The problem with low light defensive techniques: they’re based around shooting, not searching. Most gun owners fail to put a significant amount of time and resources into learning how to search in the dark.
While it’s not rocket science, there’s still a great deal to be learned. One of the most important: being comfortable working in the dark.
Most of the time we’re training in ideal or pristine conditions. It’s hard to gain the proficiency and comfort necessary to work well at night. The key here is, of course, practicing in low-light conditions.
Some ranges — like my home at The Range at Austin — offer classes in low-light shooting. Take those courses. Many if not most attacks occur at night. It’s also possible to practice low-light defensive techniques in any safe, secure environment (no 911 calls please!) with a [triple-checked] empty gun.
As for searching, I prefer to use a two-handed technique. It allows me to direct the light to any location to identify threats or exploit a tactical advantage (by blinding the attacker). I can employ the full capability of the projected light, angling the beam to splash light into hard-to-reach areas.
If you locate an unknown and identify it to be a foe deploying lethal force, shooting should be a seamless transition. Using a technique that stabilizes the light while allowing you to engage with effective fire is key.
Holding the light at “high index” is the best method I’ve found to enable an efficient draw. I position the light near my jawline to illuminate both the target area and my sight system. While you will may be called to employ lethal force using your strong hand only, you can make that choice because of a superior search technique.
[Note: this scenario highlights the mission critical importance of mastering an efficient one-handed draw and one-handed shooting.]
As for weapon-mounted lights . . .
Some students tell me they don’t need a handheld light; their weapon mounted light would get the job done during a low-light defensive gun use. Wrong answer.
Before you can use the weapon-mounted light you have to be justified in deploying your firearm. In other words, you have to identify the threat before you draw your gun and use your weapon-mounted light. If you’re wrong, you could face a brandishing charge and/or convince someone else that you’re the threat.
That’s the main reason to have a handheld light as your primary search tool. But it’s also true that you’ll find your light a useful device for everyday chores.
Searching in low-light conditions with a handheld light is a legal early warning system that also allows effective freedom of movement. Many times, the outcome of a defensive gun use doesn’t come down to who’s the best shot, but who saw whom first.
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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.