Weapon Mounted Flashlights; A Quick Guide

 

Originally I was going to make this post derailing the myths about pistol mounted flashlights, but decided while doing that I would put together a small guide for those interesting in buying one!

With weapon lights you more of less get what you’re paying for. The cheap $20 lights can short out between shots, the controls are terrible, and they’re prone to busting under recoil. Sure, some people have good luck with them, but when it comes to defending yourself you shouldn’t cheap out.


Is a weapon light for you?

A lot of people see weapon lights as being unnecessary for their carry handgun; which for some it is. If you’re rarely after dark then a WML on your pistol and a holster to accommodate it might not be a necessity for you.

That said, if you ever go out for a night on the town, a dedicated holster for a pistol with a weapon light attached would probably be a good idea to maintain in your drawer of holsters. It would also be beneficial to take a low light defensive course to learn proper manipulations.

For me, I tend to follow the “better to have and not need than to need and not have” logic. Even if I’m rarely out after dark, I still like to maintain at least one holster set-up for a gun that has a weapon light on it.

As far as home defense goes, whatever your primary means of defense is should have a weapon mounted light on it, and you should know how to operate it. We don’t get to decide when someone breaks into our homes. The power could be out, they could try to cut the power, or the light-bulbs you rely on to stay on all night could have died.

To summarize, yes. Regardless of your habits or location, a weapon light is something that should be maintained in your inventory, and at the very least mounted on your home defense weapon.


How bright of a weapon light do I need?

There are a lot who recommend the brightest light on the market to everyone they come into contact with, reality is it’s person dependent, but not “It works for me.” Every person’s eyes react differently to reflected light and direct light. Eyes are especially affected by light when coming out of a deep slumber.

For me, I’ve found that for indoor use that a light rated above 23,000 candela is too intense for me. When I wake-up in a pitch black room a light of that intensity causes blindness for longer than I’m comfortable with. Find the brightest light that your eyes can function well with and run with it.

A good starting point to gauge your photosensitivy would be the Streamlight TLR-1 standard model. The standard model has a rating of 12,000 candela and 300 lumens. It’s enough to cause discomfort to most on the receiving end in the dark, but not enough to blind you as the user.


Ergonomics

The way of the weapon light is something that gets misrepresented by a lot of people. Rule number uno: One handed manipulation. If you cannot manipulate the weapon mounted light one handed it needs to immediately be replaced.

“I’ll just use my support hand to activate it.”
If you’re training properly, you’re training one handed weapon manipulations in case one hand is disabled. Weapon light use isn’t any different; if you can’t manipulate it one handed, how will you use it if one hand is disabled?

When you’re checking out weapon lights, make sure to check the controls out on the weapon you’re intending to use it on. To the left you’ll see a comparison of a Streamlight TLR-7 on a CZ SP-01 Tactical and an Olight PL-Mini Valkyrie on a Glock 19x. On the left are my hands which are L-XL, on the right are my girlfriend’s that are S.

Even with the Streamlight TLR-7 being as close to the trigger guard as it is, I can still have difficulties activating it one handed reliably. The Olight PL-Mini Valkyrie can be difficult for my girlfriend to activate reliably one handed even though her finger can reach the controls.

 


Fitment

When you’re looking at a weapon light, making sure it fits your particular gun is important, especially without modifications to the light. There are a lot of “It should fit”s out there that don’t actually fit.

For example: FNS-9c w/Olight PL-Mini. There’s a review on Amazon with this exact light on this exact gun; it doesn’t actually fit.The Heckler & Koch HK45c should be able to accommodate a TLR-1 without issue due to it’s size… it doesn’t.

I have a small list going right now though for weapon light comparability though that you can find here. If you know of a combination that doesn’t work, please send me a message with a picture (for verification) so I can get it added to the list.

 


The Myths

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding having a weapon mounted light, be it on a pistol, or on a rifle. Let’s go ahead and knock those out real fast.

1. “The bad guy will shoot at the light!”

There isn’t a recorded instance of this happening with handguns in self-defense situations be it with police, or civilians in recent history. This myth does have some roots that are true though. The myth stems from the days of low-output incandescent lightbulbs. The bulbs were so dim that yes, an attacker could pinpoint their target by the light.

Today, lights are so darn bright that they aren’t going to be able to do that… if they are, you’re using your WML incorrectly. For navigation purposes and quick room sweeps, temporary on should only be used. Constant on should only be activated when you have identified your target. (There are different paths of thought on how a WML should be used, do your research, take a course or two, and form an opinion from there.)

With the people who like to spread this myth against weapon mounted lights, ask them if they have one on their AR-15; chances are they’ll say there’s no need to own one (an AR-15).

2. “I don’t need a 1,000 lumen light, I don’t want to blind myself!”

To combat this one, reread what I wrote about required brightness. That said, intensity and output are two different things. You can have a 1,000 lumen output light that’s dim because it lacks intensity (candela). You can also have a 600 lumen output light that will seer your retinas because it has a high candela rating. (Example: Streamlight TLR-1HL has 800 lumens/15,000 candela. Streamlight Pro-Tac Railmount 2 has 625 lumens/ 22,000 candela)

Note: As the user, the light that your eyes pick-up on will be significantly dimmer than the person/thing on the receiving end.

3. “I don’t want to point my gun at my family to identify them!/I don’t want to pull my gun out to use my light!”

Every time I see these ones being used I have to gently bring my hand up…and smash my face in it. With how stupid this claim is, I’m going to be a bit of a smart-ass. There’s this thing…called floorboard lighting… where you shine the light on the ground…it reflects…and illuminates the area around you. Yes, that’s a thing.

There’s also this phrase that goes… use the right tool for the job. You carry a pocket light for utilitarian uses. You use a WML so you can maintain both hands on the firearm while using a light. You also use the WML so you don’t have to either holster the gun or put the light down to open a door.

Yes, weapons manipulation with a pocket-light in your off-hand is still important to practice. Why? You practice for the worst possible outcome. Let’s say you draw and the lights dead for whatever reason, what then?

Contrary to popular belief, just because you shut your light off doesn’t mean it’s “off”. Some of these lights require the emitter to be unscrewed slightly to kill the connection with the battery so it isn’t draining it.


You have “GunFu” and when you add a weapon light to your firearm you add in “LightFu”. When you’re looking at a WML you have to take several things into consideration. How are the controls? What features does it have? Can certain features be activate accidentally? Is the light too bright? Is it too dim?

There’s a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about weapon lights that get mostly spread by one of two people: 1. Retired cops from the days of incandescent bulbs or 2. People who have never owned a WML/taken a low-light defensive course.

If you haven’t picked-up a weapon light, I recommend that you do. Even if it never makes it onto a carry gun, it’ll definitely find a use on a home defense weapon.

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