Nitecore P12 Review

Posted by Randall Adams on

The Nitecore P12 is an above average value at a fair price. With strobe mode, outstanding durability, and water resistance the P12 is one of the best tactical flashlight in its class (5.5" long by 1" in diameter) available today. Built upon the outstanding CREE XM-L2 (T6) or CREE XM-L2 (U2) LED you can expect a maximum light output of close to 960 or 1000 lumens respectively.

Nitecore P12

Product Context

The latest flashlight offering from Nitecore validates this meteoric trend in lighting technology. Its high-tech circuitry, longevity, and reliability cannot be matched by older incandescent technology. The Nitecore P12 powered by the Cree XM-L2 represents the high-end of LED flashlight technology without the high-end price. If you haven't thought about flashlights in several years you will be shocked at what is now available for a list price of $72.

Tactical Use

The P12 is a tactical light. It was designed for those close quarters situations when things are not going as planned. Bright lights are great for disorienting would be attackers who are lurking in the dark. A bright light to the eyes may be good enough to escape. But if the pressure is brought you can press and hold the mode switch to go into strobe mode. This will definitely not be good for the eyes of the bad guys. The hardened body makes for a good weapon as well. The bright light and quick access to strobe make the P12 great tool to use in hand to hand combat.

Key Features

The Nitecore P12 is versatile, long-lasting, and one of the brightest flashlights available at this size (5.5" x 1"). Other flashlights in this size/weight category provide different levels of brightness (very low, low, medium, high) but the P12 provides all of the additional modes: self-defense strobe, SOS, locator light, and candle mode (standing on its tail cap). Just seven years ago it was unheard of to have all of these options and nearly ten times the light output of the old five cell police flashlights.


Aluminum alloy for light weight and strength. The body is anodized with a flat black finish. With the hexagonal sections of the body the light will resist rolling on a flat surface. Build quality for the flashlight body feels excellent and the white on black lettering is superb. The u-shaped tail cap protector is large enough to facilitate standing the light on it's end so that it may light a room like a candle.

Nitecore P12 endcap switch


The P12 utilizes mineral glass for an outstandingly even beam with a cool white color. Since it is a small span of mineral glass it should take considerable effort to shatter. Beam color was a cool white with no hint of yellow. Of the three types of beams (flood, spotlight, adjustable) this flashlight is a flood light which is good for general tasks vs a single penetrating longer-distance beam. The fact that this class of flashlight can throw as far as it does with a substantial flood is amazing compared to the best flashlights of just seven years ago.

Nitecore P12 Cool White -- similar to daylight

Throw and Spill

This flashlight is hurt-your-feelings bright. While testing, the Nitecore P12 consistently delivers a clean beam with outstanding spill past 100 yards. The generous spill from the light allows 180 degree situational awareness with only three momentary on tail cap presses. Outstanding and ideally suited for the tactical technique commonly referred to as "slicing the pie" with brief flashes of light to protect your location. At shorter distances the beam has a hot center with a generous spill. At longer distances the center and spill are not distinguishable blending to provide excellent coverage.


The flat bezel does not impede the wide spill of the beam adding more value than a tactical strike bezel. The P12 is a discrete search light that can be used to strike an assailant when the need arises. A strike bezel is used for blunt force strikes in a self-defense situation. As the flashlight is already 5.5" long and an inch in diameter it would be as effective as a similarly sized pipe.

Nitecore P12 front and reflector 


An superb quality nylon holster comes bundled with the Nitecore P12. Nylon is resistant to rot and durable. The nylon will not stretch or shrink when exposed to water. The Velcro loop allows you to easily attach the P12 to your belt. This is much appreciated feature as it saves time and is extremely convenient. Bundling the holster with the product is a welcome value as the holster is durable, reliable, and convenient. While the flashlight can fit into your pants pocket it is more comfortable to carry on the holster.


Durability was clearly a product priority as the P12 is provided with replacement parts, impact/water resistance, and a hard anodized finish which is typically applied to heavy wear industrial parts. With the included wrist strap and holster to help protect your flashlight it is unlikely you will need your five year warranty for free repairs (assuming you purchased your P12 through an authorized Dealer/Reseller). The flashlight body can be O-Ring sealed with the provided spare O-Rings.

Customer Service

Nitecore warranties against malfunction through normal usage provided you work with the authorized retailer/reseller you purchased the light from. Further, Nitecore requires that you meet multiple requirements to get warranty service. With your warranty card or original receipt you may be able to put in a warranty claim as long as you meet the additional three requirements:

  • must be purchased from an authorized dealer or reseller and
  • can only be modified with authentic Nitecore components by an authorized dealer or reseller.
  • The Nitecore warranty terms of service imply that if your flashlight is damaged by a non-Nitecore battery it will not be covered.

You should keep the receipt for your Nitecore battery in the event that the battery leaks or otherwise ruins your flashlight.


