Like any other piece of defensive kit, you have to train with a weapon-mounted light to use it safely and effectively. To adhere to the sacred muzzle direction safety rule, you have to practice bouncing the light off of surfaces before acquiring your target. How many people do that? Only operators operating operationally. Then again, if you’re truly tactical, you’ll want to hold your light away from your body so as not to provide the bad guys with a target. Then again, if your light’s weapon-mounted, you won’t leave home without it. (Will you?) Then again, you can’t do the up-and-down momentary vertical light sweep (best practice for room clearing) with a weapon-mounted light. I carry a Surefire flashlight. How do you light-up your life?

68 Responses to Question of the Day: Weapon-Mounted Light or Hand Held Light?

  1. To carry a wml is to carry both unless you intend to potentially flag someone. Another question to ask is what type of weapon are you using in conjunction with it, with pistols it’s a non issue, with a long gun, a handheld either involves gymnastics with your hands, or running it one handed which kind of defeats the purpose

        • And getting shot by the bad guy you are trying to ID cause you were unwilling to flag him is worse.

        • And in the middle of the night shooting one of your kids because they were snuck out while you were asleep and you heard something thinking it was an intruder is much, much worse.

        • That is why its called target id. If the first thing you do when you present is to pull the trigger, probably shouldn’t be carrying a gun.

        • I guess that seans knows better than Jeff Cooper and every other truly knowledgeable gun guy. Seans’ Rule #2: Go ahead and muzzle anyone you want. Got it.

        • You do know you can point a gun at somebody without shooting? So weapon mounted light for me. If you are afraid of pulling the trigger instinctively try to y’know, practice or keep your finger off/behind the trigger.

          Though I did carry a flashlight in my pocket which I gave to a friend and haven’t found a replacement in a year now. Any decent 2AA options for under 28 USD? Need some decent throw and width of beam (don’t like the tunnel effect of some lights).

        • If I’m clearing a room with a firearm out I will muzzle anyone in there as a potential threat. WML is just fine. If it is my house and were I to have kids living there it’s a different story.

        • Ralph, do you really think it is possible to never actually flag someone? The 4 rules are training and range rules. Any real gun gun guy will tell you that. You point guns all the times at your boys and things you don’t want to shoot. How do you think houses are cleared at night on NODs. Your IR laser/illuminator is attached to your weapon. You are holding on a door, waiting on a deconfliction, you don’t check down until you see your buddy come thru the door.

        • Lolinski, I pocket a $12 NEBO flashlight. 90w led single AA battery. One of the few things I always carry. (Gun, knife, flashlight, phone are always in my pockets.) I use it all the time. It’s inexpensive but not cheap. I actually have several of them.

          As to the question posted I would go with both in theory, although I currently only have one air rifle with a light mounted on it. I like Ralph’s comment. In my house, if I hear a bump, I’m flipping a light switch, not clearing a room with a little flashlight.

        • Seans’ methods are military, and to some extent LEO. In my jurisdiction muzzling inside my house is legally fine, though I wouldn’t. But in public spaces? Aggravated assault, in general. On the other hand I’ve had a muzzle directly in my face at five or six feet twice, by LEO’s. The first was a Glock, and I received an apology. The second was a G36 assault rifle at a checkpoint in Spain, and all I received is “Go!” so they could move on to the next car. The G36 bit was a bit exciting, but when they found the cop-shooter they were after, they capped him before he could shoot back. Life.

          I keep an X300 Ultra on the G21 Gen4 for house pistol, carry an SF L4 but no gun light on the carry 30S. I have no plan to use the L4 and the pistol at the same time, and agree with those who expect to drop the light instantly when the facts say “shoot!” The details of how to clear a room/house are more complex that “one rule fits all.” Outside the house there just isn’t time for fooling with lights when a defensive shoot is required. Things happen much to fast, and draw speed is hugely important: I don’t believe anyone can land a round on a perp as fast with a pistol that has a light hanging on it as with one unadorned, and planning to hit shooting one-handed seems like pre-planned lose. I could be wrong, of course. If searching with a pistol or rifle, I carry it at a “just slightly high-carry, barrel tilted forward.” It takes no time to get on target. It’s just defensive international skeet. Your past determines what will work for you in the present.

