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:
- 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.
- 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.