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My straight up, knee jerk 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 I believe 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.
My 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, 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. *Side note, let me know if you’d like to see an article on grip and stance because I know a few instructors that can type up really good information on the subject.
To resolve the issue of having to use one hand for a flashlight and the other to hold your gun, manufactures 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. I believe that this is the biggest advantage of using a weapon mounted light. Now, this does not mean that I think this should be your only light. I strongly believe that 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 was 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 had and you needed 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.
I assume that most of the people reading this has 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 to shoot with a flashlight or a weapon mounted light, both can be highly effective. You just have to decide which works better for you. If you don’t know what any of the aforementioned is, do not hesitate to ask. I will be more than happy to help explain offline.
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 manufactures 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.
Using a weapon mounted light does not come without disadvantages. I’ll leave that open for discussion because I’d like to see what other people’s opinions are towards that.
For those of you that are interested, I’ll list a few light manufactures and models that are out on the market for you to research. I won’t add prices or talk about each light because I’m not a subject matter expert on any specific one. I just know several people that 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
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.
Always carry, Stay safe and God Bless!