No matter how cool, wicked or expensive your defensive handgun is, it’s worthless if you can’t see what you need to shoot at. Thus lies the importance of a quality gun light or flashlight.
It’s after sunset, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are parked around the corner of the liquor store, smoking a joint and listening to Pearl Jam on the radio. Their piece-of-junk Ford Probe is idling because they’re afraid that if they turn it off, it will not start again. Tweedle Dum has a bottle of Mad Dog wine between his legs and a ring in his nose. Tweedle Dee is rolling another joint and complaining about forgetting to pick up his food stamps.
These fine, upstanding citizens (actually, Tweedle Dum is an illegal alien), are looking for an easy score: a victim. A new Chevy Malibu pulls up next to a streetlight that isn’t working. Between a slug on the bottle of Mad Dog and a drag on the joint, Tweedle Dum notices a woman getting out of the car. He pokes his partner in the ribs and says, “Let’s go.” They both step out of the car.
The woman looks across the parking lot and notices the beat-up Probe with its engine running. She goes condition orange, reaches into her purse and pulls out a compact flashlight. Taking a step back, putting the car between her and the potential threat, she clicks the button and sweeps the parking lot with the beam, stopping the light on the crappy car with the two goobers stumbling out of it.
Tweedle Dee shields his eyes from the 200 lumens of light and blurts, “Damn witch!” as the woman’s other hand slips inside the side pouch of her handbag and her fingers wrap around the grip of her Sig Sauer P365.
“What the hell!” exclaims Tweedle Dum as he tosses the empty bottle of Mad Dog out onto the parking lot and kicks the near-flat tire on his ghetto wagon. He pulls up his pants (because they were about to fall off) and then slides his worthless ass back into the car, which Tweedle Dee already has in reverse. They back away into the darkness and then wheel out onto the street.
The woman gets back into her car, locks the doors and gets on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, describing the two dirtbags and explaining that their car has a cracked rear glass and a taillight out. Cops like clues like that.
Your First Line of Defense
Some people are afraid of the dark, and frankly, their fears are justified—not because of vampires, but because that’s where real-life villains thrive.
I worked the night shift for 13 years. That was long enough to realize why the privilege of working dayshift came with seniority. Darkness gives the advantage to the predator, not the prey. Nature’s most effective predators are creatures of the night. Humans are, indeed, sophisticated predators, and even the dumbest human scoundrel knows his chances for success are substantially increased in the absence of light.
Why is light so important? Light is power. Light signifies authority, and it facilitates control. Imagine any disaster scene in the dark—a car wreck, a fire or just a collection of police cars. If you want to know what’s going on, go to the guy with the flashlight.
Bad guys like the anonymity that darkness provides and the element of surprise it allows. Regardless of how young or gun-savvy you and your family members are, if they can walk and talk, they can manipulate a flashlight. When bad guys are looking for a score, they look for the easy one—the most opportunity with the least risk. They’ll lurk in the darkness of the shadows, waiting. They don’t want to be in the spotlight or draw attention.
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Light should be your first line of defense. Stay in the light, and shine light on anything you cannot see clearly. Light can even be a stunning device: Even brief exposure to 100-plus lumens of light at a close distance destroys vision momentarily. Control the light, and you can better control any situation. Excitement in the dark leads to chaos, and shooting in darkness leads to misses. If you’re serious about protecting yourself with a handgun, you should also be serious about flashlights.
The two things you must do are identify the threat and see your sights. This requires light, either ambient or manmade. Night sights and lasers will help you see your sights on target, but they do nothing to help you see or verify the threat. Most consider about 60 lumens of light the minimum for a tactical light. I prefer 100 lumens; it gives more reach and has a more-stunning effect.
A dual-output light that has low and high illumination settings—one that can provide a bright beam for target identification, disorientation and shooting and a low-output beam for navigation—might be the best option. But lumens are just part of the “three-L flashlight triad.” A self-defense light should also have lithium batteries, because they have such staying power, and LED bulbs, because they are much more shock resistant than incandescent bulbs.
A survival/fighting light should also have the activation switch located on the tailpiece. This provides more positive activation under stress and works well with all popular flashlight shooting techniques. It also allows you to hold the flashlight so that you can strike with the bezel end if it comes to hand-to-hand combat.
Light is on the side of the good guys; don’t leave home without it. No matter how cool, wicked or expensive your defensive handgun is, it’s worthless if you can’t see what you need to shoot at.
The article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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