    • There’s just me and my wife living in my house, in a rural location. At any given time that house clearing is necessary, I’ll know where my wife is – she’s probably the one who woke me up to go investigate in the first place. I have no issues with pointing a gun-mounted light at anybody poking around in my house when it’s dark enough to require extra light.

      Elsewhere on the property (or while camping, etc.) the WML will be on a carbine, but I’d be searching with a separate, more high powered beam.

    • Don’t forget, we’re not assuming that it’s going to be a bad guy and putting light on him first is just a formality. It’s more likely going to be on of your own family with insomnia, sleepwalking, or just sneaking in to avoid being caught for sneaking out. You might know immediately it is an intruder, but you can’t plan your setup around that. If you knew immediately you could just hunker down in the master bedroom, shotgun pointed at door and call the police.

      The first mission is to find out what the noise you heard was, the gun is ‘just in case.’

  2. As in “shoot at the light”, I will never opt for a weapon mounted light! I want that light as far from myself as possible!

    My son-inlaw told the story, an agency that taught reparations of light and weapon though.
    He told about the new female recruit that held the light directly in front of herself, and the weapon at a 90 degree angle away from forward, but right directly down the populated firing line!
    He said people were hitting the floor like a strike in bowling!

    • That “hold your flashlight away” is something I’ve been taught as an option but it strikes me as overly tactical for most applications, as doing so means you’re now shooting one-handed anyway… not ideal.

  3. Outdoors — learn how to see better at night. Indoors — that switch on the wall works great. Vertical patrol on a stairway in NYC — handheld or you’ll probably kill somebody by accident.

    • Yes.

      Use what’s at hand and adapt to the situation you are presented with. If you are too undisciplined to safely handle a firearm equipped with a tac-light while doing a perimeter check or clearing your property, you should probably just hide in a corner or closet, dial 911 and wait for the cavalry to show up quell your fears, real or imagined.

      For CCW away from the home or business, a weapon mounted light would probably not be realistic or called for for *defensive* carry. A powerful hand light at hand or on your person though is a must.

      My biggest gripe about light equipped side arms is the dearth of non-duty leather concealment holsters available for such a set-up. Maybe I’m in the minority wanting such a rig, and demand is lacking, but still.

      Also, regardless of whether you use a weapon mounted light or not, keep hand-held lights stationed around your property at convenient locations and *regularly* check them to be sure they work and the batteries hold adequate power. This will also serve as a S/A drill so that you always know where to find your light source and are aware of it’s operational condition. When you walk by them, check them out for function every week or so. If you seldom walk by them, they’re not placed correctly.

  4. I pocket carry a surefire as an edc light. Might toy with a WML for a full frame home defense/outdoors pistol, but not for concealed carry. The easier to hide my pistol, the better, and I also like being able to use my flashlight whenever I want. I do keep a WML on a rifle though.

  5. Both. Weapon lights are all Streamlight TLR-1s’s. Flashlights or Surefire 6P with 300 LM LED engine upgrade, Olight M20 / M30 / M31 and the sweet new Olight M2X Javelot with a throw over 800 meters.

    • You should try NiteCore flashlights. I carry one on a carbiner clip attached to a belt loop. It’s small, called the Cobra and it puts out close to 1000 LUMEN. My home flashlights are bigger and also brighter, the NiteCore 11,15 and 26. Any of them WILL light up an entire room brightly, blinding an intruder at the same time. I have no problem carry any of them and a 1911 .45acp at the same time.

