Clay’s COVID-19 Gun Buying Guide for Noobs Part III: Flashlights & Broadswords

Sometimes you have to go full primitive.

Welcome back to the crash course in arming yourselves! We have had some excellent interaction in the comments section, largely from our collective GunsAmerica brain trust. And I have gotten several good reports of sharing from my contacts across the various social media platforms. Keep the opinions coming, and let’s keep helping our noobs. Hopefully, after this crisis passes, we can keep most of them over here on #TeamLiberty.

Other episodes in this series:

Not at the same time. Maybe. Your mileage may vary.

We had a hard call this week on which column comes next, and ultimately decided to go ahead and hit flashlights and edged weapons. We still have a great many other things to share with our noobs, such as rifle sights and training. But with supply lines dwindling, we thought perhaps the last bit of arming was a better choice.

Flashlights

One of the most frequent questions I have gotten over the last week is, “What flashlight do I need?” And perhaps the question one should be asking is “Do I need a flashlight for my weapon?”

Weapon-mounted Surefire. Pricey, but nice to have.

Under normal conditions, say prior to March of this year, I would have told you that a light was a necessary addition to any home defense gun. In civilized society, you have to identify that a threat meets various criteria before it can be engaged, which is very much location dependent.

In one state I lived in, even a home invader could not be shot, unless said invader presented a clear and present danger to your own life. And even if you live in a Castle Doctrine state, it’s still generally a good idea. It would be bad form to accidentally smoke your neighbor with Alzheimer’s because he thought your unlocked back door was his unlocked back door, and he is rifling through the pantry looking for his French Press.

Unfortunately, these are not normal times. Also, a quick caveat with respect to flashlights in a combat zone. You have probably seen the videos of cool-guy-door kickers with million-dollar rigs windmilling flashbangs around whilst handing out the justice, white lights a-blazing. And I will admit, a flashlight has a place there. But, and it is a big BUT, that is a very specific mission set, and is premised on the idea that you have overwhelming forces with you. Speed, surprise, and the fact that you brought 25 friends outweighs the negatives of the flashlight. And the whole thing is going to be over in 15 seconds.

Military-grade Steiner Mk4.

In those same kinds of units, there is something called a “white light negligent discharge.” As in, if a white light is activated prior to being inside the target, it is treated the same way as firing a shot into the floorboard of a Humvee. You are fired. Right now! Because a white light in a street fight is a very good way to get yourself killed.

Mk4 alternate view.

In a combat situation, which I sincerely hope none of us find ourselves in, a flashlight is a beacon broadcasting “Please shoot me, I’m over here.” Even inside your house, flipping that light on to get a perfect shot on one target, may get you wasted from the flank. Won’t a light blind the bad guy? Marketing says so, reality says maybe. If they brought friends, and happen to be standing in anything but a cluster, a flashlight is a really bad idea.

Streamlight TLR-2 (This one happens to be IR only).

So do you need one? It certainly doesn’t hurt. But for once, I am going to say that you don’t need some military-grade, endorsed by Omega Force, moon torch.

Flashlights can get ludicrously expensive, like this one for a princely $799.00. I have recently had very good luck with some much cheaper alternatives. INFORCE builds an excellent one for less than $100 that has proven to be quite durable. Streamlight also makes some excellent products, such as this 800 Lumen light for $123.

INFORCE, an excellent bargain-priced light.

In the end, you don’t need anything too fancy. Strobe mode is the latest fad, and is absolutely useless. The more lumens the brighter the light, but anything past 200 lumens should be good enough for indoors. Try to avoid a specialized battery if you can, though many choices today are CR-123 only. And I much prefer weapon-mounted to handheld, as it is easier to use. But also don’t forget this. It wasn’t that many years ago that the most high-speed ninjas in the world used a D-cell Maglite hose clamped onto the end of a rifle.

CR-123 batteries. An expense to avoid if you can.

Finally, we need to look at a solution for people that either don’t want a gun or live in a place that buying one is no longer an option. It turns out, two weeks ago was the best time to buy a firearm. Or 10 years ago, if you also wanted to be competent. So, what else is on the menu?

Edged Weapons

This bit actually came from a line of questioning on social media, and I am going to get lambasted over it by some of you. But I stand by my answer, and if you hear me out, I think you will agree it is a reasonable alternative. An edged weapon, preferably a damn big one!

Spyderco Genzow, always in the author’s Go Bag.

Now don’t start thinking I’ve lost my mind. And hold the mockery until the end of class, please. I’m a gun guy, through and through. I would take a Cobra Arms Derringer in. 22LR over a Hattori Hanzo in 99.9 percent of all lethal force confrontations. But I also have the benefit of being trained prior to the crisis.

