A Weapon-Mounted Light on Your Everyday Carry Gun? Read This First

by Tommy Grant

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Among the many internet gun debates that tend to clog up cyberspace is whether or not weapon-mounted lights should be on carry pistols. Discussions of weapon lights often devolve into a debate of weapon lights versus handheld lights.

That doesn’t make sense to me. The addition of a weapon-mounted light (WML) doesn’t require the user to discard his or her handheld or tactical flashlight. It’s not an either/or situation if you’re doing it right.

Weapon-mounted lights are a supplement to, not a replacement of a flashlight. With the number of models of WMLs offered by makers like Crimson Trace, SureFire and Streamlight and quality holsters on the market today, it’s not that difficult to find the proper equipment that allows you to effectively deal with a little added bulk.

In fact, bulk and weight are the most common downsides to carrying a WML. However, there are many detractors out there who feel that adding a WML to a carry pistol means the user will suddenly start pointing a firearm at every noise they hear. Again, adding a WML to a pistol doesn’t require the carrier to discard their stand-alone flashlight.

Rule #2 Still Stands

One argument that’s frequently heard against a handgun light is that whatever is illuminated by a the light is also being covered by the muzzle. This point is dependent on the assumption that the user will be using his or her pistol light in place of a flashlight when it isn’t appropriate to do so.

Hopefully, it’s obvious that firearms safety rule #2 always applies. Still, the reason we carry any sort of white light at all is to gather information we don’t have, like who’s a threat and who isn’t. There is a lot of real estate between where a firearm is needed and where it’s entirely inappropriate. There’s a technique which is likely to be appropriate in these situations.

Also, the “spill” of a WML’s beam can be used to illuminate an area while keeping the firearm in a low ready position. That’s not perfect for every occasion, but I’ve found it very viable during force-on-force training in low light conditions.

Other Potential Problems

Another concern about weapon lights is that the activation switch can be close to the trigger. A number of unintentional discharges have been indirectly attributed to WMLs. Folks who use their trigger finger to activate the light and haven’t properly trained are the most common perpetrators here.

It’s not a good idea to assign a single digit two very different jobs without rigorous training. I know — or know of — several high-level tactical-type guys who activate the WML on the draw stroke with their trigger finger. They do it extremely well and they do it safely. Doing so allows them to operate strong-hand only if necessary.

Still, I recommend that most folks use the offside thumb to activate the ambidextrous switch on a WML unless they’re willing to put in some serious training time.     

Stoppages

Weapon lights or almost any accessory can cause functioning problems with pistols, whether it’s in everyday carry, home defense, or duty use. As always, test your pistol thoroughly with your chosen pistol light, carry an extra magazine and defensive ammunition prior to trusting the combination in the field.

Most quality pistol manufacturers have addressed this concern very well and it’s not nearly as much an issue these days. But you really don’t want to find out you have a problem when you need your handgun most.

Two Hands are Better Than One

The most common attribute of the rail-mounted (GLOCK or Picatinny) light is that the pistol light allows for a normal two-handed hold. Who isn’t faster and more accurate with both hands on their pistol? Opening a door or pulling back a curtain with both hands chock full of emergency equipment is nearly impossible.

As an experiment, try to open a door with a flashlight in one hand and an unloaded pistol in the other, then quickly assume your firing position with the hand-held light.

Whichever your choice of technique, it will likely be slower and more awkward than simply re-acquiring a two-handed grip. No disrespect intended to those well-researched techniques, but basic physiology gives the nod to the weapon-mounted light in this regard. There’s a reason that rail-mount lights are all but mandatory law enforcement equipment these days.

The bottom line is this: If you want to add a weapon-mounted tactical light to your carry pistol, do it. Just know that it will require some additional thought, practice and financial investment. The opinions of chairborne rangers are irrelevant. What’s relevant is proper preparation.

Choose your WML and holster carefully. Some combine either a red laser or green laser, which may work well for you depending on your intended use. Then be sure to take the time to test your chosen pistol and light combination honestly, train thoughtfully, and carry with confidence.

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