You may believe you are quite proficient at aiming and shooting, but many gun owners neglect training in the dark, or in low level lighting. This leaves you at a disadvantage, as many self-defence situations, such as robberies, assaults etc take place in the cover of darkness or dimly lit environments. Here are some of the aspects you should consider to ensure you are prepared for every eventuality if you ever need to use your gun in the dark.
Get a flashlight
Buy a good flashlight. Attackers use darkness as their ally, and by taking away that advantage, you bring yourself onto an even footing. Nearly all flashlights today are very small, very tough, and very lightweight. They will also tend to have LED’s instead of incandescent bulbs, which are brighter, battery efficient and shock proof.
Regular vs Tactical
You need to choose between a standard flashlight and a tactical flashlight. A tactical flashlight will fit or clamp onto your weapon, so there are no issues with hunting around for your flashlight in the dark. The downslide is that having a tactical flashlight will increase the size and weight of your weapon considerably, and you may need a bigger holster to fit your gun. Naturally, if you opt for a standard flashlight instead of a tactical one, we recommend you keep it with your gun – the last thing you want is a misplaced flashlight when you need it most.
An aspect you should consider when choosing a flashlight is the light output. Select a flashlight with a high intensity LED that can produce an intense light. This is so you can temporaily disorientate an attacker in the dark, which gives you the advantage as they take several seconds to react. You also need to look for a robust construction that is also lightweight. Most flashlights come in aluminum housing, but look for ones where the aluminium has been hard anodized, and check for shock resistance (manufacturers will mention the ANSI FL1 standard, which means the flashlight has been dropped onto cured concrete from a defined height, and it has been proven to still work). Lastly, check for water resistance – you may find yourself in the rain, or in other wet conditions when you are in emergency. A flashlight with good, robust O-rings will ensure your flashlight works in wet conditions. You could also look for an IPX rating. A flashlight that states IPX4 means that it is splash resistant (ideal for those simply worried about their flashlight being exposed to rain). IPX7 will mean that a flashlight can be submerged in up to a metre of water for up to 30 minutes. IPX8 will mean that a flashlight can be submerged to a depth of more than a metre continuously, and still works perfectly.
Practise makes perfect
Irrespective of buying the perfect flashlight, tactical or non-tactical, practice aiming and shooting with your weapon and flashlight is key to being prepared. You may think using a tactical flashlight would make things easier rather than having a separate flashlight, and it can, but only with practice. Be aware, a mounted tactical flashlight will shine light in line with the barrel of the weapon, which means anything you point your flashlight at will also have your gun trained on it. Many gun instructors do not like this, as in heightened self-defence situations, you could shoot the first thing your flashlight highlights. This is a violation of one the main firearms safety rules, which is to never point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot. As you can see, practice with a tactical flashlight is imperative to ensure no mistakes are made.
If you opt for a separate flashlight, you need to practice how you would hold both a gun and your flashlight, and learn to aim and shoot effectively with one hand (as your other hand will have the flashlight). With most techniques, you would hold the flashlight with your weak hand, and your gun with your strong hand. Using a separate flashlight has the advantage over a tactical flashlight as it allows you to ‘sweep’ for a possible threat whilst keeping your weapon trained in one direction. It also allows you to get down on your stomach where it would be better to have a flashlight free in your weak hand, or if you need to clear around a corner.
Most training ranges will have courses for training with firearms in low lighting. But if this isn’t possible, you can practice ‘clearing’ your home in the dark using your gun and flashlight. Also, look online for different techniques for aiming and shooting a gun using a flashlight. There are various methods, such as Harries, FBI, Chapman and Owen techniques. We recommend actually viewing videos on these techniques, such as on Youtube, as pictures may not accurately show how to pull off a technique correctly. Practice all these techniques until you find one or a combination that suits you the best. Also, check for videos that show how to clear a room, a building or a structure, and practice these in your own home.
Lastly, involve your family and discuss plans. In an emotional, highly-charged self-defence situation, there is likely to be panic and confusion. Having a well thought out plan on what everyone should do will help vastly. Make sure you and your family rehearse your plans often, so that it becomes second nature. This will ensure that, if anything was to happen, everyone naturally reacts as if rehearsing, much like a fire drill at a workplace. Discuss ‘safe places’ where family members will go, so you don’t confuse them with criminals by accident.
You want to protect yourself and your family, but simply having a gun (and a flashlight) is simply not enough, and can even make things much worse (for example, shooting a family member accidentally). Practice is key – it could be the difference between life and death for you or your loved ones.