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How Do I Use a Handheld Flashlight and Handgun at The Same Time?

Weapon mounted lights (WML) and handheld lights are a necessity in low-light conditions. Without them, identification of the threat becomes difficult. Family members have shot other family members in low-light environments because they shot at someone they didn't identify.

You may have not realized it, but you learned the importance of light the first time you were told about firearms safety. Think about this basic rule: identify your target and what is beyond it. Now apply it to real-world defensive gun use. It would sound more like: identify your threat, what is around it, and be prepared for changes.

How does light factor into this rule? At night or in low light environments, we must illuminate our threat if we want to identify it as something that needs to be shot. Many instances where family members are shot are the result of the shooter's failure to identify the person they are shooting. The main reason why is usually because it was too dark to properly identify them. This is why light is important for your real-world gun use.

I identify four basic ways our target/threat is illuminated. They all have inherent benefits and limitations.

    • The first is any natural daylight or moonlight that allows us to identify a threat.
    • Secondly, is any artificial lighting that is not held in a hand. This includes overhead lighting, or lamps inside a structure, or street lamps and indirect lighting from building signs.
    • Weapon mounted lights (WML's) make up the third source of lighting. Weapon mounted lights are terrific tools for illuminating a threat. They're limited in the sense that whatever you illuminate you are also pointing a firearm at. For this reason, they are not great at searching around a dark structure where there could potentially be innocent people in the area.
    • Lastly, are handheld/tactical flashlights. You may even have two handheld lights as part of your daily carry items. You may designate one as a tactical light, used in conjunction with your firearm, and one as an admin light for everyday stuff. The reasoning would be to ensure that your tactical light is always charged if needed. To unlock ultimate preparedness status, your everyday carry is a WML, tactical light and an admin light.

Because I don't want to make this post eight thousand words, I am going to keep it basic and narrowly focused on describing the four common handheld light hold techniques.

Four Common Handheld/Tactical Flashlight Hold Techniques

The FBI Hold/Index

The FBI technique is described as holding the flashlight in the support hand and away from the body, typically above the head. The lens of the light is closest to the pinky of the support hand. This technique is best for searching.

Pros:

  • Casts light far and wide
  • Can direct the light independently of the gun's  muzzle, so it is good for searching
  • The positioning of the light may shift the aim point of the threat away from your body if the threat begins shooting
  • Requires little skill
  • Can be used with any size/type light

Cons:

  • Forces one-handed shooting
  • Can become tiresome if searching for a long period of time
  • The body's instincts tend to make the arms to pull in when under attack, causing the light field to potentially change while shooting
  • Hands have to operate independently from each other

The FBI index technique is popular, partially because it is simple.

The Harries Hold

The light is positioned in the hand just like in the FBI technique. This time, the support hand is placed under the dominant hand/gun. The wrists of the hands are interlocked creating a bit more stability than a true one-handed technique. This technique is better for shooting, not as great for searching.

Pros:

  • It provides a bit of recoil management but is not a true two-handed grip
  • Light illuminates what the muzzle is pointed at
  • Can be used with any size/type light

Cons:

  • Light illuminates what the muzzle is pointed at, so searching with this technique can cause one to muzzle innocent people
  • Acts essentially as a WML, but does not allow a two-handed grip as a WML does
  • Not instinctive and a poor technique can lead to muzzling/shooting your support hand

The Harries technique has been taught for years and is quite popular. It allows for a quasi two-handed grip.

The Neck Hold/Index

The light is held in the hand just like the FBI and Harries Holds. Just as the name implies, instead of holding the light away from the body, the light is held tight and against the neck/jaw. This technique is good for searching and is more instinctive during shooting.

Pros:

  • Light is directed wherever you look
  • Can direct the light independently of the gun's muzzle, so it is good for searching
  • Positions the arms in tight to the body, which is what the body instinctively wants to do when attacked
  • Requires little skill
  • Can be used with any size/type light

Cons:

  • The positioning of the light may shift the aim point of the threat toward your head if the threat begins shooting
  • Forces one-handed shooting

The neck index technique is used because it is an intuitive position to fight from. The light can move independently of the muzzle, making it great for searching.

The Rogers/Surefire Hold

The light is positioned in the support hand, with the back/tail cap end toward the thumb, and the lens end extended between the index and middle fingers. The support hand attempts to grip the gun as it would normally. This technique provides the best grip for shooting but is not ideal for searching.

Pros:

  • Provides the best grip support as it is essentially a modified, two-handed grip
  • Light illuminates what the muzzle is pointed at
  • Maintains the same light field while shooting

Cons:

  • Light illuminates what the muzzle is pointed at, so searching with this technique can cause one to muzzle innocent people
  • Acts essentially as a WML, but does not allow a two-handed grip as a WML does
  • Difficult to master for those with smaller hands
  • Requires a specific style light or modification

The Rogers or Surefire technique provides the best grip on the gun.

Wrapping Up:

Whichever method you choose it helps to understand the limitations and strengths of each technique. The FBI or Neck index is best if you have a WML, as they allow for illuminating things without having to point a gun at them. If you don't have an accessory rail on your handgun or a light bearing holster, the Harries and Rogers/Surefire grip can be a solid choice with focused practice.

You can practice your flashlight technique when you incorporate low-light drills into your dryfire practice. I also highly suggest taking a course on low-light handgun techniques. Unfortunately, there are few outdoor ranges that allow shooting after dark, so finding an in-person class is difficult.

If you can take an in-person low-light pistol class from a trusted instructor I highly suggest it. They are fun and educational. In the meantime, you should check out the low-light instruction that is part of our Complete Home Defense Course.

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2 Responses to How Do I Use a Handheld Flashlight and Handgun at The Same Time?

  1. RM March 27, 2020 at 3:09 pm #

    You failed to mention the Graham method — far superior than the ones presented here.

  2. Dan H March 27, 2020 at 4:02 pm #

    All good options. I prefer Rogers surefire hold. But you need to train with whatever method you choose.

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