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Old March 14, 2010, 11:29 PM   #1
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I Learned Something Today

Went to the range today, practiced shooting with a flashlight for the first time. I was using my club's range, and I was the only one there, so I was able to turn off the lights and just use my flashlight. I was using reloads, some lead bullets with regular lube, and some from Precision Engineering, with a baked on moly lube. The lead bullets smoke quite a bit, of course, but with the lights on it was not an issue. However, when I turned off the lights, my flashlight reflected off the smoke so much that I was blind after just a couple shots. When I switched to the moly bullets, there was almost no smoke visible, even with the lights off. Moral of the story: for those who prefer wadcutters to hollow-points for SD, and carry a flashlight, you might consider using moly or plated bullets.
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Old March 14, 2010, 11:53 PM   #2
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Better yet, you might test your setup at night with lights off and only using the flashlight.

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Old March 15, 2010, 02:02 AM   #3
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Awesome post!


Your post hit me like a smack in the mouth. A sharp reminder that my training commonly misses the vital element of night shooting. I bet I'm not the only one.

For anyone really interested in defensive shooting night firing is a MUST. Most of us who keep a firearm at the bedside do it for things that go bump in the night. Is your flashlight there too? If you're not training to fight at night, then when do you expect the bad guys to come?

Caboclo's post reminds us all that when the lights go out, things are VERY different. The smoke that you don't notice much in the day or on a lighted range looks like thick fog when you put a flashlight on it, particularly a super bright "tactical" flashlight. There are other factors as well like the grip adjustments, and recoil recovery without that supporting hand; the muzzle blast and the way it all affects your night vision.

Thanks for the wake up call!

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Old March 15, 2010, 03:07 AM   #4
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Good post and excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is causeing this smoke? The cheaper quality lube being burned up or is it the poor quality lubricity of that lube and the friction is creating lead dust, if that's even possible
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Old March 15, 2010, 07:59 AM   #5
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Did you do any analysis on the flash produced by each cartridge?
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Old March 15, 2010, 09:32 AM   #6
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Before I retired I use to do a lot of night firing in an indoor range, I figured it was necessary since I worked mostly at night.

Tried all kinds of metods of shooting with flashlights. Back then there were all kinds of theorys about using the gun/flaahlight in two handed contraptions. What I found that worked for me was learning to shoot my service revolver with one hand. It was a bit easier for me (I also shot bullseye pistol) but took a bit of practice for some of the officers I was training. But with a bit of practice you can adapt.

I think we put too much effort in having to use two hands on a pistol. Think about it a bit. If you want a flash light for shooting, do you want it lined up with your body? Seems to me if someone is shooting back, they would be shooting at the flashlight. I taught holding it away from the body.

Also the flashlight distracts you from concentrating on the flash of the bandits pistol.

Here is something to try if you can get the use of an indoor range. Rig the center of the target with an old camera flash bulb. Have a couple of targets down range so rigged. Now turn the flash light on, and roll it across the floor getting it a few feet away, it dosnt have to be pointed at the target, but point it down range. Have a shooting partner set off the flash and you fire where you think the flash is. Try the same thing while holding the flashlight along the axes of the barrel, See what happens, We found you got more hits without the flashlight. Don't ask me why, I dont know, someone told me it was because you were concentrating on the flashlight intstead of the flash of the bulb.

Regarding smoke...........kind of a non issue unless you are shooting enough to set off a smoke detector. Yeah you pop a couple caps and you have smoke infront of your gun. You also had a couple muzzle flashes you're standing behind. A simple sidestep fixes both of those problems.

Very seldum do you find yourself in a totally dark situation, you always have some sort of light, be it in your home or doing building searches. Normally enough where you can walk around with without a flashlight constantly on, making you a target. My wife has some grow lights for her plants that are on all the time. In my house I can tell the differance between my twin boys so I'm not worried about mistaking family members for bandits.

One thing we didn't have when I was on the job was laser sights, a coompletly differant world now. Try those suckers at night, Don't get the kind that stay on, but the the type you activate the instent before you fire. Best thing since guns were invented for dry firing. Some time when you are home alone, empty your pistol, turn out the lights, and walk around the house dryfiring at differant objects. Try it with and without the flashlight.

And for God's sake, if you carry in LE or SD, practice with one hand. You can always go back to a two hand grip, but you need to learn to shoot with one hand, strong or weak (both perferable) but practice with one hand.

I know people dont like it, but take up bullseye pistol,.......better yet shoot bullseye pistol with your carry gun. You will be humbled shooting bullseye pistol with a 642, but you'll learn to shoot.

Kraig Stuart
USAMU Sniper School Oct '78
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Old March 15, 2010, 03:41 PM   #7
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Rogelk, the smoke is caused by by the lube itself burning. It's a well known phenomenon, just ask any of the reloader crowd.

Skans, both cartridges were the same except for the bullet:I was using Bullseye powder from a 5" barrel. That's a fast powder with a long barrel, so the combustion should be mostly completed inside. With no light at all I saw a moderate muzzle flash, but with the flashlight in line with the barrel I didn't notice any flash.

Kraig, that's a good point about wanting to move away from your own muzzle flash. Re holding the light away form your body, I just saw a training video which suggested that it didn't help much, because the light would usually reflect off something and illuminate you anyway, unless you managed to keep it perfectly in the BG's eyes. Interesting trick with the flash bulbs, though; I'll have to try that.
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Old March 15, 2010, 05:19 PM   #8
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Good post!
However, when I turned off the lights, my flashlight reflected off the smoke so much that I was blind after just a couple shots.
Double Naught Spy and I found the same thing when we did our night sight testing in this thread.

Even shooting jacketed bullets (no lube) there was enough smoke to create a distraction and hurt accuracy.

One solution was to use a flashlight that wasn't quite as bright. It seemed that the brighter the light the more glare was reflected by the smoke. Another solution was to shine the light on the ground between the shooter and the target and let the reflected light illuminate the target. That didn't provide enough illumination to use the sights properly, so night sights were required for that technique.
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Old March 15, 2010, 07:13 PM   #9
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I finally had a chance to do some no-light shooting at a recent state IDPA match (Florida)- one stage was lights out. I'd never been able to practice low light shooting before and it was an educational experience.

I shoot cast 40 cal LFPs for IDPA, and I noticed the same thing about the tac light reflecting off of the smoke was just amazing.

The other thing I learned that I think is worth considering, is how will you reload if you need to? This was IDPA-land with a reload in there, and real life HD scenarios probably aren't going to involve a reload. But think about it. I've got several years of IDPA experience (Sharpshooter ESP) and feel comfortable operating and handling a gun. The shooting with a light in one hand and the gun in the other wasn't difficult. The mandated stage reload was.
If nothing else, remember to stick the flashlight under your strong side armpit while you reload. I didn't know this and lost a LOT of time fumbling around in the dark. I don't need light to reload, but having one hand tied up with the flashlight while I reloaded had me all screwed up. Flashlight under an armpit (on or off, depending on the situation) will help you reload faster, if you need to.
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Old March 15, 2010, 10:57 PM   #10
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If you have time, stick your hand through the lanyard on your flashlight. That really helps. Otherwise you're stuck putting the flashlight down somewhere while you reload. I would probably stick it in my belt, or in a pocket rather than the armpit, but whatever works for you.
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Old March 16, 2010, 12:57 AM   #11
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Another tip regarding use of flashlights while shooting indoors is to not worry about illuminating the threat per se with the flashlight.

There may be more than one person present in front of you, and lighting up one of them might make it more likely that you may overlook the other one.

Instead, the ceilings of most housing and office interiors are painted white.

Aim the flashlight upwards, and bounce the beam off the ceiling. This will diffuse the glare, and allow you to see - albeit more dimly - everything in the room, and will avoid some of the issues involved with attempting to illuminate a moving target with the flashlight beam.

Try it - if it works for you fine, if not, feel free to ignore!

Treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect....but have a plan to kill them just in case.
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Old March 16, 2010, 01:56 PM   #12
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Fighting lights are such a huge topic and subject to so many different opinions that I'll limit myself to 3 little things. I'll say up front that I am biased in favor of weapon mounted lights.

1 - Smoke plays havoc with light. Its not such an issue in the open but in close quarters it becomes very real very quickly. I mounted the light on my AR-15 below the barrel since the smoke tends to rise and with just a few rounds fired my light beam stays below the smoke cloud minimizing back scatter. Many of my parters who mounted surefire lights on their ARs mounted them upside down with the light below and to the left of the barrel rather than above and to the right for just this reason.

2 - Using a hand held light even when you use a weapon light is just plain smart. It gives you more options and options are good. One of my favorite tricks during building searches was to lock my hand light on and roll it into the room I was looking into or across the hallway I was about to enter. This let me stay in the dark behind the curtain of light and reserve my weapon light for target identification and addressing point threats.

3- Lanyards on handlights are a brilliant (pun intended) idea. Best technique I found was to use a pair of spring loaded cord locks and snug the lanyard around the palm of my off hand rather than around my wrist. This let me drop my light if I needed to work a door or manipulate my pistol while keeping the light a wrist flip away. This also made it easier to get rid of the light when it snagged on things.

Ok I'll say one more thing just for the tail twisting fun of it.

Worrying about your light being a target is as silly as believing that concealed carry gives you some magical element of surprise. If you are using a light you are either activly hunting and are already potentially exposed or you are using light as the opening step in an ambush. Either way you need to be certain of your intended target and light, either from you or from the environment, is essential. If it goes to guns you should already have gotten the first round in or should have already been moving to cover. I've done plenty of tight urban area force on force and when it all goes pear shaped the best option is aggression. Close aggressively or run away aggresively. If you're in position to shoot you are generally in position to be shot so don't worry about it and tend to your running and gunning.
"To spit on your hands and lower the pike; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rear guard at Kunu-Ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill; these are not rational acts. They are often merely necessary." Pournelle
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Old March 19, 2010, 07:11 PM   #13
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Wow this is a great idea, I have never even thought of night shooting. LOL. I guess my thinking is if someone is in my house or on my property in the middle of the night, its 50/50 that they get out of it alive or uninjured at night
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Old March 19, 2010, 09:26 PM   #14
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Yo Brucy,

Just curious how you break down your 50/50. Assuming a binary solution set with 50 = they go away and 50 = they get closer to you, how to you deal with the one in a zillion chance that the coin lands on edge and they just stand there?

Just to make it more fun for me, hows about they get closer to you but they pose no articulable threat. Perhaps they are dressed in a blue kangaroo fursuit and they are offering you a lollypop.
"To spit on your hands and lower the pike; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rear guard at Kunu-Ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill; these are not rational acts. They are often merely necessary." Pournelle
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Old March 19, 2010, 11:16 PM   #15
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I wonder if the OP is a scientist or engineer, perhaps? <G> Nicely handled experiment!
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Old March 19, 2010, 11:36 PM   #16
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Nope, just a pilot. I don't have the math ability to be a scientist, but I like to experiment in crude fashion.
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Old March 20, 2010, 12:05 AM   #17
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Never even thought about using a lanyard on my flashlight till reading this thread. Seems like that'd make it much easier to open doors/reload and what not. (I've always practiced sticking it in my armpit) Now I got something to practice and experiment with this weekend....thanks for the tip.
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