Most modern handguns have an accessory rail and many companies offer high-output lights that can be attached to these rails. Some even have an integrated laser. Others, such as the Crimson Trace Light Guard, don’t even need a rail; they can be attached to the trigger guard. Most are moderately easy to activate while maintaining a normal two-hand grip. Having the light attached directly to your handgun frees up your support hand to open doors, conduct reloads, call 911 or pick your nose. So, a weapon light is a good idea. Right?
The down side to a weapon-mounted light is the exact same thing that makes it an asset: It’s mounted to your handgun. This makes finding a holster that will work with your handgun more complicated, and if a weapon-mounted light is all you have, it makes it impossible to search the darkness without pointing your gun at everything you look at. What should you point a gun at? Only the things you intend to shoot!
Why are weapon-mounted lights so popular, and why do gunwriters make such a big deal about them? For starters, they’re cool … and cool stuff always gets attention. If men could figure out a way to attach their big-screen TV to their handgun or if ladies could attach complementing jewelry or high heels, that would be cool, too. Obviously, both are a stupid idea, but you get the point.
Here’s the thing: A weapon-mounted light can be a very, very valuable tool for dealing with a potentially lethal confrontation—as long as you use it sensibly. Just like the Glock pistol, laser sights and smart phones, weapon-mounted lights are not the end-all be-all of personal protection with a handgun. They’re nothing more than another tool that can, in certain circumstances, be very beneficial to helping you solve a problem.
If you weren’t smart enough to keep a flashlight with your handgun and have no other option, you can search with the weapon-mounted light reasonably well if it has a wide, flood-like beam. Just keep the weapon orientated towards the ground out as far in front of you as reasonably safe, and look with the edge of the beam. Is it an ideal approach? Nope. But it’s better than stumbling around in the dark waiting to come face to face with Dracula.
From a practical standpoint, a weapon-mounted light might be best on a carry gun. In a self-defense shooting there can be little time to react or attempt to deescalate the situation. You might need to draw and shoot—right now! With a weapon-mounted light in a situation like that, you’ll instantly know you’re faced with a threat. The weapon-mounted light will help you see it better while you’re shooting at it. The down side, of course, is that a weapon-mounted light adds bulk and weight to a tool you selected due to its lack of bulk and weight.
The bottom line is that a weapon-mounted light is for threat verification and illumination. It’s not intended as a searching tool, except in the most desperate of circumstances. You don’t want to accidently point your weapon mounted-light—which is attached to your loaded pistol—at your inebriated teenager while he’s trying to slip into the house after a wild night on the town.
Gunfighter Logic Rule No. 8: Be justified, don’t be stupid. Think!
(Editor’s note: The above is a condensed excerpt from Richard Mann’s new book, Handgun Training for Personal Protection, which is available at Amazon.com in paperback and for the Kindle.)