For a noob, with access to nothing but a pistol, a sword might actually be a better alternative. At a 3-foot sword range, new shooters can and do miss. A lot. We’ve all seen it. I also cannot imagine the first round I ever fired being in life or death situation. That is absolutely horrifying to contemplate.

SEE ALSO: Bowie Knife vs. Kukri Knife – What’s Your Fighting Knife?

The difference really comes down to two things. First of all, your little caveman brain can at least rely on similar motions to swing a sword/machete/ax. If you have used a golf club, baseball bat or hammer, you at least have some kind of muscle memory. The same cannot be said for a device that throws a projectile at supersonic speeds via a controlled explosion that you hold in your hands and in front of your eyeballs. To the primate brain, that might as well be dark magic, which is why we have to learn to overcome it. A pistol might still work at contact range, but you might also drop it after the first round.

Second, even in recent memory, these types of weapons have been used with reasonable success by absolute amateurs. Back in November, I was actually on the Jesse Kelly Show to discuss this man using a battle ax to fend off a home invader. If you take a look at the video (see below), I think we can agree he isn’t exactly a modern-day Viking Berserker. And nearly a decade ago this absolutely untrained John Hopkins chemistry student killed an intruder with a Samurai sword.

Is a regular dude dangerous with a knife? Maybe not at the Steven Seagal fantasy level. But maybe he works at Benihana’s and knows that blade like a carpenter knows his hammer. You never can tell. I think it is a fair assessment to say that while there are no professional knife fighters in the world, plenty of amateurs get it right every day.

Not my first choice, but it does beat just hands.

If you have to go with an edged weapon, in this case, I would say get a big one. The more standoff, the better. A super-sized blade is also going to make a supersized wound, which is a lot more reliable than even a large knife.

The only thing you need to balance is keeping it small enough to wield indoors. Smaller also means faster handling. The right answer is not a Claymore or hand-and-half sword, but something more like a boarding cutlass or wakizashi if you prefer an Eastern style. Both of those are smaller versions of a battlefield sword, specifically designed to be used in close quarters. If I was in the market for a sword right now, I only trust one brand. Cold Steel. The owner might be a little bit of weirdo, but he makes things to be used. If you watch the TV show “Knife or Death,” you know that a staggering number of “combat grade” swords will shatter the first time you try and use them. Food for thought.

Also, don’t rule out the American classic tomahawk, available at any Home Depot. They just happen to call them “roofing hammers” there.

That covers us for this week. I hope you don’t have to, but don’t ever forget: it is better to have a weapon and not need it than need a weapon and not have it.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Elbe April 15, 2020, 7:20 pm

    Spears were used by front line troops to protect the archers behind. Obviously spears are good for cavalry defense as well. Samurai had two swords usually, often daggers too, like the Europeans. The long sword was taken out of the belt indoors. The short sword was often reversed in the hand for defense of the forearm and is very effective with training.

    A shield type of device or forearm protector makes good sense in a bladed fight. In America, I think a shotgun and a pistol combined with rehearsed strategy and tactics of all home dwellers is a good game plan.

  • Charles Reeves April 13, 2020, 3:41 pm

    Google this > Estwing
    26 in. Camper’s Nylon-Vinyl Grip Handle Axe

  • Link Lackluster April 13, 2020, 10:34 am

    Clay is both funny and practical at the same time. I won’t be buying all the milspec hardware he often reviews….but I do have my Glocks, rifles, and other stuff I’ve had for a long time and shoot for practice. I especially like his take on the American Roofing Hammer. I have a small woodsman’s axe that I carry in my hunting pack. I prefer it over a saw for many applications and I know that it would not be a welcome addition to some bad guy’s chest cavity. Timberrrrrrrr! That sound you heard was the falling of a bad guy with a bad wound.

  • William Kotila April 13, 2020, 10:03 am

    Many years ago I made a spear, using a bayonet blade with its shank fitted to a slot in a hickory tool handle and epoxied in place. I cut the spear to the length fo an M1 Garland with fixed bayonet. That is what I took bayonet training with in the army (1963). I have some “antique” weapons, including a rapier and parrying dagger. I lack skill with the sword, but the basket hilt dagger with a 14 inch blade would be wicked in a knife fight. That said, I’m retired LE and carry a small 9mm in a belt holster anytime I have clothes on. My nighttime “house gun” is a Micro Scorpion with a green laser and a suppressor. At my age I don’t plan to engage in a knife or spear fight unless something really weird happens.

