The topic is lights on handguns. Let’s discuss the why and how.
The why is easy. A pistol mounted light is in place to illuminate possible adversaries and danger areas during a fight. There is no other reason to add one. If there is, please advise me in the comments. And no, “makes the pistol look cool on Instagram”, while it may be true is not a reason to add one.
The how is a little more complicated as it involves not only operating the light, but also tactics for light use. On both I can speak with a solid level of experience since I was in no less than six direct gun battles at night in limited visibility situations, and the rest were in less than optimal lighting.
First to establish immutable truths. And there are such truths – maybe not a concern on a clinical training range but certainly so on the street.
1). The trigger finger is for operating the trigger and nothing else while the pistol is in your hand. The trigger finger is not for disengaging holster latches, nor safeties. And the trigger finger is not in any way to be used for operating a light switch. The trigger finger is for operating the trigger. Period.
2). The pistol light should be operated by grip pressure alone. That way, if you only have the firing hand on the pistol, you can still operate the light if needed. If you need to use either trigger finger (see item number 1), or the support side hand, it is not an optimal light to have on a pistol and in plain truth, you would be better off with a separate flashlight in the support hand.
3). Any time that light comes on, you, the man holding the light, are a target. And yes…bad guys will shoot at you and your light regardless of how bright and stroby it is.
Now all that established, let’s move on. If you add a light, you need to know how to use it. I am always concerned about drawing fire by using a light excessively or inappropriately. If there was no concern over such things, we would simply turn the light on and leave it on like they do on TV Cop shows. I expect that most guys that add a light to their pistol, rifle or shotgun, will do just this and then vociferously defend their tactics online. They are wrong and it will eventually get them killed.
I teach students to refrain from using the light as much as possible and only use it when absolutely necessary. And that "necessary" occurs only when there is doubt about what the target is. We do not need as much "Target ID" as some would have you believe.
For example, if I see two six foot tall 200 pound shadows in my home at zero-dark-thirty, I am safe in assuming that they are home invaders and I will shoot them to the ground since nobody that lives with me is 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. I have all the target ID I need.
Feel free to seek more if there is doubt, but understand that you do not need to see the “target” in full sunlight with zero questions. Seeking more will cost you more risk. And at some point the risk becomes foolish when it can be avoided. Understand that if it was truly a violent armed adversary, and you turned on your light, he will shoot at your light without the regard for placement and safety and identification that you have so vehemently trained for. He will send fifteen rounds in your general direction with a pretty good chance of connecting with one before you think of switching off that light with your trigger finger. I know I would.
There are tactics to use the light properly that mitigate the danger of turning it on, but for now understand that when the light is on you are a target. Whether the enemy shoots you or not is his choice...not yours.
I have a Surefire pistol light on my Home Defense Pistols (just like I used in SWAT although vastly improved) because all Proactive CQB Pistols should have a light. Did you catch the qualifier adjectives? "Proactive" and "CQB". I did not say "All Pistols".
Pistols that are carried daily and reactive in purpose do not require nor do they benefit from adding a light. Move through the urban night environment and you will see that short of a black out (which would require a light to navigate), there is always sufficient ambient light to recognize a pending threat or upcoming attack. There is no tactical scenario that I can envision where one would need to reactively illuminate a threat prior to shooting. And if you are venturing out after dark, like most of us, adding a small modern light to the pocket makes more sense than lugging a pistol mounted light around all day.
The companies that make pistol lights have a vested interest in convincing the public that all pistols need lights, and that nobody should ever carry a pistol without a light. That is great for sales but not the best choice for everyone else. So "some pistols in some applications" benefit from having a light mounted...others do not.
As well, as mentioned earlier - if you are mounting a light on a pistol, it must be operable with the shooting hand grip pressure while the trigger finger is on the trigger. If you cannot operate the light, in a pressure activated momentary manner with your shooting hand only, and while your trigger finger is on the trigger, it is a silly accessory and does not belong on the pistol of a serious gunfight-focused shooter.
This is a good choice. See the grip activated pressure switch?
This very popular light is a poor choice. There is no way the user will be able to activate the light, one handed, while the trigger finger is on the trigger. To use a light on a pistol properly, it must be used with a momentary pressure switch. Add pressure and the light turns on. Remove or relax pressure and the light turns off. I want to be able to illuminate a threat with that pistol light, via grip pressure while my finger is in contact with the trigger.
Having to use my trigger finger or the fingers of my support hand to operate the light is unsatisfactory.
The final point is the issue of lumens. The gun world wants brighter because they have been trained by the Lumens Arms Race.
"More brighter is more better", or "Turn night into day". You hear similar themes from those who are supported by the flashlight companies. I will go against the flow and say that you cannot turn night into day, nor should you try to. I will also say that "bright is relative". You can have a light that is too bright. I prefer less lumens for close quarters applications. Remember why you are using the light. To see more than is possible with ambient light. The light is not going to protect you from incoming fire. But an excessively bright light will momentarily blind you inside a small room just as it may temporarily blind the adversary. And the adversary can still send rounds in your direction in panic fire even if he cannot specifically see you. Limited use of the light not only means temporary flashes, but it also means not using overly bright lights indoors.
Think the matter through and you will arrive at my same conclusions. Next article will deal more with the reality versus the myth of target identification.