It helps stabilize the flashlight in your hand and prevents slipping and rolling. You’ll be far less likely to drop the flashlight if there’s a little bit of knurling to hold it in place (especially with sweaty hands).

The amount of grip knurling provides depends on how aggressive it is. Aggressive knurling improves grip, but it can be uncomfortable in the hand. You should seriously consider buying a flashlight that has some kind of knurling to improve grip if you’ll be regularly using the flashlight.

4. Ridges Make The Flashlight Stand Out

The flashlight market’s flooded with 1000’s of very similar products. Flashlights all provide the same basic purpose. So how do you make your 500 lumen flashlight stand out against all the rest? You can either add features or change the design.

Manufacturers use every trick they can find to make their product stand out against the competition. Adding ridges is one more design feature they can use to make their flashlights stand out against a long line of similar products.


Do Flashlight Ridges Make A Difference?

That’s a hard question to answer without knowing the type of flashlight you’re purchasing and how you’ll be using it. Flashlight ridges do serve an important purpose, but they’re not always necessary. Ridges aren’t necessary if all you need is a basic flashlight to light up a path.

Most LED flashlights will never get hot enough to need temperature regulating fins and tactical bezels only matter if you plan on smashing glass or using it as a weapon. Knurling is always nice to have, but some people don’t like the way it bites into their hand.

Does your job require you to smash glass or break skulls on a regular basis? Then a tactical flashlight with with sharp bezels makes sense. Temperature regulating fins make sense if you need a high lumen flashlight in a compact pocket-sized design.

If you’re using the flashlight as a tactical everyday carry tool than it makes sense to go with a design that includes a tactical bezel and fins. Ridges don’t make much of a difference for the average person that’s using a flashlight to navigate around the house/yard in the dark.