View Full Version : Weapon Lights and the Cardinal Rule

February 14, 1999, 12:03 PM
Lights mounted on pistols, shotguns and carbines have become commonplace. As weapon mounted lights become the de facto standard for professionals (especially as portrayed by gun magazines and movies) -- it becomes standard practice for all shooters.

To me this begs fundamental safety issues. Weapon mounted lights may be a great invention; but they clearly compromise our most fundamental safety rule:

"NEVER point the muzzle of a gun at something that you are not willing to destroy"

is watered down to:

"EXCEPT when using a weapon mounted light in a potentially dangerous environment -- never point the muzzle of a gun at something that you are not willing to destroy."

I realize that safety is an individual responsibility; but fundamental rules do help us discipline our thinking and our behavior (President Clinton excepted, of course). What happens when a beginning shooter seeks to buy that first "home protection night-stand pistol" and the gun store recommends an HK with barrel mounted tactical light? Isn't this a tacit recommendation to break a long-standing cardinal rule of safe gun handling?

I am neither "for" or "against" weapon lights - but they do raise a question in my mind. I would appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts on the "pros and cons" of these systems and whether anyone shares my concerns.

Thanks and good shooting!


Rob Pincus
February 14, 1999, 01:20 PM
I am against them, not just for the "never point" rule, but that is a big factor.


February 14, 1999, 02:24 PM
what other factors are you refering to?

I have a light mounted on my Mossberg 500. Prior to getting it, before going to bed, I would leave a few strategically placed lights on in the house. (or should that be tactically placed?)

In those days, I could light all "potential threat zones" as seen from my bedroom (safe room). But if the power went out, or the bulb burned out, what to do? And the arrangement of my new residence doesn't give me the strategic lighting option.

So I got a light for the shotgun. Holding a flashlight while manipulating a pumpgun under stress, and probably moving to cover, seems like a bad idea. Pointing a gun at something that might not be a threat is also a bad idea.

Enter what I consider to be the big advantage of a pumpgun for home defense: The chamber can be kept empty while investigating suspicious (non-cat) noises. If I encounter something that needs to be shot, chambering a round and firing takes almost no time at all.

I do not mean to waffle on important safety issues! All guns ARE always loaded, And NEVER point a gun at something you aren't willing to DESTROY! But, as I do need to identify the target, and all I have is the long gun, I have tried to balance all concerns (safety for me/safety for them). To this end, one ritual I practice without fail is checking the chamber right before getting into bed. Unless I've been sleepwalking, I know the gun will be in safemode when something goes down in the middle of the night.

Criticisms/alternatives are welcome!


[This message has been edited by boing (edited February 14, 1999).]

Rob Pincus
February 14, 1999, 02:35 PM
WEll, you sorta answer yor own question. How do you know the chamber's empty? I mean, afterall, I never had an AD with a gun that I thought was loaded. Most accidents happen with "unloaded" guns.

I think it puts you in completely the wrong mindset to use your gun as a flashlight while you are invetigating a problem.

Furthermore, I don't like lights on guns becuase it is one more thing to worry about (batteries, lenses, wires, etc...).
On handguns, the holster issue is obviously a factor.

For a combat situation or an entry team I can see putting a light on a gun, but for a defensive situtation I just don't think they are appropriate.

There are options to the "working a pump gun with a light under stress" scenario. Such as using a semi-auto or wearing one of those miner hats with the flash light attached ( ;)).

If you it works for you, that's great, I just prefer not to use them. I am not very likely to go walking through the house with a longgun anyway. If I have to go check on the kids, etc.. I take a handgun and a Surefire or Maglight. My shotguns are for the safe-room or outdoors only.


February 14, 1999, 03:02 PM
All points well taken (except the miner's hat :) )

I have a less-than-ideal situation, to be sure, and poking around my house with the 12 gauge isn't a habit of mine. I'll let my 14 dogs do that. But given what I have to work with (only one gun, a pump), it does work for me, for now. It is a compromise of evils, but seems to be the least evil of my choices at hand.

For later, I will definitely be purchasing a handgun, for carry, as well as the home. I am, shall we say, financially constrained from improving my options in a more timely manner (I'm broke!).


Rob Pincus
February 14, 1999, 03:07 PM
Broke is okay, at least you are smart enough to have a firearm and be concious of learning how to use it effectively.

Keep up the good work ad be careful where you point your pump-action flashlight ;).

February 14, 1999, 03:10 PM
"Broke is okay"? I don't follow you... :)


4V50 Gary
February 14, 1999, 03:54 PM
Kurt, thanks for reposting your question to Harry's forum.

Like Rob, I dislike the idea of a flashlight on a defensive mounted firearm. Self illuminated nightsights for me. As explained to me, flashlights on entry weapons serve to blind the opposition with a flood of lights).

February 14, 1999, 06:08 PM
I think it depends on the house. When it's dark enough inside my house that I need to use a pistol-mounted light, it's dark enough that the light illuminates an entire room. It becomes unnnecessary to point the light at a person to illuminate him.

February 14, 1999, 06:51 PM
I've noticed that, too. Even with the light set to it's narrowest beam, everything in the room is clearly visible. Considering this, if you choose to use a weapon-mounted light, it would be wise to develop the habit of keeping the muzzle down when activating the light. Thanks for reminding me. I'll be adopting this technique immediately.

Do you mean to say that blinding your opponent in a defensive situation is a bad idea? (I don't think you are, but could you clarify?)
Night sights work, but they don't show you what you're shooting at, they only show you if you're going to hit it.
And I think handgun/long gun makes a difference. I wouldn't put a light on a handgun, but I would put on night sights, with a flashlight in my weak hand. With a pump shotgun, complete two-handed control is paramount to using the tool effectively. That's my quandary! I'm actually using the wrong tools! Aaarrgh!


