What is the Tactical Lighter?
The Tactical Lighter from Bell & Howell is a flameless, USB-powered lighter that claims to be both wind and weatherproof thanks to its “military tough” construction quality. In the product’s commercial, we are even shown it being run over by a tank, leaving it unscathed in the process.
The Tactical Lighter’s unique benefits center around the arc plasma design, which trades the traditional lighter fluid and flame approach for an electrical charge that is generated at the tip of the product.
In order to fully understand how this device works and what makes it unique, let’s quickly take a closer look at how the Tactical Lighter generates an electric current. From there, we’ll look at the main benefits of the product, as well as any potential downsides that may come alongside it. Let’s dive in!
How the Tactical Lighter’s Arc Plasma Works
Instead of lighter fluid, the Tactical Lighter uses an internal, USB-powered battery that can be recharged between uses. The battery–which lasts about 100 lights per cycle according to the website–provides an electrical charge that is used to power the arc of plasma that is generated between points on the tip of the device. Anything you place between these two points will catch fire, including cigarettes, candle wicks, and whatever else you can fit.
One of the primary claims made by the manufacturer is that the Tactical Lighter works in the windiest, wettest conditions; conditions where conventional lighters would not fare well. This is due to the fact that the electrical arc generated by the device is not able to be “blown out” as a flame can be.
In the product’s commercial, the device is also abused in other ways, being frozen in a block of ice and boiled in a pot of water–not to mention the bit with the tank that we touched on earlier. Although we haven’t tested it ourselves to confirm, the Tactical lighter certainly seems to live up to its military-grade branding.
In exchange for this level of durability, however, how much will it cost you to get one for yourself?
Tactical Lighter Pricing & Return Policy
As of this writing, the Tactical Lighter was available exclusively on the product’s main website. The device sells for $19.99, and there is an optional bonus offer for a $6.95 fee that will get you an XL version of the product as well, which they state is excellent for tall candles.
Shipping and handling are free on all orders, and as for the return policy, the terms state that each order is covered by a 90-day satisfaction guarantee. To process a return anytime within this period, you’ll need to reach out to customer service at 1-877-884-8026.
Tactical Lighter vs. The Competition
Though flameless plasma lighters are relatively new to the market, there are already a wide variety of options to choose from online. In fact, performing a simple search on Google or Amazon yields dozens of different results, some of which make very similar claims to the ones made by the makers of the Tactical Lighter.
If you’re looking for the best plasma lighter online, keep the following considerations in mind going into your search:
Dual vs. Single Arc Designs
These are the two main types of plasma lighters available, and the differences between them are pretty self-explanatory. One uses a single arc (like the Tactical Lighter), and the other uses two arcs, usually arranged in crisscross fashion. Dual-arc lighters tend to be slightly more powerful according to reviews on Amazon, but the differences between the two are largely cosmetic when it comes to basic usage.
This is a big one, for obvious reasons. When using your plasma lighter, you won’t have to worry about running out of lighter fluid, but battery life is still a limiting factor. This is especially true for those looking to use the device while camping or doing other activities in remote places where access to USB power may not be readily available.
The Tactical Lighter states that each charge lasts up to 100 lights, which seems to be the average for most of the devices we encountered during our research. Many products on Amazon listed a 2 to 3-hour recharge time, but when we called Tactical Lighter customer service, we were told that the average recharge time between uses is “about 24 hours.” If true, that’s certainly something to consider when comparing the product to the competition.
This probably isn’t the most important factor for the majority of users, but seeing as these are meant to last much longer than disposable lighters–and certainly attract more attention–this may be something to consider. Designs range from the more industrial cues found in the Tactical Lighter to a sleeker, more stylized Zippo-style look.
How durable your lighter is might not be the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning, but it’s still an important consideration to make, especially if you plan to use the device in outdoor settings like camping or hiking.
In this category, the Tactical Lighter seems to have a leg-up on the competition; none of the other products we encountered online claimed to be able to resist freezing, boiling, wet, and windy conditions, and none of the others were run over by a tank–that we know of, anyway!
For many users, it all boils down to value, and luckily, the Tactical Lighter seems to hold up well in this regard. While all plasma lighters tend to be more expensive than conventional ones, most of the products we found on Amazon and elsewhere online went for anywhere from $15 to $25.
The Bottom Line: Our Verdict on the Tactical Lighter
So, after everything we’ve learned, will the Tactical Lighter truly live up to its claims in the end? Without testing it out for ourselves, it’s difficult to say for certain.
The Good: The Tactical Lighter seems like an extension of a proven design; based on customer feedback on other plasma lighters, we know that these devices work, and the additional ruggedness and durability will certainly appeal to adventure-seekers, survivalists, and candle-lovers alike.
Additional Thoughts: Though the product has many potential strengths, we can also foresee some situations where its plasma-based design may not be ideal, such as when lighting larger objects like pipes, cigars, larger pieces of wood, and more.
At the end of the day, it will be up to you to determine if the higher price of the product (compared to traditional lighters) is worth it for your individual needs.
After all, if all you’re looking to do is light some candles around the house, this will probably amount to nothing more than a slightly-more-expensive gimmick, but if you plan to use it in windy, rainy, or rigorous situations, we can certainly see the Tactical Lighter excelling, provided that it works as advertised.
3 out 4 people found this review helpful
Can't get one!
I ordered it as a present for a friend and extras for my vehicle. That was three weeks ago. I called today to check order status and was told they have not shipped and, in fact, they have not shipped any as they are a "new item." No update, even on a possible shipping date. I was asked if I want to go ahead and take a refund. What's up with this?
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
5 out 6 people found this review helpful
This piece of crap never worked. I plugged it in for 2 hours, went to use it, and it never worked. Cheaply made and a waste of $20. It would cost me more to go ship it back, including gas and painkillers for a headache from disappointment, but you live and learn. I guess back to Zippo.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend