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Tactical Vs. ‘Tacti-cool’ : Lights on Your Everyday Carry Gun?

Gear that has traditionally be used by law enforcement and military, is becoming more popular amongst concealed carriers.  A lot of this gear is absolutely beneficial to civilian concealed carriers, and some are more mission specific and probably best left for the specific needs of the military and law enforcement.  The gun community is never short of arguments over tactics, gear, caliber etc. and this is one of those decisive topics.  When does beneficial tactical gear cross the line and become just something that looks tacti-cool?

Tactical Lights, The Debate Begins…

When it comes to tactical lights on our everyday carry gun, opinions on if they are necessary are bound to vary.  My opinion comes from my experience in the Marine Corps infantry, as a patrol cop, and civilian concealed carrier.  I had a tactical light on my M-16 in Iraq.  Running combat patrols at night and entering dark buildings is commonplace.  Having a tactical light on your primary weapon system is definitely a benefit in these conditions.  I had a tactical light on my duty firearm as a patrol cop.  Most of my time on the street was spent working graveyard shifts.  Working nights as a cop, without a light on your duty weapon, in my opinion, is not smart.  Obviously having a light on your firearm at night is going to be beneficial streamlight_tlr-6_flashlight_and_aiming_laser_combo_unit_on_glock_43_handgunfor a police officer encountering a hot prowl subject hiding in or around a home or countless other scenarios that I have been in, where having a tactical light on my firearm benefited me.  As a civilian concealed carrier, I have not decided to put a tactical light on my firearm.  There are several reasons for my decision, and ultimately it boils down to a balance of the pros vs the cons.  Here is my reasoning why I chose not to have one on my everyday carry (in no particular order):

  • Tac lights are not small – Carrying a firearm concealed can be difficult in its own right, adding a tactical light makes the task even harder.
  • Tac lights are not cheap – Well good ones are not cheap.  I would rather spend the $130+ dollars on a good training class or range time.
  • Tac lights don't fit my typical application – As a civilian, I avoid dark alleys and buildings and have no reason to go looking for prowlers etc.  If I am in my home and it is night time, I will arm myself and turn on the lights; which is a far better tactic than trying to stealthily sneak up on someone who may have broken into your home.
  • Tac lights are not typically helpful to a civilian concealed carrier – Because the concealed carrier is most likely to draw their firearm as a last resort in a very proximate attack, having a light on your gun is not beneficial because the threat has already been identified.  This is different from a law enforcement officer who may draw their firearm during a high-risk pedestrian stop in a dark alley where lighting the subject is critical.
  • Tac lights require training – Tac lights can be used to disorient the threat, but can also degrade night vision and change how you see your sights.  This can change your point of aim and requires practice.  Additionally, just operating the tac light is another step that must be practiced in order to be able to do it flawlessly under stress and not affect your grip.
  • Tac lights are not a substitute for a flashlight – If you have a tac light on your firearm you can only use it when you would be legally justified to draw your firearm, not simply to light a dark area.
  • Tac lights can make it difficult to find a holster – Some companies don't make their holsters to fit firearms with lights on them, making it difficult to find an economical holster.

It Is Your Choice:

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying tac lights do not have ANY benefit or application.  They definitely have their place, I just don't think that place lies on the average civilian concealed carrier's gun.  If you work at night and typically walk through a dark parking lot or alley on your way home or to your vehicle, you may find having a light gives you more peace of mind. Ultimately it is your decision to make if you place a tactical light on your firearm.  Just make that decision based on your analysis of the pros and cons rather than just wanting to deck out your firearm and make it look cool.  Good luck and always stay safe!

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