Unmatched versatility in this product category with the combination of features, light modes, and brightness levels. It is a plus to be able to stand a flashlight on its tail to light an entire room when the power goes out. Support for the two main rechargeable battery times is a plus (one 18650 battery vs two CR123A batteries). Tactical/security support with the included titanium-plated flashlight clip, nylon belt holster, and tactical ring for weapons support. The flashlight supports the following modes:

  • self-defense strobe,
  • SOS and Locator beacon, and
  • brightness levels of very low, low, medium, and "Oh my Eyes!"

User Interface

The Nitecore P12 has a two button user interface. The tailcap controls flashlight on and off. How you use the mode button determines whether or not you cycle through specialty modes (strobe, S.O.S, or locator) or through the beam intensity modes (very low, low, medium, and high).

Nitecore P12 mode switch

The mode button, positioned near the head of the flashlight, controls the mode. The specialty strobe mode is a rapid flash useful in tactical situations where you wish to illuminate a target without giving away your exact position. The strobe light is disorienting with an extremely intense beam that has to be experienced to truly understand how effective it is. The S.O.S specialty mode is useful in a survival scenario where you wish to signal for help over long distances with this powerful beam. Finally the locator specialty mode is more frugal with your battery power while still providing an intense pulse of light every few moments.

Once the flashlight is on at any time you can hold the mode button down to enter the strobe mode. Click the Nitecore flashlight's mode button again and it will blink out S.O.S in Morse code. Proceed to click the mode button again to enter the locator mode (single pulse of light every moments). If you click the mode button again you will cycle back to strobe mode as the cycle repeats itself. These are the specialty modes you can switch between by pressing and holding the mode button.

Should you turn the P12 on via the tailcap button and it happens to be on very low beam intensity by clicking the mode button (without holding it down) you will transition from very low to low beam intensity. Click the mode button again and the flashlight will transition from low beam intensity to medium beam intensity. With another click of the mode button the beam will transition from medium beam intensity to high beam intensity. If you click the mode button again the P12 will cycle back to very low beam intensity. These are the beam intensity modes you can switch between by clicking the mode button. As the user you can enter the specialty modes at any time by clicking and holding the mode button as described previously.

The P12 will remember the last mode it was in at the time it was turned off. So if you left the flashlight on high and turned it off via the tailcap then when you turn it on it will still be in high mode. This is useful if you consistently use a single beam intensity (very low, low, medium, or high) as your flashlight will stay in that mode until you decide otherwise. The momentary on feature providing by pressing without clicking the tail cap allows you to "tap" out your own Morse code messages... assuming you know Morse code.

Potential Issues

The Nitecore P12 warranty is only valid if you make your purchase from an authorized dealer/reseller and you keep a copy of or receipt (or warranty card). This may be an issue if you made your purchase from say an affiliate instead of a larger supplier that has official dealer or reseller status with Nitecore. It should be noted that the Nitecore warranty terms of service imply that your warranty will be void if you use non-Nitecore parts like the battery. If your warranty is important to you note the retailer you made your purchase from, keep your receipt, and only use Nitecore batteries.

It should be noted that for 18650 batteries it has been reported that "true flattop" batteries may not work without (warranty voiding) flashlight modification. The flattop 18650 battery refers to batteries without the familiar "button" shape at the top. If you purchase a new rechargeable 2600mAh or 3400mAh Nitecore 18650 you should be just fine. Our testing was completed with the Nitecore 2600mAh rechargeable 18650 battery.


Is the Nitecore P12 worthwhile? If you are looking for a versatile light that will serve a variety of purposes and can accommodate the 5.5" in length this is an excellent choice. The included accessories, rugged design, and outstanding performance make this an outstanding option. If concerned about squeezing every last lumen out of your premium flashlight consider spending the extra money on a higher performance rechargeable 3400mAh 18650 battery. There are many great lights on the market but only a handful in this category of size and capability. This is a welcome addition deserving a 10 out of 10.

Companies in this Article is an independent reviewer of flash light technology for the savvy individual. The manufacturer of this flashlight is Nitecore (SYSMAX Industry Company, Ltd. of Guangzhou, China). Cree, Incorporated at Durham, NC is the premier provider of LED lighting technology currently powering a revolution in flashlight performance.

The P12 Family

While the P12 has not been updated for 2016 yet, Nitecore did introduce a new light that should be seen as an upgrade to the venerable P12. The P12GT is the same great form factor as the P12 but has a much improved LED emitter. The P12GT uses the CREE XP-L HI V3 which is a flat domed emitter. It still produces 1000 lumens but because of the flat dome produces greater throw. The P12GT has a claimed throw of 320 meters which is a big upgrade over the 232 meters of the P12. It does this while still maintaining the same efficient battery draw. You only lose 15 minutes of battery life on the brightest setting compared to the P12.

While it appears to be like most other tactical flashlights, the P12GT stands out from the competition. No other light this size throws light this distance. This is truly a great upgrade over the P12.

If you love the form factor of the P12 but really want rechargeable light you should definitely check out the Nitecore MH12. This is basically the exact same light as the P12 but with a USB port that allows you to recharge the 18650 without removing it from the light. If you would like to read more about the MH12 you should check out our Nitecore MH12 review over on Reddit.

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