One of the local cops here told me something that seems to be supported by cops everywhere – nothing good happens after 11pm.
If we were to slog through the crime statistics of just about anywhere on the planet, we’d see that most crimes are committed under cover of darkness. Certainly when it comes to those dreaded dynamic ‘home invasion’-type scenarios they almost always happen when it’s dark. Under a disaster or end-of-the-world scenario its reasonable to imagine that these sorts of nocturnal threats are only going to increase and be even more dangerous since, in most cases, electric lighting will be absent.
If you watch ‘The Omega Man’, you’ll see that our hero, Robert Neville (Charlton Heston), has a big ‘ol flashlight pipe-strapped to his Swedish K. Not a new idea, but probably the one of the first times it was brought to a wider audience. At the time, pretty much the only factory firearm with a dedicated weaponlight was the HiStandard 10A/B series of shotguns…never very common and quite quaint by todays standards of tacticool. (And, yes, if you go back far enough on the internet you can discover revolver-mounted flashlights that go back darn near 100 years….but they were more novelties and evolutionary dead-ends limited by bulb- and battery technology. [And at least one such fitted Luger.]
As time went on, folks seemed to realize that Bad Stuff happens at night and it might be a good idea to incorporate lights into the tactics of those who respond to those Bad Things. The most practiced technique is probably the Harries Technique (which is often miscalled ‘Harris Technique’). This is still a good way to use a powerful light when you don’t have it mounted on your handgun…but its not as great as being able to use both hands on your pistol.
At some point we finally transitioned to purpose-built weapon-mounted lights. These things are great and I love ‘em. The only real drawback, in my opinion, is that it makes it too easy for people to do something that is inherently unsafe – using their weaponlight like a flashlight. (This is much like people using their riflescope as they would binoculars.) Unless you think there’s something over there you need to shoot, don’t point your gun at it because it’s more convenient than using your flashlight.
When these things first came out, the ‘Krytpon’-type bulbs were the standard. Intense incandescent bulbs that generated a lot of heat and sucked juice like Ted Kennedy at an open bar. Eventually the LED technology caught up and nowadays almost all the usual weaponlights are LED.
I’ve played with a few lights over the years. At the moment, I’ve got a Streamlight TLR-2 sitting on the Uzi and it’s an awesome light. (Yes, it has a laser. Not my idea, the light was a gift. Normally, Im kinda on the fence about lasers.) My nightstand Glock has an older Streamlight M3 on it and as soon as I can free up the coin, I’ll be dropping a Streamlight TLR on that one as well. Speaking of dropping, the Glock pistol light is just embarassing. The local PD here had them and quickly moved on to the Streamlight when it was found the Glock lights had a tendency to eject themselves off the gun during recoil. Most of the Glock lights wound up sitting on the rails of the AR’s that are in the cop cars. The Streamlight has a screw to tension the mount so it does not come off the gun…something to think about. (It appears that Glock may have addressed the issue since the copy says that the lights also come with a ‘mounting tool’ now.) A couple years back I found a SureFire Scoutlight in a pawn shop and I love this little light. WIth the push-button tailcap you can use it dismounted from the gun like would an ordinary flashlight. Having run out of guns to mount it to, it sits on my 10/22 in case we are ever subject to a nighttime raid by…uhm…hamsters, I guess. I’ve also found a few of the older incandescent SureFire weaponlights at pretty good deals. Folks usually dump them at bargain prices when they upgrade to the LED versions. Theyre still quite serviceable and are better than no light at all. Additionally, many of them are modular so you can replace the front end with an LED head if you’re so inclined. And finally, a couple years ago I saved my pennies and got this bad boy. It wasn’t cheap (SureFire 618LMG) but it is a very, very nice addition to the go-to 870.
Overkill? Too tacticool? I dunno…I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks that all you need is to duct tape a $2 WalMart flashlight to the barrel of your Mosin-Nagant and youre good to go..(“Don’t need any of those yuppie survivalist gun toys!”) but when something goes wrong at 3am I think having the option of lighting up the area in front of your muzzle has a lot going for it.
I mention the SureFire stuff because its what I have and they have, hands down, the broadest selection of gear. I’ve used their stuff for years (I mean waaaay back) and have been pretty pleased with it. There are other brands and a few up-and-comers are making some very interesting products these days. I haven’t had a chance to try them yet, but if the opportunity presents itself I wouldn’t mind giving them a try. In the meantime, being something of a hidebound traditionalist, I’ll stick to the brands I know and have experience with.
Does every gun need to have a light on it? I don’t think so. But it would be a good idea if every gun had the option of having one attached to it. Since accessory rails are standard on just about every gun these days theres very few firearms that won’t accept a light. Pick up a decent StreamLight or SureFire and keep it with your gear if you don’t want to have one on every gun…just switch it to whatever gun youre running out the door with.
Last thing – batteries. CR123 batts are the way to go. There are a few lights out there that take other size batteries but you’d be crazy to go with anything other than the CR123. Virtually everyone has adopted the lithium CR123 batts for optics and lights, so stick with that…makes logistics easier. Spend the extra money and get real, good, known-quantity, CR123 batts. Don’t cheap out by getting some “Sonysonic” or “Duraready” or other cheap Chinese crap. Buy the real deal. $300 worth of weaponlight is just dead weight on the end of your gun if the batteries self-discharge from sitting unused for a while…or worse, the leak all over the innards of your expensive light. Don’t do it!