The Cult of the EDC Concealment Pistol Weaponlight

I am seeing trends in how people feel the need to go to extremes to virtue signal the use of weaponlights on every day carry concealment pistols. Not every weaponlight is equal and most are plain underpowered for their task. Most of the pro weaponlight people seem to latch onto the idea of weaponlights due to their lack of ability to shoot one handed. Training helps easily overcome this issue. How many people actively train in low light? How many carry a weaponlight as a talisman to make up for a skillset?

Chambers Custom Nightfighter with a couple lights.

I carry weaponlights daily. I have zero issue with them. Can pistol weaponlights provide an advantage? Yes. Is the juice always worth the squeeze? No.

Just for clarification,, photonic barriers and light atmospheres are terms I use often. I am referring to the conditions, which either artificially or naturally occur which create an impasse for certain types of light to penetrate and effectively illuminate an object both potentially at close range and distance.

The issues lie with people parroting what others say without understanding of the totality of the situation and applicability. They have not thought it all the way through on their own because they lack the frame of reference to do so. They do not consider the utility of a weaponlight and how anything under a Surefire X300u or Streamlight TLR1HL has weak output. Weak output means less throw that creates standoff which translates to less reaction time as well as the inability to effectively defeat commonly encountered photonic barriers. Weak output also means certain techniques cannot be used. Even those two lights I outlined are on the weak side compared to a Modlite handheld. To make this more upsetting for some, I have found micro weaponlights to be not worth the hassle, money, or compromise in holster selection for every day carry purposes.

The idea of carrying a powerful handheld is becoming more mainstream which is a good thing. A weaponlight does not replace a handheld. A handheld provides utility for everyday use which can help act as a deterrent and can be used to provide advantage which can lessen the need to draw a weapon. Basing these observations with a mindset reinforced by extensive experience and training- when I find myself in an area where there are potentially dangerous dark or poorly lit areas, I already have a powerful handheld in hand for use. Momentary flashes into dark areas to “clear” them as I approach to ensure both potential threats can be identified and ensure it is clear. The ability to illuminate dark areas to “clear” them long before I reach them means I am providing myself reaction distance and time to formulate a viable plan. Cast a powerful light on someone who wants to interact with you in a negative manner may convince them to give a second thought about their plans without even needing to use a weapon.  Conversely, we should not directly illuminate areas with a weaponlight if it is an unknown.  I should not do that with a weaponlight – firearms rules are, in fact, a thing.

Dusk light conditions overpower weak candela output.

If you must point your weapon at an unknown to gain usable light, you are wrong. Do not use a weaponlight for searching or threat assessments. Most weaponlights are typically too weak to use for those purposes at distance unless you break firearms rules and shine directly on them which means pointing your gun at them. This is a task for a powerful handheld. If your handheld can overpower your weaponlight, do you put away the handheld (which helps provide far more usable light which means more information) when you draw your weapon with a weaponlight? That seems counterproductive. In most instances,, even with a weapon drawn, I still search with the handheld, and keep the pistol light off. Despite what people who do not think things through think, firearms rules still apply in combat and during times of assessing potential threats. Firearms rules apply on the range, in life, and during a deadly force encounter. There are not going to be hordes of zombies rushing me mixed with nonthreats. Normal earth people typically avoid gunfire (or the appearance of firearms) and probably would not be approaching me in a threatening manner needing a threat assessment. If they do, I use the handheld. This is a huge value that a handheld like a Modlite provides. Now change gears, Modlite pistol lights have superior throw with enough candela to defeat and penetrate normally occurring light atmospheres and photonic barriers. You can take advantage of advanced techniques with a Modlite pistol light that no other pistol lights can even touch. Bouncing light is quite viable for the purposes of threat assessment. As I say regularly- take your weaponlights and handhelds to car dealerships, grocery stores, and well-lit parking lots (basically anything with overhead lighting) and see how well those lights perform. Typically, generic overhead parking lot and streetlights cast heavy shadows and the light emitted overpowers most handheld lights and most weaponlights.

Streetlights can negate light output.

Years ago, there was a huge push for “all the lumens” with lights. That was a bit misdirected when we needed candela. Roughly, lumens are the general output of light while candela are the measure of light that is focused in a specific direction (again, roughly). Something that seems to be ignored, which is related to candela and lumens, is how beam pattern is a big deal with weaponlights and handhelds.

Flood is typically higher lumens and low candela which casts even light but has little throw and is easily defeated by every day lighting conditions. If particulates are in the air (precipitation, dust, smoke), a flood essentially casts light which stops within the wall of particulates. Flood works great as a utility light, but it falls short as a light to use in conjunction with defensive use. Flood also creates an issue for the end user when they attempt to illuminate beyond a threshold. With light being reflected back from the doorway, it creates an artificial photonic barrier which needs even more light horsepower to defeat the reflection to illuminate beyond the doorway.

Doorways create a unique issue.

A light with a powerful hotspot typically has higher candela than a flood which can defeat typical lighting conditions and has a better throw, but not all hotspots are equal. Hotspot can produce flood like light with technique, but floodlight cannot produce hotspot output. Many weaponlights are advertised and displayed in unrealistic pitch-black conditions. Add normal ambient light and you quickly see their failure. Depending on the atmosphere, bouncing light with a weaponlight just does not work well due to their dull hotspot. This changes with the Modlite pistol light, but only if someone is carrying and using it backed with training. Expect to see tactics change with superior output from a pistol light.

The best part of everything I just shared is it can all be tested and verified. I have owned all types of handhelds and weaponlights. I have used them all in various conditions. Do not take my word for it – see for yourself.

Matt Landfair
Lead Editor/Contributor at Primary & Secondary
Active Law Enforcement background since before the turn of the century in the middle of no where. Firearms instructor, armorer, has attended numerous training courses including DARC, Follow Through Consulting, EAG, TMacs, and more boring mandatory popo training you can shake a stick at. Has died a million deaths by powerpoint. He has written for RECOIL Magazine, Breach Bang Clear, Soldier Systems Daily and Monderno. Enjoys long walks on the beach, blah blah blah… Known as Matt Prime or Riafdnal in some circles.
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