Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tacticool Tuesday - Lights prevent angels

Many of you train on your shooting skills, by shooting hundreds of stationary paper targets in lighted area with your bullets neatly stacked before you.  For anyone that owns a firearm, (or other defensive tool for that matter), how many of you have actually trained to clear a room in the event of a home invasion?  It seems pretty intuitive; you have a gun so you can defend your family and your property.  But how many have actually trained to protect them?  How many have trained at night?  How many know how many steps it takes from one obstacle to the next and where they are located? How high up are the light switches located?  Where are the mirrors?  Just like all things in training, when you train as you will fight, certain things become apparent.  One of these is the use of a light.

Before we go any further, please let me dispel one myth.  Unless your only defense is to sneak up on the bugler and attempt to give them a heart attack, use every opportunity to have to illuminate the area.  This means turning on lights, positioning lamps to your advantage or even having your spouse hold another light.  Despite your Youtube Academy credentials, you are not a Ninja, and when you are in your home, darkness is not your friend.  Yes, you can certainly barricade yourself in your room and call the police.  If you have little ones or if the good guys are too far or too busy to help you, this may not be an option.  To paraphrase an adage, failing to train, is training to fail.

Lights prevent angels

Lights and proper training could have prevented these types of senseless shootings:

Father Shoots Teen Daughter Mistaken for Intruder
Father 'shot dead teenage daughter he thought was a burglar'
Father mistakes son for burglar and accidentally shoots him during early-morning break-in

Clearing a house at night can be a tricky thing.  Is the noise you heard your teenage daughter sneaking back in?  Was it a raccoon that came in through a doggy door?  Or is it a Meth head looking to grab something quick to pawn?  Just like Coopers second and fourth rules, you must first identify your target before you pull the trigger.

The Two Schools

There are two schools of thought when it comes to lights and firearms: mounted on the gun or in your non-dominant hand.  I will list the advantages and disadvantages.

Weapon mounted
  •  When you reach for the weapon, everything is "in hand".  No fumbling around to get both your weapon and the light is needed. 
  •  Your free hand is needed to manipulate doors and move obstacles.  This is a huge advantage.
  •  You will have to train to prevent a "negligent discharge" of the light.  Some models are obviously better than others in this regard.
  •  Having a weapon mounted light is not binary; it is not one or the other.  You can still have a back up light.  
Flashlight in your non-dominant hand
  • There is less of a learning curve to prevent a "negligent discharge" of the light if you are sneaking around your apartment.
  • You can use the light as a striking weapon.
  • You can ditch the light if need be and still have the weapon in hand. This is important in a dark room as the assailant will more likely grab for the light if he is blinded, (it is the only thing they can see), then they will for the gun.
  • Due to its awkwardness, you will still need to train with the flashlight and weapon combo.  It is not intuitive.
I personally am a flashlight mounted kind of guy.  First off, my four year old loves to steal my flashlights for her own nefarious purposes.  For me, the deal breaker is the free hand to manipulate objects and turn on lights.  I had heard a rumor that when Larry Vickers remodeled his home, he had the light switches placed a couple of feet from the ground so he could turn them on with his knee when he cleared the room.  Use what you have available.

If you choose to have the light in your hand, either by design of your firearm or personal preference, this article gives you some alternate positions to use your light.  As with anything else, be wary of anyone that offers the "only solution".  Experts, if they call themselves that, come from thier own point of view that was developed over their experiences of what works and what does not.  Certain universal truths remain, (you have to be physically able to carry the fight to the enemy), but no doctrine is so flexible as to apply to every situation.  The first step is to get trained by a professional, and the next step is to train to your own situation, strengths, weaknesses, etc.


When it comes to your flashlights, certain things you will want to consider.  Availability and commonality of batteries, sound construction, positive or alternating types of on switches are all important.  Buy just like what type of caliber and ammunition you use, what comes out of the light is perhaps the greatest deal breaker when considering one model over the other.  Steamlight, Surefire, Pelican, Ezetta, Inova, etc. all make very fine lights.  What differentiates one over the other is the lumens or the brightness.  Bigger is better in this case.

The best defensive shooting is the one you do not have to make.  If the target is blinded, they cannot effectively fight back.  This may be enough to take the piss out of the perpetrator, or at least give him pause while you get yourself into a better position or buy needed moments until the Cavalry arrives.  As many police can attest to, more lumens means more effectiveness.  You do have the possibility of blinding yourself on reflective surfaces, but knowing where these potential hazards are will become evident in training.

If given the choice between the cute "compact ninja" model of 200 lumens and the slightly bulkier 600 to 2000 lumen lights, go with the bigger one.  You cant go wrong and you can always dress down with filters if need be.

