Working with Tactical Lights

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

Watch any cop show regularly and you’ve bound to see them using tactical lights on their pistols sometime. Many of today’s semi-automatics come with a rail under the barrel, making it easy to attach a tactical light to them. But even if you’re using an older design, without a rail, it’s still possible to use a handheld tactical light in your support hand and gain the benefit of that lighting. The question is… should you?

Granted, there are situations where a tactical light could come in handy, especially when trying to clear a building in the dark. But even so, there are dangers in using that light. While it might show you where the bad guys are, it will show them where you are; and it will do that at a much longer distance.

Anyone who has ever used a flashlight outdoors, searching for something, should recognize this. You can see someone’s flashlight from a long ways away; at least a few hundred meters for a tactical light. But that same light might only make things clear enough to distinguish for 50 feet or less. A focused beam might work a little farther; but even that is limited.

On the other hand, any light really stands out in the dark. How far away can you see the porch light on a house? That’s not even as bright as most tactical lights, yet you can often pick them out from a mile away, especially out in the country on a dark night.

That makes it sound like it’s not a good idea to use tactical lights, because of the danger of showing yourself and attracting the shots of the bad guys. But then, what are you supposed to do?

Proper Tactical Light Usage

The key to using a tactical light, without making yourself a target, is to use it intermittently. Never just keep it on and search with it. Rather, turn it on for just a second, so that your eyes can take a snapshot of what’s ahead of you, then turn it off, allowing your mind to process what you just saw.

The other part of this is to move to the side, as soon as you turn it off. That way, even if someone did see the light and decides to take a snap shot at it, you won’t be in the same spot. So their shot should miss you.

This same technique can be used with both gun-mounted and handheld lights, assuming that the light has a momentary switch and that the switch for the gun-mounted light is where one of your fingers can actuate it, without having to change your grip. Most of the ones that mount under the pistol’s barrel allow for this, but be sure to check the one you buy, before making your purchase.

A gun mounted light is easier to use than a handheld tactical light, because you can keep both hands on the gun, using your normal grip and stance. If you are using a handheld tactical light, you will only have one hand on the gun, so you won’t be as steady as normal, affecting your shooting accuracy. Even if you are using the hand with the light as a rest for your other hand, it still won’t be as stable as your normal grip.

Going a Step Further

While tactical lights can be useful, they really don’t help you with aiming your pistol, unless you hold the light on, making yourself a highly visible target. Something else is needed for aiming, making it possible to see your sights in low light situations. That something is sights which are made for shooting in low light.

There are two basic types of pistol sights designed for low light situations; fiber optic and tritium. Fiber optic sights have colored plastic fibers which collect available light and reflect it down to the ends, making the ends of the fiber look like a bright colored dot. This is an improvement over the idea of painting white dots on the front and rear sights, to make them more visible.

Tritium sights improve on this, by providing their own light source. Tritium is a radioactive gas, with a 12 year half-life. It has been used in the making of watch faces that can be seen at night for most of a century. Encapsulated in small glass capsules that replace the three spots on the front and rear sights, they literally allow you to see your sights in total darkness.

Of course, you don’t want to shoot at a target that you can’t see. But once you’ve positively identified the target, using a gun with fiber optic or tritium sights allows you to engage that target, without using your tactical light. That’s much safer for you and much more deadly for them. So, you might want to consider modifying your pistol a bit; changing out the sights and mounting a tactical light. That way, you’ll be ready should anything happen at night. Seems to go right along with keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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