Dealing with Low Light Situations

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

We don’t get to choose when we have to defend ourselves; the bad guys do that. They pick a time to attack that works for them, leaving us to deal with it the best we can. For quite some time, that’s largely meant attacking at twilight or during the night, when people can’t see them as well.

Have you ever tried shooting at night? The stock sights on most guns are basically worthless at night. Black sights, when it’s basically black outside, just don’t show up. Painting white spots on those black sights really doesn’t help a lot either. it’s better than just the black sights; but not really good enough.

The basic solution is to replace the sights on the gun with something that can be seen at night. Not all guns allow this, as some smaller or low-cost pistols have the sights machined right into the slide, like revolvers do. But there are plenty of semi-automatic carry pistols which do have the sights mounted in such a way as to make them replaceable.

There are two basic types of low-level sights for pistols: fiber-optic and tritium. Fiber-optic sights have small pieces of colored plastic rod (usually red or green) mounted into a metal housing. They collect light from all sides, reflecting it against the inside surface of the rod, which makes the ends appear to be lit up. As long as there is some light in the area, they are fairly effective; but there is a threshold under which they really don’t work.

Tritium sights, on the other hand, have glass vials, filled with tritium gas, a radioactive gas that glows in the dak. Tritium has been used for watch faces in the mid-1960s, replacing radium, which really wasn’t safe. While tritium is radioactive, it only emits beta particles, which are not dangerous. But the big advantage of tritium sights, is that the tritium glows in the dark, so there is no need for light to power them. A typical set of tritium sights is right around $100, so it’s not that expensive an upgrade. Just make sure to get the right sights to fit the pistol you want to put them on.

I personally have tritium sighs mounted on all of my possible carry guns, ensuring that I will always have the ability to see my gunsights, regardless of the lighting. But that alone isn’t enough; sometimes you can’t see the target well enough to identify it.

You never want to shoot at a target that you haven’t identified visually as a hostile. It’s not even enough to assume that if they took a shot at you, you can shoot back. If it’s dark, you probably won’t be able to tell if the hostile has someone in front of them, that they’re using as a human shield. If the perpetrator is a man and they’re using a woman as a shield, the outline of the woman’s body will be hidden within the outline of their own.

That’s where a tactical light comes in. Forget everything you’ve seen on television about how the TV cops use a tactical light; that will get you killed. The bad guys can see your light from a lot further away than it will identify them for you. Seeing it, they can use it as an aiming point, taking you out.

The trick to using a tactical light is making use of the switch button on the back end of it, to flash the light momentarily. That will allow you to get a visual “snapshot” of what’s in front of you. Your brain can then take the next couple of seconds to search that snapshot, looking for adversaries or anything that looks out of order.

There is a problem though. As I just mentioned, that light becomes an aiming point for the bad guys. So, what you want to do is to flash the light, then sidestep, taking one large step to either side. That way, if they do shoot back at the light, you hopefully won’t be there.

It may be necessary to use the light several times, narrowing down your search area or following the bad guy as he moves. Take extreme care doing that though, as you could easily create a trail that they can follow, anticipating where you’re going to be next. Don’t take all your sidesteps the same way or the same distance, use a random zig-zag pattern to avoid being predictable.

Don’t shoot until you can clearly identify the assailant and you have them where there is sufficient light that you can be sure you’re going to hit what you want to. That sufficient light may be nothing more than them sky-lining themselves; but if you’ve already identified them and are sure that the person who is against the skyline is the person that you identified, then you’ve got them.

Always use extreme caution in these situations. Just because you’ve identified them as a shooter or as someone who tried to commit a crime against you, doesn’t mean that you have a right to shoot them. It’s not self-defense to shoot a criminal who has already fled the scene. If you scare them off, that’s really just as good as a kill… and a whole lot less costly, legal wise.

If you can, find yourself someplace you can do some low-light practice. That way, you’ll be ready to work in that environment, when and if you need to. Practice, just like keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand, is essential for survival.

Dr. Rich

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