Question of the Day: Are Multi-Function Weapon Lights Multi-Mistake Weapon Lights?

A member of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia asked the Rabbi to recommend a light for his gun. The answer came with a stern warning. “The vast majority of lights have click-on switches and multi-functions which I prefer to call ‘multi-mistakes’.” The Rabbi reckons that’s a gurney full of not good; the chances of quickly, quietly and efficiently activating the “correct” light setting in a self-defense situation are low. “My preferred lights are by Surefire: 6P LED, LX2 Luminex, 6Px Pro. There are probably a few other models that qualify as well. There are a number of off-brand and lesser known names in the business that cost less, but I don’t know about their reliability. They may be just as good but I don’t know . . . When it comes to live saving equipment, I buy the best.” Is he wrong?

comments

  1. avatar Brett Solomon says:

    Simple activation works best as I discovered with my Viridian light/laser review. Supposedly the company took into consideration some of my complaints and the new units are easier to activate.

  2. avatar Giao Nguyen says:

    My criteria for lights are simple: thumb operated momentary switches, no strobe, and no lasers. Anything else is a disaster in a stress situation. The 6P and G2 are great standalone lights. For weapons, I prefer the X300; it’s compact and eats less rail-estate.

  3. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    I’m with your man The Rabbi on this. My favorite weapon light (and the one that lives on my home defense scattergun) is a metal-bodied Streamlight with the rear on-off lever that you thumb down for momentary and up for continuous activation. Everything is manually-operated and operates by touch.

    I dissed the Cree ‘Tactical’ flashlights for their noisy switches and their long-delay (read: tactically useless) momentary on-off activation. Strobes and multi-position brightness settings are confusing and always precious split-seconds away, when split seconds count. They’re useful on camping and utility lights, but distractions on a tactical light.

    After hearing a lot of positive opinion from active law enforcement who carry them (and using one for more than a year myself) I’ve come to trust the Coast series of tactical flashlights. They’ve got solid aluminum bodies, gold-plated electrical contacts and beefy O-rings for waterproofing, and mine has delivered excellent performance since day one. It’s also got a 1″ body, which means you can use any standard quick-release scope ring as a rail adapter.

  4. avatar Greg in Allston says:

    I bought a Surefire G2 a few years back for a course that I was taking up at Sig. On the 5th or 6th activation of the light, the bulb blew. I don’t think that I had more than 15 or 20 minutes total time on the light when that happened. If I recall right, replacement lamp modules were in the $20 – $30 range. I sent a letter to them about the problem and got no response whatsoever. Surefire lost a customer that day. Perhaps their LED lights are better than their incandescent products, but I’d sure as hell never buy one of their products again. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them from a lot of people, and perhaps my experience was a total fluke, but they lost me then and there.

    I agree with the Rabbi in that a good light should be simple and absolutely reliable. The less do-dads, the better, and the fewer mistakes one is likely to make.

  5. avatar Bub says:

    When it comes to lights whether handheld or weapons mounted I’m in the KISS camp. Buy quality light (something like a Surefire) with simple on/off switch. No strob, etc for me.

  6. avatar DonWorsham says:

    No lights on guns for me. I prefer an on/off switch on my light but sadly only one of my five lights do this.

  7. avatar CET says:

    Streamlight TLR-1.

    It has two settings: Beam and strobe. It has a rear mounted ambidextrous control that is very easy to use and quiet. When I hold my pistol in a two hand grip and align my thumbs along the left side of the frame, my left thumb falls exactly on the control mechanism. A gentle downward depression of the switch brings instant light and a rapid double-tap engages the strobe. The switch is not fully engaged in this position, so if move my thumb away slightly, it disengages the light (sort of like when you slightly flick the turning indicator in your car when changing lanes, but the switch doesn’t lock into place like when you are waiting at a light). If I flick the switch upward with my thumb, it fully engages in the on position (like waiting at the traffic light). I have fired over 500 rounds through a Sig P226 with this light attached (both with light on and off) and it still works great. The body is metal (aluminum maybe?) and it has several different attachment pieces depending on the type of rail system you are using. I like the partially engaged feature because it allows me to quickly engage the light and then disengage it to conceal my position after I have blinded the assailant. Yes, when I fire in this mode, my thumb comes of the switch and disengages the light for a moment, but I can re-engage before I find my sight picture after recovering from the recoil, which is minimal with the 226. If the switch is in the up position, the light remains on until I physically turn it off. With an extremely bright LED bulb, I love this light and while I haven’t tried a Surefire, it meets my needs at considerably less cost. I paid $100 for mine. To test it, I sat in the dark for 30 minutes to let my eyes adjust, then I had my wife stand across the room (20 ft-ish) and turn it on beam (No pistol attached of course). I repeated the test later with the strobe. After each test with the light on for a max of 3 seconds, my night vision was completely blown and I saw bright spots for at least 10 minutes following. I found it very disorienting, especially the strobe.

