Preparing for personal defense scenarios on a brightly lit range, and firing against one-dimensional targets that are squared to you, isn’t combat practice. At best it is a beginner’s exercise in controlling the trigger and sight alignment. However, gunfights occur in dim light. Are you ready for action?
The action is fast moving and, by definition, desperate. You are facing an adversary with no moral compass that has entered your home illegally. Those motivated by profit may flee at the sight of a weapon. The psychopath motivated by a desire to kill and cause human suffering will have to be stopped. There is no understanding of the moral implications of his action.
This means that the time is overdue to practice and learn to use the proper tools. A combat light is an accessory to some, and a necessary tool to others. The combat light comes from the factory set for a single power in most cases and you learn to adapt to the light and use it in both illumination and identification. Illumination is usually the act of searching or clearing an area, identification is illumination of the threat and determining whether the person is a threat, family member, or other non threatening individual.
When searching, it is good to keep the light offset from the area we wish to observe. As an example, light a door lock with the combat light centered on the mechanism. There is some reflection. There will be refraction on glass. By offsetting the light slightly from the target, glare is reduced, and the object is clearer.
In threat identification the target is centered because we wish to affect their eyesight and temporarily blind them with the light leaving them at a tactical disadvantage. Some lights are more cohesive than others. A broader corona provides better illumination at moderate range.
Few battles in the home take place at more than a few feet. When conducting a search it is good to learn the value of quickly hitting the momentary switch (A spring-loaded switch that is only on when force is applied; when released, the light goes out immediately.) and releasing, effectively giving a squirt of light. This is important as you do not wish to give away your presence and position until you are ready to illuminate the threat. When the threat is suspected and you wish to illuminate their area the light will disorient them if properly applied.
That doesn’t mean the threat will not fire at you. However, accurate aimed fire will not be possible. If the threat is armed, you should have fire going toward the adversary at this point.
Working the Light
Combat lights use a switch to activate the light. The TruGlo TruPoint light I keep at home features both a momentary and constant switch. The up-and-hold for momentary use is well thought out. The drill is to push up for momentary use, and then release and move to the lower tab to press the light on for constant use.
It isn’t difficult to use the forefinger of the support hand with the two-hand grip if you prefer to keep the trigger finger unencumbered. There is also a toggle switch to control other functions. These functions include light only, red laser only, or a combination of light and laser. When the combination of light and laser is used, you have both a light for illumination and identification, and an aiming point as well. The combination of a combat light and laser for home defense is a good choice.
So far, the discussion has centered upon a dedicated, weapon-mounted light. The TruPoint may be mounted on a rifle or shotgun with the standard switch in use or a pressure pad for activation. The user should practice with this set-up. The user should also have a good flashlight to use independently of the combat light for searches and mundane chores.
The combat light is for defense use, not rummaging in the basement. Practice presentation of the handgun and deployment of the light often. Use a triple-checked unloaded handgun. There are even fake guns of various types that will allow mounting the light and efficient practice. You should practice live fire on the range in order to master combat light manipulation. Consider the problem, choose your tools well, and practice hard.
Most gunfights develop quickly. Body positioning and rough aiming work well for combat at 3 to 15 feet. It is good to learn to marry the combat light to the handgun in a firing position—if you are not using a handgun with a rail. The light should be powerful enough to be useful.
You should practice the Harries technique. The flashlight is with the handgun held in the strong hand and the light held with the diode facing out the bottom of the support hand. The thumb is on the push button light switch. The non-shooting hand crosses under the shooting hand; it is vital that the support hand is kept far enough to the rear that the hand never crosses the muzzle.
The back of the support hand is hard against the back of the firing hand. The thumb operates the momentary switch when it is desired to illuminate and identify the subject. Never point a gun light—mounted or not—at anything you are not justified in pointing a firearm at.
Practice the skill of combining illumination with the firearm and you will be able to defend yourself on a 24-hour basis. You must practice firing with the light held in the Harries position. This isn’t as solid a firing platform as the conventional two-hand hold, but it works well for those who practice.
The Harries is a short-range tactic. You can practice in daylight, as the primary focus is learning the Harries. Be certain that the hand crosses under the handgun, and at no time is the support hand near the muzzle of the handgun.
A technique that is seldom practiced is marrying the retention position to the combat light. There is no good reason to walk around with the handgun and the light at maximum extension. If the adversary is hidden and laying in wait, he may make a grab for the handgun. The handgun may be kept in the retention position and the combat light, held in the support hand, may be used for illumination. If the adversary is at greater range, the Harries position may be taken quickly. If he is at contact range you will be glad the handgun is in the retention position.
Do you have a light on your personal defense or home defense gun? If so, which model? Do you have a favorite training drill with your light? Have you ever participated in flashlight shoot? Share your answers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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