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pistol light

Should You Use A Pistol Light?

Police use them, people on YouTube have them; should you really add a pistol light to your concealed carry gun? Is it really all that necessary?

Well, it's certainly not a bad idea. It's one of those things where "need" is a bit relative, but adding, say, a TLR light certainly isn't the worst thing you can do.

But let's talk about that a bit more.

Why You Want A Pistol Light

want pistol light

The reason you'd want a pistol light? Does it REALLY need to be explained too much?

Obviously, the idea is to give the pistol a light source so you can illuminate the target in a low-light environment. I mean, DUH. It's not as if this stuff is rocket science.

That's why they're basically standard-issue in police departments. They're out at all hours of the day (there are 24 of them) and anywhere from one-half to one-third of those hours (depending on longitude and season) are going to be dark, unless you live in Alaska...where sometimes ALL of them are dark.

That much speaks for itself.

Supposed Tactical Advantage Of A Pistol Light

light on a pistol

Another supposed benefit, and how real this is...well, it's up to you to think of it...is a supposed tactical advantage to using a weapon light.

It's sort of like the oft-repeated saw about pump-action shotguns, in that racking the slide is enough to scare a bad guy off. The idea with pistol lights is that your opponent will be blinded or disoriented by the light in their face and give you a tactical advantage should that moment ever come.

Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but there isn't any real data to support it and - as the writer Christopher Hitchens observed - that which is claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

Remember there's a HUGE degree of difference between what affects a person in a normal, relaxed state and what affects a person when adrenaline and cortisol is charging through their veins in a fight or flight scenario, or if a person is mentally ill or thoroughly besotted by substances.

Yes, even IF said light has a strobe setting.

You get to make up your own mind (if you asked me, I think it's hogwash) but it's one of those things that people say is supposedly a thing. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but there's no real, tangible proof of it.

How Low Light Are Low Light Environments?

low light

Obviously, you consider a light because you anticipate possibly using your gun in a low light environment. However, what you might want to think about it just HOW low-light an environment it is that you're likely to encounter.

Police officers, especially county sheriff's deputies that patrol a mixture of rural and urban areas, are likely to make a traffic stop in an area where there are no street lights, and the only illumination is their vehicle lights. The typical person who lives in a suburban area...not so much. Streetlights (people, who-oh...oh, nevermind) and houselights and so on add up to a heck of a lot of ambient light (in fact, the term is "light pollution") so you might never really be in a truly low-light environment.

If you ever want to see what low-light is...get in some thick woods at night and turn your light off. You've never experienced darkness like it.

How unlit really IS your house at night? Are there some nightlights, maybe a lamp left on at a low setting, the light from the oven and microwave? In the typical home, there's probably more than you'd think.

The point is to think about these things, and ponder if a light is really all that necessary. Good to have, sure, but think about the places that you're normally in or likely to be in. Night sights might really be sufficient for you.

Get The Best Pistol Light For You

best pistol light

You want to make sure to select the best pistol light for you that you can.

First, understand your own power of eyesight, especially how well you know that you see at night. If your eyes are okay in the dark, then you don't need to worry as much. However, if you know that you have lousy eyesight and lousier night vision, then you need a big, bright light.

In other words, understand that if your eyesight sucks, you need the biggest and brightest beam you can get. If your eyes are terrible, then you need more lumens.

Be sure to select a light that you can easily activate upon drawing the pistol. You should be able to index the controls with your trigger finger to activate the light. You can hedge your bets a bit by training the non-shooting hand to activate the light...but remember that many defensive shootings essentially take place at contact distance. You might not have use of your non-dominant hand.

Also, make sure that you can get a holster for pistol and light that accepts your make and model pistol and make and model light. If you can't carry it, what good does it do you?

Length of the light housing itself is a matter of some discussion. On the one hand, a light housing with a lens that doesn't protrude past the muzzle means an easier time finding a holster. However, longer than the muzzle also gives you a stand-off feature, in that if your attacker bum rushes you, you can make contact without pushing the slide out of battery.

That much is all up to you.

Make Sure You Train With Your Pistol Light


If you're decided to use a pistol light on your carry gun or home defense gun, make sure that you train with it. Put it on your gun and train with it.

Remember, the goal of concealed carry practice and training is to practice how you're going to fight. The conditions obviously can't be the same, but what CAN be the same is the gear that you're going to do it with and the techniques you're going to use.

Also bear in mind that gear is VASTLY overrated. Guns, bullets, whatever. People make too much of it. It's a tool, and frankly the capability of any tool lays in the hand of the craftsman.

The worst mechanic in the world still sucks with a better set of socket wrenches, but a master mechanic can do wonders with tools from that tools from that one hardware store we all love to hate. (It rhymes with "Schmarbor Freight.") So all the lights, night sights and whatever in the world won't make you a better shooter.

About The Author

Writer sam hoober