The straight-up answer is: Yes, if your pistol has the ability to mount a light, laser, or light/laser combo, then you should seriously consider springing for one. If you have a pistol strictly as a home defense option, then you should definitely buy a weapon-mounted light for it. Bottom line, it’s hard to hit stuff that you can’t see.
If you’ve ever walked around in a dark building or searched for something or someone at night, you more than likely used a flashlight to help you see in the dark. Now add in a possible threat hidden in an unknown area that could hurt you and you’re probably going to want something to help protect you.
The biggest concern with using a flashlight while handling a gun is that you will have a hard time establishing a good two-handed grip. While you juggle a flashlight, you’re more than likely going to have a less-than-acceptable grip. Why do I want a good grip, you may ask? Well, the short answer is your grip will help you minimize muzzle flip, which will, in turn, get your gun on target faster to follow up with more rounds if the threat does not stop. The better the grip, the faster you can get rounds on a threat effectively.
To resolve the issue of having to use one hand for a flashlight and the other to hold your gun, manufacturers came up with weapon lights that you can mount to a pistol. This allows you to keep both hands on the firearm with a more natural high-performance grip while illuminating your target/threat. This is the biggest advantage of using a weapon-mounted light. Now, this does not mean that this should be your only light. You should carry at least 2 more flashlights (a primary and a backup) so that you can use them while there is no threat or the threat has been stopped.
If you think about it, using a flashlight for normal search or illumination techniques is not very socially acceptable if there is a gun attached to it. In other words, you wouldn’t point your gun at someone’s face just so you can see who that person is in the dark. Although there are several techniques you can use if a weapon-mounted light is all you have and you need to use it as your primary light source, it is not the recommended option. If you want to be safe and not risk pointing your gun at things you really don’t want to shoot, then carrying a primary flashlight with a backup flashlight is the way to go.
Most of the people reading this have some sort of experience with handling a pistol. Take these actions into consideration: Target transitioning, re-acquiring your sights on target, reloads and clearing malfunctions. How well would you be able to accomplish these things with a flashlight in your support hand? As with learning any other skills, if you train and practice shooting with a flashlight or a weapon-mounted light, both can be highly effective. You just have to decide which works better for you.
There are several courses that offer great flashlight and weapon mounted light techniques throughout the country. Places like the Surefire Institute, Sig Sauer Academy, Gunsite Academy, Universal Shooting Academy, and the ALERRT center, to name a few, offer low light courses where instructors teach both options. They teach techniques like the Harries (over/under), FBI, Surefire, Ayoob, and neck index. Research those methods if you are unfamiliar with them.
There are also several flashlight manufacturers and aftermarket companies that offer flashlights and accessories that allow you to manipulate a flashlight and pistol with great success. Check out reviews if available and read articles on several different low-light options and techniques to find which you prefer to use. With anything else when it comes to firearms, train as much as you can before you use either option and gear in your daily life.
For those of you who are interested, here is a list of a few light manufacturers and models that are out on the market for you to research. There are several people who have used pretty much all of these with great success. In no special order:
- Surefire: X300 Ultra, X300-V, X400 Ultra, X400-V, XC1
- Insight: M3X, M6X
- Inforce: APL
- Streamlight: TLR-1, TLR-2, TLR-3, TLR-4
There are different ways to activate all of these lights, so do you research and train with them.