Stop Blinding Yourself

People who complain about too much light from flashlights or weaponlights seem to have the same weakness in their argument as those who argue against 9mm. Too much light blinds me, the reflection into the wall/mirror gets to me / 9mm doesn’t get the job done, it’s too weak. Want to know the solution to both arguments? Training and technique, because it is all about shot placement for both of those issues.

Pretty much everyone drives and they have received minimal instruction. Formula One drivers are highly trained and there are not many of them. People using weaponlights in a tactical application without training are regular drivers trying to be Formula One. Training provides concepts and technique the untrained will most likely not get on their own. Training shows you how to maximize your equipment and gets you out of the slow lane. You might get to drive Dale Earnhardt Jr’s car, but that does not mean you will drive it like he does.

There is a reason companies keep pumping out newer lights with higher outputs. We want them. I need to be able to identify the threat as far away as possible and engage if necessary. I need to see what is in the hands of suspects and unknowns. More light provides more information. More information helps problem solving. Greater distances are potentially safer for me because it gives me time to process and react. If I have a light with a shallow throw on a patrol rifle, how am I taking advantage of the better range my patrol rifle provides? If greater distances give us more time to respond to threats and short distances require faster responses, what will greater light/throw from a weaponlight provide? The answer is further distance and more time, which translates to greater safety for us.

I use single high output lights (1000 or greater lumens with no issue) for indoors and outdoors. For my purposes I need to be able to smoothly transition from indoors to outdoors during the same incident. I don’t swap my lights when I step indoors. Lights that feature multiple outputs cause more issues than they are worth for me. They provide one more thing to break/malfunction and can be inadvertently activated when another mode is desired.

Early in my career I had a multi-output (and strobe!) handheld light. On a particularly stressful traffic stop my light was not functioning as advertised and was on a mode that was not conducive to the work I was doing at the time. Fortunately I had a larger XL Stinger (single high output) in the car that saved the day. Since then, I only carry single output high intensity lights, and a spare for duty.

We are lucky to have darkness frequently during the week. This allows us to do low light practice in the comfort of our own homes. During that practice remove the idea that your light must be on at all times, forget it must be pointed in front of you parallel to the ground, and ignore your need to stare at the focus of the beam.

I don’t leave the light on at all times when clearing. Quick bursts of light are all I need to verify areas are clear. While clearing you do not look through your optic or irons, you look just over them. With a rifle, this is referred to as “depressed muzzle” in some circles. Remember, you only look through your optic when on target to shoot. This helps remove tunnel vision and helps you see more of the environment around you – especially helpful in dark conditions. Depressed muzzle puts your light slightly downward, which reduces direct reflection of light back into you.

Use reflection and light spill to your advantage. While clearing, when I can see the blank walls and mirrors via light spill I know I don’t need to shine my light on them. Only need to shine light on dark areas and places bad guys might be (not bare walls). A typical living room only needs a few controlled flashes to clear.

I found the strobe feature on lights is a bad shortcut to a higher level skill. Applying the strobe without understanding of why or how to do it right is like using bumpfire compared to using actual full auto. It’s cheating, and not in a good way. Leaving a strobe on is wrong during a search – it is almost as bad as just keeping your light on in certain circumstances. Part of the advantage of our super bright lights is that spill from the hotspot that we control; improper use of the strobe nullifies that advantage by removing your control of shadow and spill.

Technique provides the ability to maximize your gear. Training provides a baseline of performance. Unless you have had no/low light training, you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Darkness is not only at night, it also inside buildings, basements, and other structures during the day. Take advantage of dark opportunities; break out those super bright lights and practice!