Monday, December 8, 2014

Flashlights: Just do it one way?

There are enough opinions on any given piece of gear or technique that picking the right one comes down to either what appeals to you or how much research you are willing to put into it.  The thing is, there often is no "one way" but multiple ways and multiple tools that address the same job.  Opinion rules for the most part, hopefully its an informed and trained opinion.

I recently saw an exchange over handheld Vs weapon mounted lights and which to use.  My opinion is that the question was too broad.  Use for what? Should be included but that's just my opinion. Some spoke about weapon mounted being the way to go, others were all for a handheld and each side had reasons.  One of the most common detractors against a weapon mounted light is that it draws fire. It sure can; so can a hand held, a bic lighter, a cell phone screen or any other source of light in the dark.


I can get in a shooting.  So im not leaving the house.

Wait, I can get in a shooting at home, so im leaving the house.


Just because something can occur does not mean it will, and throwing your hands up in the air when the can  realization strikes is the quickest path to being totally unprepared.  Training and proper practice help give us tools, not plans.  There is actually very little within our control when it comes to self defense but those few things we do control are some of the most important factors towards staying safe and effective.  Our gear, and how versatile we are in the use of that gear is one of the most important factors under our control.  I believe that the software is the most important part of self defense, but the software needs adaptable hardware.

Just a bit of history.

The Seely Light; available in
Call of Duty: Olde Tyme Warfare
So weapon lights can draw fire.  Despite this they are continually used by individuals who get into gunfights for a living (the military) and by individuals who may encounter a gunfight as part of their job (law enforcement).  The first handheld flashlight was patented in 1902 by Conrad Hubert, the first known weapon mounted light was patented by George Seely in 1911. Since then we have seen continued advancement in the technology; law enforcement has used weapon lights since the 1960s, the NYPD arguably being the first.  Today, mainly thanks to the innovation and miniaturization of the weapon light by Laser Products starting in the 1970s/1980s (which became what we know now as Surefire) the weapon light is common gear for the majority of work rifles and handguns.

So if the weapon light can draw fire, why is it used?  It sure sounds like its potentially a horrible idea yet its considered essential equipment to professionals and personal defense-minded individuals everywhere.

Doesnt need a weapon light, handheld or even a weapon.
Not because he was born in and molded by the dark
but because hes a fictional character.
Could the distrust of a weapon light be an issue of training? I would say yes.  We know that all light can draw fire, which is partially responsible for there being so many variations of handheld light use with a firearm; yet the potential catastrophic use of weapon mounted lights because they can draw fire has not caused the shooting world to throw them in the trash.  The fact is, proper light use minimizes the chances of the light being used against you in a use of force and the alternative is what, exactly?  In low/no light situations, you need a positive target ID and you get it with light.  Just knowing how to turn a light on/off isn't being trained in how to use it for self defense.  I know which end the bullets come out of the gun, and how to make that happen, does that alone make me trained in self defense shooting?  No.

Doesnt need a light because he is the light.
Everyone else does.
Weapon lights are great tools for confronting known threats or entering into situation where there is a high likelihood of only encountering things deserving of gunfire.  Outside of that, the weapon mounted light is more decoration than help. A weapon mounted light only helps me when the gun is out and the gun is only out when there is a reasonable expectation of using it.  I can not deter a potential threat with a weapon light.  If I am standing in line at an ATM at night or walking to my car in low light and observe an individual lurking in the shadows with no obvious purpose, how does the light on my holstered weapon help me?  It cant.  How would the handheld light in my pocket or on my belt help me?  I can have it in hand, the light itself is not recognized by polite society as a weapon, and I can illuminate that questionable individual and ask a polite question:

"Do you need help with something, sir?"

A quick flash to their face, then pulling the beam down to their chest.  I have already done much to control the situation and diffuse a potential violent encounter.  I no longer look like food.  I am alert and the potential bad guy knows this.  By pulling the beam out of his face I am aware but not confrontational and I am leaving them with an out.  Mindlessly drilling them in the eyes with the beam during the exchange could actually cause an escalation.  A purposeful flash of his eyes ruined his night vision and gave me a second or more of superior situation awareness.  This can easily be apologized for while I maintain ready light control.

No...just dont.
Already, the handheld light is a superior tool.  If I need my weapon, the handheld doesn't suddenly lose its usefulness.  There are issues with shooting grip while using a handheld just like there are issues using a weapon mounted light while shooting.  Its a more complicated procedure that is made easier through practice, not academic debate on this vs that.

Circa 1965 Breeding weapon light; we
have been doing this for a while now.
Any and all light can draw fire, supposing there is fire to be drawn.  Not all bad guys use guns just like not all situations escalate to a point where things can be predicted.  Some assaults are literal surprises and very little can be prepared for.  Personally I prefer a handheld light because in my every day carry world I use that light for many administrative and deterrence tasks.  The weapon light is there, waiting, but the handheld is helping me not to need it.  I guess I will never know how many (if any) violent situations the use of a handheld light helped me avoid.  I'm good with that.  At work, its mostly a weapon light affair because my intent changes.

There are a few things where one way is the best way, maybe even where one tool is the best tool.  Light isnt one of those situations.  Have both, or at the very least a handheld.  The only situation I could say where a weapon light is far superior is home defense and only then because of the situation.  For those that say you cant illuminate an unknown threat with a weapon light without muzzling that unknown person I would suggest a reality based low-light class focused on self-defense, not burning ammo.  Splash lighting, especially indoors, is a very useful technique that keeps us from muzzling things with WMLs until we want/need to.  Its a trained technique and there doesnt seem to be much knowledge of it outside of those who have been trained how to do it, which means those of you who have been trained how to do it are letting your buddies/loved ones down by not passing it along.

So weapon light or handheld?  Both.  Do flashlights draw fire?  They can.  The risk far outweighs the reward when used correctly.

If you want to read more on my approach to weapon/light use you can check out the two part series I did for Breach Bang Clear: Part 1 and Part 2. Or the two part I did for Monderno Part 1 and Part 2.

And since the question has been asked, here is my feeling on the Taurus Curve.

Just dont.

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