Lessons from Night Gun School

One of the components of the class I attended last weekend was a dusk/night portion. We engaged targets in transitional light and darkness. I brought with me my trusty Glock 34, which has a fiber optic front sight and plain black rear (i.e. no tritium whatsoever), a Surefire X300U with DG Switch(and a second without), and a Surefire E2D Defender Ultra flashlight. I got some reps in with everything, and I can now draw some conclusions.

Note that these are conclusions from the perspective of a civilian concealed carrier. NOT a special forces type guy or a SWAT guy or a policeman. So I’m not usually engaged in hunting bad guys. This will impact a bunch of conclusions.

First, sights. Or, were fiber optic sights a handicap? I shot in both transitional and nonexistent light. I found that if there was enough light to see the target, there was enough light to use the sights I had. I had no problems in transitional light. Any less light, and you have to use some kind of light of your own, which will wash out whatever sights you’ve brought. So my fiber optics were no problem when it got really dark either. Win. Because they’re cheaper and more pleasant to work with in the daytime. I’m not going to optimize for transitional light.

See, while lots of crime happens at night, it happens in well lit areas. Because criminals need some light to figure out that you’re worth the trouble. They need to see you, size you up, and then make their move. That needs light.

Okay, that’s the carry problem taken care of. Let’s look at techniques that might be used in the case of home invasion, or other night work. First, the independent flashlight. We worked a number of techniques, including the Harries, the FBI, the temple index, the neck index, and the Kyle Lamb technique. Let’s break them down.

I really liked Harries. Despite not being a Weaver stance shooter, I found it was pretty intuitive and easy to use. It was the most stable of the flashlight techniques for me.

The FBI technique worked great for searching. Not so much for shooting in most cases. It’s just awkward, and hard to keep everything pointed where you want it. But it’s easy to transition to the temple index…

The temple index was another excellent technique. It was less stable than the Harries, but it was a lot easier to get the light pointed in the right direction. It worked well for me for shooting. And again, really easy to transition to the FBI technique for searching. Switching between the two worked really well for most purposes. Though it does make you shoot strong hand only.

The neck index is stupid. It illuminates the rear sight too much. The temple index does a better job of highlighting the front sight, which is the one you should be paying attention to.

I did not like the Kyle Lamb technique. This one was super awkward and needed lots of awkward push-pull mechanics. Maybe it would have worked better for a Weaver shooter, but this was significantly trickier than the Harries. And I ain’t a Weaver guy. Pass.

I also brought weaponlights. These are not good for searching, since that requires pointing your weapon at things. But they are great for target identification. Confirming that your target is a hostile and not the cat or your daughter or some shit is what weapon lights excel at. Way easier to engage targets with a weaponlight on your pistol. You have your natural grip. The light is automatically aligned with the barrel. And with a DG switch, a firm shooting grip means the light is on. Relax a little, it goes off. Easy.

Also note that if you come to a door (we did drills with a door), you can easily free a hand to open the door and then reestablish the master firing grip. Makes that problem a lot easier.

The experience of me and the other students reinforced the importance of simple switchology. We didn’t have time pressure or other stress, but people still didn’t get their flashlights to do what they wanted. This is part of the brilliance of the X300U/DG switch combo. You don’t have to think too much. It’s got two settings. On. Off. Press if you want on. Don’t press if you don’t. It’s great. Technically it’s a ‘momentary on’ switch, but I found that gripping correctly meant it was on until I relaxed.

By the end of class, everyone who had a weaponlight but no DG switch had ordered one.

The E2D is a really good handheld. It’s got a low setting and a high setting in addition to off. Default is high, which is what I want. To get to low, you have to double tap the button. So you have to want low to get low. This is useful for small tasks right in front of you like reloading mags. I had no instances of getting the wrong input. Also, the button can be pressed for momentary on or clicked to stay on. Again, this is useful.

Students with poorly thought out flashlights seriously considered flinging their lights over the nearest berm. Lots of problems were had with getting low when you wanted high or vice versa. I also learned strobes suck. I don’t see the point of a strobing flashlight. 500 lumens to the face is just as disorienting, and the strobe is more likely to piss off the user. Any kind of complicated fancy switch mechanism could be counted upon to suck and be gotten wrong. And this was not a stressful environment.

In terms of gear, I came well prepared to do night work, so I didn’t have any gear takeaways from this portion of class. Again, note that it’s very not necessary to have a weaponlight on your carry gun, for the same reasons that tritium isn’t needed. In terms of holster selection, our instructors really like Dark Star Gear and C&G holsters. Both make great kydex holsters. They, and most other good kydex holstermakers, have plenty of options for holsters that will carry a weaponlight.

As for light brands, Surefire. Surefire Surefire Surefire. The other consistent recommendation for something cheaper was Streamlight.

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