[This message has been edited by boing (edited February 14, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by boing (edited February 14, 1999).]

February 14, 1999, 08:24 PM
I think the best use of the gun mounted light is as a back up. Use a hand held if at all possible. For home defense, if all you can grab is the gun while you go get the kids don't you want some kind of light to prevent mistaken itendity shooting? Night sight are great( i have them) but options are better! Never limit yourself to one response.

Rich Lucibella
February 14, 1999, 09:20 PM
I have to disagree here. You should have a flashlight and a gun in low or no light defensive situations.

That said, whether your intent is to dial 911, barricade and observe or to move down the hallway to secure the kids, you'll need both items.

If we agree thus far, then how do we employ the light? With a pistol we'd use the Harries Technique or the Rogers Technique. In either case, we're using the weapon as an integral of the light. The weapon covers an area that is unknown until the light is brought to bear.

Attaching a ight for specific situations seems to me a logical economy of burden..especially with the shotgun. Note I said a light, not the only light.

I do agree that lighting while simultaneously covering an area with the muzzle is a dangerous thing....practice should be undertaken. But to argue against lights on the gun is to simultaneously argue against both the Harries and Rogers techniques.

February 14, 1999, 09:48 PM
Enlighten me, please.

Harries: the weak hand holds the light with the lens at the pinky finger side, and is placed under the gun hand, with the backs of both hands put together, right?

What's the Rogers technique?


Rob Pincus
February 14, 1999, 10:44 PM
I don't think so Rich, here's why:

In an LE situation, yes, I am using a two handed grip with the handgun and light more or less pointing in the same area...

However, When I am in my home with my family and I am "chekcing things out" I have the gun low and the flashlight in my weakhand, usually "pulsing" not walking around using it as a spotlight "painting" the rooms.

That is the difference. At the level where the gun is out for a known reason (looking for suapect, searching a crime scene, etc...) I ahve no problem with pointing the gun where the light goes.. it is for those lower threat levels that I think the light on the gun is not warranted.

I think the best option so far has been to have the light mounted on a long gun as a back-up. How much time would you be losinfg by having a round chambered and carrying the gun low with a FL in your weak hand VS. not having a round chambered and both hands on the gun ?? I'd rather count on taking that first shot one handed at in-house ranges than have to worry about pointing a gun at my child (or having to rack the slide while a BG is point a gun at me, for that matter...)

4V50 Gary
February 14, 1999, 10:59 PM
Boing - For entry teams, blinding the opposition is an excellant idea. I don't think the concept is inapplicable in self (or home) defense. You're right about night sights not helping you identify your target. But in my home, there's sufficient ambient light (thanks to all the streetlights outside) that I'd rather not bother with a flashlight. For me, it's a personal choice.

Rich Lucibella
February 15, 1999, 12:07 AM
Rogers: light held between index and second fingers of weak hand, like a cigar....thumb activates. Weak hand is able to be used in it's normal support position.

In regards to mounting a light on a handgun, you've got me and I agree the low ready is appropriate. But how do you carry a shotgun in one hand and a flashlight in the other and expect to bring that shotgun into immediate play, one handed?

February 15, 1999, 12:10 AM
It almost sounds like you're saying that it is acceptable to point your gun at a friendly when you are at a crime scene, but it is unacceptable when the friendly is a member of your own family! I know better (I think), but that's what it sounds like.

So how would you differentiate levels of threat? Whether searching for a suspect at a crime scene, or in your own home, if the gun comes out, don't you assume equal probability of encountering a BG (or a Non-BG)? Is it that a crime scene directly indicates a BG, while a suspicious noise at home only indicates something suspicious?

As for carrying a (pump) shotgun one-handed with a round chambered, vs. two-handed with the need to rack the action, it is a trade-off: How much time/accuracy do you lose having to aim a shotgun one handed vs. racking the action and aiming with two hands? Here we enter into 'personal preference' territory, with a nod to how each individual trains with their weapon. I train for the latter, mostly because I have more confidence in my ability to succeed with that method. Your Proverbial Mileage May Vary, so be comfortable with what you do, and I'll be happy. :)

My hand won't go that way! I see the weak hand more or less 'cupping' the gun hand. Can you elaborate?


[This message has been edited by boing (edited February 15, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by boing (edited February 15, 1999).]

Rob Pincus
February 15, 1999, 12:14 AM
Pistol Grip.
God knows if I can shoot at clays one handed I can shoot at BGs inside my house that way too!

If PG isn't an option, single handed shooting is still possible, in the extreme case. Like I said, I'd rather shoot one handed at a BG inside my house than point any kind of gun at my daughter. I get the heebie jeebies sometimes when she hugs my leg under my holstered carry gun, thinking "what if?".....


February 15, 1999, 12:28 AM
Heebie jeebies indeed! I've experimented this evening with widening the beam on my shotgun light and illuminating rooms with the muzzle held low. It works quite well. Now I can have my weapon mounted light and my cardinal rules, and eat them, too!

Do the clays ever point guns at you?


Rob Pincus
February 15, 1999, 12:48 AM
I was cut by one that I had wounded at a 5 stand course once...


February 15, 1999, 01:19 AM
In the event of a break-in, I fully agree that it would be best to barricade yourself in your own room while striking up a nice conversation with the 911 dispatcher.

Normally, I would do that. However, I've got kids. One of them is a toddler. My wife has made it very clear that she would run out there to protect them. To me, that's suicide, but that's how strongly she feels about it. And I have to admit that I feel uneasy knowing my kids are out there, available either as a potential hostage or a target.

