So here I go with an opinion that I just found out was very unpopular: Weapon mounted lights (wmls) are better for the purpose of illuminating an objects or scanning for threats for self defense than a handheld light. I thought it was a common held belief until recently when I observed another content creator post the opposite and then I shared the article into a group chat saying, “WTF is this guy talking about?”
After that I seemed to understand how the new guy to a gun group feels when he posts his new pride & joy Taurus to show off. Let me start first by stating everything in the gun world should be purpose driven. Everything made, sold, & bought should have a purpose. If it isn’t the best at it, it’s a shit tool, and it shouldn’t be given any consideration for your own kit. With that I will say that having both a handheld and a WML are ideal.
Handheld lights are better for looking for your keys that you accidentally dropped in your apartment’s parking lot than the weapon light on your Glock 19. There are laws in certain jurisdictions and less free states that prohibit the brandishing of a firearm for any purpose other than a life or death situation. No one wants their neighborhood’s Karen calling the cops because they saw you yanking out your Glock 19 and using it to find your damn car keys. All tools are purpose driven and some are more versatile than others, and some are more acceptable to the general public.
The purpose of this article is to talk about the purpose of a WML versus the purpose of a handheld light. WMLs are used to illuminate any threats or targets that can be an immediate threat to you or others. Handheld lights are used for general purpose illumination. Lets use a similar example to the one previously used.
You come home from a night out and see your front door kicked in. Instead of living in an apartment you live in the middle of the country or a busy city were average law enforcement response times are ~30 minutes. Maybe you left your partner at home, or your children were there with a babysitter; you need to immediately clear and and all threats in your residence to safeguard your loved ones. At the very beginning of this scenario you draw your firearm and turn on whatever light you have available. If you have a weapon mounted light, you already have a good two handed grip on the firearm. You can then use your support hand to push open the front door and clear your home while continuing to illuminate the area immediately in front of you. If you have a handheld light you either have to sacrifice having your firearm at the ready, or being able to illuminate what’s immediately in front of you as you open doors.
There were grip methods taught by the Air marshals at one point where a small 2-3″ long flashlight can be gripped in between the fingers of your strong hand on your firearm. Having tried that myself with my big gorilla hands, it was very uncomfortable, and it would have definitely taken a good amount of training to get accurate shot placements with. Anyway, after having to deal with opening doors you’re now faced with potential obstacles that need to be cleared. During a burglary or home invasion overturned furniture is common; to defeat these barriers with a handheld light requires you to either sacrifice your firearm at the ready, or losing illumination in front of you. With a WML you can maintain both as you clear an obstacle.
Something that should be taken into consideration is that violence is a last resort. In this example let’s say a disgruntled family member, ex-partner, etc. is discovered to have been in your residence. The free handed provided by a WML can be used to keep the intruder at a distance, to give them clear hand & verbal commands with your free hand, while still being able to illuminate them to observe for potential weapons. With a handheld light you either lose those abilities. I know to those reading this that the use of hand signals seems trivial, but in a high stress environment where confronting an intruder with verbal commands can be difficult to get through due to auditory exclusion. We’ve seen this often with law enforcement encounters where in high stress situations law enforcement seems to be unable to give clear, concise verbal commands. The simple act of using a free index finger to point down to reinforce your command can help tame the suspect while you wait for the authorities to come.
Handheld lights are great all purpose illuminators, but for the purpose of illuminating a threat, or scanning for threats, the WML is superior. There is a saying you can be great at one thing, or good at a bunch of things. Weapon lights are designed and built for illuminating areas while using a firearm; handheld lights are just general purpose tools. To be honest, there have been times where my handheld light batteries were dead and my kids used all the batteries for their xBox controllers, so I’d just pop off my WML from my EDC to take the trash outside. Sure, it isn’t what a weapon light was designed for, but it performed for the task. Again, this article isn’t saying you should have only a weapon light and not a handheld; both is best… but a weapon light is better at it’s task than a handheld light.
Now, let the criticisms begin.