There is literally nothing more tactical than flashlights, not guns, not short barrel rifles, not even cammie paint and slow motion explosions. Having a good quality flashlight and more importantly, knowing how to use it matters. You are much more likely to use a flashlight in your day to day, than you are a gun or knife, and it has the side benefit of allowing you to carry it places where other, more traditional weapons, are banned. Keep reading to find out our recommendations for flashlights, and 3 techniques you need to be using.
There are a lot of gimmicks in the flashlight industry. There are multiple light colors, strobes, different strobe rates, etc. This can make purchasing a tactical light confusing, but it really comes down to what you are likely to do with it.
If you are a police officer who works a midnight shift, you will use your light every day you work. If you are a concerned homeowner, who keeps one in the bedside stand, you probably won’t use it for several months at a time. The important thing is for you to be honest about your requirements. For the purposes of this article we will be discussing a basic tactical flashlight that can be used to search a house.
Simple and Durable
I prefer a simple flashlight that is well made. My favorite is the Surefire P1R Peacekeeper; this is an affiliate link for the dual output version. It’s a little pricey, but for someone who carries it on his duty belt, and uses it every day it can be worth it. It is rechargeable and can also accept regular lithium 123 batteries, which is nice because the odds are that your flashlight will always run out of juice half way through a building search. T
The version of the light I prefer has only one mode of operation, on or off, which is governed by a rotating tailcap for constant on, and a push switch for momentary on. I specifically looked for this feature when I bought it.
Many lights have a two stage tail cap that when pushed slightly will cause the light to go on momentarily, and with a firmer push it will select a constant on. Normally, this is not a problem; however, when you are using the techniques we will discuss below this can be a real safety concern because in a stressful situation you will always push the button hard, putting it in constant on mode. This is very dangerous as we will see in a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think there can be other uses for colors, strobes, etc, but if you are in a stressful situation you will generally want full brightness white light. You won’t want to hit the switch and realize you turned on your IR mode and not be able to see anything. Again, this goes back to your intended use for the light. A fighting light is simple and durable. A light used for deer hunting will require a different set of features.
The P1R also has a 600 lumen LED chip which is about as bright as I would recommend for tactical use. You can get 1000 lumen lights; however, if you are searching a house and you happen to shine that on a mirror, causing some splash back on your face, well good luck seeing after that.
So now that you have a good light, that’s all you need right? Survey says no on that one. This commonly held belief reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the late Col. Cooper, “owning a piano doesn’t make you a pianist.” The same goes for a flashlight. Sure, you don’t need any training with one to look for your phone under the couch, but using a flashlight tactically is a little more complicated than that.
Turning it off
The first thing you need to know about a flashlight in a tactical environment is that it does not need to be on all the time. Walking around with it constantly on when you are looking for someone who means you harm is the best way to end up in the hospital or worse.
You need to manually strobe the light using the tailcap switch while you move around. This strobe needs to be random, not the even strobe function that some lights come with, which is another reason why I do not advocate a flashlight with a strobe function. Moving around while randomly strobing can be odd at first but a little practice will make it much easier.
I further recommend moving the location of the flashlight away from your body while strobing. If I am a bad guy with a gun and I see a light, I’m going to shoot at the light. So a one handed grip on the light, and one on your gun is mandatory to keep the light away from your center of mass. You will also have to learn to transition your pistol to your off hand, and switch lights at the same time. This practice should be done with a dummy pistol ideally or a cleared firearm in a safe area.
Changing the angle of your flashlight is also very important. This decreases the ability of your adversary to predict where you are and where you are moving to.
No constant on
Change the Rythm, Angle, and Duration of the light
These are all principles that I learned attending a low light course taught by Strategos. It was one of the best courses I have ever attended for building searches as well as individual tactics for building clearance. I cannot recommend them enough. You get hours of practice using more advanced search techniques as well as force on force training with airsoft pistols. Check this video out to see how effective their techniques are.
At first it looks very confusing from the adversaries point of view, and it is designed to be that way. You’ll notice that none of the students has their light on constantly, and it is very difficult to locate them because they are vary the flashlight, angle, rhythm, and duration.
Now this is a more advanced because they are clearing building with a partner which does bring some more tactical considerations than single man does. For example you have to be extremely cognizant of backlighting your partner, as it’s quite easy to see a person if a light is outlining their entire silhouette. If you are really interested, go to the course, as I cannot teach you everything they teach in a three day course in one article.
Now we know that there is a little more to using a flashlight tactically than we had previously thought. This will lead us to practice a little differently with our weapons as well. You will need to be able to shoot your pistol with either hand, one handed. Remember from previous articles, a high percentage of people who have been in gunfights report having to use one hand to shoot at some point, check this article out to see the statistics of gun fights.
Ideally I’d recommend attending a course taught by Strategos, but if that is out of the question, practice moving through a dark structure while changing the, rhythm, angle and duration of your flashlight usage. With a few hours of practice you will be much better prepared to use your light effectively and tactically.