Tactical Flashlights and Self-Defense

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I’m a bit of a flashlight nut, almost to the point of collecting them. I don’t have a display case, where I show off my flashlight collection, but I struggle to not buy a new light when I see it. I have flashlights everywhere I might need them, on top of the one I carry in my pocket (along with my spare magazines) and the tactical light mounted to my carry gun.

I was glad when the bright LEDs came out and they were able to start making bright flashlights that didn’t use an incandescent bulb. I still remember the days when a 5-cell MagLight was pretty much the brightest thing you could buy. I carried one of those in my car for years and used it plenty. But now, we get more illumination out of a LED tactical light that can fit in your pocket, and we don’t need to worry about the bulb breaking, if it gets dropped.

Unfortunately, marketing companies have gotten hold of this market segment, selling cheap Chinese flashlights as the “best and brightest; able to stop an attacker in their steps.” But is that true? Can a tactical light really work to stop an attacker and are they truly useful in the dark, like cop shows are always demonstrating?

Tactical Lights as a Weapon

First, let’s talk about the tactical light as a weapon, in and of itself. You’ve probably seen an advertising video sometime, where they were pretending to stop a criminal by shining a flashing tactical light at them. Does that work? I’ll give that a qualified yes. There are a lot of variables that come into play, such as how bright the ambient light is, how directly the light from the flashlight hits their eyes, and how bright that flashlight is.

The first flashlight that I owned, which could actually do this, was a 600-lumen Streamlight. In my personal, informal testing, it would stop pretty much anyone, dead in their tracks, in normal office lighting. But then, those people weren’t attacking me.

How can a flashing light stop someone? The idea is to stun them by temporarily blinding them. If the light is bright enough, it will do that. But watch out for advertising, as many of those marketing companies are less than honest, claiming lights that are 1,000 or 2,000 lumens, when they’re really more like 100 to 200. That’s not bright enough to do anything.

One important factor to keep in mind here, is that the effect created by the light, no matter how bright it is, is only temporary. Once their eyes adjust, they’ll be angry, on top of whatever else they were thinking before you flashed them with your light. As such, the only way to use a tactical light as a weapon, as with any other means of stunning an attacker to stop them (tasers, pepper spray) is to stun them with the light and then run. Used that way, it can be effective.

Before trying to use a tactical light in this regard, I’d like to suggest that you have someone try your light out on you, so you have a good idea of just how effective it is and how long the effect lasts.

One other way that a flashing light can be used in a self-defense situation is as a distraction. I don’t know if they’re still making them, but there was a company that was selling flashing ball lights for use as a replacement for flash-bang grenades. They weren’t effective, as they were only 100-lumens; but they were effective as a distraction in a darkened room.

Using a Tactical Light with a Gun

I mentioned that I have a tactical light attached to my carry gun. This conjures up the same image we see in cop shows all the time, with a short, round tactical light slung under the gun barrel, on the rail. Mine is more streamlined than that and has a button that allows me to actuate it with my shooting hand, when I grip the gun.

The big problem with using a flashlight to find the bad guys is that it tells the bad guys where you are, long before it exposes them to you. As it does that, it provides an excellent aiming point for them to use, to take you out, long before you know where they are, assuming they’re a decent shot. What the do in those cop shows, where they’re searchlighting with a tactical light mounted to their pistol or held in their hand is a great way to earn a free trip to the morgue.

If you’re going to use a tactical light to help find the bad guys, and there are times when that might be necessary, then you want to be very careful of how you use it, using it as little as possible. The idea is to flash the light, allowing your mind to create a “snapshot” of what’s before you. You can then take a moment to process that information, before acting on it; either moving forward or taking a shot.

So, how do you do that, without getting shot yourself? Any time you use a tactical light in that manner, seeking out a potentially armed adversary, immediately take one large step to the side, after making one flash of the light. That means using a medium-indent pressure, rather than clicking the light on. Don’t put it in flashing mode, just push the button down far enough to get that one flash; then step to the side. That won’t stop them from shooting back, but if they shoot at where the light was, you’ll hopefully be out of the way and the bullet will just whiz by.

This takes some practice, so I’d recommend doing so. You won’t be able to practice this at the range, because of danger to other shooters. But you can practice like this at home, after checking twice to make sure that your pistol is unloaded.

One more trick to put in your bag, like keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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