      • I’ve looked into Nitecore. I’m into long range throwers, so the M2X Javelot (actually 3 of them) is (are) already ordered. It’s 1,000 plus lumens as well, and runs off 2 CR123s or a single 18650. I also have my Streamligt SL-20L as one of my duty lights. I’ve bashed out a few windows with the SL-20.

        • Bear in mind that the handheld lights have variable output, so the 800 lumen Olight M31 Triton is also steps down to 320 or 60 lumens. That one of the typical benefits of hand held lights.

  6. For home defense I have a WML on my nightstand gun and my shotgun. I don’t want to mess around with trying to find a flashlight in a hurry in the dark when I could be hustling to the safe to grab my shotgun and assume a defensive position. Handheld in my pocket when I leave the house.

  7. Surefire 6PX pro rides in my back left pocket, I have a surefire x300 on my carry G19, both my fighting rifles have surefire scout lights. I keep a surefire M3LT in my bikes panniers, and I REALLY want one of their rechargeable wristlights for christmas. I know it’s probably overkill, but I can always choose not to use them. Just having lights isn’t enough though, it’s your responsibility to get the training you need in order to use them effectively.

  8. Hand held. Always. Use off hand. Let perps aim for that. Also the lights have magnets. One attachs in safe. Others are in over door clear shoe holder (along w spare mags, holsters, etc). Keep one in pocket so I don’t have to light up someone is not a threat and disclose my carry status. Plus, hard to cc a weapon mounted light.

  9. Hand held. At home I keep a light or two on at night so a light shouldn’t be an absolute necessity, but I keep one handy just in case. In public a handheld light allows you to use it with your weapon holstered. You can get in a lot of trouble for pointing your gun at people unnecessarily in public. Plus, I like to hold it back and high enough to light up my sights, which I think is more efficient than aligning back lit sights from a WML. If you’re using a long gun for home defense a WML would make a lot of sense though.

    Also, I don’t buy into the ‘perp’s gonna shoot at your light’ argument. They can try, but you’re at a decided advantage aiming with your light as opposed being blinded by it.

    • Guess that’s another advantage to hand-held–you can direct it at their face/eyes while still aiming center mass with your gun.

      • Lads, you better hope you have had a lot of current, adrenaline stress training WITH your light (which you may have) if you hope to deliberately light up your opponents face with one hand, while you aim for center-mass with the other. If your goal is to disorient an attacker you may be better served by a bright strobe, and focus on shot placement. Just my 2c.

  10. Surefires on the long guns combined with handheld on a bungee cord which I can just drop once potential target/s has/have been acquired. Nothing on the handguns, just the handheld/bungee cord. Handgun capers likely to be within a few feet anyway. Fenix EDC’s in pockets and vehicles plus a tiny little strobe gizmo on my keychain.

    I’m leery of drawing opponents’ fire to my lights but not so much about flashing people who are mucking around in our house and yard at night. Only folks authorized to be here are us during those hours. Muck around at 03:00 and get flashed, along with dawg barking and neighbors alerted. County sheriff a mile up the road. Come git some. PD and State Police barracks three miles up the road. Border Patrol all over the place. Plus Army/Guard troops.

    We also have motion detector floods around the place and neighbors’ dawgs on both sides.

      • “I’d say you’re covered, at least until the wife finds out you bought yet another gun….”

        LOL. There’s at least two she doesn’t know about yet. Gotta break them in gently, as in next time at the range, and it shows up on the table; story all set up by then. Mutual Liar Support Team in place there.

        “I would find a new place to live, but, to each his own.”

        I’m an ex-cop and ex-military police, though from long ago. And I keep tabs on all their comings and goings and otherwise get along OK with them. So far.

    • County sheriff a mile up the road. Come git some. PD and State Police barracks three miles up the road. Border Patrol all over the place. Plus Army/Guard troops.

      I would find a new place to live, but, to each his own.

