Why you must train at night:
I find it interesting how many fellow gun owners discuss preparedness and training with their choice home defense weapons, but few have actually practiced low light shooting. This leaves them woefully unprepared to operate under the condition most likely for situations where they will require the use of a handgun for defense. Home invasions, robberies, sexual assaults, and a host of other crimes are all too often committed during the hours of darkness. The reason is simple. Criminals operate when people are least prepared and when they are most unlikely to be detected. This article discusses some of the key considerations for using a tactical light with a handgun.
If you own a firearm and intend to use it to defend yourself, your family, and your home, you must practice with it at night. Learning on the fly after awakening in your bed to glass breaking in the middle of the night is not the time to learn. In fact, if you haven’t prepared, it is unlikely you even have a flashlight collocated with your handgun. This may be one of the first rules to remember. Always collocate your combat light and weapon together. Without the light, you risk failing to properly identify your target and cannot effectively engage it should it be a threat. Many will be quick to suggest that one should just turn on the lights, which is a good idea. However, during disasters such as Katrina when power was out for extended periods of time and looting was extensive, you did not have that option. Further, one may be confronted in poorly lit parking lots, streets, or in areas where artificial lighting is not available or sufficient. Remember, there is good reason why every police officer carries AT LEAST one flashlight.
If you do not have access to training ranges that allow for low light firearms training, you still can prepare. At night or in the dark, practice various techniques of holding both a firearm and flashlight while clearing your own home until you find one that is comfortable for you and then become proficient with that technique. Training should include situations where the target is dimly lit (low light), back lit, and is completely hidden in the dark (requires use of a flashlight). Many good websites discuss various methods such as the Owen®, Harries, FBI, and Chapman techniques for using a handgun with a flashlight so try them all. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages. Further, watch YouTube videos of various close quarters combat methods for individually clearing a room, structure, and or home. Couple these techniques to fit your needs best. Remember to always discuss and rehearse any plans with family members. These plans should include preparing and rehearsing movement to and/or hard pointing in safe areas so that family members are not confused with criminals by accident.
Selecting the right light:
Selecting a good flashlight for shooting can be daunting today with all of the choice. Flashlight technology has come a long way. The days of the giant Maglite have passed and today’s market is ruled by tiny, lightweight, super tough, high intensity “combat lights.” Further, incandescent bulbs, which had a tendency to break from shock proved inadequate for combat situations, have been replaced by much brighter, more robust, and highly efficient LEDs. Flashlights using LEDs can produce a brighter beam with less heat much longer than the older incandescent bulbs using the same type and number of batteries. Further, these flashlights typically use compact and powerful lithium or rechargeable batteries to maximize the lumen output.
The market offers a wide variety of quality tactical lights. Many law enforcement and military personnel have found Streamlight, SureFire, ICON, Fenix, Inova, Insight Tech, and OLight brands some of the best, but shop around. There are dozens of great manufacturers offering a host of lights and accessories. This allows one to pick the right flashlight for their individual needs, body mechanics, weapon, etc. My everyday carry tactical flashlight is the Surefire Z2X Combat Light with a high intensity LED. Nearly all combat lights have a push-button switch at the base of the flashlight for one-handed operation. This is a mandatory feature, but make sure the switch has some type of built in safety to prevent accidently turning on the light or running your battery out. Select a light with a high intensity LED that can produce very intense light at over 160 lumens. This can temporarily disorient an attacker at night giving you a tactical advantage in reaction time. Finally, nearly all come in rugged, lightweight, aluminum housings, but make sure the light you get is bullet proof and has good O-rings to prevent water and humidity from getting into the light and ruining it.
Respective of weapon mounted lights, they are great if one trains with them. However, they are expensive and in the case of handguns require a special holster that is much bulkier and harder to conceal with the light already mounted. Further, because the light shines in line with the barrel of the weapon, anything you point the light at will also be “flagged” by the rifle/shotgun. This violates the primary firearms safety rule of never pointing a weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot. As such, it does not sit well with many users and instructors since the potential for a scared and nervous person to shoot the first thing illuminated is high. For those willing to accept the risk and properly train, it is indeed very convenient to have a light pre-mounted on a rifle or shotgun since the effective operation of a rifle requires two hands. Nonetheless, one can still operate a rifle or a shotgun with a handheld flashlight using proper techniques that will be discussed in a later post on night fighting with rifles and shotguns. For handgun, many believe the hand held light is still best due to its versatility and the ability to effectively fire a pistol with one hand.
How to fire my pistol with a flashlight:
Most techniques teach the shooter to hold the handgun in the strong hand and the light in the weak hand. This provides the shooter the choice of illuminating a danger area to first determine if a threat is there before quickly aiming the pistol at the target or simultaneously sweeping for a threat while pointing the weapon in the same direction. This also allows for offset holds that do not give away your exact position. Further, you may need to clear around a corner or get down on your stomach in a prone position where it would be much better to have a flashlight free in the weak hand. Based on how you intend to employ your weapon and light, various techniques can be used. Try various methods and positions and practice often.
I for general use, I recommend the Owen Technique® of tactical night shooting as one of the most effective means of employing a handgun simultaneously with a small, high intensity, tactical style flashlight. The advantages of this grip over other previous methods are many. For starters it allows one to fire with the weak hand wrist tilted and locked out for better accuracy. This weak hand grip technique is employed by many professional shooters, law enforcement, and military personnel as well as being the technique taught to federal agents such as the US Marshalls, BATFE, and DEA. Since the grip allows for a locked wrist with forward hand placement on the gun, it also allows for significantly better recoil management. This allows for accurate shots in rapid succession that are virtually impossible using methods such as the Harries technique. Finally, it allows for the light beam to be focused in line with the muzzle so that what you illuminate is what you are aimed in on. For those familiar with the Rogers/SureFire Technique, it is similar, but as stated above, allows for better weak hand placement for improved accuracy and recoil management as well as easier and more controlled manipulation of the lights on/off switch. Those more comfortable with the older Chapman Technique will find the Owen Technique® very easy to adjust to since it is equally effective with old style top mounted push button lights like the Maglite and smaller, rear cap equipped push button flashlights.
To perform the Owen Technique®, the flashlight is held by the thumb as the light rests inline and on top of the area between the knuckle and middle joint of the index finger when using a shooting grip with the wrist pointed forward and locked out. The hand and light positioning allows for the weak side index finger to point forward with the gun or wrap the trigger guard depending on shooter preference and size of the light and handgun. The remaining weak hand fingers wrap around the pistol grip over the strong side fingers per a normal grip. The strong side grip is virtually left unchanged other than the thumb, which still wraps the handgun’s pistol grip but stays slightly
straight with the thumb pointing up at about a 45 degree angle so that the pad of the thumb can depress rear equipped push button switches. In the event of a top mounted push button switch, the thumb is simply rested along the top edge of the flashlight along the frame of the handgun and the weak side thumb is used to activate the top mounted push button. For rear cap equipped push button lights, the shooter has a choice of lightly pressing the light back into the thumb of the strong side hand or using the thumb of the strong side hand to directly press the button to turn the light on/off.
For additional information, I found the below website to be useful and succinct:
By Guiles Hendrik
June 8, 2013
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