The most sensible plan we have is that she would stay behind and call 911 while I would go out there and protect the kids. Now, I know just how ridiculously dumb it is to clear rooms by myself. I have a hard enough time clearing rooms with a team. But if I had to, I plan to arm myself to the teeth. I've been working on an integrated fighting strategy involving both a pistol and a knife. Of course, I'll need a light too. Integral light seems to be the best solution. OR, like I said, I have a toddler. So that means one of my hands needs to be free if I plan to move the kid back to the safe room. Either way, the conclusion is clear: We need an integral light.

And while we're at it, our house is small. That means I'll need to work VERY fast. And that means dynamic entry with the light left on. Forget the pulsing. Every second counts. And if I can find some sort of equivalent to the smoke grenade or flashbang, that's even better.

Anyways, in theory, I agree fully with Rob. But in practice, integral light, and the dangers that come with it, is something I'll have to live with. My personal feeling about it is that if we have a reliable gun, we shouldn't experience ADs. And until we absolutely positively need to destroy a target, our finger has no business touching the trigger in the first place.


Rob Pincus
February 15, 1999, 01:52 AM
Small house.



hmmmmm....SB, we must be thinking of different scenarios.

Personally, I have a 4-legged alarm of german descent that wakes me up when someone/thing approaches the house. I live about 150 meters off the road and there is no home within 200 meters or so, and only a few within half a mile. I have been woken up and felt the need to "go looking for trouble" countless times. Most often I've gone with a pistol and a flashlight. I haven't found anyone yet. If I had been walking through the house any of those times and Deniro and his boys from Heat had been planning the robbery, I'd've been dead meat, but I'm sorta banking on the chance that I'll hear Mr. Bad guy before he hears me.

I need to be quiet while am getting my gear and leaving my room, not just grab a selection from my Arsenal and blitz to the children. Do you guys (with toddlers..) plan on laying out your tactical gear before you hit the rack? Do you plan on having time to go to the closet and quietly push the sweaters out of the way? Is getting the shotgun from behind your sportscoats going to make noise?

I ask these questions not to mock anyone, but to make sure that everyone is thinking about things in a practical sense. You guys know that I am a pretty straigthforward guy. The less arty the approach, the better as far as I am concerned 90% of the time.
This reminds me of the "what gear do you carry?" question. Some people apparently carry around more gear everyday than I can haul in my pick-up truck; knives, lights, cameras, guns, mags, flasks of brandy, multi-tools, lighters, cigar cutters, ID cards, tokens for drinks at the Mustang Ranch, emergency cash and god knows what else. I sometimes feel wieghted down if I am carrying cash and a debit card.

I opt for the simpler way... If someone chooses to have a dedicated lighted weapon handy when they are asleep, I got no problem with that. For me personally, I like the idea of having my light seperate. I can look around corners, check out my kid's rooms, put the light right up against a window to shine it outside without glaring myself to blindness and get more versatility out of it by not having it lanyarded to a long gun or crazy glued to my Glock.
If/when BGs appear in my light's beam, I can throw up the gun and have a back-to-back grip blasting away as fast as anyone can rack and fire a long gun. If you choose this option make sure you consider your hand placement as you walk through the house.. you do not want to have to "paint" your weak hand in order to achieve the back-to-back grip. This means bringing the gun hand up and then bringing the light hand up from underneath it (try it, you'll see what I mean).

February 15, 1999, 01:27 PM
Thanks to everyone for an engaging discussion!

It occurs to me that using a weapon mounted light might significantly increase the probability that the weapon will be fired -- regardless of the circumstances.

If you shine a light on anything it automatically dramatizes the subject and intensifies the situation. Think of how spotlights are used in stage productions -- the dramatic effect of a single spotlight going on or going off, suddenly illuminating an entertainer, or plunging them into darkness. Isn't something similar going on when we use weapon mounted flash-lights in dark rooms?

In the split second that light and muzzle coincide with a "subject" -- the illumination might create a dramatic effect and maybe an instinctive reaction that could lead to weapon to be fired.

I can see where some might argue that a weapon mounted light might make it easier to mistakenly shoot the neighbor's cat (or worse) by setting up a "dramatic chain reaction".

Some here have suggested remembering NOT to point a weapon mounted light at a potential threat; but still use it for illumination. This sounds awfully difficult to me; something akin to getting a "little bit pregnant".

In the example of entering children's rooms -- how could you go into a daughter's room with a weapon mounted light, under all that stress, and KNOW, for CERTAIN, that she was not going to fall under the light/muzzle combination?

What if she fell out of bed, or slipped on the floor while coming to find you? You certainly would not want to illuminate her and risk thinking she was the intruder! I don't think it is a risk I would take, anyway!

Training would overcome some of these problems and allow exceptions, I suppose. I hadn't thought of the appropriate use of lights for "entry teams"; because I'm not associated with anything like that.

My concern is that the proliferation of weapon mounted lights may make it standard practice for everyone.

I like our cardinal rule of shooting because
it is absolute. NEVER is NEVER.

If we NEVER point the muzzle at something we are not willing to destroy -- we will NEVER destroy something too precious to be without!

Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Good shooting!


February 15, 1999, 03:09 PM
Kurt, you seem to be going to extreme lengths to support your argument. Personally, I would rather unintentionally point my weapon at the daughter in your hypothetical situation than enter a dark room and step on her or bump into her because I couldn't see anything. I don't see how a light is detrimental in your example. Would it be better to have your weapon at low-ready so it was pointed at the fallen child in the dark? Or do you advocate holding the weapon in a manner that points the muzzle at the ceiling? If so, a pistol-mounted Surefire would still provide enough illumination to identify the child in a typical-sized room. Regarding your assertion that a light intensifies a situation: would it be any less "dramatic" to walk into an unidentified person you never saw in the dark? If you go far enough, an argument can be made against any technique. Hell, some would argue that guns are too dangerous to have in the home at all.

