I’ve been playing this “game” a long time. My law enforcement career spans the development of many pieces of guns and gear, some good…some not so good. Flashlight and weapon mounted lights being one of the solid developments over the years.
You see, I came on board in law enforcement before the Maglite and Kel-Lite were readily available and in widespread use. Back then those silver aluminum D-battery lights were in use or six volt lanterns when a longer burn time was needed such as during a missing person search in a large area. When I bought my first Kel-Lite it was the baton light version which held four C batteries, a spacer and was 20” in length. It was long and heavy, made a decent impact weapon (I put mine through a window in the apprehension of some car thieves) and gave out a vast amount of light compared with those Eveready two-cell D flashlights. Maglite was next with its adjustable beam and then I bought my first rechargeable 20,000 candlepower Streamlight SL-20 flashlight. Considering I was working a large outdoor concert facility on a regular basis, I saved tons of money on batteries and controlled thousands of folks, many under the influence, by moving them around when they avoided the very bright light in their eyes.
Back then we were trained that we should avoid holding our flashlights close to our bodies when searching for bad guys. The theory, which gave birth to the FBI Technique, wherein the flashlight is held extended in our non-gun hand as far away from your body as possible, was that bad guys would shoot towards the light. Gradually serious firearms trainers like Mike Harries began to examine ways to integrate and improve upon firearms tactics and shooting while using lights such as the SL-20. We had the Harries Technique, the Chapman Technique, Ayoob Technique, NYPD Method and the USMC Technique as well as others. During this time serious operators such as Britain’s famed SAS were also mounting these D-cell lights and the mini-lights from Streamlight and Maglite onto submachineguns via pipe clamps or 100-mile-an-hour tape. For the SAS their Maglite festooned MP-5 subguns would help stop terrorists holding hostages at the Iranian Embassy in 1980. This weapon light mounted efficiency became obvious and the race was on to improve designs. Small AA-battery mini-lights were mounted to the baseplates of magazines or otherwise secured to handguns for house clearing functions. The ability to maintain a two-hand hold on the pistol while searching in low light, or even while using one hand was proven and designs further improved upon.
Frame rails such as with Gaston Glock’s amazing 9mm Glock pistol and the Glock companies white weapon lights with and without a red laser, brought what had been an expensive custom proposition to the mainstream consumer.
On the police end, I have run countless low-light pistol courses in which the efficiency and effectiveness of weapon mounted lights have been proven. Although an officer or homeowner must train and be competent with both handheld and weapon-mounted lights, when it comes to effectively searching and shooting in low or subdued lighting, the weapon-mounted pistol or long-gun reigns supreme. Period.
Training with Weapon Mounted Lights
Since we have proven the improvement in performance while using weapon mounted lights, we must accept that having the equipment is not enough, we must train with it. Not surprisingly, when running officers through a decision-making course in low or subdued lighting I noted that: A) Few who had weapon mounted lights remembered to use them, and B) Those officers with white flashlights on their belt, seldom deployed them. The mental connection of equipment use had not been developed sufficiently by them as a skill, and the stress level of the training event further reduced conscious thought as to either turning on the light or accessing and using a handheld. They simply did not think of it even though it would have improve their performance in the stressful simulation.
So glaring has been this deficit that I’ve personally attempted to train more with my flashlight and weapon mounted lights while working out with my SIRT Pistol or M-4 when conducting dry fire training. Simply put, I’ll turn down or off the lights in the DT room at work and engage in deployment, searching, shooting and moving drills in my practice sessions. Practice, after all, makes perfect (or at least as close to excellence as we can make it).
So, the training need can be met with regular dry practice. This incorporates the operation and manipulation of the white light controls on the handgun or long-gun mounted light. This can and should be improved upon by setting up some color Omaha Targets photo threat targets and the utilization of over lays which incorporate non-shoot “citizens” holding water bottles, phones or other items. In this way, the officer must discriminate by looking at the target’s hands. Neck badges reinforce that officers must look at the whole person. We are advocates of using color targets not black and white. In this way we can further address possible suspects involved in the “scenario” by referring to color, i.e. a witness said the suspect had a green shirt, etc.
SIRT pistols allow weapon-mounted lights to be affixed but may or may not fit in the holster. Imagine several trainees/officers in a training exercise conducted with SIRT pistols in an indoor gym or safe outdoor area with role-players. The officers must locate, identify, and conduct the business of any encounter, including the use of simulated deadly force while utilizing their flashlights and weapon-mounted pistols.
We can up this practice and training with the use of airsoft pistols or marking cartridges even using our Omaha photo threat targets. A “house of horrors” as I described in an earlier blogpost or set of rooms or outdoor scenario can force officer/students to actuate and correctly illuminate with their weapon-mounted and handheld lights.
Up this training indoor by setting up mini “assault” courses with cover. This forces students to not illuminate themselves by reflecting their lights off cover and utilizing proper technique. Once again the weapon-mounted illumination tool proves its worthwhile moving. With weapon-mounted lights I have the capability to make headshots on the move. Though not a primary goal on the street in a dynamic encounter, if all you have is a smaller target area on the suspect, this type of training shows that if you may attention to the fundamentals even in low light, you can hit your target.
Yes, we used to have only B-27 targets or poor representations of a human being as targets on the range, poor illumination tools and really poor training (heck we even used to train using welding goggles to simulate low light). Now, we can take excellent handheld and weapon-mounted lights to the range or simulated gunfight scenarios and engage in excellent practice and training. But if all we do is expose our officers to techniques and don’t engage in repetitive practice, repeated on a regular basis, then we will not advance our officers AND we will not allow them to dominate a low-light armed encounter.