February 20, 2022

Light it Up: Surefire DSF vs. Streamlight TL Racker Shotgun Lights

Today we are going to take a peek at two of the biggest names in the light world and two of the only names currently in the pump shotgun weapon light market. Our tactical toss-up today is between the Surefire DSF and the Streamlight TL Racker.

If you are relying on a shotgun for home defense, then you’d be wise to invest in a good white light to go with it. A good light allows a home defender to establish something we call positive identification, AKA PID. Before a trigger is pressed, you must establish PID, or you risk shooting something or someone you don’t intend to.

Lights on shotguns can be tricky, especially on pump guns. Trying to control a light on a weapon that requires an accentuating control can be difficult and provide users with an odd challenge. Remote cables are easily unplugged by a working pump, and activating a light via the tail cap requires you to move your hand away from the pump.

Surefire DSF vs. Streamlight TL Racker Shotgun Weapon Lights

Both of these weapon mount lights are an integral pump system that completely replaces your shotgun’s pump. Both fit America’s favorite shotguns, the Mossberg 500/590 series and the Remington 870 family. These are white lights perfectly designed for the home defense shotgun. They allow you to maintain complete control over your pump-action shotgun while retaining complete control over your light.

The Surefire DSF and Streamlight TL Racker provide you with an ergonomic option for instant and easy control of your firearm and light. Both lights are fighting to find a way onto your firearm, so let’s look at each light in-depth and figure out what will work best for you.

Surefire DSF vs. Streamlight TL Racker Shotgun Weapon Lights

Lumens, Candela, and Power

Since we are talking white lights, we gotta talk about power, and when it comes to lights, that means lumens and candela. Lumens and candela work together to maximize both brightness and range.

The TL Racker provides 1,000 lumens backed by a bright 20,000 candela. That outshines the Surefire DSF by a wide margin. The DSF offers a 600-lumen high mode and a 200-lumen low mode backed by 13,000 candela.

Surefire DSF vs. Streamlight TL Racker Shotgun Weapon Lights

Both beams focus on being wider than tighter. This makes them effective short-range lights that fill rooms with light. They are specifically designed for short-range use, which matches the role of the tactical shotgun and the end goal of home defense.

Both lights use two CR123 batteries. The TL Racker lasts 1.5 hours, and DSF lasts 1.5 hours on high and 3 hours on low.

Ergonomics and Controls

Not to be punny, but the Surefire DSF shines ergonomically. The controls Surefire offers are more complicated but more control ultimately. The Surefire offers you five buttons and a single switch. The single switch kills the light totally and is used for travel and storage when the light needs to stay off regardless.

On the sides, we get four buttons that offer ambidextrous control over the light. The front button is your momentary mode, and the rear button is your constant on button. Surefire designed the momentary button to sit where your hand naturally falls on the light and allows you that momentary activation on the fly. The constant on mode button sits slightly behind but is an easy reach back to activate.

Surefire DSF vs. Streamlight TL Racker Shotgun Weapon Lights

A much smaller button sits on the left side of the Surefire DSF that switches the light from high to low modes.

The Streamlight TLR packs two big ambidextrous buttons. This big button is an inch tall and several inches long and works as the single control for the TL Racker. A long press, more than 1 second, is the momentary mode, and when released, the light flips off. A quick press turns the light on constant mode.

You get a good tactile sensation, but you have to be very aware of the pressure used when flipping the switch. Too little pressure prior to release leaves the light on when you really might not want it on.

The TL Racker does have an aggressively textured pump that allows you to really hang onto the thing between shots. The big bulbous light sticking out of the DSF 870 gives you a nice, tight area to push against when using proper push/pull recoil mitigation techniques.


Weight is a real throw-up here. The DSF weighs a mighty heavy 17.8 ounces, with most of the weight on the tip of the light. The Streamlight TL Racker weighs a little over 12 ounces and is better balanced.

Surefire DSF vs. Streamlight TL Racker Shotgun Weapon Lights

Shotguns with the DSF will feel less balanced and more forward-heavy than guns with the TL Racker. However, that extra weight does wonders for fighting recoil and dealing with muzzle rise. It’s totally up to the user in terms of what ergonomics they prefer.

A Game of Prices

Finally, we get down to brass tacks, the price. Streamlight has always provided a great light at a great price. Surefire makes nothing but professional-grade lights trusted by both police and military forces around the world, and they aren’t cheap. The TL Racker retails for around $130 bucks, but the DSF tips the price scales at $359.

That’s a huge difference in price. If I wanted a home defense light, I’d likely feel more partial to the more affordable TL Racker; however, if I was working a beat, then the Surefire promises unmatched durability. At the end of the day, it’s largely up to users like you, so which way will you fall?

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