  8. avatar Ralph says:

    I won’t put a light on any SD gun. Call me old school, but I don’t like lights, lasers (except for training; they’re great for that), radar, bottle openers or anything “tactical.” I might feel differently if I was raiding Abbotabad, but I’m not.

  9. avatar HSR47 says:

    To be honest, I don’t yet have any sort of “tactical” flashlight; At some point, I’ll probably end up with a streamlight or surefire standalone flashlight for general use.

    As for strobe functionality, it really depends, and it’s usefulness is entirely contextual. The last time I went to the (outdoor) range, a friend of mine showed me his current/new light — by which I mean he demonstrated the strobe function on me. It was a fairly sunny day, and even being fairly well rested and not under the influence of any mind-altering substances, it was moderately disorientating. At that point, he explained that at 02:30 in the morning when he has to deal with an unruly drunk (the gentleman does armed security for nightclubs in Philly), it’s another tool in his arsenal that he can use before he has to resort to lethal force — if he can pacify individual threats with just a flashlight, it cuts down on the need to use OC spray, batons, and/or firearms.

    In effect, it’s about having the right type of hammer.

    1. avatar Leo Atrox says:

      Strobes makes it extremely difficult to tell how far the light is from you. If you’ve got a strobe, you can usually get right up on someone before they even realize you’ve closed the distance. Pretty handy in the nightclub security (or similar) field. Strobes also have better battery life, which is handy, albeit less important in a “tactical” sense.

  10. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    I also don’t like lights for SD guns but if you’re going to buy anything for your gun you should spend the extra money and buy quality, because your life may depend on it someday.

    1. avatar Greg in Allston says:

      This idea is something, which I totally agree with, that goes along the lines of the old saying in regards to motorcycle helmets; do you have a $10 head or a $100 head?

  11. avatar Javier E says:

    You do know K I S S right? For those who don’t: “Keep It Simple Stupid”.
    The more complexed a thing is the more things to go WRONG. Adding in stress doesn’t make it any easier.

  12. avatar Parallax3D says:

    The phrase, “Jack of all trades, but master of none.” comes to mind.
    If you need a flashlight, use a flashlight. If you need a laser, use a laser.
    If you need a light, strobe and laser on one gun, you are either SWAT or a mall ninja. I’m betting on the latter.

  13. avatar Lance says:

    I personally carry a Surefire E2D Defender LED and it is technically multi-function: first press shoots out a 200 lumen beam and releasing the button and pressing it within 2 seconds switches it to 5 lumens. I can definitely see where this could come back and bite me in a self defense scenario, but the two light levels really make it useful as a general purpose light. 200 lumens is too bright for anything other than blinding people indoors but it is great for outdoor stuff. The fix I would propose would be to make it a twist cap to change the strength of the beam. That way you would be less likely to activate the 5 lumen beam.

  14. avatar Leo Atrox says:

    He’s not wrong, but not every person works the same way under intense stress. Some people lose fine muscle coordination and don’t think clearly. Some people “zone” out and fly perfectly fine on autopilot. Others seem to react with lightning quickness. I think it depends on what type you are. Of course, most will never know what type that is until it’s too late; so it’s probably sage advice to K.I.S.S..

  15. avatar Don says:

    I’ve always gone the age old route of holding the flashlight out and away from my body, figuring that directly in line with my face is just about the worse place to put a luminescent bullseye when baddies may be about.

    -D

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