Should you even consider a light for your handgun?
I ask because many don't even consider this at all.
Since handguns don't come with a light, and in many situations, the gun has no real or easy provision for a light, many simply pass on this option.
But should you?
Consider this, most home invasions occur in the nighttime. Additionally, one of the basic rules of firearms safety is to “be sure of your target”.
How do you do that in the dark without a light?
Unfortunately, this has been the cause of some tragic situations where a loved one comes in late at night and is injured because the homeowner couldn't properly identify them.
Don't let this happen to you.
Yes, you do need a light for your handgun!
But, does this apply to all handguns?
Certainly, handguns that you keep at home, and in your vehicle should have a weapon mounted light. A concealed carry weapon may or may not require a mounted light, however, and I would suggest that the requirements of concealment may outweigh the benefits of a weapon mounted light.
A handheld tactical light, however, should always be carried with a concealed weapon. In low light situations, you still need to identify a subject.
Why a mounted light vs. a handheld light makes sense
A mounted light is attached physically to the handgun (or long gun). Some guns, such as Glocks provide a rail which makes mounting a tactical light easy. Other manufacturers make it less easy and the tactical light manufacturer is left with creating a tactical light configuration to work – you might know this as the “jerry-rigged” or”duck taped” solutions. These are not viable solutions for something as serious as handguns.
Before you purchase any handgun, it's important to insure that there is a reliable mounted tactical light available for that specific gun. Some guns just do not provide for mounting a light.
Again, it's important to remember that owning and using any firearm is serious business. Thus, all of these issues need to be researched and considered seriously.
Here are some of the pros of a gun mounted light:
- Since the best tactical light is the light you have with you, a gun mounted light is always with you.
- A gun mounted light affords a two-handed grip on the handgun, which is obviously more secure than other single-handed grips. These grips include:
- A tactical gun grip which uses both hands, but with a handgun in one hand and a tactical light in the other. In some of these techniques, the hand holding the gun is resting on the other hand or is otherwise connected. You can review some of the pros and cons of tactical gun techniques in this post.
- A strong side grip – which is your dominant hand. This is the type of grip with a few of the tactical techniques, where the two hands are completely separated. A strong side grip will give you less control over the gun's recoil and getting back on target than a two-handed grip.
- A weakside grip – which is using your non-dominant hand. This is usually only used when the dominant hand is injured.
- Some of the best, mounted lights allow for easy access to momentary and permanent on, as well as strobe.
- Momentary allows you to identify a subject without excessively lighting yourself as a target.
- Strobe allows you to potentially disable a subject without deadly force. You can read about the effectiveness of strobe lights in this post.
- For someone who is not regularly training, the gun mounted light is easier to master, and requires less fine motor movements than a tactical grip with a handheld tactical light.
And, here are some of the cons of a gun mounted light:
- Where ever you point your light, you're simultaneously pointing your gun.
- This effectively violates one of the basic handgun safety rules that states you should always point your gun in a safe direction.
- This violation, however, is mitigated by obeying another safety rule which states that you should keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.
- Since the controls for the light is typically manipulated with the same finger which manipulates the handgun trigger, some instances of accidental firing have occurred.
- This is rare, but one police department has even banned gun-mounted lights, preferring separate tactical lights. Remember, however, they train for this.
- Tactical light self-defense best practices and at least one of the tactical gun techniques recommend moving the tactical light away from the holder's body. This provides a measure of safety since if an aggressor were to fire at the light source, there is a higher probability that it will not hit the holder. With a gun mounted light, you are directly behind the light which can increase your odds of being shot.
- Of course, this is mitigated by the effective use of the momentary light.
- Some feel that the attached tactical light will provide a different weight and balance to the handgun.
- Although this may be true, the solution to this is to train with the mounted light on the handgun.
Summary and recommendations
It would be nice if there were a simple and straightforward solution with no possible bad side effects. As in virtually anything in life, this is, unfortunately, not an option. In any event, I didn't sugar coat either the pros or cons of using a mounted light above.
There should also be a recognization of the fact that this is not really an either/or argument.
Most professionals have and use both a handheld and gun-mounted tactical light.
Military and policemen, however, also train in the proper use of these tactical gear items.
It is my opinion then, that if a viable gun mounted light is used, and the user trains with that light,
and by viable I mean the following:
- the light is secure and designed for the handgun
- the light has easily accessible paddles to activate the various light alternatives which mitigate accidental firing
- the light has one brightness level, momentary and permanent on, and possible even a strobe, and
- the light is capable of 250 – 800 lumens,
That gun mounted lights, even with the understanding and acceptance of the negatives above, are not only recommended but even required gear for home handgun defensive use.
I have a review of some of the available gun mounted lights on my Recommended Gear page.
As I've stated earlier, the only exception to this would be the use of a concealed carry weapon, to which I would recommend that a separate tactical light be always carried, and trained with. Still, if possible, I would have a gun mounted light, even with concealed carry, if it didn't offset the ability to carry concealed and operate safely.
Always be prepared. Be well.