Last Updated on October 18, 2020
Whatever our primary shooting type and needs, there are a few things we can do to make sure we’re a little more ready when we pull the trigger on a real, live target. This time around, it’s looking at low-light considerations and options.
This focuses mostly on defensive shooting. It can readily be applied to both LTL defense, though, and to training for paramilitary engagements.
I Don’t Need No Light
Yes, you do. Particularly for home and property defense.
One, yes, there is typically ambient light. However, it is not always sufficient for locating something that’s not moving or that is hugging shadows. Even if it is…
Two, depending on where that ambient light is – like, outside from the moon especially, but the light source is on the far side of something, it creates a silhouette.
Back-lit, pitch-black figures are hard to identify.
So are shadowy, dark figures.
Maybe you’re okay with shooting some packer or stray dog that’s just cutting through, or some neighbor who’s coming to beg a ride to the hospital.
Or, the cop creeping on the violent criminal while his/her partner is running to the house to ask/warn you about them.
Or, a neighbor running up to it with a gun because they just saw a yote chasing your calves or somebody creeping your property on foot or in a vehicle without the lights on, or that the smell is not from the last fire, but a new one about to hit the roadway/horizon.
Be real nice to light them up instead of automatically shooting them, for most of us.
Then there’s ID’g live-in’s, family/friends who have keys and-or alarm codes, or guests or a teen who could be raiding the fridge, any of whom might be potentially stepping outside because they want something from a porch or vehicle.
Or, hey, they heard something.
And, hey, if you live where a gun-toting relative, partner, or neighbor who sees/hears something odd might be sidling along checking that you’re okay, that silhouette might be armed.
Be nice if it was household-property SOP to go ahead and wreck somebody’s night vision instead of automatically putting holes in our own people.
*This is also where having flash-thunder type identification cue and learning to not jump the trigger is super-duper useful, too; ‘Cause, it’d be nice if our family/partner didn’t have to live with having automatically put holes in us when we lit them up.
Doesn’t being prepared for anything mean we should actually be preparing for anything? To include not shooting indiscriminately?
Let There Be Light
I prefer a handheld light and unsupported hold to a gun-mounted light and bracing my wrist. Some prefer to keep their hands on their gun.
Some hate the idea of using a light at all.
Hey, not having a skinny cone pointing to my center of mass is one of the reasons I like that offset handheld, so I’ll give them that one. However, I think how they envision lights getting used has a lot to do with the reluctance.
We do not leave that light on nonstop.
In fact, ideally we have a light that readily allows us to flicker it on and off, and we make free and full use of that function.
*If you have bad hands, consider a tac light with a wider, softer on-off tab than the common rear or side thumb pad or button. We just fix it straight to the light. If our fingers are aggravating, we can even practice holding it with the on-off key against our palm or the pad of our thumb, so we’re squeezing the whole hand, not one thumb or finger.
Loitering With Lights…
…is a good way to give any bad guys a really good idea where we are and provide a nice, visible aim point for them.
That’s where flickering helps. Light on, light off. Light on, light off.
There’s a super-duper important step in there that regularly ends up missed, though: Move.
Anytime we’ve availed ourselves of our light, we relocate.
If we’re super-duper restricted (hallways, thick brush we’d rather not snag, etc.) a free-hand light becomes even more useful, because we can change where it’s shining from instead of always having that puppy right there inside dessert-plate and copy-paper accuracy ranges of our face and chest.
Even with it gun-mounted, though, or needing to keep two hands on a long gun, move.
Move it, move us, as much as possible.
As much as we can without losing our footing, as far as we can without risk, even if all we can do is tip a gun and go to tiptoes, then crouch or take a knee, do it.
In a tight hallway, we can lean to use it, and move back 1-2 paces pretty easily, even working with a partner (we train so they know that’s what we’re going to do).
Do not linger where the light was.
Wheelers, hop-alongs, & cane bearers: There is even more argument for you to practice not only one-handed shooting, but also off-hand shooting. With limited mobility, the advantage of moving gun and light back and forth by space and cover is huge.
Seriously think about gluing/taping/tying a tooled 1×1 to your creak-in-the-night gun if it’s not mount-ready, so you can mount a rifle/shotgun tac light with an extended softie-pad control to it (mounted within reach of your thumb for off-hand shooting) or shell out for an ambi that works with your dexterity.
Wheelers: Leave one hand on whichever wheel needs to spin to change your profile and location immediately.
Stick Walkers: By type, you’re even less immediately mobile than wheelers and may have to holster/bag a gun to relocate. It’s even more important that you’re training to do a hand-to-hand gun/light swap at a height where you can be holding cane/crutch against your body or in position to make a hop aside as quickly as possible.
Anyone of Limited Mobility: You must practice awareness of leaning in, light it up, light off, and then leaning away (rather than the light tracking your initial movement away from “there”) because it’s going to take a little longer to move further away from your X.
Don’t Linger Applies Post-Shooting, Too
Even if your target dropped, they may be down and out, or they may have instinctively dropped and now be coming. Don’t count on them being alone, either.
Light on. Fire and kill it, kill it and fire, whichever, and move.
Re-check target with light, light off. Move again. Check flanks and rear with light, light off, move. Sweep original contact front with light, light off, move.
It’s constant, indoors or out.
Don’t Break the Bank
We’re looking for reliable, but it doesn’t have to be run-over-by-a-tank sturdy, and we only need it to at most illuminate the distances that are realistic for us based on our range of sight – not be seen from Mars.
*Range of sight = how far we can see before stuff’s in the way, not necessarily the effective range of our gun or personal shooting capabilities.
Mirrors can help us refine clearing skills, but cameras have added benefits. Even old flip phones usually let us record video, and can be connected to computers directly for reasonable review screen sizes. Many affordable little pocket digital cameras have video capabilities, too.
Use them to help identify how exposed we are as we practice house clearing, and to get a real count of how long we’re taking to do things like look, how risky that light is to us in varying deployments, and if we’re modifying our trigger speed to meet our accuracy needs in challenging conditions or letting trigger fingers run wild.
If you have a gun for defense of any kind, particularly grid-down disasters without power and with greater delays or nonexistent 9-1-1 services, you must be practicing. Crazy as it seems, there is actually a difference between shooting one-handed, shooting one-handed with a light at a well-lit range, and actually using that light to identify and then engage a threat target whether it’s gun-mounted or hand-held.
Doing it well one way and in one setting does not necessarily translate.
We also want to practice our light maneuvers at home, in the dark, with little cues, because it’s easy to miss spots and how we angle that light can actually create big shadows for things to hide in, increasing the amount of time we leave it on and delaying identifications.
Go ahead and get a light and a stick some lovely evening and rush out into the yard, too, to save your crops/garden/pet/livestock from a pest or to fill pan and pantry even if you insist you would never risk leaving the house to check an odd noise.
Work fixes for the risk factors – to include turning yourself into a silhouette – and make sure it’s as feasible with your eyes, yard, household, and body as the ones who insist, oh, psh, nah, you don’t need no lights.
Form your own opinion, but make it an informed one, and then act on that.