  11. Is there a handy acronym like IANAL, for ofwg who will never be operator, but wants to learn what works?
    Hunbly, and KISS? Becuz after taking some really good clases, I realize I can never train to the optimum technique and pay for gear and ammo that Uncle Sam doew, or better LEAs do for pro SWAT teams.

    So my solution is use something that is not so tech dependent that a failure leads to a fail in particular acticed tactics, or so much traing to overcome natural scare reactions. IE weapons mounted lights that require holding on target to id.

    I dont expect to be operating in HD outdoors, and if I did I would like to think I’d have some advantage from lots of long walks at night in woods, especially suburban, because once used to it, starlight alone, or cloud relected cityglow, you can see pretty good once used to it. And a Surerire Fury with low setting works to avoid losing too much of your nightsight, if you are careful and they high eetting blasts the otherguys for good, in close to mid, and good tor coyote eyeshine out to 300 yds on a good battery.

    Inside it works with the old fbi technique, crossed under gun, overhead, etc and surefire had other tips once, on website. You can be more creative moving it around with off hand, bounce off walos, hell roll it down tge hall to freak the bad guy out, toss it like a light grenade, to distract, while get to wall switch and or defensige cover, and like outdoors, if you practice you can and sholuld move quieter and much better in your own house than bad guy. Ilike the deas of being able to shoot one handed in a pinch, either hand, G23, day or night at indoor defensive ranges, not that I AM that good yet, but its not an unrealistic goal, with unpowered night sights.

    If I were a cop, or operator, I would like a weak on light for all three, handgun, shotgun, AR, but thats three times thd practical training time, at a much higher rep rate, to get to muscle memory, down jt shoot even when surprised by your teen standing behind couch suddenly, where he/she or new ghbors kid passed out after sneaking home from first kegger..

    I’m sure we all know SOMEONE (cough, cough) who was “that guy” (teenager?) once…
    And srltreet fops say somethijg like petty theft from suburban middle class homes is NOT heavily armed MS13 banditos, but the neighbir kid lookijg for an xbix to pawn, because his moms oxy prescription ran out and he needs quick cash for more at street prices…

    • Just beat me I see. And for the exact same reason–and also so I can hold it away from me (the “aiming at the light” thing. I actually picked that up from a Law and Order episode.). Mine is a 4-cell, I find it easier to control than the 6-cell.

  12. I love flashlights. I have scores, and most are really really nice. I usually have at least two flashlights on me at any given time. I usually have about 500+ hours of low level light available. More if I’m going someplace, because I have more batteries.
    I just can’t see the purpose in a weapon mounted light on a handgun. I understand I see much better at night than most people, but why would I want to tell people where I’m at?
    If you are in my house, I know simply by sound where you are and whether you belong in my home or not. I don’t need to verify anything with a light, I can tell well enough you shouldn’t be there. If I thought it was kids playing around, I’d blind them with a flashlight, but I don’t need a light to hit something within the confines of my own home.
    To me flashlights are for reading, or illuminating distant targets. At 25+ yards, even if you can tell a person is there at night, it’s hard to determine WHO it is, so a light is appropriate.
    But then again, I hike in the dark without a light as well. I just find light ruins your night vision. What good is it that you can see more clearly within 25 feet, but lose most of your ability to see around you without the light?

  13. I strongly prefer a weapon mounted light for two reasons. One-having done a decent amount of low light shooting using varying techniques I have realized that it is very, very difficult to properly direct/aim a handheld light while shooting quickly and accurately and it is hard to shoot quickly and accurately while dicking around with a flashlight. You might claim to be some kind of one handed badass gunfighter, but you’re not.

    Two-Having done a decent amount of force on force training, including low light training with and against tactical teams I can say with full confidence that the chance of someone shooting at your light is vastly outweighed by the immediate tactical advantage a good WML gives youm

  14. Lolinski:

    I didn’t see an option to reply to your post. 2xAAA and 2xAA options are aplenty. I like streamlight for EDC and camping. Visit Academy or even Walmart and you’ll see some good options. For going out at night, I carry a 2xCR123A model I found at academy. It was $35 and I think it’s around 300L. It also has a crenelated bezel to schwack a temple if I can’t carry a pistol for some reason.

