This week two people reached out to me and asked for my opinion on if they should have a weapon mounted light on their everyday carry gun, and if they should carry a spare magazine. For what it's worth, here is my answer to that question. You don't have to agree with my stance on the topic, but I challenge people to make a thoughtful and educated decision.
Setting Context —
Should you use a weapon mounted light (WML), and what priority is carrying a spare magazine? It is important to frame the answer because it depends on the application. So let's look at the question from the perspective of a civilian carrying a concealed handgun, not a law enforcement officer on patrol.
Weapon Mounted Lights —
First, what is the purpose of a WML? Well, it's not for searching, it's for identification in low light applications. So, if you work a night shift, or are out at night, a WML has more value. However, remember, a WML is for identification of a threat and typically as a citizen defender, if we've drawn our handgun, we've already identified an attacker and determined they are a deadly threat.
That doesn't mean extra light can't help, but civilian defensive gun uses rarely involve the use of WMLs. In fact, I've never seen an instance where a civilian used a WML in a way that impacted the outcome. John Correa, known for his analysis of defensive gun uses posted on his Active Self Protection site, hasn't seen one either in over 30,000 defensive gun uses. Here is one incident where someone actually used a WML, but it was after the gunfight was essentially over.
Another consideration for using a WML is indoors or in locations where bright light can wash your pistol-mounted, red dot optic. Even in “self-defense distances,” which is an arbitrary term, we should have a sight picture for all shots. We can mitigate this issue by selecting an appropriate WML and setting the optic brightness. The main point here is using a WML requires some training in how to set it up, and how to use it.
So does this mean my recommendation is that you shouldn't use a WML? I don't have a WML on my everyday carry (EDC) gun, but that doesn't mean I don't think anyone should ever use one. I know many people who do, and they have noble reasons for it. So if you don't mind a slightly bigger holster and the cost associated with a light, there are plenty of good options to choose from that you'll be happy with. Just do some research, and then get some training on how to use it appropriately.
While we're on lights, don't forsake a handheld light simply because you have a WML. They have vastly different purposes, and in my opinion, you're likely to use a handheld light before a weapon mounted light.
Spare Magazines —
So I've heard the saying, “two is one, and one is none.” I get it, and redundancy is a great way to be prepared when things don't go as planned. To me, the question boils down to the fact that I can't carry everything that I would like to. So it's more of a question of priority for me, and carrying the MOST important things out of many important things.
For example, I think we would say if our cell phone battery died, it would suck. But does everyone carry a spare battery or charging cable everywhere they go? I consider there is one in my vehicle, and try to ensure that my battery is charged before I set out somewhere where I may not have power. Now, if I go camping or on a hike or long kayak trip, I pack a small battery pack and charger.
The point is, we have to prioritize what we carry based on our activities and lifestyle.
Again, in looking at tens of thousands of defensive gun uses, John Correa said he's never seen an incident where someone's use of a spare magazine was the deciding factor in them surviving the incident. Probability is something I factor when trying to decide on the MOST important things to carry on a daily basis. I've seen far more incidents where the application of trauma gear factored into someone's survival. For this reason, my calculus places medical gear above a spare magazine.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying not to carry a spare magazine. This becomes especially important if your everyday carry gun has low capacity. A person who carries a single-stack 1911, or a revolver may place a speed strip, or spare mag at a higher priority than me, who carries a gun with 15+1 rounds.
Just think about your choices and choose to carry things consistently. I have seen people lose the desire to carry their gun regularly because of all the other things they think they need to carry. So it becomes overwhelming, and instead of not carrying as much stuff, they just carry nothing. Don't get to that point.
Wrapping Up —
I'm not the final authority on the matter, and this is MY reasoning, feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below. My real reason for writing these types of articles isn't to persuade you to see things the way I see them. It is to suggest that we make sure to understand WHY we do the things we do. Why do you carry the gun you carry, or how you carry your EDC are topics people have strong opinions about. Let's make sure our opinions are based on logic and fact, and not just emotion.