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Old December 13, 2015, 10:38 AM   #1
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Low light pistol course by Sparrow Defense

Yesterday, I took a low light pistol course held by Sparrow Defense. link

There were three instructors and twelve students at the course providing a good student to instructor ratio. When on the firing line, we would shoot in two sections giving a two student to per instructor ratio. The course was held at an outdoor range in Oconee County Ga and ran from 2:00 until 10:30 pm. The rural location was quite dark after the sun had set.

I had no previous training in low light techniques was excited to learn several things. First and most importantly, I wanted to learn proper use of a hand held light when employing a pistol. Second, I wanted to learn how to manipulate the firearm in the dark while holding a light. Third, I wanted to see if my concealed carry load out was suited for low light conditions. Fourth, I wanted to see if the gear I had chosen was adequate for low light conditions.

The course began in daylight with some basic drills to allow the instructors to evaluate the accuracy, gun handling and, most importantly, safety of the students. Safety was emphasised many times throughout the course and I think it was wise to hold the beginning of the course in daylight. After the basic drills, we retired to a covered pavilion for a classroom session while the range was reset.

The session began with a powerpoint presentation of different techniques for using a pistol with a handheld flashlight. These techniques were also demonstrated by Clark Sparrow and the advantages and disadvantages were discussed. Weapon mounted lights were also discussed but the instructors emphasised the need to master hand held lights. This was fine by me as my G26 doesn't have a mounting rail.

After the powerpoint, plastic training handguns were passed out and we were encouraged to try different techniques to see what might work for us. We then returned to the range where we practiced these techniques with our lights and empty firearms around barricades while it was still light. I settled on using the Harries technique for shooting around the right side of cover or in the open and the neck hold technique for shooting around the left side of cover.

Once we had settled on the technique(s) we would use and the instructors were satisfied with our safety and form, we began some live fire around the barricades. With the exception of the POST qualification test which mandated one reload, throughout the course we were encouraged to shoot without changing the magazine in the gun until it was empty in order for us to practice reloads while employing a handheld light. After shooting paper targets, we took turns using the techniques to shoot steel targets while an instructor called different number and color combinations. This was fun for us but also gave the instructors a chance to evaluate our flashlight techniques one on one while it was still light outside.

We then took a brief break before starting a classroom session on how the human eye works in low light conditions and an important lesson on Georgia laws covering the use of force while the course was reset. The importance of target identification was emphasised. When we returned to the firing line, it was dark.

I'll cover the next half of the class in a part II
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Old December 13, 2015, 05:35 PM   #2
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Part II

After returning to the line at dark, each section took their turns repeating the flashlight shooting techniques under the watchful eyes of the instructors. We then shot a Georgia approved Post (peace officer standards and training) low light qualification course which was a first for me. We then shot steel targets again and had a demonstration of different lights in the dark, including weapon mounted lights. Students were then given the opportunity to try different lights, including weapon mounted lights on the steel. One of the students kindly offered to let me try his handgun which had a mounting rail for a light. After those that wanted to try different gear on the steel were finished, an IPDA style shoot house was set up and each student went through individually identifying shoot/no shoot targets and engaging the (hopefully) appropriate ones.

We had a short debriefing session, cleaned up and headed home. Each of us is to receive an email based upon the course with recommendations for practice to build upon what we learned.

The gear I took to the course was as follows:
My work clothes (I'm a grease monkey), consisting of work pants, a t-shirt tucked in, another t-shirt untucked and sturdy belt.
The firearm was a G26 fitted with Ameriglo Pro I Dot sights but with no light rail carried AIWB. I also brought a G17 with a rail but decided not to get it out as it was important for me to thrash out my carry setup. I used a variety of G26 and G17 magazines in the G26.
For lights, I brought a SureFire Fury and an older SureFire 6P fitted with an EagleTac replacement bulb, the SportTac XM-L2 Cool White. I ended up shooting the entire course with the upgraded 6P which did great.
My basic concealed carry load out consists of the G26 AIWB, 6P light in the left front pocket, spare magazine in the left front pocket, wallet and keys in the right front pocket and nothing in my rear pockets.

I learned several things from the course about basic light use, firearm manipulation in the dark with a light in my hand, my gear and the way it was set up.

By encouraging us to try different light techniques with a practice gun and then helping us develop those on the range with our firearms, I believe the instructors gave me a good understanding of what will work for me and what I need to practice to make that happen. I chose the Harries hold and the neck hold techniques and know I need to spend time practicing those in both the daylight and the dark. I was weaker with the neck hold technique so I'll probably work on that more.

Loading an empty pistol in the dark while holding a flashlight in the off hand wasn't easy and shooting the timed reload in the POST qualification revealed a problem. In one part of the POST exam, we were required to fire six shots (two on the right target COM, two to the left COM, one to the head on the right and one to the head on the left) to slidelock, reload with another six round magazine and repeat in 21 seconds. I wasn't able to reach into my pocket and retrieve the spare mag quickly enough to be able to fire the last two of the twelve shots and ended up with a score of 88%. I left a possible seven percentage points on the table because I don't have a good setup for quickly telling the orientation of the magazine while trying to dig it out of my pocket with a hand holding a flashlight.

I learned there is no point in carrying a ten round magazine in either the pistol or as a reload. The extra rounds of a larger magazine are nice but it's the ability to manipulate the magazine into or out of the gun in the dark that really improves. I'll carry the +2 Glock G26 magazine in the gun and a spare G17 magazine in my pocket until I figure out something better. I have belt carriers for magazines which are faster and keep the magazines oriented correctly but I haven't figured out a good way to use them concealed doing my job as a grease monkey.

The upgraded 6P worked great and was as bright as the Fury. I like it better so I'll use it. The Ameriglo night sights were great. The G26 did fine. I'll stick with a handheld light for now but may add a weapon light in the future. A weapon mounted light would make manipulations easier as I could drop the handheld light and I could use both hands to shoot. A weapon mounted light would also be valuable if one of my hands was injured or was being used for some purpose other than holding a handheld light.

The portions of the course were I learned the most were the shooting in sections on paper, both before and after dark and shooting the POST exam which revealed some issues. All in all, it was a fantastic course that taught me a lot. The instructors were very professional, attentive and showed genuine concern in helping students improve. It was worth the money and time spent to me.
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Old December 13, 2015, 06:39 PM   #3
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Everyone should have this kind of training, at least to some degree.
Especially considering how risks go up considerably after dark.
Thanks for the report.
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Old December 14, 2015, 06:09 PM   #4
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You're welcome.
I got a lot out of the class. I know the areas I need to practice and not just in low light.
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Old December 15, 2015, 05:15 PM   #5
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I'm a 20+ year police officer and our officers do low light/no light training twice per year. It's AMAZING how even trained cops go into "freak out mode" when you add something like a flashlight and a reload to the mix.

Training like this is meaningful to those that are serious about CCW. Those folks who go out and stand static on a line and shoot 500 rounds at a bulls eye aren't "training". That's marksmanship, not training.

Thanks for sharing and keep on training. You can only get better.
"The day you stop learning SHOULD directly coincide with the day you stop breathing."
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Old August 30, 2017, 03:03 PM   #6
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Excellent post, OP. More should read it. I have found this forum to be full of WML bashers, which perplexes me.
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Old August 30, 2017, 11:01 PM   #7
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Fantastic post, very good reading for me. I've not trained or practiced with a flashlight, but I will now!
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Old September 1, 2017, 10:00 AM   #8
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Great report. That would be a terrific class.
I'm right about the metric system 3/4 of the time.
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