Gear that has traditionally been used by law enforcement and the 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 or weapon-mounted lights (WML) opinions on if they are necessary are bound to vary. Here is my opinion, and the pro's and cons I see with WML for your everyday carry gun (EDC.)
I was in the Marine Corps Infantry and while running combat patrols at night and entering dark buildings, I was happy to have a WML on my M16.
I also had a tactical light on my duty firearm as a patrol cop. Now, most of my time on the street was spent working graveyard shifts, so having a WML light on my duty pistol was a must. It was an obvious benefit when encountering a possibly armed suspect hiding in or around a business or home. It also helps hide your or your partner's movements to a certain degree since the subject can't see beyond the light.
As far as EDC I don't have a tactical light on my firearm. For me, 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 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.
- 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 WML's. And some may only make holsters for a few different brands of WML.
- Illuminate the threat – We don't shoot at shapes, shadows or sounds. Illuminating a threat allows you to confirm it is a threat and needs to be shot.
- Provide weight to the muzzle end – The WML provides some weight at the end of the muzzle end that can help reduce muzzle rise a bit.
- Can be a psychological deterrent – I say a light can be a psychological deterrent because there are instances when drawing a gun and illuminating the threat causes them to stop. It's hard to say if it was the light or the gun or the combination, but having a bright light shined in your eyes can have an effect in certain instances.
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. If your firearm doesn't have a tac rail and you want toa light, there are some lights that attach to trigger guards. But doing this may make it hard to find a hard-sided holster.
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 use a weapon-mounted light. 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. Good luck and always stay safe!