Rob Pincus
February 15, 1999, 03:25 PM

Your last post indicates that somewhere along the line you missed the fact that those of us arguing against the light on the weapon still have a light, it is just seperate from the weapon. No one is advocating bumbling around in the dark.

As for thestatement that you would rather point a weapon at a daughter than bump into her.... well, it makes me think that you don't have a daughter.


February 15, 1999, 03:43 PM
Ah, me and my big mouth.

The original post I made was when I was tired, and wasn't thinking straight. Truth is, I honestly don't know what to do, and I am highly interested in some good inputs.

But the following is are non-options for my scenario:

-Must clear rooms.
-Must have gun.
-Must have light.
-Must have a free hand to grab toddler.

I'm open to suggestions. I have a few other ideas I am chewing on and want to know what you folks think.

I always have a knife on me. I was thinking I can attach a Photon Microlight II on the knife's lanyard as a "light in a pinch". Gunvault with a loaded revolver. They're quick, but I do have to get out of the rack and punch in the correct sequence to access it. I live in a single floor home. Shining the tac. light upward is generally enough to illuminate the room. That will also keep the muzzle away from the kids. Of course, that also means departing from the muzzle-low ready stance I'm normally used to.


Rich Lucibella
February 15, 1999, 04:12 PM
For me it's easy. No kids in the house. If I need to move, it'll be only on a Search and Destroy mission.

Obviously the question of covering a loved one with a muzzle is more than a little bit sticky. However, what about the issue of LEO's covering *others* loved ones every time they need to do a search with weapon drawn, as boing has pointed out. I'd imagine that an LEO would be more likely to drop the hammer on a strange child that surprises than his own. I know that this is no source of consolation to the father imagining covering his child, but we do need to be consistent.

It seems to me we need to either learn to use them or denigrate their use by *all* parties short of counter terrorist operators. Finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot must be emphasized, practiced and repracticed.

Boing's point regarding a low gun attitude may be the best solution. In any case, the light hanging off a pistol is superfluous to me, given the availability of SureFires and lanyads. It's the favored shotgun that's the problem.

Perhaps the answer lies with Lutron type lighting systems. These are not extraordinarily expensive and allow you to light up remote rooms from keypads. I installed a full Lutron system in my home as it was new construction. I have reset the software so that I have a "Floddlights" button on every keypad which will light up the exterior like a Hollywood set. I also have a (larger) "Panic" button which lights up the entire house, in and out, with the exception of the master bedroom.

One "all on" switch like this might be the answer for those willing to take greater risk in order to keep the kids a bit more safe from our own potential judgement errors.

February 15, 1999, 06:11 PM
Wow! What a thread! You guys really hashed this out!

In my case, there always has been enough ambient light from the neighbors' yard lights that I have not needed a flashlight. I'd rather Mr. Nervous Intruder not know I was there until I tell him! I turn on the five D-cell Maglite only to scare the bejiggers out of the kids and their friends when they try to sneak in late at night.

(Girls sleep in the bedroom. Guys sleep in the living room. Trespassers may be shot out of hand.)

Or when they sit outside in the car with the lights out....(They know better. They know me!)

In case of power failure (no neighbors' lights), I have relied on knowing our small, cluttered home better than the intruder. HE would need a light. I can go by "feel".

I haven't trained at pointing a gun at my kids to identify them (because the light's on the gun). Among other reasons, it would set a bad example for my kids. Hmmm.

I always have relied on darkness as "my friend" because I am in my home, on my own property, or on property I know as well as mine. You LEOs can't do that. Maybe tactics depend (in part) on knowing the environment.

February 15, 1999, 07:24 PM
Rob: in the hypothetical situation that was described, I would rather sweep the child with the light illuminating her then stumble across her unidentified body which could cause an unintentional discharge. And like I said, I don't need to point the weapon/light at anybody since it is powerful enough to light up the entire room even if it is pointed at the floor. How is it more dangerous to search a room with a weapon-mounted light pointed at the floor than to search a room while holding a flashlight separately? Holding a flashlight separately cannot guarantee that the weapon won't end up pointed at a family member who mysteriously sprawls under it. You know where the flashlight is pointed as you search the room, but where is the weapon pointed? Who knows what child may be sitting in the darkness? My point was that any technique can be challenged if you go far enough with the hypothetical situations. Actually, in the described hypothetical situation - I would probably just flip on the room light.

February 15, 1999, 10:10 PM
Rich, thanks for keeping the focus. The key issue is precisely what LEO's and other professionals choose to use because this does, traditionally, influence other shooters. If LEO's are exempted from the cardinal rule of safe gun handling; it is likely to lead others to make exceptions as well.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote:

"…we need to either learn to use them or denigrate their use by *all* parties short of counter terrorist operators…"

Frankly, I agree that it is far more likely that an LEO will "drop the hammer on a strange child" than a father might - if only because LEO's do more house clearings than most fathers! This could also occur as an unfortunate consequence of the trend in law enforcement to adopt a more "military" tactical style.

It was a Gunsite training video promoting the use of the tactical light on AR carbines that prompted my initial question. When I watched the film and saw those "lights blazing" practice house clearings, all I could think of was: "What if they got the wrong house?" (a week later we had the controversial NY shooting)

I also thought: "What if all the AR owners that I know start imitating this stuff?" Not good! I couldn't help being reminded of those commercials that say "these stunts performed by professional drivers, don't try this at home!"

But even in Law Enforcement, I see a broad range of shooting competency among Officers. Our club often invites the Federal LEO's in our area to join us. Last Sunday I enjoyed shooting with several U.S. Marshals. One Officer in the group was unfamiliar with the SA 1911 he borrowed. When I suggested keeping fingers outside the trigger guard; the gentleman took the advice graciously and shot quite well. He mentioned that with the DA Sigs; the instructors trained them to rest the finger on the trigger. Whether that's true or not it does demonstrate that, like the rest of us, LEO's have varying skill levels and training.

"Never allow the muzzle to cover…" works because it applies to everyone. It eliminates questions about competency, threat, risk, etc. It insures safety because it applies universally; with no exceptions. I don't think we should give it up lightly! Or give it away; simply because "Cheaper than Dirt" has a sale on tac-lights!

Pate, I'm sorry if something I mentioned seemed "extreme". When I use an example it is meant to illustrate the point; not to prove it hypothetically. An example is only that, so if mine are less than "illuminating" I need to beg your indulgence!

After all this discussion, I still share Rob's "heebie geebies". I had mixed feelings at the start; but the more we toss this around; the less I like a "sometimes yes, sometimes no" qualitative approach that requires assessing too many variables; of risk, threat, qualifications, etc.

When it comes to cardinal rules I like "one size fits all", "now and forever", "amen". Anything less are "ordinal" rules shifting in position with our ever-changing priorities.

Thanks to all,


Rob Pincus
February 16, 1999, 12:35 AM
After re-reading my earlier posts, I can see where some inconsitency could be noticed. Persoanly, I am 100% against weapon mounted lights, while in civilian or LE mode.

What I was trying to say was that I can see times in LE where it would be more appropriate. I would hate to be seen as starting an elitist thread about LE's needs/mindset being different, but sometimes it is true. Let me explain:

I have never pointed a weapon in a threatening manner at anyone as a "civilian". I have pointed a weapon at people in LE mode. I have never been in a situation where I have felt my life was threatened by those people who had the weapon's pointed at them. The difference is the potential. As an LEO, there are times when you point a weapon at a suspected armed/dangerous individual until you know that everything is okay or that person is in custody. The suspect does not need to attack you or present a weapon before your gun is drawn. At this point, you need to have a mindset that is completely different from what I see the mindset of a "civilian" would be once leather is broken. When in CCW mode, if my gun comes out, I imagine that I (or someone else) would already have been threatened and my target would be clearly identified. In the LEO "covering" mode you are not "on the brink of pulling the trigger," you are waiting for the next step.
While searching as an LEO, if the situation warranted a weapon being drawn , you would still be waiting for that next step, Merely seeing a body in your light should not cause you to think "fire!." Of course, everyday homeowners are capable of making that distinction too, but why should you put yourself in that position?
LEO's who have drawn their weapon know what it means to be painting someone and not being ready to shoot them based on the available information. I doubt that most CCW holders have been in that situation, which, from what I have seen, is pretty common in LE. Personally, I don't like it. As I alluded to before, I am always thinking (afterwards).. "What if that guy had reached under his jacket, and there was no weapon?" What if my gun "misfires" ?" (I trust my guns, but you can only read rec.guns for so many years before you start thinking that maybe guns do occassionally just "go off." ;) . Pointing a gun at someone that you are not ready to see die is not fun.

I hope this isn't coming off like "LEO's can point guns at people all day long and they'll not make any mistakes" because that is not what I am trying to say. Not at all. This is from the gut, not the brain, so go easy on the flames.... I am merely saying that there are times when I know that I would've liked a weapon mounted light as an LEO and I cannot see where it'd be justified in a home defense situation. That said, I don't choose to have a weapon mounted light at any time, because I feel like you loose flexibility.

As for the idea of having a light, with the gun pointed at the floor and stumbling upon a child at your feet.. I don't get it.. Aren't you supposed to be searching and looking for people?

No, you can never be 100% sure that you are not going to paint a family member, but if you are swinging your gun around from room to room, using it as a flashlight, you can be pretty sure that it is much more likely, can't you?


February 16, 1999, 01:22 AM
a couple of comments;

one thing I haven't seen mentioned is
(to me) a critical one; time. for the
worst case scenario, lets assume we are
asleep, its 25 feet from the most likely
entry point to the bedside, little
ambient light streaming thru the windows
(though I do have plenty of nightlights
to get me from the bed to the can, those
bulbs are always burning out).

so, lets say from the initial stimulus
of the breaking glass, you've got
at most 30 seconds. OK, first thing is
to wake up. next, put glasses on.
next, grab gun, then grab SureFire 6P and get the lanyard on and
secured, then prepare for boarders.

alternatively, wake up, put glasses on,
grab gun with integral light, ready to go.

obviously, my solution is an integral light.
I don't investigate noises outside; not
my problem. my car is insured, the only
outside threat that requires action is
fire. (have you checked your extinguishers

I live alone, so I don't have to worry about
the rugrat-bump-in-the-night scenario,
but it seems to me every situation has its
problems, and every approach has its
strengths and weaknesses.

another thing, lets not forget that a
key element here is practice. to be blunt,
if you haven't practiced "clearing" your
place from front door in, and from bed
out, using your full gear setup, you'd
damn well better give it a try.
you may find some flaws in your plan...

February 16, 1999, 03:35 AM
I disagree with your 'dramatic spot-light effect' comment, and this ties in with Rob's point about not firing just because you see a body.
If your gun is out, not shooting must be in the forefront of your mind. Assessment, as Rob has said, is one step. The next step, such as shooting someone, has to be arrived at by a totally independent thought process. The tendency to allow step one to make step two more likely must be avoided (with proper mental conditioning).
For me, being concerned wholly with intruders in my home, I'm not looking for a body, since if my gun is out I assume he's there. What I'm looking for is a GUN (or maybe a crossbow :) ). My only real instinct to shoot is if I see a gun. If I see a body, my automatic response is to 'assess further', as it should be with anyone , LE or otherwise.
As for not pointing an integral light at a family member, it's not difficult, really. I practiced it last night, prompted by this thread. It goes to what you and Rich both pointed out: training is the key. Either train appropriately, or use different tools. Since I have decided to use this method, I get built-in fire control two ways. Before shooting, I have to rack the action, and I have to get on target.
Again, in the interest of flexibility, a handgun mounted light seems unnecessarily restricting, and I wouldn't choose that combination.
I'm just glad I don't have kids. But if I did, I'd definitely have flashbangs on hand! ;)


[This message has been edited by boing (edited February 16, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by boing (edited February 16, 1999).]

Ray VanderLinden
February 16, 1999, 04:32 AM
Okay guys, here's my take.

At home you hear a noise you don't know. When you wake up, your eyes are "night ready". As soon as you light up a room, you lose that, you have just given the BG an advantage or at the least lost one of your own.

When You use your light the BG knows you are up and about where you are.
Lights of anykind other than the remote kind should be use with the upmost caution, Even in LEO situations. I don't know howmany times I've had other Officer paint, or worse backlight, me during searches and raids.
Never use a light in your home until you think you've got the threat located, then light and challenge at the same time.

For LEOs the rule of not pointing at that which you do not wish to destroy is still good as you are covering a suspect, and until proven otherwise he is a threat.

Same with a trespasser for home owners. If you are on 911 don't go wandering around find a place you can cover the enterance to the kids and your room, if possible, and stay there and tell the Dispatch you are armed and where you will be. I don't want to shoot you, but I don't want you to shoot me either.

I don't use lights on guns and I don't really like them, they limit the abilaty to remotely light a room. You wouldn't toss your shotgun into a room would you? I've tossed my flash light into several. Also the BGs would shoot at the light, do you want it infront of your body?

Just a few things to think about.

Rich Lucibella
February 16, 1999, 09:40 AM
I think you're doing a *great* job in your effort to explain that LEO's should not be exempt from basic rules of safe firearms handling. Understand that I'm not attacking anyone in particular on this issue, but I am looking for more info.

I was not aware that LEO's are trained to cover a "potential" target with the muzzle of a firearms (ie: at a point *prior* to identifying that target as a threat). Further, I don't understand, or agree, with such training. Clearly the "low ready" position grants you greater ability to scan the subjects hands, while not covering his body. It's only a millicsecond transition from here to a center mass hit.

I guess what I'm having trouble envisioning is a situation in which an LEO would be justified (from a common sense safety standpoint, not legal) in covering a target where the trained and safe civilian would not.

When you say, <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial, Times New Roman">quote:</font><HR>As an LEO, there are times when you point a weapon at a suspected armed/dangerous individual until you know that everything is okay or that person is in custody.[/quote], I get confused. Certainly, If I found an "unarmed" man in my home, garage or car, my muzzle will be covering the area just below his hands while I assess....same for an LEO. In fact, I would expect any civilian to cover the body parts of a "suspected armed/dangerous individual", same as an LEO.

But we're talking more about a clearing drill (civilian at home or LEO in someone else's home). Shouldn't both individuals be moving with the weapon at the low ready, short of perfect knowledge that no innocents are in the vicinity? Even more so for LEO's moving as teams?

Ray VanderLinden
February 16, 1999, 12:20 PM
I think the key word in that quote were Armed/Dangerous. I agree that the proper hold for most searches/clearings is low ready or an other none aiming hold. However LEOs more than Civilians have some prior knowlage if a suspect maybe armed, and if there are innocent people in the area.
If there was an armed Robbery and you stopped the suspect vehicle I believe I have a right to have my weapon aimed at the suspect until I know that I and any other LEOs with me are safe. Does this mean I'm going to shoot him? No not if he does what he is told to do, and doesn't show a weapon in a threatening manner. I don't point a gun at prowlers nor do most LEOs. And in clearing other people's houses I'm extremely careful about the barrell of my weapon. Like I said I don't want to shoot the home owner or his Family nor do I want to be shot.

Rob Pincus
February 16, 1999, 06:25 PM
Rich, I appreciate the opportunity to explain that line further. My last post was getting verbose enoughm but I had a feeling that I would be "called" on that statement.
All I can do is offer a couple real examples. I cannot comment for all LEOs, LEAs, or their training, obviously. Here are two examples, both from the past few months, feel free (anyone) to comment on the validity of the weapons presentation:

1. Within 6 hours of a murder we are attempting to stop a vehicle matching the description of the murder suspect. One person has already told us that he was with this person when it happened and that this person is the shooter. He has told us that he was armed.
The car stopped, the passenger door flies open and an individual runs. At this point, I and other officers draw our weapons and pursue. The idividual is running through an apartment complex with many cars and corners to hide behind. Personally, I had a 6Z in my weak hand and my gun pointing low-ready as I ran. I remember another officer with a maglite and his gun pointing up and down as he run olympic sprinter style and another officer had his weapon out, but no light. I caught up to the individual first as he was trying to climb a fence. I ordered him to stop, hit him with the light, but kept my weapon low. When he turned around, I pointed the weapon at him and ordered him to the ground. At this point another officer (no light) joined me and also covered him, while we both ordered him to the ground. At this point the individual has not done anything threatening and I have no reason to shoot him, but I think I am justified in pointing the gun at him.

2. A call goes out while I am on patrol to be on the lookout for a certain vehicle. The driver of this vehicle has just tried to abduct a child and matches the description of another child abduction suspect. The dispatcher has run the plates on the car and the registered owner has a felony warrant on him. I found the vehicle in between the attempted abduction and the suspect's home. When I first tried to pull him over he speed up, but immediately after his first turn off the main road, he stopped, but did not get out of his car, though he was rummaging around in it, front and back. I stayed behind my door and ordered him to exit his vehicle and show me his hands, he did neither, but did stop moving around. I drew my weapon and approached his car, getting behind his B pillar and ordering him out. He did eventually get out, at which point I had hiom lift his shirt, spin around, and eventually get down on the ground with his hands behind his head. Only when I had a grasp of his interlocked fingers did I holster my weapon. Again, At no point did the individual actually threaten me, nor did I have reason to shoot him.

