Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Adding A Light To A Pistol

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By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

So, you want to add a light to your pistol; what sort of light should you add? What do you look for? What should you bear in mind? And all those other stock questions that you can come up with on your own.

The reasons for adding one are obvious, self-explanatory; there’s no reason to go over them. Instead, let’s jump into the things you definitely need or at least should think about.

First, what are you using the pistol for to begin with? This is important as you can get as big a light as you want or possibly can on a nightstand gun, but you should be a little more discerning when it comes to lights for a concealed carry gun.

This is up to you, but it’s a good practice to get an appropriate size of light for your pistol. Something to keep in mind is that a light that is wider than the gun and extends beyond the frame and slide can cause fitment issues with some holsters, so that’s something you might want to be aware of.

A nightstand gun that doesn’t really get carried in a holster – well, who cares? Put whatever you want on it.

Some people prefer to have a bigger light with a castellated bezel, for use as a standoff device or at least that’s what some people say. Maybe that’s you, maybe it isn’t. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.

Oh, and if you wanted my recommendations, Olight Mini 2 for a carry gun and Nightstick 850XL for a nightstand gun. These lights, in my experience, give you the best bang for the buck in terms of value for money and illumination.

Next, we come to the lighting itself.

Since the goal is to provide illumination when there is little to none, more is better. You’d think that means getting the most amount of lumens, but you might want to pump the brakes.

Light output is typically measured in lumens, a measurement of the amount of energy that a device converts into light. However, there is an older measurement of light output that some manufacturers still disclose, that of candela, which is the measurement of the intensity of the light.

Think of it as volume vs density. Lumens will tell you how far the light will go, candela tells you how bright it is. Therefore, get the greatest amount of both, balanced of course with the size of light that you’re going to attach to your pistol.

Last we come to the controls, and this is far more important than you’d actually think.

It isn’t important whether or not there’s a strobe function. Some people think it gives you some sort of tactical advantage by temporarily disorienting the person who’s threatening you. More than 1,000 candela in your eyes in the dark will do that all on its own, never mind the strobe, but so much for that.

The really important part to the controls themselves is that they are easily reached and actuated. The buttons should have a crisp, positive engagement and disengagement; you shouldn’t be able to bump it on nor swipe it off without meaning to do it.

You should be able to activate the light using the trigger finger. Some folks figure on using the support hand, but the hitch there is that there’s a seriously good chance you won’t have use of both hands in a shooting situation. You may be fending the attacker off, or holding something – or someone, if you have little ones – so make sure your light can be operated with one hand.

If you wanted suggestions on good models to buy, I think the Olight Mini 2 and TLR 3 are good choices for compact and/or concealed carry pistols. If you just don’t give a darn and want the biggest light possible, Nightstick 850XL.

However, you also get to do your own homework and make your own decisions, so get to it.

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Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit