A tactical weaponlight can be an important part of your defensive firearm set-up. However, a weaponlight has a narrow role to play and should never be substituted for a handheld flashlight.
A handheld flashlight is a companion to a weaponlight – one that should be with you anytime you carry your firearm. In fact, I argue that the handheld flashlight is more important than a weapon-mounted light because it can safely identify potential threats, handle a variety of mundane situations and still complete the weaponlight’s mission.
The Right Tool
In a self-defense context, you must identify a potential attacker and confirm that he or she reasonably poses an immediate and imminent threat to your life before your use of a firearm is morally or legally acceptable. In low-light and nighttime conditions, proper identification requires artificial light.
While a weaponlight can provide the light you need to identify a potential threat, it also requires you to point your firearm at the unknown person solely to determine who they are.
The fundamental rules of gun safety have served the firearms community well. Being in fear from an unknown person doesn’t give us a good excuse to dismiss those rules. You have a legal duty to identify the threat and have the ability to articulate why deadly force is needed prior to using such force. A hand-held light allows us to identify a person as either a threat or non-threat without pointing a deadly weapon at them.
The fundamental rules of gun safety tell us not to point a firearm at anything we’re not willing to destroy and to be sure of our target. If you’ve not already identified a lethal threat, you do the same thing when pointing a gun with a mounted weaponlight at someone.
Human physiology tells us that humans will curl their fingers when startled. Being surprised – especially when under the stress of thinking an intruder is in your home – can cause your finger to pull the trigger. Even if your finger is off the trigger, stress and movement can cause your finger to slip and that reflexive action may lead to a discharge.
The more rules we disregard, the greater the likelihood of a tragic error. Gun owners are one of the most responsible groups of citizens in the world. By and large, we know and follow the reasonable rules of gun safety. A hand held flashlight helps us to maintain our responsibility for safe gun handling.
You need a separate flashlight so you can properly illuminate areas without having to point your firearm. Otherwise, you may be the part of a tragic headline.
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