Light up the night

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see in the dark. I have recently spent a lot of time shooting at indoor ranges which have allowed me to practice a significant amount of low light shooting. Coupled with a trip to Gunsite where we engaged targets in a shoot house in the dead of night, and I’ve discovered that I really, really enjoy being able to see my sights and the target. Night sights and lasers are great tools for being able to put accurate hits on target, but they don’t enable you to identify the target in a low light situation. At Gunsite, I came through the first door of a shoothouse and shot the very first target I saw – he was holding something black and square in his hand, and in the low light (even with a flashlight) I thought “gun” and fired immediately. I’d regret that decision later when I realized it was a pair of sunglasses.

That’s part of why illumination is so important in a defensive situation. If I had been using my flashlight properly and taken the necessary amount of time to ID the target, I wouldn’t have popped that no-shoot.  Lights like the Surefire Z2-S, or the less expensive Nitrolon G2 are an absolute must have for anyone serious about home defense.  If you have a handgun for your defensive firearm, practice manipulating your light and your firearm at the same time.

You can have a discussion about weapon mounted vs. handheld lights – for handgun use I prefer a handheld light equipped with a lanyard, as that gives me more flexibility with where the light comes from, and enables me to use the light more effectively as a diversionary weapon if need be.  There is also a long discussion to be had about whether or not you should just turn the light on and leave it on, or sneak around the house using partial illumination.  I tend to fall in to the “turn it on and leave it on” school of thought.  There are two reasons for this in a home defense scenario:

  1. Since I don’t have kids, my home defense plan consists of me hunkering down at an angle from my bedroom while yelling “I have a gun and I’m calling the police” at the top of my lungs.  Anything comes through the bedroom that isn’t a cop is probably getting shot.
  2. Even if you do have to move through the house, have you ever bounced a 200 lumen white light off a white wall at 2am?  Kiss your night vision goodbye.  Better to just turn it on and leave it on.  A self defense instructor once said to me “who cares if the badguys see your light coming?  It’s your house and you have a gun.”

Humans have a deeply ingrained fear of the dark.  We don’t see very well in low light, and it’s a natural weakness for us whether we’re on the savanna hunting for game or at home at 2am when we hear the back window break.  Purchasing a good light and practicing with it means that you can make the other guy be afraid of the light instead you fearing what you can’t see.

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Comments (16)

  1. Jason C – As a husband and parent, I completely agree. When I was single, I lived in a nasty part of town, and had to clear my home a few times (once when I stupidly left the door unlocked). But now, wife and child (and staying alive to protect and enjoy them) are the most important priorities I have.

    This article has given me an idea: We’re about to move, so I may have a switch installed in the master bedroom that turns on some central lights in the house, just in case (possible x10 wireless?). That takes away one of the Bad Guys’ assets.

  2. @jsd – No offense intended, as I’m sure you are a great guy and I’d probably be grateful to have you on my side in a fight, but you come across as an under-25 “I’m 10 feet tall and bullet proof” kind of guy. I get it, I was there once myself. But now I’m 41, married, and have two small kids. In a home invasion situation the last thing you’ll find me doing is attempting to clear my house Rambo style. Because if I go down, then there truly is nothing between the bad guys and my family. My plan is barricade on the second floor, wife and kids in the master bathroom, wife on the phone calling 911, and me owning the top of the stairs yelling in my loudest voice “Get out of my house, I have a gun and I will shoot, the police on their way, get out now!” Anything that moves in that stairwell that isn’t a police officer will be met by a hail of 147gr Federal HST rounds. I don’t have to clear my house to protect my family, the police are perfectly capable of doing that when they arrive. Anything lost downstairs will be replaced by homeowner’s insurance. Upstairs however is priceless and I’ll fight to the death to stop anyone coming up those stairs. And yes, buy a good flashlight, several actually. I carry a Fenix PD30 with me every day, and I’m always surprised at how often it comes in handy.

