A Different Look At The Tactical Flashlight, by D. Hacker

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There are many aspects of survival and many different scenarios you may need to survive. It does little good having three years of food saved up, if you don’t survive a gun battle during the first week of TEOTWAWKI. With this article, I hope to give you an additional skill you may use to help you survive one type of survival situation. This is a situation where you have to use a handgun to defend yourself in a no light or low light environment.

Before we get too involved here, let’s review the four important firearm safety rules:

  1. All guns are always loaded. (Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.)
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that “this” particular gun is unloaded, see Rule #1.)
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target (…and you are ready to shoot! This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.)
  4. Identify your target and what is behind it. (Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.)

With those in mind, think of which rules could easily be violated when using a flashlight (or by not using a flashlight) with your handgun.

It is important to become proficient using a flashlight with your handgun. Target identification is one of the most important aspects of self-defense with a firearm. You don’t want to accidentally shoot your own child, thinking that it was a burglar. (Yes, it has happened.)

Also, you don’t want to point your firearm at anything you are not willing to shoot, such as your child. This is a great reason to have a flashlight that is NOT mounted on your handgun.

For at least 15 years, I’ve been using and teaching an unusual technique for using a flashlight with a handgun. It’s different from any I’ve been taught, and I’ve never seen it taught by anyone else. I thought it was about time I write an article about this method, so that those who choose to can put this technique in their tactical toolbox.

I’m sure there are many who will wonder why change at all. After all, most of the older techniques have been around for a long time, and many have been used with successful outcomes in actual firefights. My answer is, “Don’t change if you don’t want to.”

While pursuing to be a better fighter, man has constantly strived to develop skills that increase his chances of winning. Most hand-to-hand street fighting used to consist of just boxing techniques. Now, kicking and grappling are also commonplace. Handgun combatants of old would use a one-handed, shoot-from-the-hip style, where nowadays most use a two-handed Weaver or Isosceles stance. New techniques are evaluated by individuals. They adopt them, or they continue using another technique of their choice. Some techniques just work better for some people and/or situations.

I started using my flashlight technique because it filled a need. To me, all the other techniques seemed to have some problems, problems that seemed greater than those created with my technique. (After all, there are good and bad points to almost all techniques.) I will compare my technique to others and let you decide.

We all know about firearm mounted flashlights– light that is actually attached to the firearm. Most of us know about the FBI flashlight technique– the flashlight hand is extended high and out to the side. Some people know about the Neck Index technique– the flashlight is held along the jaw-line. Of course, there are also several variations of techniques where the flashlight is held near the grip of the pistol, such as the Rogers, Ayoob, Harries, and Chapman techniques.

The first problem I have with most flashlight techniques is that the flashlights don’t properly light up the sights of a pistol. The one that comes closest to properly lighting the sights is the FBI technique. In ALL of the others, the flashlight is held below your eye-level, and therefore the light is BELOW the sights. The FBI technique does light up the sights, but the light comes from an oblique angle, putting slightly odd lighting and shadows on your sights. Depending on the distance of your target and how far out you’re holding the flashlight, your rear sight may not even be lit up.

With all the techniques where your flashlight and pistol hand are touching, you don’t properly light your sights and, you run the very high risk of violating firearms safety rule #2– Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. This is also true when the flashlight is mounted to the pistol and is clearly not the best flashlight position for safety or accuracy.

Another issue is using a flashlight technique while utilizing cover. We all know that we should use cover when possible. When using a flashlight with cover, you run the risk of somewhat blinding yourself by the reflection of your light against your cover, having your target in a shadow or placing yourself farther outside of cover than you normally would. This is, of course, dependant on which flashlight technique you chose, which side of cover you are on, and how close you are to that cover in your particular scenario.

With my technique, the shooter holds the flashlight directly on top of their head, effectively turning the flashlight into a hand-held headlamp. Yep, it does look goofy, but by doing this, the sights will always be properly lit up. Also, when using this technique, the lighting appears more natural. We are accustomed to light coming from above– the sun and room lights, so the shadows created with this technique will be more natural looking. The problems with shadows or reflections from your cover are minimized. The other advantage is that you can easily have the flashlight in position and on target while keeping the pistol in a SUL or Low-Ready position. This can prevent you from violating safety rule #2, and yet it’s still easy to quickly get your handgun up and on target using a one handed grip. The sights will be properly lit, automatically, while the flashlight is already aligned toward the threat. Plus, if you are up on target and you suddenly decide to go to a muzzle depressed position, you can do so easily without moving the aim of the flashlight. Thinking about and manipulating the flashlight is minimized, while speed, accuracy, and safety are increased.

By keeping your flashlight hand on the top of your head, you have no chance that the muzzle of the handgun will accidentally aim at your flashlight hand. People momentarily pointing their handgun at their hand, which is holding the flashlight, is something I often see students do with other flashlight techniques.

Some question whether having your flashlight in line with your body will attract bullets there. This may be true, and in that case the only technique that may help prevent that is the FBI technique. However, it is also true that many shots, especially those by untrained criminals, miss their mark. It may be that the safest place to be is right in line with your light. It’s often just a matter of luck where the bad guys bullets end up. When you have to send rounds toward a deadly threat, you want to add as much skill as you can to your own luck.

It is generally a good habit to hold your handgun with two hands when firing it, but when you’ve got a flashlight in one hand it’s a different story. With the vast majority of flashlight techniques, what’s really taking place is that you’re holding a flashlight in one hand and a pistol in the other, and your two hands are just touching. The handgun is really being held with only one hand. The benefit of having two hands “near” the grip of the handgun is not nearly as great as having two hands “around” the grip of the handgun.

The distances I expect to engage in a gunfight in the dark are less than the distances I would in daylight. At those reduced distances, I expect to be able to hit my target while holding the pistol with just one hand, especially if I can obtain a proper sight picture. Also, as you know, having a good sight picture is even more important the farther your target is from you.

So give it a try, but don’t cheat yourself. Test it in worst case conditions. Make sure it’s really dark. Do it at night, outside, where the only light available is the flashlight you’re holding. Doing it on an indoor range, where light reflects off the walls, is cheating yourself. Shooting the same time as other shooters, whose lights can aid you, is also cheating yourself. Try several methods and test the amount of time to get shots off and how accurate those shots are.

It is also important to do “dry fire” practice with the flashlight too. Try all the techniques, including this one, to see how they work as you are searching through your dark house or property. See how the technique works as you slowly look around the cover you are using. Have someone act as a “bad guy” (or a “good guy” being mistaken for a bad guy), so they can give you feedback from the other view. Be super safe! Use a plastic training pistol or a water pistol to do this practice.

You may decide that this technique is the best for you, or you may like one of the older techniques. Either way, make sure you practice with your handgun in low or no light situations.

Be safe.

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