Light ‘Em Up

A very popular accessory many gun owners are installing on their handguns are lights…mini flashlights if you will. Watch any episode of Criminal Minds and when Shemar Moore’s character, Derek Morgan, draws his service gun, you see the light mounted under the muzzle of his service weapon.

Typical gun light mounted on the Picatinny Rail of this Sig P320

But are lights really needed? Well, it depends. If you are in law enforcement or in the military, then probably. Your respective jobs require you to enter dark buildings or dimly light areas, where lighting up the area with a gun light allows you to aim better at bad guys or rag head terrorists.

But what if you are not law enforcement or military, and rather, just a regular concealed carry gun owner? Do you need an accessory light mounted on your EDC? Probably not. And here’s why not.

First, members of law enforcement or the military do not have to conceal their service weapon. So because the service weapon is open carried, It is much easier to find holsters for full size service weapons with accessory lights than it is to find holsters for conceal carry which permit accessory lights. They exist, but are just harder to find.

Second, many of these accessory lights, especially if you want one with a high lumen count, are large. Concealment becomes much more challenging. The battery for the light takes up space and has to be located somewhere.

Third, these accessory lights only mount to the Picatinny Rail under the muzzle of the handgun. This limits your EDC choices to pistols containing Picatinny Rails.

An IWB holster which accommodates a gun light. Notice the opening of the holster at the muzzle end to accommodate the light.

Fourth, the battery has to be dealt with. Either it has to be periodically recharged, or it has to be replaced.

Fifth, in order to be extremely comfortable working with a gun light and obtaining the necessary muscle memory of using it, you need to practice shooting with the light on. How many outdoor ranges are open after dark to allow you to practice? Or how many indoor ranges will dim the overhead target lights so that you can shoot paper targets in near dark conditions? Their whole purpose is to have a well lit area so nothing can go wrong because of poor lighting.

But let’s look at the need for an accessory light from two practical perspectives; home defense and concealed carry.

If you have a home defense firearm, perhaps stored in the nightstand or near the bed, an accessory light can make sense. You hear a disturbance in the middle of the night, grab your home defense handgun, turn on the gun light, and investigate in total darkness, except for the light beam. Your goal is to to sneak up and surprise the intruder by catching him in the act of some nefarious activity. But keep in mind that intruders are always on the lookout for homeowners closing in on them so their senses are heightened. The minute the intruder sees the light beam from your gun light, even if the beam is not yet pointed directly at the intruder, the element of surprise is gone. We see this all the time in movies and TV shows. Someone breaks into an office building to steal documents out of a file cabinet. The intruder sees the light beam down the hall of an approaching security guard or the police, and they take some kind of evasive action so as not to be discovered. But in your home invasion case, depending on the intruder’s intentions, you could be shot or the intruder can use that oncoming light beam to flee. But yes, a gun mounted light will help you aim better. And it helps you identify if the thug is pointing his gun at you. The trick here is to not turn on the light until you are aiming your gun at the intruder. But once the element of surprise is gone, you are not going to remain in total darkness except for your gun’s light beam. You are going to turn on some house lights. So at most, your gun light will be turned on for only about five minutes.

Here, as with most gun lights, the light protrudes forward of the muzzle. This necessitates that a holster have an “open” muzzle end to allow the light to protrude through the front opening of the holster.

The other thing you can do if you sense a disturbance in the middle of the night and you do not have an accessory light on your home defense gun, is to walk down the hall and approach stealthily in total darkness. After all, it is your home. You should know your way around your own home and be able to walk around your home in total darkness and not stumble over furniture or fall down the stairs. (You may step barefooted on a piece of your kid’s Lego set, but that is a chance you will have to take.) Then as you approach the intruder in total darkness, flip on the switch to a house light and scare the shit out of him. Instead of hitting him with 500 lumens of light from your gun’s light, you hit him with light of a 60 watt light bulb from a table lamp or a ceiling fan.

Now, let’s look at this from the perspective of a concealed carry citizen. You have a light mounted on a your EDC, and found a holster that will accept your light. As you are out and about town, you go into a dark area, and a thug comes up to you and attacks you. At that moment in time your adrenaline begins to flow like water through a fire hose. You need to draw your weapon, make sure the light turns on, then aim at the thug. What if the light does not turn on automatically? What if the light needs to be turned on manually, and you forget to turn it on because of the adrenaline rush? Remember, most violent attacks happen in about 3 seconds. In Criminal Minds, the FBI can afford to have their lights turned on before they even enter the bad guy’s house, because they are on the offensive. You are not. You will not be turning on your light until and unless you are attacked. Why? Because if you go around your neighborhood at night with your gun light on, some nosy neighbor may call the police on you, identifying you as a burglar or worse. Walking to your car in a darkened parking lot while holding a flashlight is one thing. Walking to your car in a darkened parking lot with your gun drawn and your gun mounted light turned on is something entirely different. So the actual times and circumstances of using your gun light in a concealed carry situation is very limited.

So, a gun mounted light is great in certain circumstances, but not most. There are more reasons to not have a gun mounted light than there are reasons to have one.

Light ‘Em Up