A really sharp guy once told me that, no matter how great a gun I might have, when push comes to shove, it’s the guy that can see what he wants to shoot that will usually live to tell the tale. Or put another way, fortune favors the prepared. If you don’t keep a flashlight—any kind of flashlight—handy by your bed, you are increasing your odds of hitting what you see, and seeing what you may or may not hit. Remember: just because you’re on your home court doesn’t mean you’re gonna win, or even that you have a leg up on the bad guys. A flashlight helps even the odds—in a way you might not have considered. Allow me to enlighten you . . .
If you’ve nosed around many sites that sell self-defense gear, you might have noticed that most of them offer a variety of what are referred to as “tactical flashlights.” These tactical lights share two characteristics. First, they are small. Second, they are way more expensive than your garden variety flashlight. But what makes a flashlight, strictly speaking, “tactical”?
The fact that you have it, mainly.
The key here is to do everything you can do to take away your attacker’s inherent advantage—they’re the “first mover”— and gain some of your own. Blinded your antagonist with a light outta nowhere can be a big game changer. (It’s also not a bad thing to have around if the power goes out.)
This is the tactical light’s major advantage. While some home defense experts recommend a flashlight on your gun so you can surprise a perpetrator in the dark (the so-called “home field advantage” strategy), I only recommend that approach for teetotalers who don’t take sleeping pills with at least ten years of combat training, who don”t have any friends or family who would even think about coming into their house in the middle of the night.
As YrHmbleSrvt recently suggested, the non-professional’s best strategy is to a) have a house alarm b) light-up the the entire environment. But there is nothing wrong—and everything right—with blinding a potential assailant. I understand and appreciate the argument against this strategy, but playing “hide and seek” with a bad guy (a.k.a. The Bump In The Night) who doesn’t run when the alarm goes off and the lights go on is not for the feint of heart, shaky of hand or unlucky gun owners amongst us.
Either way, there is no room switch for the great outdoors or proverbial dark alley. If you take your weapon out at night, a tactical light is a must-have.
It is extremely important to have the light attached to your weapon before you need it (“hang on a moment . . .”) and practice firing your weapon with the light attached or held in the proper position (as you would for a shotgun). The weight and position of the light will affect the feel of the gun and, thus, your aim.
Although some people prefer to hold the light and gun together, I’m a big fan of flashlight mounts. Why add another level of complexity to a complex situation? Of course, holstering a handgun with a flashlight attached for concealed carry could be problematic. Perhaps you should have two guns . . .
If your gun doesn’t already accommodate a light, there are hundreds of modifying kits available for thousands of weapons. Do not cheap-out; you may need to employ with your local gunsmith. A tactical light should be chosen for ease of use, dependability and comfort. Oh right, what is a “tactical” flashlight?
Most flashlights you buy at the supermarket, convenience store, or big box retailer are, well, cheap. That may make your wallet breathe a sigh of relief, but a light that falls apart or doesn’t work when you need it the most is hardly a bargain.
A tactical light is, by comparison, dependable. It will be waterproof down to at least 30 feet, constructed from a machined chunk of aluminum, and designed so that it will work, no matter what the conditions, whenever you need it. They use lithium batteries and feature either Xenon, high-intensity bulbs, or LEDs that put out 80 lumens or better. (If you’re not into physics, lets just say that, even in broad daylight, an 80-lumen light will hurt your eyes.)
Tacticals are small enough for pocket or purse. Several models available have what’s called a “crenelated bezel”: a fancy term for the cowling surrounding the lens, designed with scalloped cut-outs. This turns a simply flashlight into a tactical weapon, perfect for breaking automobile glass or opening a fair-sized can ‘o whoop-ass on somebody acting aggressively in your general direction.
Because light can be so disorienting, many tactical lights include a “strobe mode.” Security experts have found that a flashing light disorients attackers in a way that make it impossible for them to tell if you’re moving towards or away from them. Even without a strobe mode, many lights have switches that allow you to manually flash the light which will accomplish the same thing (but not with the sense of James Bond-esque élan that you get with a tactical strobe light).
And it ain’t just shootin’ neither. Ever wonder how you’d survive if awakened in an unfamiliar hotel room with an urgent need to find your way out? With a tactical flashlight at hand, you’ve automatically improved your chances of survival exponentially.
Expect to pay at least $40 for a decent, “entry-level” light, devoid of all the bells and whistles. Around $100 or more will get you the all-metal models that feature crenelated bezels. Add another $40 or so to get LED bulbs and strobe functionality.
I’ve reached the point where I won’t leave home without my tactical light. In fact, when I’m out and about, regardless of if I’m carrying, I invariably keep my tactical light and tactical knife on my person. Of the two, I use the light a lot more. After carrying a tactical light for a while, I’ve also discovered that it cements my status among casual observers as an Über-geek . . . right up until the time they need it. After that, they start asking where they can get one, too.
Will a flashlight save your life in a gunfight? Not necessarily, but then again, having one around can help, especially if you’re fighting in a low-light or no-light situation. Think of it as an essential accessory to the toolkit you have on hand for emergency defense situations. Keep it handy, and that light you see at the end of the tunnel may be the one that turns you from potential victim into a survivor.