    To the question:
    WML for all HD guns; pistol, rifle and shotgun. Handheld also sitting on the nightstand, as well as a few places throughout the house. The nightstand model is a 450L 3xCR123A piece. The others are cheap 1xAA amazon purchases, with Cree 300L lenses.

    A question for KSG bubbas: how do you mount a WML? I’ve found a streamlight TLR-2 and TLR-4 don’t leave enough room on the pump to position a vertical grip without banging a finger on the light (during recoil) or trigger guard (while pumping the action). The lights are awkward to use without a vertical grip. Suggestions?

    • Thanks, will check out some more.

      Ï am not looking for something super fancy. I just want to be able to light up most of a room (flood or whatever it’s called) at a good distance (100 meters) with a good runtime (5-8 hours). That’s why I am going with 2AA, since two batteries should be better and more long lasting than one.

      Main problem is finding something with those criteria for a decent price. Because if something costs more than 200 NOK (28 USD at the current course) I have to pay 25% extra (I am in Norway).

  15. Handheld first, then both if you wish. You have to put light on the scary noise to see if it needs a gun pointed at it first. It’s not a good idea to do both at once, especially if you have kids that will one day be breaking curfew and sneaking into your house in the middle of the night.

    Nothing wrong with practicing dropping the flashlight to go to a two handed grip with a gun/light combination though.

  16. My camping headlamp … just to be different. Of course, if that theory about people shooting at the light proves true ….

  17. I’ve had friends where holding the light away from their body spared them bodily harm because of the intention to strike at what is behind the light.

  18. Mounted on the rifle, Handheld with the pistol. I cannot conceal a wml on my pistol so I have a pocket flashlight.

    I also like that I have an impact tool in my left hand if I need it. That thing were he crosses his hands is not that great. I like it my light up by my shoulder of the hand that has the light. I do no like flagging things with a wml so handheld is where it is at.

    … your mileage may vary…

  19. Who in the hell is this guy? Is he just the next guy trying to play “expert” on youtube or does he had some credentials to back up his presentation?

    Yes, carry a light. More important than the light though are night sights.

    John

  20. No video popping up. A light on shotgun. I have multiple flashlights I almost never use. I am aware of what goes on in my house. And yeah when I was a teen I snuck in. No worries about that in my family.

  21. Both at home. No WML on my concealed carry pistol, but I carry ProTac-2L with home made tactical ring for retention and use when employing the Graham Method.

  22. OK, now I can agree with RF on something. One should NOT carry their light mounted to their weapon. He even touched on the reasons:
    1. Weapon lights create the desire to muzzle everything you look at. I know this is what the police do, but they also shoot people for holding airsoft and pellet guns, and even sticks shaped like an “L”! Non-LEOs go to prison for that type of irresponsible behavior. Just because they do it and get away with it doesn’t make it correct.
    2. Anyone who goes into a dark room(and if its not dark, then what is the light for?) thinking that it might be hostile in there, and holds their light in front of them, deserves the bullets that are likely to follow it. The fact that this is what LEOs are all trained to do only shows that in the concept of Law Enforcement, like the military, casualties are acceptable and planned for. If you are a LEO or a soldier, you are EXPENDABLE. There are always more behind to return fire. If a few(or even quite a few) of them die, so what? Low grade manpower is cheap and plentiful. No flames please, this is not what I believe, this is the system I’m referring to. I don’t think any individual considers himself, “expendable”. Certainly I do not. That’s why my light goes in my pocket, and NOT on my firearm.
    3. They also make the firearm heavier. I like mine as light as possible. No 90 round drums for me.

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