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The Force Science Institute strongly cautions LEOs to avoid a switching device that attaches to a popular gun-mounted flashlight and creates risk of an unintended firearm discharge during high-stress confrontations because of its design. At least twice in recent months the device has been associated with shootings in which officers reportedly said they thought they were turning on the flashlight attached to their semiautomatic pistol when in fact they were pulling the weapon’s trigger. One civilian was killed, the other seriously wounded in the consequent firings. Both were unarmed when shot . . .

TTAG has highlighted the dangers of gun-mounted flashlights before. We blogged one of these cases: an incident in October in Plano, Texas where an officer blamed his Surefire X300 for a fatal negligent discharge (ND). We missed the DG grip assembly’s mounting design. Looking at this picture, the DG’s trigger-like actuation switch seems like an ND waiting to happen. And so it did.

In Plano, an undercover sergeant fired his .40-cal. pistol during a drug sting last October in a fast-food parking lot. In a written statement, he said, “I never intended to have my finger on the trigger. I was attempting to squeeze the light mechanism [on a SureFire X300] when my weapon fired and the suspect fell to the ground,” mortally wounded.

The New York shooting occurred last January during a drug raid in an apartment building. The first detective through the door of the targeted unit fired his 9mm semi-auto and struck the 76-year-old father of the suspect being hunted, wounding him in the abdomen. A police official was quoted as saying that the gun discharged as the detective “tried to adjust a [SureFire X300] flashlight attached to it.”

At that time, SureFire’s vice president of marketing told reporters, “Our product has been proven safe. Used in a safe manner, it doesn’t lead to accidents. It prevents misidentification and saves police lives.” [click here to read The New York Post’s account.]

Force Science walks us through the flashlight mount’s operational “challenges”:

The mechanism in question is the DG grip switch assembly for the X-series of weapon lights produced by SureFire LLC, headquartered in Fountain Valley, CA. This optional switching mechanism fits on the tail cap of a SureFire X200, X300, or X400 flashlight which itself locks onto rails under a pistol’s frame in front of the trigger guard.

The thin, flat, narrow housing for the grip-switch controls follows the outside contour of the trigger guard and then bends down a bit against the front strap of the grip. There, a small finger pad allows for on-off manipulation of the light.

The benefit of this mechanism, according to SureFire’s website, is that the officer behind the gun can “activate the light with finger pressure without needing to move a finger from the grip.” The finger pad can simply be pressed with the “top grip finger, leaving the index finger free to operate the handgun trigger.”

The problem with this, [FSI’s executive director Dr. Bill] Lewinski explains, has nothing to do with the functioning of the flashlight itself. “SureFire flashlights are popular with law enforcement because they are powerful and effective,” he says. Indeed, he recently bought one of the company’s hand-held models for his personal use because of its exceptional brilliance and reliability.

“But the grip-switch operational option, while convenient, carries significant risk related to possible unintended discharges,” he says.

One possibility, Lewinski asserts, is that under stress, when the exertion of physical pressure tends to become intensified, an officer pressing his middle finger against the flashlight switch pad will produce a sympathetic reaction in the index finger. If that finger happens to be inside the trigger guard and on the pistol’s trigger, the reaction may be forceful enough to cause an unintentional discharge.

Ya think? Of course, the officer’s finger shouldn’t be on the trigger until he or she’s in the process of shooting, should it Mr. Suarez? As for Surefire, it looks like they’re trying to dodge this bullet.

Force Science News made repeated efforts to reach someone at SureFire to comment on the switch issue. The firm’s public relation’s manager replied by email to a voice-mail message that he was “bouncing around the country” and could “not promise phone time” to talk about the grip assembly. At his request, questions were submitted by FSN via email, but at this writing, nearly a week later, no response has been received. Phone messages directed to the company’s chief engineer were not returned . . .

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  1. I think that these cops had their finger on the trigger and panicked. I feel that they’re trying to come up with any excuse to avoid responsiblity for their negligence because you don’t use the trigger finger to activate the device in question. If you look at the above photo of the gun, your trigger finger should be just under the slide and your middle finger would activate the light under the trigger guard.

  2. Joe,

    You are probably right but even if you’re not the bottom line is that at a minimum it’s criminal manslaughter. Whether it’s committed by a cop, the Pope or a citizen. A weapon mounted light is a tool and like any other tool if you misuse it, there’s a risk of someone getting hurt.

    Said in law enforcement language – the shooter failed to pay full time and attention to the task at hand and negligently discharged the firearm resulting in the injury / death of the victim.

    While FSI may be correct, it doesn’t mask or excuse the crimes committed.

  3. The light should be set up to turn on when you take a normal grip on the gun. It should require concious effort to switch the light off…
    Many Crimson Trace laser grips have the switch under the trigger guard. Have they been linked to a rash of ND’s?

    I find the work that Force Science does to be very useful and interesting as far as figuring out what what contributes to mistakes and accidents, but a mistake and an accident are not the same thing.

    • Great point Travis, I have Crimson Trace laser grips on all my Kimbers and I’ve never once made that mistake. I should really say negligent careless accident because this is sort of thing should never happen when handling a gun, especially if you’re a trained police officer.

  4. Is it just me, or does it look like the DG switch affixed to that pistol does not fit?

    SF DG switches for the X300 are designed to place the pressure pad directly against the frame. This one is hanging off by 2-3mm. That makes a BIG difference in how the light is activated and how the system impacts your normal weapon grip.

    What exact XD model is that?

  5. Given the (generally poor) level of firearms training in many PD’s, the light switch IS a poor design. FSI should be aware of their customers’ skill set (or lack thereof).

    That said, examples need to be made. The cops who fired should lose their jobs, although I doubt that’ll happen.

  6. Hmmm… training(proper that is) would solve most operator-firearm and pretty much all other problems. Could you imagine a world with no ADs, no friendly-fire and teenagers(and adults) that could handle cars if it the car got out of hand. But no, let’s just dumb-down most firearms(Double-Action Only comes to mind)… Mag disconnect safety..

  7. Totally agree with “Christopher”!! I’ve been using pressure switches on light kits for 15+ years, hundreds of ops…no ADs. Same goes for the countless cops that I’ve worked with and done the same over the years. Training is the keys. I guarantee those guys who had ADs, didn’t have much training with the lights…shame on them.

  8. Here’s a Novel Idea. Why don’t LEO’s draw their weapon as a last resort instead of a first response. Both victims were unarmed, Hmmmmm……. The only and better alternative would be more armed Citizens.

    • Jerry
      What department do you work for? With your department’s tactic of staying holstered, until someone produces a gun and/or weapon, I would hazard a guess that your department has a few perpetual job openings doesn’t it?

      Can you expound on your ” The only and better alternative would be more armed Citizens” statement? Because it sounds like an interesting proposal, dumb, but definitely interesting


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