Of course, you can own night vision and make this all largely a moot point.  You will, however, still need to train as if you do not have it.  Batteries die and equipment degrades.  Lights are pretty simple tools so the possibility of them going dead on you are significantly less.  Like it was observed in Fight Club, the survival rate of everything goes to zero on a long enough timeline.   So do you, if you are not careful.

Do you see the light?


Anonymous said...

Try and have both the WML and the hand carried. Not everything needs a weapon pointed at it that needs to be illuminated. Practice and Get Trained are two things the author is stressing and with good reason. Don't allow you ego to be your guide.

Anonymous said...

This is the reason everyone should keep a good sized and house trained dog in the home. If the dog is not barking, he's either dead or there is no intruder. It'd damn hard to confront and kill a dog without making a lot of noise. So if you hear something, and the dog meets you in the hallway wagging his tail, there is not an intruder. No need to shoot at anything.

If the dog wakes you up barking his head off, it's not likely that an intruder is still hanging around, unless the intruder is a hit-man, in which case you are likely screwed anyway.

Aside from all that, a weapons light is a good idea...

Unknown said...

Surefire X-300U with a DG switch is about as perfect as a pistol mounted light will get. That being said, that light is not the light you search with, it is the light you engage with. Use a handheld light with a lanyard to search with, and if it becomes necessary to take a shot, or manipulate something, you can drop the handheld light to hang off the lanyard and use that hand as necessary.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Definitely true that a target-illumination device is valuable in a low-light situation. Also quite true that having a hand free is particularly valuable in an interior environment.

But it is worth noting that a target-illumination device should never be pointed at anything you can't afford to shoot.

The best light sources are your house lights that you normally use to avoid stumbling around in the dark. As mentioned, turn them on and leave them on. Even if your power is cut, switch your lights on as you have opportunity, as it is possible that you might restore power at some point.

Also as mentioned, you can always drop a hand-light if it becomes a liability...or even to derive a momentary tactical advantage. And it is much less dangerous to prod/shove/hook objects to move them with the not-entirely-free hand that at least doesn't have a weapon.

If you are, for some reason, down to relying on just your target illuminator for vision, try to aim it in a safe direction as much as possible. Most residences have light-colored ceilings, these can reflect enough light for general illumination that your eyes can adapt to fairly quickly. Overhead light, even when dim, provides crucial visual information that is often lost when the illumination is directly in line with your eye (as a target illuminator is necessarily designed to be). You may not actually recognize a familiar face when seeing it lit in that manner (particularly if the owner reacts in some typical manner such as by shielding their eyes), do not attempt to verify your target by aiming your weapon at it.

I guess my summary is that a target illuminator is a very useful tactical device, but it really isn't for illuminating anything other than something you have already decided to shoot.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Cooper's 4 rules of gun safety. The beautiful thing about these is that you have to disobey at least 2 of these rules to accidentally shoot anyone of anything!
1. All guns are always loaded.
2. Never point the muzzle of a gun toward anything you don't want to destroy.
3. Properly identify your target. Don't shoot at anything you can't clearly see.
4. Do not touch the trigger until the muzzle is pointed toward a properly-identified target you intend to shoot.
Those rules are memorized by anyone I'm teaching to shoot, including my grandchildren.

If these rules were obeyed, there would be no "accidental" shootings and no one would be shot by an "unloaded" gun.

- Old Greybeard

Anonymous said...

While talking about the use of lights at night, another overlooked aspect of 'training' is outdoors during the day time. Fun to shoot with a bench, nice targets, a shaded covered area and other folks around but try dropping in the dirt (with rocks around here and sharp/pointy things on the ground) and crawl/duck walk or shoot and move around shooting (and hitting what you are trying to aim at). Again as mentioned in the first part of this commentary, REALLY train like you might/will/be forced to fight. Knock off the 'fun and games' and work at it: who knows, your (and your families)lives might depend on it ............. just saying.

James said...

Thanks for a repeat of the Cooper rules,excellent rules and need to remind/make meself always work within their confines.On a side note like the my daughter steals the flashlights for nefarious purposes comment,what the heck she up to,illuminating late night snacks?!

david said...

And a trick to gain advantage. blind the intruder with a very high powered strobe . first draw his eyes to the strobe by turning on a small low level light in the same location. then trigger the strobe. always helpful when your opponent can't see a thing for several minutes

Anonymous said...

when I built my house. I had a light installed in the ceiling fixture, with a switch in my bedroom, that way I can light the kitchen, placing anyone between the light and my bedroom