Ep. 18 Should I Shoot? Why A Gun-Mounted Light Isn’t Enough

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Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

Prior to a recent range session with a good friend of mine, he showed me the new rig he was using for concealed carry complete with weapon-mounted light. A light on concealed carry guns isn’t anything new, but what surprised me was his statement. He said something like “… since I have this weapon-mounted light, I don’t need to carry a handheld flashlight anymore.” This took us down the road of “guess you will be pointing a loaded flashlight at everything and everyone you need to identify as possible threat or friend.” The look on his face was priceless. “I didn’t think of that,” he mumbled under his breath.

Weapon-mounted lights are a great tool and I have them on several handguns, shotguns and rifles, but I am a firm believer in getting competent with a handheld light. The technology found in modern flashlights is utterly amazing to me when I look back at where they started. Back in the day, 60 lumens was considered a really bright compact light. Today, they can be found in smaller packages in hundreds of lumens.

As we’ve discussed at great length, the question “should I shoot?”  will be based on individual circumstance applied to the belief of death or great bodily injury to us or another if we don’t apply deadly force. Everything that can be done to help us make the decision is a good thing in my book.

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Several years ago, my wife and I were sitting on a bench in our old neighborhood watching the sun go down over the ocean (it’s a West Coast thing). There were probably 20 or so other people doing the same thing. When the fireball melted into the ocean and the crowd slowly dispersed, we stayed talking about life and where we wanted to go for dessert. The little park had lights, but there were many dark spots caused by the trees and bushes. I noticed a guy about 30 yards away who kept looking over his shoulder at us every few seconds. I wasn’t overly concerned but was definitely in alert mode. I told my wife about the guy and said that if I stood up, it was time to leave if he came our way.

About five minutes later, I could still see him but not clearly and decided it was time to go. As we walked, he started toward us at a trot asking quite loudly if we had some money. I had my handheld flashlight in my left hand and immediately hit him in the eyes with the beam. His hand went up to shield his eyes. I told my wife to get moving toward the car. I told the guy in a clear voice, “I have no money for you. Leave us alone.” He tried to walk toward us, but the combination of the light in his face and his hands up trying to shield his eyes made it really slow going for him. We were moving off line and creating space the entire time, which felt like minutes to me but was more likely 30 seconds from beginning to end.

To answer the question — yes, I was armed, but in this case, if I didn’t have the light to literally light him up, the gun being introduced would have been more of a problem than a solution. The light gave us time to get out of Dodge. It stopped his advance, and when he brought his hands up to shield his eyes, I was able to see his hands were empty.

If all you have is a concealed handgun and no means to identify other force options at your disposal, maybe it’s time to rethink the personal defense plan.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Wojo September 3, 2016, 2:45 pm

    In 23 years of LE I’ve never had a light mounted duty gun. But recently I bought a Sig P320 and decided to go with a TLR1 HL and the new Safariland holster. I thought with the advancement in light technology and the idea of more people being aggressive towards the police, I felt it was the right time to take the leap. I’ve carried a sreamlight stinger since 95′, but there’ve been countless times where a gun with a tac light would’ve been very beneficial. It should been standard on every gun issued to officers along with a high lumen belt carried light. Admin is always concerned with liability, if you set officers up for failure, their bound to fail and admin. is going to also suffer by paying out for lawsuits.

  • Chris September 2, 2016, 1:41 pm

    That is exactly my train of thought about weapon mounted lights. Besides if you need a split second to get your gun out, you can throw the handheld light into the face of the attacker.

  • Ron Stidham September 2, 2016, 7:36 am

    I do not have a light on my carry pistol. They are bulky and cumbersome, my opinion. I do have a light for the home protection piece. An invaluable tool to not shoot the one you love by mistake. The prospect of carrying a extra light with me at night is a good one, haven’t trained with one but maybe I should. I don’t like the weapon mounted light for a ccw, The aspect of letting the bad guy know exactly where you and your gun are just doesn’t fit me. If it works for you, go with it. Never to old to learn a new trick, Ill try it before I bet my life on it.

  • DRAINO August 25, 2016, 5:39 pm

    More great food for thought as usual. Thanks. Keep it up!

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