  3. Interesting comments – most worth consideration – and yes, a TV is not worth a life, but with scum things only escalate – recently a doctor lost his wife and two daughters who were raped and burned alive – I consider any intruder to be that level until I am sure otherwise – taking the life of a scum? No problem.

  4. One thing with the whole “clear the house thing” – how often are you sure that someone is invading until you’ve investigated? I mean, yes, if you know that there is a big scary man downstairs and you hear him talking about how heavy your TV is, then locate your family, hole up in your room, and wait.

    But at least given the normal situation in my house when I *haven’t* found a robber, these things normally start out much less clear cut. You hear a noise – it could be the cats knocked something over, it could be wind knocked a branch onto your porch. In my case it’s normally that the dog decided to bark at our neighbors coming home. In any case, unless you treat *every* night time noise as a reason to hide in your room and call 911, you’re going to be grabbing a firearm and a flashlight (just in case) and “clearing” your house in the dark.

  5. I agree with Caleb on the house clearing. Usually, you wouldn’t want to attempt it if your sure someone is in the house. Stay put, the police will enter when they can and clear the house. If your in a safe room, they’ll know where you are when they get there. If the house isn’t safe, but the police are outside, you might be able to exit through a window.

  6. You can hunker down in a safe room but eventually you
    will have to clear the house or at very least make your way
    to the door to let the police in.

  7. One thing that you’re forgetting is that any home invasion scenario is a dynamic event. Unless you’ve been trained to clear a house all by yourself, 99% of professionals will advise you that the safest thing to do is hunker down in a safe room, call 911, and only use your firearm if the intruder attempts to enter your safe room. Again, most actual professionals agree that unless it’s absolutely necessary, trying to clear a house by yourself is an incredibly dangerous and unnecessary risk and should be avoided.

    My TV, none of my personal possessions are worth killing someone over, and I have no desire to play commando in the dark hunting through my house for a burglar when I can hole up in a safe spot and be relatively assured of my safety.

  8. I have night sights & weapons mounted light/laser combos on my Glock 21 and my Springfield XD, both 45’s are my “go to” firearms at home. If the situation ever arose where I have to use the weapon in a dark situation at my home, my intentions are to keep the light off and use the light as a blinding tool and to specifically identify the location of sound or movement as a threat. I do not announce I have a weapon and give that surprise advantage up. When I have investigated sounds in the yard at night, I do have the light on because of the need to illuminate my own path. However I do know from my own tests, that both lights offer such light power that the weapons they are mounted to cannot be identified as a gun due to the brightness of the light. Again I want the fact that I am armed to be a surprise to any person I may run into and I do not let that fact be known either inside or outside the home. The weapon mounted lights I feel, have a distinct advantage over a hand held light because that way I am able to have both hands on the firearm for a secure grip and if needed I could release my weak hand to use if necessary to fend off an attacker momentarily until I fire if that were to ever be a need.

  9. “The one who shoots first usually wins in this game”.

    I’d rather shoot second and hit what I’m aiming at than shoot first and miss. Speed is great, but accuracy is final.

  10. Lmsc I understand your comment and I do have no unanticipated traffic in my house. Guess my point mainly is the light is giving away position and the one who shoots first usually wins in this game.

  11. Just don’t shoot your daughters boyfriend who snuck in. Or. Maybe you should.

    Always I’D your tango, and know what’s behind them. If you’re a single lonely guy, sure spray pray shoot first ask later, but if you have friends and family, this article is relevant.

  12. A tactical light is an offensive tool, not for defense in the house. Turning it on can get you killed! Mainly because every bad guy will fire at the light by instinct. And I am not going to “identify” before I shoot because I know who should be in my house and who or what should not be. And yelling “I have a gun and I’m calling the police” – not a chance – might as well invite them for tea.
    I have a TLR2 on my G21 within reach when I sleep, but will not turn it on until I wish to “pulse” the laser on target if that is even necessary. SHOOT FIRST AND ASK QUESTIONS LATER!

    I would seriously rethink this article.

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