Those are the types of scenarios that I was talking about, scenarios that I don't ever see CCWs getting into. Again, I'm not saying that they justify LEOs having a special set of rules, I am just pointing out that there are some scenarios that don't come up for the average citizen.
(BTW, Those were not meant to be "complete" step-by-step accounts of the events, so please no nit-picking the tactics, I was just trying to give the flavor of the weapon presentation situations.)


Rich Lucibella
February 16, 1999, 10:17 PM
Fair enough in both cases. Again, the similar situation for a civilian would be a window breaking in the night and our invsetigation turning up a stranger in the kitchen. I can assure you that my muzzle will be covering a portion of his body.

But I'm not certain this is what we were talking about. Gun mounted lights (other than for special circumstance operators) generally mean *shotgun*, not duty sidearm.

I'm not certain that we've established that a shotgun mounted light is a safety problem.

Rob Pincus
February 16, 1999, 11:22 PM
Okay, buy that similar situation is not so similar because the chances of me finding my daughter when I had rounded the next corner or approached the vehicle were basically 0.0!

Furthermore, In restrospect, perhaps I would deal with a home intruder differently that some of you. IMHO, the mere act of entering my home unwelcome, at night, while I am asleep is not a two way street. Anyone who would really need to do that for any decent reason knows me well enough to call, knock very loud and then Yell their head off to let me know they are coming.

Which reminds me of another story:

case #3: a 911 hang up is recieved from a remote residence. Myself and another deputy get tot he home and see nothing wrong. The dispatcher has not been ble to get an answer ti a call back, the phone is off the hook. While walking around outside the house, trying to get someone to come to the door, we move to the side of the home, to try another door. At this point, we both have our weapons out, but low, and are using lights to look into and around the home. The other deputy was at the door and I was back by a tree about 10 yards from the house, wehn we hear a voice from the front porch asking "who's there?"

We identified ourselves as we walked towards the front of the house and I noticed a man in his underwear with an old revolver. he is waving the revolver around yelling for us to "get the hell outta here!" The guy was still not looking anywhere near us. He was an older guy and didn;t seem to be all there. I stayed behind the tree, gun low and ordered him to put the gun down. He lowered, but did not release it. He finally figured out that we were officers, and put the gun down. and I stepped out, using my own light to identify myself.
He made the comment afterwards that if he had seen guns, he'd've shot through his windows. The guy myust've had some very poor eyesight to have not noticed that we were officers, not to mention the patrol cars that were at the side of his house. If I had had a light on my gun and was using it to look into the house, the situation could've been much different. Even if no shots had been fired, Would I really have wanted to use a weapon mounted light to identify myself or my partner.. especially if he had still had the weapon in his hands? I think not.
Similarly, what if this guy had been using a weapon mounted light? That would've meant that he was pointing a gun at me to see who I was, with predictable results: BAD for everyone.

(btw, for those following the plot, the 911 call had been placed by a malfunctioning cordless phone with an "emergency" speed dial thing, the same phone was responsible for the phone being off the hook.)

I just don't like this idea, at all, as you can tell. The more I think about, the less I like it, by the way. I am glad this thread is allowing me to really make up my mind on this issue.
I don't know if it really different for long guns. Most people know that a long gun is not the best thing to use to clear a house, if you have to clear it. (corners, disarming leverage, etc, etc..) Furthermore, today's semi-autos are extremely reliable and can be fired at in-house distances with one hand adequately, with a little practice.

I was going to purchase a light fixture for my utility railed guns, just for the heck of it, but I think I will pass now.


February 17, 1999, 12:13 PM

As a "civilian", I enjoyed reading your scenarios and learned a lot. It give a flavor for what goes on out there.

At the same time, it helps confirm my growing belief that lights on guns are simply a bad idea.

I really was ambivalent about this at the start. Like you, I'd seen an ad for a tactical light, thought "that would be a cool project for my new carbine" and then watched a video featuring the use of the light.

I am a real "gadget hound" but after watching the video it occured to me that a weapon mounted light is a gadget that overturns our are most basic rule of safe gun handling.

Weapon lights are very appealing as a weekend project. They are cheap and easy to install. It would be a pitiful shame if someone was injured because we are all inveterate "gadget hounds"!!!

Raymond, your remarks on using a flashlight are excellent and they really got me thinking. It seems that even in the "entry" and "tactical" settings described -- Weapon Lights may be a very mixed blessing.

BTW, I especially loved your observation "...you wouldn't throw your shotgun into a room..." No, probably not. That was great!

Maybe there are exceptions, but my conclusion is that Weapon Mounted Lights are more of a liability than an asset.

I didn't feel this way at the start, so this thread has been very informative. Thanks to everyone for their help and input!

Good Shooting,


Byron Quick
February 18, 1999, 01:27 PM
I'm with Rob on this one. Never have liked the idea of mounted lights just didn't have as many reasons as he has. I've had an intruder in the house. Came home at 2 am during the burglary. Had him trapped for two hours before I realized someone was there. I beat a strategic advance outside as he was between me and my firearms and I was between him and the doors. That was when I became "tactically" inclined. Letting a Rottweiler do the house clearing is more my style. If he bites it, I'll give him backup :) I can stay in the dark until I hear him raising hell.

February 18, 1999, 08:32 PM
Let me try this again. I believe in both a gun mounted light and a hand held light (plus night sights). Use the hand held light if at all possible. If you have to grab a child, get shot in 1 arm, or only have fractions of a second, then use the gun mounted light. This should not be either/or. The more options we make available to ourselves, the safer we can keep our families.

