The city had been stalked by a rapist. This guy was good. We thought he was an ex-military guy or an ex-cop. He left no physical evidence, and managed to hit every night for the last ten days regardless of how many units had been deployed to the area and how many days off had been cancelled.But it was not hard to avoid those “high profile” patrols. They drove around giving a very good, and loud, rendition of the “illusion of security”.

That was the modern administration’s answer to violence – to look like you were really trying hard until the bad guy got tired and went away .I had been out on foot in the alley. One of those coincidences of happenstance and good preparation I suppose. There had been a call of a suspicious person, right where I was on foot.

Initially, I thought a resident had seen me moving through the alley. I had a plain black raid jacket with the “POLICE” lettering sufficiently and purposely worn off so it covered all the shiny bullshit I was required to wear. I donned it when out on foot and probably looked more like a burglar than a police officer. I called in via my radio that it was Code 4…meaning it was only me. Dispatch acknowledged and I kept walking, silently in the dark. Then I heard it.

I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was one of those sounds that simply do not belong. I stopped and took a knee, listening hard. There it was again. Some sort of metallic and non-rhythmic sound. Definitely man-made. I moved toward the sound..trying hard to not make any myself.

A night vision unit!? Yes.

In those days I had my side business working and had a much better rate of disposable income than the average line officer (much to the dismay of ever-heavier administrators). One of the things I added to my kit was a third generation night vision monocular. I bought it from Cory Trapp and paid the princely sum of $900 back in the mid 1990s.

I looked at the problem with a very practical eye. I needed to be able to see in the dark, that much was obvious. But my goal was not simply observation, but also being able to act upon what I saw. In my context it would mean either shooting, or going hands on violently and proactively. I needed to both be able to shoot with the NVD, but also to be able to secure it if I needed to hit someone or to load/fix the pistol.

Securing the unit in a pouch seemed the most protective but I knew I would not have the time to do that. I settled on a neck lanyard made from 550 cord. I rigged the monocular with a lanyard around my neck so I could use it as needed and then drop it and have hands-free as needed as well.

My Glock 24 had a white light mount on it but the intention was to not use it to search, but only at the last moment when I knew what I had, lest the light alert my prey…I mean…the suspect. My goal was not to challenge and make a ton of noise.  It was to approach in stealth and darkness and then decide upon a course of action that I could justify.

I had developed a way to use the Trijicon Tritium sights in conjunction with the NVD (Night Vision Device). I would hold the monocular over my left eye. With it I would scan the area I was examining. If I saw a target that needed to be shot, I would bring the pistol up and look for the tritium dots with my right eye. I found that the binocular characteristics of human vision would integrate the three dots against the blackness with the green illuminated scene my left eye was picking up. This would yield three dots hovering over the targeted zone.

There was absolutely nothing defensive or reactive about this and the intention was to be able to hunt bad guys in the dark with zero warning. If I could have added a sound suppressor, I would have. That was 1995!

It is now 2013, almost twenty years later. Technology today has surpassed what I had back then. While I am a minimalist when it comes to techniques, I am also firmly in the camp that we should use modern technology. There is a tendency in the Civilian Tactical Community to want to minimize more than just techniques. I think that is a mistake.

Why send a letter when we have email?

Why carry a bag of coins when we have credit cards?

Why walk when you can drive a BMW?

Why rely on antiquated equipment, or worse, purposely handicap yourself in a fight, when there are easier things?

We need to identify the fight. A reactive fight is something we get into. A proactive fight is something we go to. And yes my friends, there are those two angles regardless of your profession. In this discussion we will focus on the PROACTIVE FIGHT, meaning that you go and look for the fight. There is little use for flashlights, much less, night vision in an unexpected reactive gunfight. 

One scenario - your door gets kicked in at 0400 HRS. Its dark. You hear footsteps and voices through your house. Any light you turn on will make you a target for the enemy that you cannot see.

Here is your First Option - Turn the lights on...or a flashlight, and exchange gunfire with them on equal footing. From experiments we have done, a bad guy need only fire toward the light...he doesn't care how many it takes to dump you.

Your Second Option - Use night vision technology and alternative sighting tools to locate, move to contact with, and if you so choose, eliminate your adversary without so much as a how-do-you-do. Which one is safer for you?

Owning the night is not about having the brightest flashlight or the newest flashlight technique. And no, you can't make it bright and make it safe.  While lights are desirable in their niche, the technology has moved beyond them being the only thing available. To really own the dark, the modern defender will utilize some form of night vision in conjunction with his other tools. Body armor is already a common addition to many defender’s kit bags. It should be the same with modern night fighting technology.

Today there are IR visible lasers available to everyone, as well as high quality Gen 3 Night Vision Units. As well, there are handheld Infrared Viewers that used to be limited to helicopter use in my time. Like anything else, quality will cost and the top quality units are not for those on food stamps.

In addition, there are ways we have developed to use the RMR/Red Dot systems in conjunction with the NVD that make my 1995 system look like a Wright Brothers plane compared to a modern fighter. If you are ready to take the first step to really owning the darkness, take a hard look at the night vision technology and the IR laser technology. The epiphany will be like the first time you realize that you could win the fight decisively without being seen or shot.

“Night vision devices let you own the night. Flashlights just let you borrow some of it for a little while.”

In a few minutes I was on him. He was dressed in black like me. He had a large screw driver in his hands and was working quietly to pry open the window of a residence. I watched him in the green hue of the NVD, and brought my Glock up silently, the three tritium dots hovering like three fireflies in formation on the center of his back.  He was mine.

I brought the pistol back down slowly.

I loaded my left leg and swung the hardest Muay Thai kick I have ever sent. I heard his femur break with a gratifying crack.

As he screamed, I slowly pressed my mic, “Three L Seven I need Code Three back Up…..”.