By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
By now, everyone knows you need to be able to identify a potential threat. The question is should you add a weapon-mounted light to your carry gun or just carry a flashlight?
Newbies or even experienced gun owners can find themselves in the position of wondering which is better or what have you.
The answer is that it depends on what downsides you want to live with, and of course you can always get both.
The need for illumination in low-light environments should speak for itself.
You hear the front door open in the middle of the night, and you venture out of the bedroom to find out what the heck is happening with your nightstand gun. You see a human shape in the hallway, but can’t see who it is.
Do you shoot just because someone’s there that presumably shouldn’t be?
You might be right but you might also be very, very wrong.
Here’s some semi-recent headlines:
A 15-year-old girl was shot by her stepfather in November, 2020. The teen entered through the garage at around 2:15 a.m., and her stepfather grabbed his gun to confront what he thought was a threat. Luckily, she was merely wounded.
That same month, a man likewise heard what he thought was an intruder in the early morning of Nov. 4 in Port Salerno, Fla. He saw somebody, and fired. The “intruder” was in fact his wife, who was pregnant.
The baby survived but she didn’t.
So obviously, the ability to see and identify a threat is critical. The next step is to buy and start carrying a light. That is what begs the question of whether you should use a flashlight or a weapon-mounted light or perhaps to have both.
Now, if you watch any of the GunTubers, they all have an amazing amount of crap hanging on all of their guns. We all know police have both.
The tacticool crowd is going to tell you that you need a weapon-mounted light, and a certain number of goofballs will insist that a TLR-1 or a Surefire X300 are the only choices. Granted, they are great lights!
Others will insist a flashlight is more practical. You don’t have to draw the gun to use it, flashlights are always useful and so on.
Let’s dispense with any stupid ideas about tactics this and force-multiplying that, most of which is fiction perpetuated by comments sections around the internet, and rarely, if ever, supported by pretty much anything that has ever happened in reality.
So what are the serious things to think about?
First we have the incurring of liabilities when using a weapon-mounted light for threat identification, as well as the basic theory of using a light.
There are two reasons to use a light with a firearm.
First is so you can identify what something is, and the other is to see something so you can shoot it, and those are very different things. You could broadly call them threat identification and target identification.
A weapon-mounted light is for the latter.
When you point a gun at a person that is a threat and/or use of lethal force. Period. If you draw your gun and point it at someone, you are threatening to shoot and/or kill them as far as the law is concerned.
Aka a crime! They call that “brandishing,” a misdemeanor that will cost you your carry permit and may send you to the pokey. Unless, that is, you had a good reason to do it and can substantiate it in court.
So, a weapon-mounted light is for the armed citizen a poor tool for threat identification alone, especially on a handgun that you’re carrying out in public. All the same ideas apply to police officers as well.
On a home defense gun, in the middle of the night, is a little different; when something goes “bump” in the night, there’s a reasonable chance that it isn’t someone or something that’s supposed to be there but that’s why you use the light to identify that it is a threat first.
In other words, a weapon-mounted light gives you the ability to see what’s in front of the gun, which you have to recognize as a threat or not before you pull the trigger.
A flashlight, on the other hand, can be used for both tasks, as well as just being used as a flashlight. And having one can definitely come in handy.
A weapon-mounted light, therefore, is either for the home or as a supplementary illumination source when you know you’re facing a credible threat in a low-light environment and you need to see the target to put sights and shots on it.
The role of a light would be different in an offensive context, but bear in mind that a gun is a defensive implement for the armed civilian or, at worst, counter-offensive.
So, if your only source of illumination is a weapon-mounted light on a carry pistol you might want to rethink your strategy.
A flashlight, on the other hand, can be used as a flashlight as well as for both threat and target identification.
Put it like this: what’s known about a lot of criminals is that they tend to ambush people. Poorly lit transitional spaces are higher-risk areas, such as parking lots and parking garages. Muggers and carjackers will often hide close to or around cars, waiting for their victim to emerge.
An easy way to detect them is to take out a pocket flashlight and quickly scan the area around your car. If nobody’s there, you’re just some nut with a light and nobody cares. If someone is now they know you know about them.
You can’t do that with that TLR-1 or O-Light or what have you; you can, however, with a flashlight.
However, it’s also the case that you need to train with your gun and flashlight. Training with a WML is easier – because it’s not much different than practice with your regular gun – but as mentioned, a WML is less useful overall when out and about.
The thing with any gear and gadgets that supposedly enhance your capabilities is that they actually don’t unless you actually train with them, so make sure you’re putting in your practice dry firing and at the range.
So, if you add a light into your everyday carry gear or what have you, make sure you’re practicing with it.
Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, 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 aliengearholsters.com.