3 Tips for Handheld Tactical Lights (& a Book Giveaway)



Last week, we talked about ways to effectively use a flashlight for self defense, personal protection and home defense, and the fact that there are ways to use a light that can get you hurt. Scott Wagner, author of Own the Night: Selection and Use of Tactical Lights & Laser Sights, offers the following tips for using a handheld light in personal and home defense:

Tip #1: Use the light sparingly. Leaving your light in constant-on mode makes you an easy target to shoot at.

Tip #2: Don’t hold the flashlight directly in front of you. When we talk about a light being presented to the bad guy, he can see nothing else and it becomes his likely target to shoot at. Wagner asks, would you rather have the bullet hit your hand/wrist/arm, or your face?

Tip #3: If you plan to use a handheld light along with a firearm for protection, practice shooting your gun one-handed.

The photo of the home intruder illustrates an example of bad technique. According to Wagner, the bright central beam should be aimed directly at the suspect's face to effectively disrupt his dark-adaptive vision.

Last week, readers were quick to point out this error, as well as several other important factors related to home defense. While the light in the photo is not weapon-mounted (it's a dark image and hard to see), a handgun has been presented, which certainly ups the stakes in this interaction.

If you'd like to read more about the issues surrounding use of firearms for personal protection, check out the Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry by concealed carry expert Massad Ayoob.

To read more from Wagner about tactical use of handheld flashlights, weapon-mounted lights, and laser sights, click here to get your copy of Own the Night – a $29.99 value, on sale now for only $9.99! – at the Gun Digest Store.


For a chance to win a free copy of Own the Night, post a comment below indicating what, if any, tactical error is occurring in the image of the target shooter. Or, as always, you can just say that you'd like to win the book.

Entries will be accepted until midnight Sunday (March 18, 2012) and we'll announce the winner Monday morning (March 19).

One entry per person, please.
Entries accepted until 11:59 pm Central Time Sunday, Mar. 18, 2012.
Winner will be selected at random and announced Monday, Mar. 19, 2012.


No purchase necessary to enter or win.
A purchase will not increase your chances of winning.
Offered only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia (“U.S.”), aged 18 years or older.

1. ELIGIBILITY: Open to legal U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older. Employees, officers and directors of F+W Media, Inc. (“Sponsor”), its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and


  1. He is lighting up the gun for all to see which no doubt is also putting a lot of glare on the sights, and he is holding it in front of his face, possible making the face his target.

  2. On the bright side, he is shinning it in the eyes of the bad guy, distorting his night vision. But the shooter is holding the light in front of his face, which the bad guy is going to aim for the light, also can’t tell from the picture but he should just use the momentary on to to spot the BG and distort and disorient him, lastly he shinning the light on his shooting hand, ruining his sight picture, won’t be able to see the front sight and letting the BG use his hand as target and see where the weapon is.

  3. Shooter’s light is behind the weapon, illuminating it and reflecting brightness back into the eyes, which will impair vision of the target. The hand holding the light could be employed in one of several ways to support the shooting hand, which would also have the benefit of locking the light into better alignment with the sights. Thanks for the chance.

  4. I agree with Skeece on all accounts. The young unmannered children (15-30 years if age,) are not getting the kind of weapons training I received as a MARINE and even as a young hunter. I come from a long line of Cherokee, my grandfather would have me rack him all over hell and highwater. I do not hunt anymore due to severe wounds to my legs. I do collect old and new guns. I have two gun cases with guns standing in the corners of them also. Gun tilted WRONG, light right in front of u wrong, backlighting your sights WRONG. The guy in the picture is dead. Never new anybody who could get a sight picture with a gun laying on its side.

  5. He didn’t read the article and is holding the flashlight directly in front of him in constant “on” instead of intermittent on function. I also feel like illuminating your handgun is a dreadful mistake.

  6. Shooter is illuminating himself. Also holding light in in a position to receive fire to the facial area. It also appears that the majority of the light beam is directed away from the bad guys eyes which would cause a loss of effectiveness.

  7. The hand holding the light should be under and on the other side of the gun hand. The forearm of the gun hand should be resting on the forearm of the light hand. The light will then be beyond shooter’s body silhouette.

  8. The shooter is illuminating his sights, not the target [or only incidentally the target.] He’ll be able to see his rear sights well, but the excessive light on his backsight will make it difficult to pick up the front sight or target [essentially, he’s selectively blinding himself.]

  9. I’m blind as a bat so I could really use a copy of this book, if for nothing more than to beat them off of me with it if they get too close.

  10. Yes indeed. Holding light to illuminate his own firearm is the biggest problem. Some would also argue that he is holding the light directly in front of himself making himself a target.

  11. He’s doing two things wrong; the light is silhouetting his firearm and he’s holding his light at center mass of his body.

  12. Many tactical errors in the pic: 1. flashlight is behind the gun with the gun blocking the light, 2. flashlight is blocking the gun sites, 3. flashlight should be away from the shooter’s head

  13. Since he is on the range I find no fault with his handling of the light. However good practice makes perfect and he should probably operate as if there is a true “bad guy” in front of him. That is why it is called the “Practice Range”.

    The lady in picture ‘1’ appears to be doing all things right except for where to point the light. However I have to take in consideration that this is a demo photo and the ‘burgler’ probably doesn’t want his real identity identified with being a bad guy.

    Over all they are just being ‘polically correct’.

  14. The subject has the light directly in front of his body, a shot at the light would hit his torso; he is illuminating his own hand and weapon – there may be another bad guy unseen who can lunge for the gun. Can’t tell in a still photo if the light is always on or if the subject is using the thumb on cap switch to turn the light on and off. Light does not appear centered on the perp’s eyes.

  15. He’s holding the light directly in front of himself.

    Some would say it’s not a good idea to extend your arm out holding the gun. It’s too easy a taget to swipe away.

    Also, he’s standing with a bright light source behind his location.

  16. I see three tactical errors and room for improved technique.
    1. He is lighting up his own weapon hand,which in addition to not only revealing his weapon, but his hand and weapon is partially blocking the effective beam.
    2. He is being backlit by a light source from behind and silhouetting himself to the bad guy.
    3.His weapon is too far out in front,it could be taken. It should be held in close ready.
    4. While there are many light holding techniques depending on the situation;including high overhead (FBI)index,neck index, Rogers/Surfire etc. It is considered a more stable shooting platform with either a two hand hold on both weapon and light or in the case of neck index, the support hand, arm, and elbow is tucked in tight to the chest providing a more controlled and stable position.

  17. By holding the light behind his weapon he’s showing the perp exactly where his gun is and where it’s pointed.
    Also, he’s pronating his wrist, shot placement and ability to stay on target will be compromised. Use that weak hand to support your strong hand so that recovery of the target after the shot will be shorter.

  18. I see two errors. 1) He is lighting himself up (hand hold weapon). 2) Most would say it is not good to have the light directly in front of you as it presents the best target for the bad guy.


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