October 28, 1999, 11:32 PM
Every single situation is going to be different! There is not one answer? Just my two cents worth. Stan.

Bennett Richards
October 29, 1999, 12:23 AM
In my mind there are a number of absolutes to weapons handling.
1. A weapon is ALWAYS loaded.

2. Never point a weapon you do NOT wish to destroy.

3. This is one one I feel to be MOST important. NEVER, absolutly NEVER fire at something you can't see and identify.

Despite all of the drawbacks to tactical lights on weapons the need to ID the target is paramount.

In war there will always be KIAs through friendly fire. In violent HD encounters however the repurcussions of firing at a mistaken target are monumental.


James K
October 30, 1999, 11:14 PM
Mount the light right on the pistol. Then use a two hand hold facing the potential target. If you do this right, the "target" will put a mag full of hollow points right through the light and into your chest or head.

Lights make great targets!


Bob Thompson
October 31, 1999, 11:52 AM
To add to Jim Keenans post I was taught a long while ago when entering a room of potential threats to go in low, as close to the floor as possible and if dark and a light is needed to hold away from your body and as far out as possible to give a BG a bad target if he is armed. This would require a one handed weapon hold which we should always practice anyways. The BG if they open fire while blinded by the light would probably shoot at the light giving you a better chance of survival and returning fire. This may seem "old hat" but it seems a good senario. Some states require qualification for CC permits that you use each hand seperatly to shoot at short yard targets. I am not in police work and do not know current training but the before mentioned system was taught by the military in past years. It seems as though much of what we see is Hollywood but common sense must prevail in worst case senarios.

Chuck Ames
November 1, 1999, 11:40 AM
Hey Guys,

The thing to remember is that weapon mounted lights were originally used by operators in the special operations/hostage rescue arena, and most notably the SAS as far back as the Princess Gate siege in 1980. In the CQB environment it is certainly necessary, and the skill level of the operators far surpasses most if not all of us, and most if not all of the SWAT shooters out there.

Current Army doctrine does not promote holding the light out away from the body, ala the FBI method of the late 70's early 80's. During the SRT course it was weapon mounted lights for the teams with good budgets and command support, and the Harries technique for the rest of us.

While in Korea, I got in a heated discussion with my First Sergeant and some Major about the old FBI technique. My belief was that unless you are pointing the light directly at someone's eyes from that position, there will be enough ambient or reflected light for the bad guy to see exactly what you are doing. Not being able to back that up, a buddy of mine and I tried it in pitch black (minus the guns). We each took the light and held it away from our bodies and scanned the barracks area. Sure enough, unless the light was pointed directly at you, you could tell where the "good" guy was and where his light was. Try it!

On another note, if someone is pointing a sure-fire at you in the confines of a building, the last thing you are going to be able to do, is fire one or two into the light, much less their face. Again, try it. I do know that even at 15-20 meters on a vehicle stop at night, we'd often see the drivers looking at us through their wing mirror, so we used to shine our lights on the mirror so he couldn't watch our approach; invariably he'd look away.

If any of us has to use a weapon/light combination to clear our own house:

a: we're in trouble, cause clearing alone sucks.

b: we should be doing it nice and slow, using cover, and pieing our way into uncleared areas.

The thing that has always struck me about commandments 11-14, is that they are redundant. IF you accidentally muzzle flash someone, your finger is off the trigger. IF your finger is on the trigger, and you slip and fall and have a negligent discharge, your weapon was pointed in a safe direction. IF you have to evaluate a threat, your weapon may be temporarily pointed at the target, but you have trained to never let your finger enter the trigger guard unless you have positively ID'ed him/her/it, and you are prepared to fire.
And you NEVER play with the gun, so you have always maintained a healthy respect for what it is: a weapon.

If that makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest holding the flashlight in your left hand, across your body, and placing the butt of it on your right shoulder. In your right hand you can hold the weapon in a one-handed low ready, and still pie a room, minimizing body exposure, while maintaining an ability to fire without muzzle flashing anyone. It's not perfect, but nothing is.

November 1, 1999, 01:31 PM

I agree with you. Mounted lights can be a great tool with proper use and so long as all safety requirements are meant. The "light" issue carries over to other tools of the trade as well. For example:

How many times have I been out deer hunting and have caught a hunter trying to get a closer look at me through his scope!!! This is completely unappropriate and violates several safety rules right off of the bat. I've been tempted at those times to raise my own rifle and shout "Lower your weapon, you @#$!*!"!!! I did not, as I did not wish to also violate safety rules against a stupid @[email protected]# who I did not believe was out too hunt me. They were being stupid and disrespectful to put it nicely.

This is a good topic and I am glad that it is being addressed. \

By the way, solution to the problem of seeing things close up w/out using scope: I carry a pair of zoom 7-15 power lightweight binoculars when hunting and scouting. I do not have a light mounted on my gun, but the same SOLUTION holds true. Just carry a separate flashlight and keep gun pointed in SAFE direction until ready to shoot bad guy. Anything wrong with that? I realize that different situations call for different tactics, but violating safety of a possible innocent isn't called for most of the time IMHO.

"But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." -Jesus Christ (Luke 22:36, see John 3:15-18)

[This message has been edited by EQUALIZER (edited November 01, 1999).]

November 2, 1999, 03:32 PM

I agree. You make a good point. When it really comes down to it, the type of switch and the tactics that are needed for the given situation has much to do with this topic. Light off until needed makes sense for home defense scenarios. The momentary switches and their accessability on lights are also nice features for defensive lights. I would not like to fire a weapon without double checking the identity of the individual and making sure hes got a weapon. This is where I think that a light is most practical, even more so than the advantage of blinding him.

"But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." -Jesus Christ (Luke 22:36, see John 3:15-18)