Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Winning in low-light confrontations

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Ed Santos, The Shooting Channel

Recently there seems to be more and more written, discussed, and even advertised about working under low-light conditions.  Maybe I am just more sensitive to these issues as this is a subject that I am passionate about and have always been compelled to learn more about.  Through research, experimentation, and clinical study I am constantly looking for answers.

My purpose in this article pertains to how I believe you can immediately impact your low-light survivability. Sadly, many firearms instructors spend most of their time teaching the popular flashlight techniques that have been around forever.  That’s OK to a point.   Flashlight techniques are important and they need to be understood.  However, there is more to operating in the night than knowing how to hold a flashlight.

Develop an Understanding

I believe you need to develop greater understanding of the physiological and psychological aspects you will encounter while under stress in the dark.  A comprehensive understanding of these factors will allow you to select and train in the techniques that work for your particular environment and personal limitations or capabilities.  You need to understand that these are factors that affect everyone who operates in a low-light environment good guys and bad guys alike.  Developing the knowledge, tools, tactics, and techniques to “Rule the Night” and not merely exist in it could save your life.

A great place to start to improve your low-light survivability is by studying the Human Eye Physiology, Affects of Body Alarm Response (BAR) in the dark, and the low-light skills of Visual Patience, and don’t overlook the importance of using  your Light Source as a Control Device.

Rods and Cones illustration of the human eye.

Rods and Cones illustration of the human eye.


At a minimum, learn the function of the Rods and Cones.  Understand how the Cones during day time, provide us with color and detail.  In the dark the Rods take over and allow us to see movement rather than fine detail.  Knowing where the Rods and Cones are located will reinforce why off-center viewing is so critical at night. Did you know that the amount of light we need to see at night doubles every 13 years?


We need to understand that in reduced light, our mind will try to fill in what our eyes can’t see.  This becomes even more difficult to manage under stressful conditions.  We have all heard instructors talk about Fight or Flight Response.  Lately we are hearing the term Body Alarm Response (BAR) in the place of Flight or Flight.  The BAR is the body’s response to the high stress of a life threatening attack situation.  Add the psychological & physiological changes that are magnified by the lack of light and the Low-Light BAR can be the most severe you will ever experience.

Controlling the light can can give the advatage to you.

Controlling the light can can give the advatage to you.

“Tunnel Vision” or “Perceptual Narrowing” can be explained by the physiological and psychological changes that accompany the BAR.  As humans we have an innate tendency to narrow attention upon a threat during extreme stress.

Visual Patience

Visual patience is a term I use to describe the act of leaving your light on long enough to identify what you are looking at.  Emotions of the fight and visual patience are often mixed or confused when we attempt to analyze the high stress environment of a gun fight.

Control with Light

I believe here is where you can tremendously improve your ability to win at night.  You should learn to use light to control the bad guy.  How do you use light as a force option?  I bet I’ve got you wondering now.  Place the hot spot of your light in your opponent’s eyes, you reduce his ability to see you clearly and mount any type of attack as you approach.  He is unable to assess your physical conditioning, your size, determine if you are alone, look for an escape route, or look for cover, just to mention a few advantages.

If you have a quality light source, and you know how to use it, you can gain the advantages as stated above every time you confront a suspect in a diminished light environment.

I believe the single most important thing you can do to improve your survivability is to improve your understanding operating in the low-light environment.  Never before, have we had the tools, access to the knowledge and clinical research available to us to truly “Rule the Night”.

Ed Santos is author of the books “Rule the Night Win the Fight” published 2008 and his latest “Low-Light Combatives”  published 2013.  He is the Owner/Founder of Center Target Sports, Inc. and Tactical Services Group. He teaches advanced firearm skills and Low-light training around the world and can be reached at Take a moment to visit The Shooting Channelclick here to check them out.