Members of my family won’t be surprised that I’m writing about flashlights for this month’s everyday-carry column. In their opinion, I am obsessed with flashlights.
Maybe I am, but it’s understandable. In nearly 28 years as a police officer, with a good portion of that time working night shifts, it’s safe to say I used flashlights more than any other piece of gear— more than the handcuffs, more than the radio, more than the gun.
There might have been times when I’ve been metaphorically in the dark, but rarely am I ever literally in the dark. I always have a flashlight on me, even in the daytime. The job taught me that you might have to see into dark places—closets, basements of vacant buildings, hidden compartments of motor vehicles—at any time.
Now, as a civilian, my tactical applications for a light might be fewer, but everyday carry is about readiness. Also, unlike some other everyday-carry gear, a flashlight is going to have many uses beyond self-defense applications.
SPOTLIGHT ON FEATURES
Flashlights are better and brighter than ever. Gone are the days when you needed to stuff five D-cell batteries into a heavy flashlight a foot and a half long, only to fumble to retrieve the spare bulb stored in the end cap when your light suddenly left you in the dark.
You can now get a more powerful light that fits in your pocket and with a modern LED bulb that will last the lifetime of the light. So, what other features do you need?
1. LITHIUM POWER SOURCE
A light that uses a single CR123A lithium battery will typically offer a longer run time than one that uses an AA or AAA alkaline battery. These batteries can be found virtually everywhere now. There are rechargeable versions of these, too (RCR123A).
2. A GOOD SWITCH
If your LED light is going to fail, chances are it will be because of the switch. Buy a better light for a more reliable switch. Leave the $5 light in the kitchen utility drawer.
3. MULTIPLE MODES
You might need a bright light to identify your target or locate a poorly marked trail in the woods. My lights typically offer 300 or more lumens on “high.” But most times, I need much less light. Save your batteries. Save your night vision. Don’t give away your position. Get a light that offers a low-power mode, too.
4. “MOMENTARY ON” CAPABILITY
You might need to “flash and dash”; that is, have your flashlight emit a quick burst of light to check for threats and obstacles. Then, you move in the dark to prevent being an easy target.
5. TWO-WAY POCKET CLIP
These allow you to clip the light to the brim of your hat for hands-free operation—a good feature when you’re changing a tire on the side of a dark road.
LIGHT AND THE GUN
Unless you’re kicking in doors to execute warrants or rescue hostages, you probably won’t mount your primary light on your everyday-carry gun. You simply don’t want to point your gun at everything you want to illuminate.
Learn and practice the techniques for using a handheld light with your handgun. There’s the old FBI technique of holding the flashlight above and away from you. The Harries technique entails locking the back of your wrists together, with your gun arm over your flashlight arm. There’s the Rogers technique: You hold the light between your index and middle fingers like a syringe. Additionally, there are the Combat Ring, Reverse Harries and Neck Index techniques.
None of these allows you to use your normal two-handed grip on your handgun, so managing recoil and getting back on target are more difficult. Try some live-fire drills, and you’ll know the limitations of each method.
One of the nice things about the use of flashlights is that by illuminating your target, your gun sights are perfectly silhouetted, providing you with an excellent sight picture.
I use several flashlights more than some of the others I own:
The great thing is that you can power it with either one CR123A lithium battery or one AA alkaline battery without any modifications. (350 lumens on “high”; MSRP: $68)
This flashlight provides only 70 lumens on “high,” but that’s more than I need most times. Its ultra-thin barrel makes it the easiest to carry. (MSRP: $48)
This light features a rotary tail end that controls the brightness settings and “constant on” or “momentary on” settings. From any of the “constant on” settings, pressing the power button takes you instantly to full brightness. Release the button, and the light goes back to your previous setting. This is an expensive light, but it’s up to professional use in every way. (325 lumens on “high”; MSRP: $299)
In addition to the power switch in the end cap, this light has a separate mode button on the side of the light that’s very handy. (492 lumens on “high”; MSRP: $68.95)
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.