Scan any gun forum or blog about weapon-mounted tactical lights and you’ll quickly find two schools of thought—handheld vs. weapon-mounted. Like the .45 v. 9mm debate, those on either side strongly oppose the other. The handheld light folks believe that a weapon-mounted light means you’ll sweep your loved ones and possibly shoot them. The weapon-mounted fans tell those guys that they just don’t know how to handle their weapon properly. Though the handheld folks do have a valid argument against the safe use of a weapon-mounted tactical light, the pros of its use outweigh the cons. With the right light, you can even defeat the one thing weapon-mounted lights have going against them. Like many debates based on opinion, a happy middle ground can be reached between both parties.
Why do you Need a Tactical Light?
Most self-defense situations happen at night or in low-light. It is imperative to positively identify a potential threat before making the decision to raise your gun and fire. After being sure of your target, bright lights, especially on strobe mode, can disorient or distract a threat, buying you time.
The Case for a Handheld Flashlight
A handheld flashlight allows you to search the house, positively identify the potential target as a friend or foe and decide to engage without ever having to point the muzzle of your firearm at an innocent. (Remember, one of the Golden Rules of Firearms Safety is to never point a gun at something you aren’t willing to destroy.)
However, with the right weapon-mounted light, you’ll be able to either keep both hands on your rifle or leave one hand free without ever having the barrel pointed at a family member. The key is picking out a light with enough lumens to light up the room while your rifle is at low-ready (never needing to raise your barrel until you have to.)
The pros of a weapon-mounted light outweigh the cons. Here’s why:
You have the use of both hands.
Manipulating a firearm while also gripping a handheld flashlight takes extensive training and practice. A weapon-mounted light allows you the use of both hands, which might be the only way you might be able to operate your firearm after the adrenaline dump has seized your dexterity. Further, a free hand could be used to open and close doors, call the police, hold on to the dog, or push children out of harm’s way.
You aren’t wasting time fumbling for multiple things in the dark under stress.
When something goes bump in the night, the last thing I want to be doing is fumbling for multiple things on the nightstand—gun, eyeglasses, light, phone, etc. This just gives the bad guy time to know he’s woken me up. Further, you know you won’t leave it behind because its attached to your firearm.
Your focus remains on the sight picture and your situational awareness.
Trying to manipulate a gun and a flashlight takes some practiced skill. When things get crazy, will you be able to concentrate on your target while also trying to operate the gun and the flashlight at the same time? A weapon-mounted light takes away one less thing you need to worry about and allows you to focus your full attention on your surroundings.
What to Look for in a Weapon Mounted Light
Your light needs to be bright enough to stun, or at least disorient someone. For inside the home, that’s at least 100 lumens. You don’t want to burn the retinas out of your eyes in case of reflection, so don’t go too bright or you won’t have any chance of preserving your night vision and then both you and the perp are screwed.
The last thing you want to do is have a bulky, hard-to-maneuver rifle. A low-profile and lightweight light gives you plenty of room to add reflex sights, scopes and other accessories.
Ease of Use
The weapon light needs to be as easy and as intuitive as possible to operate. In times of duress, you won’t be able to remember complex steps, so easy-access buttons are essential.
I forget to turn off my battery-powered optics more than not. A long battery life, automatic shut off and battery-save features are important considerations. The last thing you want during an engagement is for your light to fail because of a short run time.
Best of Both Worlds
I prefer a laser/light combo like the LoPro. I can quickly identify targets and just as quickly place an accurate shot on center mass. It has the perfect amount of light, adjustable from 5 to 300 lumens with 3 modes that operate via a knurled twist knob on the LED’s lamp head—dim, bright and strobe modes. Strobe mode disorients, helping mask your location, as well as act as a signal to others. Ambidextrous buttons on either side of the unit, as well as an included pressure pad, activate the light and laser. The green Class IIIa laser has a 600-yard range at night and is also visible up to 50 yards in bright daylight.
A light is an essential piece of self-defense gear. The best tactic is to employ both.
There is a happy medium!