Take Your Defensive Shooting To The Next Level With Low-Light Dry Fire Practice

Photo by Shane Bevel

A sad reality is that many gun ranges will not allow shooters to practice after hours. When I say after hours, I mean in low light conditions. The problem with this, is that many defensive shooting incidents happen in low or no light, and virtually none of us are actually training for this sort of scenario.

On the plus side, there are things we can be doing in our dry fire practice from the comfort of our own home that allow us to get some familiarity with low-light shooting. If you don't know what dry fire training is, I strongly suggest that you check out the following resources before reading further in this article:

3 Dry Fire Drills you can't live without

Dry fire training with laser simulation

Tools of dry-fire training

All of the safety rules apply each time we're handling our gun, so make sure you're following them and always dry fire with an unloaded gun that is pointed in a safe direction. Let's move on —

Flashlight Work:

An underrated skill that many concealed carriers never even think to practice is holding a flashlight and a gun at the same time. While a different article is being constructed (by Matthew) about the different flashlight techniques, for now we'll just call the popular methods by their name:

  • Harries technique (flashlight under weapon in support hand)
  • FBI (overhead)
  • Neck (indexed near your neck, ear, or cheek)
  • Rogers/Surefire

Pick your chosen flashlight hold and do dry fire practice on your target. Practice picking up your target and engaging it while holding your flashlight. If possible, start to add movement to the mix up.

If you don't have a flashlight, I recommend this one, or this one if you're on a budget.

Or, for more advanced dry fire practice, have another person set up targets in the room, and then turn the lights off. As you enter the room, engage your targets. Please note that this particular exercise works better with a SIRT training pistol, a DAO pistol, or the Glock E-Trainer if you've got a Glock so you don't have to continually rack the slide.

Dry Fire shooting and moving in low light:

While the dark can be a hindrance to you, if you train for it in advance you can turn it into a leg up for you and a hindrance to your opponent.

When your light is on your movement can easily be tracked. However, if you shoot with your light on, then turn your light off and move to a new location your opponent won't know where you're going unless they can still track you, until you want him to know where you've moved to once you re-engage your target.

Tip- Your house may be too small to effectively practice this, but doing it outside in your yard can also work. Just make sure you are safe and participating in an area where your neighbors won't call the cops on you for training with your firearm in your yard.

Mastering the ability to engage targets while taking fire, moving, manipulating the flashlight, etc., is one thing, but being able to identify cover or concealment and getting to it in the dark is also a needed skill.

Practice identifying these life-saving structures (and learn more about them here), and then moving to them under the concealment of darkness to hide your movement. Then, once you get to your destination, re-evaluate the situation and if needed, re-engage.

Low light malfunction clearing:

Practicing malfunction clearing while it's light out is a great way to train – but being able to clear malfunctions in the dark is even better.

One way you can do this is to simulate a failure while your flashlight is on, with the house lights off. Turn off the flashlight, clear the malfunction how you normally would (which can be tricky while you're holding the flashlight), and then turn the flashlight back on to assess the situation and engage the target if needed.


Everything you train for in full-blown daylight should also be trained for in low or no light circumstances to the best of your ability. If the only time you can practice these things is in dry fire practice, then go home tonight and do it. It could mean the difference between life and death.

About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. Chuck Haggard on March 12, 2020 at 5:05 am

    The real world need for using lights for defensive shooting purposes in a CCW paradigm is almost absolute zero. I’s say zero, but absolutes are something I try to avoid.
    The 64 defensive shootings that Tom Givens’ students have been in showed that there was zero need. Urban areas are well lit, even after dark. Bad guys can’t find you in a cave, they need ambient light too.

    Even in a law enforcement context the need is demonstrably not there.

    IDing what you are pointing a gun at before you shoot is a good thing in a home defense scenario. This becomes obvious when we see the tragic cases of people shooting at shadows in the home, and finding they have shot a family member.

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