Handheld or Weapon-Mounted Light: What You Need To Know

By Ivan Gelo
Posted in #Skills
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Handheld or Weapon-Mounted Light: What You Need To Know

April 15th, 2022

5 minute read

I am not a person who is highly enlightened in the areas of IT and computer technology. However, I am absolutely engaged when it comes to mechanical and scientific technology — especially when it comes to firearms, related equipment and ballistic technology. The huge jumps in bullet technology, firearms creation and associated tools is an area with which I am completely fascinated.

Man carrying a pistol and handheld light in a dark stairwell
Having the skills to properly use a weapon-mounted or handheld light in low-light situations where you face a threat is a must.

In the last couple of weeks , I was able to spend time with my area’s Streamlight rep, where we discussed products and light technology. It’s been said that you can learn more by listening than by talking. Well, I learned a lot. We talked and discussed topics over a few hours, and I learned and contemplated more in the area of the science of light design that I have for quite some time.

Streamlight TLR-7A

During this meeting, I was able to learn about Streamlight’s weapon mounted light (WML) TLR 7-A and get one to try out for myself.

Streamlight TLR-7A on a Springfield Hellcat pistol
The author tried out a Streamlight TLR-7A weapon-mounted light, and came away very impressed.

Mounting this light to my carry pistol, I found it to be very compact, light and easy to carry. The ambidextrous rear activation switches were intuitive and easy to control. This light is 500 lumen strong with a very good throw.

With the ever-increasing interest of compacting the WML, this light fills many roles, including mounting to a daily-use firearm to concealed carry.

A Bump in the Night

There are numerous schools, articles and instructors who cover the tactics of the use of a WML. I will attempt to simplify this complex area of use and instruction.

Woman searching a building with pistol drawn and while carrying a handheld light
Clearing an area by yourself is not advisable and should only be done under the most exigent of circumstances.

If you hear that bump or crash in the middle of night, should you grab your trusty defense tool mounted with your favorite WML to search and clear your “castle”? As a general rule, unless there is some exigency, I would suggest you hold your current room, find the best cover position with the best view of doors and windows, call the police, and wait for additional “back-up”.

A simple example of an exigent circumstance might look something like this: You have younger children in other areas or rooms of the home and you sense a problem outside your immediate area. You decide to clear the area to their location(s).

Once you have your loved ones corralled, I would then return to the concept of holding that area and waiting for additional “support”. Food for thought; in most cases to my knowledge even the police with radio communication, ballistic protection, and repetitive experience will not clear a structure without at least two officers!

Basic Techniques, Simplified

In the evening with lights turned off, walk through your home and note areas of your home that appear darker. It probably seems that these areas are black holes where ambient light gets sucked into the blackness. Bad guys could hide in these areas. The use of a powerful handheld or weapon-mounted light cuts into this darkness, helping us see what might be hiding from the light. [Ed. note: Make sure you read “Why You Also Need a Handheld Light”.]

Man demonstrating basic technique of carrying pistol and separate handheld tactical light
Having a handheld tactical light can give you the flexibility to use it in tandem with the firearm, or as a standalone tool.

I used this technique in several areas of my home. Even from a rear bedroom, across two other open-spaced rooms, the TLR-7A was easily able to illuminate the dark hole of the front room of my home.

The use of a light can also be used to hold and dominate an area with light. Keeping your household intruder out of that area of light and away from your defended position.

Backlighting

If possible, use exterior and — as deemed necessary — interior lighting to backlight any intruder. This way in your darkened, bunkered position, you can watch for and read shadows. If your position or situation is compromised and you are actually backlit, use light to turn around this situation by putting a much higher level of illumination in front of you.

Soldier demonstrating tactical application of weapon-mounted light
There are serious tactical applications for a weapon-mounted light under the right circumstances.

Finding the Bad Guy

If an intruder is located, try to overwhelm that person’s position with light and give very specific directions (for example; “Don’t move,” “I’ve called the Police”, “Don’t make any hostile movement,” or some other type of specific well thought our commands).

To Light or Not to Light

Some schools and instructors have taught the intermittent use of lighting. My thought? It depends. If the intermittent use of lighting gives the bad guy a chance to potentially move to a more advantageous position, that is a problem. As a result, I say keep your light focused on that person and dominate with light.

Pistol with flashlight and ammo next to it
A handheld tactical light is a great addition to your self-defense toolkit.

Maintenance

Check and test your equipment regularly. In the areas of lighting systems, the worst time to find that your light doesn’t work is when you absolutely need it. Change batteries regularly and make certain your lights are operational.

Conclusion

The above has been a very general overview of the use of the WML and even the handheld light. Seek out training as often as feasible, and perform consistent mental rehearsals to build proper training pathways. Think about the “what ifs”. Don’t get caught with your feet and mind cemented to the ground — always be seeking out a “better way” through training and mindset.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Ivan Gelo

Ivan Gelo

Ivan served as a full time police officer with an Arizona agency for 26 years. He spent the majority of his career as a SWAT officer fulfilling 20 years as an operator. He is a Law Enforcement state certified Firearms, Rifle, Defensive Tactics, Active Shooter, and High Risk Stops Instructor. Additional duties with his agency included his work as a detective, Field Training Officer, police academy Recruit Training Officer and Lead Firearms Instructor, Rifle Instructor and Ballistic Shield Instructor.

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