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Can You Really Have Too Much Weapon LIght?

To See, Identify, or Go Blind?

Photos by Sight Picture Media

Peering through the open front door, the massive hole ripped through the sheetrock made it obvious someone attempted to hide in the attic, albeit unsuccessfully. The search began for the intruder who, moments earlier, forced himself through the back door. The family fled toward the street, calling 911 on their cell phone as they ran. He was still inside somewhere, waiting in the dark. The search eventually ended in the very last section of the house to be cleared. As the door to a basement bedroom opened slowly, his position and the darkness gave him so many advantages. But those same advantages could be turned in our favor as well.

He knew we, the police, were there — but if his vision could be taken away, even for a split second, the edge could be regained. Spotting the final danger area to be cleared, my weapon-mounted light pierced the blackness and I saw a foot. “Slowly show me your hands … now!” I yelled. As the suspect crawled from the corner he couldn’t look in my direction; the white light was both painful and blinding. He had no choice but to surrender or to fight blind. In this case, he knew he had lost the advantage that the darkness gave him.

Thanks in large part to the Global War on Terror, the military pushed the technological development envelope. Their work benefits more than our soldiers. Advancements in weapon- mounted lights (WML) benefits our law enforcement officers, as well as the armed citizen. And that would be you.

The days of 60-, 80-, or 100-lumen light output for a WML are so far in the rearview that uttering such low numbers amongst your buddies invites ridicule. Less than two decades ago, a 60-lumen SureFire was the hot sh!t. The discussion here isn’t about which light is the brightest — a topic that has been covered ad nauseum — but whether you can have too much output from your WML. If there’s such a thing as too much light, how can we use it without adversely affecting the shooter? What advantage, if any, does a strobing light provide?

home-invasion weapon-light

Own the Night
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, across the USA a violent crime was committed every 26.3 seconds. A murder occurred every 33.5 minutes, a rape every 4.2 minutes, a robbery every 1.6 minutes, and an aggravated assault every 41.3 seconds. These figures also largely track a time line that typically fell between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. Obviously, these crimes are most prevalent after the sun goes down. This demonstrates why there’s no reason today, given the truly compact, functional, and debugged WMLs available, that you shouldn’t have one on your pistol. The justification presented here is evident, but how do we choose and — more importantly — employ the light?

Concerning home defense applications, especially in the dark, the homeowner must absolutely be able to do several things before using deadly force against a threat. First, they have to locate the threat in order to engage it. Next, the homeowner has to discriminate the threat — in other words, “Can I justifiably shoot what I’m seeing?” When we use the term discriminate, we mean both to differentiate and to put at a disadvantage. How do we achieve this advantage against the threat?

You probably picked up an idea or two given that you’ve stuck with us this long, but here’s the punchline — with large amounts of white light. This is where newer, higher output WMLs have the advantage over 100- or 150-lumen lights of just a few years ago. If you sense a threat, you need to illuminate it with sufficient light. High-output lights do this better than less-intense models. Mo’ lumens, mo’ better.

Concerning low-light tactics, especially when using bright weapon lights, there are some things to remember. Always try to control your backlighting, working with the lowest level of light possible. Some will argue high-lumen WMLs will give your position away. We must make some concessions on the fact that you’re trying to minimize your exposure, but once located, you want to overpower the threat with the brightest light possible. Remember, not all high-threat scenarios will end in an actual shooting. Sometime you can freeze or pin down the opponent with light.


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