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Using Your Defense Pistol At Night

May 3, 2008
Criminals by their very nature are cowards, and commit their crimes when they believe their chances of being seen are low. It should come as no surprise, then, that more crimes are committed at night. It also follows that the majority of defensive uses of firearms occur at night.

For citizens who carry a gun for defense, or keep one in the home, this presents a problem. Low-light conditions make it more difficult for the citizen to see the criminal and more difficult for the citizen to use the gun's sights. Fortunately, though, there are products and techniques that enable you to identify a potential threat and, if necessary, quickly get your gun on target. Each product and technique has its advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to find the solution that's best for you.

Night Sights

If you keep a gun for self defense, night sights are an absolute must. In defensive shooting, shot placement is key to stopping an attack. If you can't quickly align your sights, chances are you'll miss.

Many companies produce glow-in-the-dark night sights for handguns and long guns. Usually these sights have dots that are filled with tritium, a radioactive gas that glows in the dark. Trijicon, Meprolight, Novak and other companies make night sights that fit most production guns with little or no modification to the gun required.

Night sights are effective when you're able to at least see the criminal, and know with certainty that he constitutes a threat. In total or near-total darkness, though, night sights will not enable you to see your attacker or at least confirm that he is indeed a threat.

Flashlights

Using a flashlight in conjunction with your defense gun enables you to identify a potential threat. More importantly, a flashlight enables you to identify persons who are not a threat. Nothing is more tragic than mistakenly shooting an innocent person.

In a tense defensive situation, holding a gun steady is often itself difficult. Trying to hold a gun as well as a flashlight becomes even trickier. However, there are techniques you can learn that have been proven over time.

One popular flashlight/handgun hold is called the "Harries technique." With this technique, you hold your gun in your strong hand, and the flashlight in your support hand. The wrist of your gun hand rests upon the wrist of your flashlight hand, and you bend the wrist on your flashlight arm so that the backs of the two hands are touching. This hold puts the flashlight directly parallel to the bore of the gun and provides a solid support for your gun hand. The primary disadvantage to the Harries technique is that it forces your gun hand to point the gun off to one side. If you're right-handed, you'll see that your gun is pointed twenty or thirty degrees to the left of your line of sight. To compensate, you'll need to hold the gun and flashlight much farther to the right than you ordinarily would.

Another common flashlight/gun hold is the "FBI technique." This entails holding the flashlight at arms length away from your body. The advantage to this technique is that the criminal will be inclined to shoot where he sees the light, while you'll have him in your sights. The disadvantage to the FBI technique is that you'll be shooting one-handed, something that requires much more practice than two-handed shooting.

A variation of the Harries technique is taught by instructors for Massad Ayoob's Lethal Force Institute (LFI) classes. With this hold, the gun hand rests on the top of the wrist of the flashlight hand. The wrist of the flashlight hand is bent enough to aim the light at the target, and the meat of the bottom of the gun hand is forward of the wrist of the flashlight hand. Having the meat of the gun hand pressing against the wrist of the flashlight hand eliminates what is called "limp-wristing," where there's not enough support for the gun to properly recoil and cycle the next round. Limp-wristing can result in failures to feed in semiautomatic handguns.

With advances in micro circuit technology, lasers and lamps, there are alternatives to the cumbersome flashlight/handgun combination.

Weapons-mounted lasers and lights were once used only by police SWAT teams and the military. Today, though, prices for such lights and lasers have reached the point where almost anyone can afford them. As with night sights and flashlights, weapons-mounted lasers and lights have their advantages and disadvantages.

Laser Sights

Laser sights are extremely effective in low light conditions where you can positively identify a threat to you, and need to get your gun on target quickly. By simply depressing a switch, you activate the laser. When the laser dot is on your target, you're ready to fire if necessary.

Laser sights have become so compact that they have almost no effect on the weight or grip of the gun. Crimson Trace makes grips for most popular models of handguns that are nearly identical to the size of original factory grips. Other companies, such as LaserMax, make laser sights that are equally unobtrusive. Guns equipped with such grips and sights will generally fit any standard holster.

The disadvantage with laser sights is the same as for glow-in-the-dark night sights: if you can't see the criminal, you don't know where to aim your gun. Thus laser sights are best suited for low-light conditions rather than no-light conditions.

Weapons-Mounted Lights

Weapons-mounted lights provide the positive threat identification of flashlight/handgun combinations, but without the cumbersome techniques and training. A simple press of a switch illuminates the area, allowing you to identify a potential threat.

Weapons-mounted lights--also called "tactical lights"--are usually mounted on a rail just forward of the trigger guard on a handgun. Most have switches that are placed within finger's reach for fast activation. Brightness levels on weapons lights vary from dozens of lumens to hundreds of lumens.

Many weapons lights also incorporate laser sights, giving you the ability to positively identify a threat even in total darkness, and then quickly lock on to the target with the laser sight.

Weapons-mounted lights are not without their disadvantages, though. One disadvantage is that most weapons lights require the use of holsters specifically designed for such lights. Some models even require the use of holsters designed especially for a particular light/gun combination.

Perhaps the primary disadvantage to weapons lights is that their use violates one of the four cardinal rules of gun use: never point your gun at an object you are not willing to destroy. When you're shining your weapon light on a person, you're pointing your gun at that person as well. Imagine hearing a suspicious noise and lighting up the area, only to find that you're pointing your gun at your child.

You can minimize this problem by strictly adhering to another of the four cardinal rules of gun use: keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire. Also, holding the gun at a "low ready" position, with the muzzle pointed 45 degrees toward the ground, will allow you to see your environment without directly pointing your gun at someone.

Night sights, flashlights, laser sights and weapons lights all give you an advantage in nighttime defensive gun use. In the end, though, there's no substitute for training. Lastly, there's no substitute for the hope and prayer that you never need to use your defense gun.
About the Author
Richard A. Baker is the publisher of GunShopFinder.Com. For more information by Richard A. Baker, see Insight Weapons Lights , Crimson Trace Laser Sights, and Trijicon Night Sights.
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