By Massad Ayoob, GUNS Magazine
Handguns with effective lights mounted to them have been with us for a quarter century or so. They have caught on big time with police. Once they were the exclusive province of SWAT teams and K9 officers, the latter because with one hand on the dog’s lead and the other on a pistol, only an octopus would have enough extra limbs to wield a separate flashlight. Today, many departments are making the light-attached pistols standard for patrol officers, and even more leave it up to the cop as a personal choice.
You don’t need much time on the range in the dark to realize how much easier it is to shoot and hit fast with the light on the gun and both hands dedicated to controlling the pistol. Though it adds more bulk, a combined light-laser unit can be even more effective. You just have to remember the hold-off; the laser beam is usually way below the muzzle, requiring a deep 6 o’clock hold for that projecting dot.
Armed citizens have picked up on the concept too. Back around 1990, I rigged out a dedicated home-defense pistol: a Beretta 92FS with 20-round magazine, night sights, a Bill Jarvis action job and a 6-inch Bar-Sto barrel with the part beyond the slide Magna-Ported. It ran 115-grain CorBon JHP +P at about 1,400 fps, and kicked like a .380. It was fitted with a dedicated SureFire Weaponlite, big by today’s standards, but powerful and perfectly functional to this day. Today, with light rails standard or at least optional on most service-size pistols, I just slide a small X-series SureFire or its equivalent onto my primary carry gun du jour at bedtime.
A light/laser combination is extremely “shootable.” A Streamlight
TLR-4 is seen here on SIG P226 with TruGlo TFO sights.
We even have CCW holsters for light-mounted pistols now. In the winter (when there’s more dark) I can often be found wearing one or another Glock with a SureFire X-series light inside my waistband in a “hybrid” Black Mamba holster by Jason Christianson at Concealment Solutions. When adjusted with enough forward tilt to hide a full-size Glock’s butt, the flashlight portion protrudes slightly at the area of the gluteus maximus. Discretion is a huge part of concealed carry, and at my age, I’m expected to have a fat butt anyway. Better for that to bulge than the gun’s butt, I figure.
If you want something more compact, consider the Crimson Trace Lightguard unit. It won’t give you the light output of the bigger units, but in an appropriately sized holster it will conceal more easily and perhaps even more comfortably.
The thing every user has to bear in mind is, it is dangerous to use the gun’s light for “routine” searches! This is for the simple reason that everything the light points at, the gun points at. Some academies teach “floor flood” use of the gun-mounted light, on the theory the powerful beam pointed at the floor in a low ready position will still illuminate a human who isn’t supposed to be there. That will work fine right up until we actually see a person, in which case instinct will tell us to bring the beam up to fully illuminate him, which means the gun is dead on him. If it turns out to be your own teenager sneaking in after curfew, or your unexpected mother-in-law who never much liked you anyway, or the plumber your spouse let in while you were napping, you’ve just technically committed the felony of aggravated assault by pointing a gun at that person.
It’s better to have both a handheld and weapon light than either/or. Here a separate unit
(Aviator), and one (X200) on a 20-shot Springfield XD(M), both lights by SureFire.
Mas’ Glock 19 with an attached SureFire light conceals well
in the Black Mamba IWB holster from Concealment Solutions.
Point a gun at the thug who just kicked down your door, something the law calls “violent and tumultuous entry”? No problem. Most cops will hope you point a gun at him anyway. You’re a cop searching a business where the alarm just went off? No problem: suspected burglars are generally captured at gunpoint anyway when caught in the act. But for the “bump in the night,” it’s an extremely bad idea to search with a light-mounted gun. Have a regular flashlight at hand to search; if you identify a criminal intruder, that’s the time to drop the hand-held (or pocket it, if there’s time) and spotlight him with the light-mounted handgun.
I teach my students the light on the gun is analogous to the scope on a hunting rifle. Countless lives have been saved when the hunter who thought he saw a deer put the scope to his eye and his magnification showed him in time the “target” was actually a human. By the same token, many tragedies have undoubtedly been prevented when the light beam on the cop’s drawn gun showed him the suspect had pulled out an iPhone, not a pistol. But we all know the stupidity of the guy who scans for game with his telescopic sight instead of his binoculars, pointing a gun at every other person who comes into his field of view. Something similar occurs when the light on a loaded firearm is used to replace a handheld light for a search in the darkness with no threat yet identified.
The pistol-mounted light gives us a tactical advantage, but it supplements, rather than replaces, the separate handheld illumination that has served so well for so long as an adjunct to the defensive handgun.