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Preview – Using Guns in Low Light

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Photos by Corey Lack

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Safety Disclaimer: The techniques shown are for illustrative purposes only. When handling firearms and training tools, always observe all firearm safety rules. Seek professional instruction before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

There have been literally hundreds of low-light shooting articles written and published over the years. So why another? Simple. It’s tacti-cool to be able to fight in low light. Chicks dig it. And guys love a girl who knows how to operate a weapon-mounted light.

Seriously though, most of us live in a low-light environment for a large percentage of the time. The last time I checked, most people sleep with the lights off. If things go bonkers in the middle of the night it might be a wise choice to have a system that you can rely on in that situation.

Low2 Low3

The truth is that actual low-light shootings occur much less frequently than we’re lead to believe. Firearms instructor Tom Givens from Memphis, Tennessee, did a cumulative study of more than 50 shootings that his students have been in over the years, and almost none of them occurred in a situation requiring a flashlight technique. So why train the skill? Simply because not having the ability to use a flashlight in combination with your defensive handgun is irresponsible. In the rare case you need it, you really need that skill.

So you might be thinking, “Hey Captain Obvious, if the lights are out, why not just turn them on?” Let’s get his out of the way up front. If that’s a possibility, do it! Turn the freakin’ lights on! It makes sense in a lot of cases. This article will address the times it doesn’t make sense, or isn’t even possible such as when the power’s out, the light switch location is unknown, etc.

Weapon-Mounted Lights
The Internet is rife with poorly argued positions on low-light technique. Yet another recent stupid article stated that the author chose not to use a weapon-mounted light (WML), because he wouldn’t want to point his gun at a non-threat as he searched. By doing so he gave up one of the very best pieces of gear available to mount on a gun (which by the way, is a tool that almost every single SWAT team and an increasing number of patrol officers in the U.S. utilize).Why? Because he’d rather attempt to illuminate with a handheld light on the off chance that he’d risk pointing a gun at a teenager in the middle of the night.

A weapon-mounted light will allow you to shoot with one or two hands, reload and clear malfunctions, and use close-quarters shooting positions exactly like you normally do, without any change in technique. The author then went on to teach a two-handed flashlight technique using a handheld light that — you guessed it — has the muzzle indexing everywhere the beam is pointed! Don’t want to cover someone with the muzzle while you search? Use the outside of the beam. Problem solved. If you have any doubt about the superiority of a good weapon-mounted light, simply borrow one and go shoot with it. You will be sold.

Now that we’ve had an injection of common sense, the very best tool I could recommend on your home-defense handgun is a weapon-mounted light with a pressure-activated switch on the handgun grip, such as the Streamlight TLR 2G or something similar. This solves the problem all together as far as technique is concerned.

There are times when you may want to illuminate a dark corner to make sure there’s nothing lurking in the shadows, or you might accidentally drop your keys in an unlit parking spot. Pulling out your heater and waving it around is definitely uncalled for in these situations, so having a quality handheld flashlight is a very good idea. Let’s say that for whatever reason, you haven’t got your WML-equipped handgun on you, but you do have your EDC flashlight and a vanilla pistol. Might be a good idea to know how to combine the two, no?
Before we get into cool gear and technique, let’s set some goals first. What must our low-light “system” allow us to do?

1. Defend against a physical assault before shooting is warranted, very quickly and with little risk of pointing the muzzle at our flashlight hand.
2. Strike and disrupt someone without losing our weapon or light.
3. Search dark areas with our light in a flexible manner without having to constantly move the gun around.
4. Identify potential threats that we find.
5. Use the light as a disruption tool to give us time to make a response decision.
6. Identify and engage with our handgun quickly and accurately if appropriate.
a. At contact distance.
b. At non-contact distances.


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