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

Gear that has traditionally been used by law enforcement and military is becoming more popular among 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 definitely one of those 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, so having a tactical light on your primary weapon system is definitely a benefit in these conditions.

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I also had a tactical light on my duty firearm as a patrol cop, and 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 for 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.

Personally I don't have 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 are some factors I consider (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 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.
  • 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 usually necessary 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 and illuminate a threat, but can also degrade your night vision. Lights can change how you see your sights, affecting point of aim. So using them requires actual low light shooting 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 a 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, especially on a home defense gun. In general, I don't think a light on your EDC is an absolute must. I say this because many popular EDC guns do not even have an accessory rail for a light. Sure some companies make lights that can attach to trigger guards and such. But it becomes almost impossible to find a suitable holster.

Plus, I would hate for someone to give up on their favorite EDC because they can't fit a light on it.

If you work at night and typically walk through a dark parking lot or alley on your way home or to your vehicle, having a light on your gun becomes more important. Identifying these types of situational factors should be the reasoning behind adding a tac light to your EDC.

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. For the most part, you may find carrying a handheld light gives you more versatility and is a better solution for you than a weapon mounted light. Good luck and always stay safe!

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

  1. Alton Ivory April 21, 2018 at 11:40 am #

    I agree with Matthew on these points. I would also add the point of the extra expense in outfitting your primary firearm with something that will rarely / if ever, be used.

  2. Jay Lacson April 23, 2018 at 7:21 pm #

    I see the reason why military and law enforcement use these but I feel there is not a need for a light attached to your handgun. I do carry a small led flashlight in my pocket, a spare magazine on my belt and a Gerber multi-tool on my belt as well. I just find it is very difficult to carry a semiautomatic handgun appendix carry with an attached light to my Glock.

    • Matthew Maruster April 24, 2018 at 8:23 am #

      I agree, on all your points. I think there are unique circumstances that having a light on your EDC makes total sense. Like if you work the nightshift etc. But for the most part probably not a huge application for it in the civilian world. Probably would have more use for a handheld light than a weapon mounted light.

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