At a recent class at The Range at Austin, a student asked me about using a flashlight for self-defense while carrying concealed. My first response: are you carrying a good handheld light? My second: do you understand its importance?
Let There Be Light!
Consider the general utility of a good handheld light for a moment; how you can use it to find lost items inside your car, light-up your trip to the trash cans, look down your sick kid’s throat, etc. And unlike your firearms, “gun-free zones” don’t apply to flashlights. You can take one almost anyplace.
Now consider the possibility of using a flashlight as an impact weapon. They’re generally extremely sturdy metal rods. Some also have a crenulated bezel to increase the damage a strike can inflict on an attacker. Along with a knife, flashlights are an ideal everyday dual-purpose defensive tool.
When it comes to combining a flashlight with armed defense, know this: even though it’s hard to find yourself in a completely dark environment, it’s easy to find yourself someplace where you cannot identify a potential threat with 100 percent certainty. Is that someone coming at you or someone trying to move by you? There’s a big difference.
Identify the Unknown ASAP
I don’t see any compelling reason you can’t pull your handheld light out — even during daytime conditions — when things just don’t feel right.
When you become aware of a potential threat that you can’t initially decipher, you can use your flashlight to scan and, potentially, thwart, without having it in a “shoot ready” position. In fact, during the initial moments of an unknown encounter, it may be prudent to hold a light in your hand long before you can justify having a gun in your hand.
Light Up Their Life
When you decide to illuminate the unknown you must do so so you can positively identify friend from foe. Your technique should illuminate the unknown with enough light to see what you need to see to choose whether or not to employ lethal force.
Start big. Light up their center mass, so you can get a general picture of who’s ahead: where they’re moving, how fast they’re moving, how they’re dressed, whether or not their alone, their body posture. Then aim at their hands, scanning for a weapon. If the unknown person turns out to be harmless, finish with an apology for temporarily blinding the suspect.
If the situation becomes a worst case scenario, transition to your draw stroke — while maintaining the tactical advantage provided by a blinding, high intensity light. Your one-hand clearance method better be legit.
The real question: do you keep the light trained on the bad guy or extinguish it?
There’s no one “right” answer. That decision depends on what you saw in the first few moments that convinced you to draw your handgun. Factors like distance, action and whether you can move and move to a better location help determine the right course of action. The bottom line: the situation will dictate.
There’s plenty more to discuss about flashlights and self-defense. For now, remember that a good handheld light should be in everyone’s load out. It could well be the difference between life and death.
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Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.