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Insights with Sticky Holsters: Lights and Lasers on Handguns – Pros and Cons

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Lights Lasers Handguns

Insights with Sticky Holsters

Lights and Lasers on Handguns: Pros and Cons

Written by: Eric Rice

There were nearly five million new gun owners in 2020. This trend of increased firearms ownership shows no signs of slowing down. People are waking up and taking responsibility for their own safety. Being a new gun owner can be overwhelming. So much to learn and so many choices of accessories, do-dads, gizmos, and shiny gimmicky things to Gucci out your new gat. Even long-time gun owners are uninformed on the proper application and tactical uses of many accessories they already own. For the purpose of this article, I will stick to weapons mounted lights (WML) and lasers. I will also touch on the benefits of a handheld light as well. To be clear, when talking about lasers, I am referring to visible lasers, usually red or green, and NOT IR lasers.

I am personally a huge proponent of using both WML and handheld lights for both concealed carry or everyday carry (EDC) and for home defense over lasers.  Lasers however do provide some tactical advantages if used properly. Before I get into what I use personally, let’s talk about what lights and lasers do and don’t do.

Lights Lasers Handguns

Lights provide huge tactical advantages in a self-defense/home invasion situation. Lights have become extremely compact and ultra-bright. Long gone are the days of carrying a huge 4 D cell battery Mag-Lite. I tend to choose quality American made products over the cheaper “foreign” made ones. You can find decent quality lights that are fairly affordable, just don’t expect the discount products to perform like the premier brands. You cannot shoot what you cannot see. In low-light or no-light situations, a flashlight allows you to see the intended target. The light can also help you identify or confirm/deny there is even a threat. The light can also temporarily disorient or blind an assailant giving you the precious seconds needed to engage and get off the proverbial “X”. In any shooting there will be an investigation and possible criminal charges. Having a light can prove how you were able to positively identify a weapon or threat in the dark.

With all these advantages there has to be some disadvantages, right? So, the disadvantage is the light gives away your position and allows any potential attacker to see you better. Furthermore, in confined spaces the light can also blind and disorient you as well. The cool thing these days is to get the light with the highest number of lumens. Lumens is a unit of luminous flux in the International System of Units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions. In short it means how bright the light is. Sure, on a rifle where you expect to engage targets outside past 50m, then yes by all means get that 1000 lumen WML, but that same light in a 10×10 room is going to have serious wash out and will blind you. I normally recommend a light with 200-500 lumens for use in a building.

Lasers are probably the number one accessory I see used incorrectly. First and foremost, lasers have to be zeroed to a certain distance just like any optic. That means you must choose a set distance to zero the laser to since lasers are straight lines and bullets do not fly in straight lines. I generally recommend zeroing a handgun laser at 10-20 yards. As a general rule of thumb, I highly discourage new shooters from using lasers when learning how to shoot and when shooting on a static range. What I normally see with shooters, is they focus so much on the laser they forget all the 100 other things they are supposed to be doing to accurately fire a handgun. It is impossible to hold an object completely still. You will naturally move or shake when you are aiming, and this is even more evident with a laser.  More often than not people realize this and try to hold the laser exactly over the X on the bullseye, and when they happen to shake just right and the laser crosses over the X, they jerk the trigger trying to get the gun to fire while laser is over the X on the target. This is wrong wrong wrong.

Lights Lasers Handguns

What advantages do lasers actually provide in a tactical situation? Lasers provide a sight picture when a normal sight picture can not be acquired. This can be due to an unusual position i.e. shooting from the hip or in a low light situation where you cannot see your sights. Gun fights are fluid and dynamic so the likelihood of having to fire from an awkward or unusual position is very high. If you have not trained to shoot from these positions, you may have difficulty finding your sights in the confusion of fighting for your life and being in an unfamiliar situation. With a laser, if the conditions are right, you just have to point the laser and shoot.

Handheld lights offer another advantage to your EDC or for a home defense application. First and foremost, it allows you to search and identify without pointing your firearm at everything.  There are many scenarios where you might have to use a light, but don’t want to be flagging everything and everyone with a weapon. Additionally, if using the FBI technique, the light will not be directly in front of your face. This is advantageous since a natural response by the attacker would be to return fire directly at the light. Some of the most popular handheld light techniques are the FBI, Harries, Neck/Temple Index, and the Rogers/Surefire. I personally will use the Switchback, Rogers or Neck Index techniques depending on the light I am carrying and the situation.

I personally carry either a small Pelican 1920, or a Surefire G2ZX with a Thyrm Switchback as part of my EDC. Which light I carry depends on the situation and my attire. I keep the same Surefire light set up along with Surefire X300 mounted to a Glock 17 as my primary home defense firearm.

Lights Lasers Handguns

I hope this helps you make an educated decision on whether you choose to use either a light, laser or both. The decision is yours to make, and should be made on facts and what you feel is best for you and your lifestyle and abilities. Please let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Carry on and be safe.

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