  • Ken April 13, 2020, 8:45 am

    An Empire Strikes Back shirt, Jayne Cobb hat and an apartment full of melee weapons. Never underestimate the power of a nerd with a battle axe.

  • Ej harbet April 13, 2020, 7:53 am

    If the deathstick is unlimbered,it just got real! And who doesn’t love lynn thompson Mr cold steel! I have the $200 1917 naval cutless but for $25 you can buy a smatchet which will stab or chop just fine.but for my number one cqb im going glock 19 ftw

  • Elbe April 10, 2020, 7:44 pm

    With 40 years in the Asian martial arts training, 9 real black belts and having trained with some of the best and most noted martial artists in the world, I would add:

    The most important thing you can do is getting really good training. Study and learn anatomy, which is very important. This is not the movies!

    A knife is the most difficult weapon to defend against at close range. You really have to work very hard for a long time to get real skill level up. People have different strength, height, and speed characteristics and you must leverage your best traits and minimize your attackers.

    Otherwise the fight can be determined by surprise, determination, brute force and luck.

  • Wayne April 10, 2020, 7:41 pm

    Deduct 5 points for using regular duck tape on the hawk. Should have used Gorilla tape. Stronger and in tactical black for all high speed low drag duck tape ninjas.

  • Patrick April 10, 2020, 9:32 am

    In the confines of a house with its hallways a good six foot spear makes a great deterrence. Swords require as much skill as a handgun to be proficient and a spear is cheaper by far.

    • David M April 10, 2020, 12:14 pm

      The only problem with a 6 foot spear is that while it’s great at the end of a long hallway or inside of a room, that length will be problematic when you try to move around corners to clear the house. That’s why I was thinking that a shorter spear shaft, say about 3 feet long shaft, would be more versatile.

      Just a bit of trivia: The African Zulu warriors used a short spear like what I’m describing. They called it “Iklwa”, which was reportedly the sound created when stabbing the blade into and out of an enemy’s body. Noice.

  • Robert Lee April 10, 2020, 9:16 am

    I always keep a cold steel spear by the front door and have kershaw machete and tactical hatchet hung on the wall in a nice display rack to repel boarders in case the pistol is not at hand… too much?

    • David M April 10, 2020, 9:52 am

      I’m with Robert Lee. From what I have read, in medieval times the sword was a secondary weapon to the spear. I think most spears shafts are too long for inside work, but they can be cut down easily enough. For example, if you take a Museum Replicas Limited “Long Bladed Hewing Spearhead”, sharpen it up and mount it on a short pole and you’ve got a 16″ blade with reach. I’ll take that over any axe or knife, especially at a choke-point like a hallway or doorway. I’m also of the opinion that a spear would be a better choice for people lacking the strength or size to go up against a large opponent.

      Clay, if you could weigh in on the spear as an often over-looked weapon, it might make for an interesting and entertaining article. Just please spare us the discussion of how your spear is so much longer than everyone else’s. 8^ )

  • Rick April 10, 2020, 7:36 am

    Nice “Kill Bill” reference.

  • Lamce April 10, 2020, 7:01 am

    I find it hilarious that a guy named Axel was stopped with an Axe.

  • Will Drider April 8, 2020, 2:43 am

    Tomahawk, hatchet, roofing hammer: carry weight at the end of a handle which is great for impact but its like having only one haymaker punch. Miss, then you have to stop and redirect that weighted momentum. Argue if desired but axe type heads are not conducive to blade equivalent sharpness. And only the axe head creates impact injury. A blade can cause injury with contact for its full blade length and often the double edge or spine too. A long but well balanced blade will move fluidly with the hand without noticable effort to stop momentum and change directions. You want “reach and speed/mobility”. I prefer a fixed blade with a length 2X the grip length, full Tang and a Guard or tether to prevent hand slippage onto the business side. I dont like heavy weight forward knives like typical bowie or gurkha or the Arkansas Toothpick if it’s not well tapered.

    There’s a ton of blade eye candy waiting on your money. You need a tool not style points. Every blade other that a fixed full tang blade has a design flaw weakness” : its what allows it to fold, auto/gravity open or buttrfly dance. Two or more hinged/connected parts will never be as strong as a single structure. Fixed blade: draw it and go to work.

    My go to is a CRKT Hisshou which has a 13 inch blade. It’s no longer in production but you can still find them. Its a knife that retains an edge so sharp you damn well better respect how you handle it. No hollywood ninja tip, serrations or fishing gear & compass. Lol

    Hey Newbie, put down that electric carving knife!

  • Butterwaffle April 8, 2020, 12:37 am

    You know what they say about knife fights… winner dies in the ambulance.

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