Newbie John H. is a recent convert to the way of the gun, having only played video games and engaged in a little paintball from time to time. Now, being a new gun owner, he was surprised by how much of a nickel-and-dime situation firearm accessories can be.
Talking with him in a local gun store he had this question . . .
How come these (pistol) lights are so expensive? I get them for police, but what am I really getting with them? Wouldn’t it be better to have a pistol and carry a light? Like what if there was something in the dark and I had to point my gun at it to see it and it was not something I wanted to have a gun pointed at?
That’s a good question and there are some varying schools of thought here.
The Expense of Weapon Lights
As you can see in the photos, my own guns have some decent quality lights from Surefire and Streamlight. As I feel like I constantly say in my articles, you get what you pay for and that’s no different with weapon lights.
Luckily we live in a capitalist environment (at least for the time being) and there are many spectrums of what expensive looks like. I know guys who love their Natty Lite and others who spend $20 a bottle on some short run IPA.
When we’re talking weapon lights, it really comes down to what these things are worth to you and the value you put on them depends on how reliable, bright, and rugged you need your light of choice to be.
Sure, the ones that I have here retail for a fairly pretty penny, but it’s what I prefer for the hardest possible use. Many people out there are gun collectors, but I am most assuredly not. The stuff I build for my articles and field use gets badly thrown about. That’s why on my custom 1911 you see a Trijicon RMR and a Surefire X300U-B.
That gun is a multi-use weapon for carry, hunting, and targets and it does all without breaking a a sweat. The gun sees its hardest use while hunting, and I have been successful with it.
I need the best optics, best ammo, and best light for heavy brush, fast-moving deer, and fading light at dusk. I could have put other less expensive accessories on it, but they wouldn’t hold up to the use and abuse I’m going to give them.
Police Use Of Lights
John H. is right that police have a real need for lights on their duty weapons. Police officers should have lights on their guns. They should also have body and car cameras. Those things, among others, need to be in place to ensure public trust in their officers (and for their own protection).
It is very important for cops to correctly identify suspects with weapons and be able to protect themselves and others in all lighting conditions.
Civilian Light Use
Our newbie brings up an interesting point about using your pistol-mounted flashlight to illuminate a suspected danger area, one that’s perhaps harboring a bad guy. I would personally not do this in general and I usually carry a separate handheld flashlight. What do I mean I don’t do this in general?
The fact of the matter is, I am often in sparsely populated, very remote areas. Occasionally I’m alone in areas that have bears, cougar, and crackheads. I’ve been in a seedy roadside motel more than once when the doorknob starts to jiggle. I doubt Smokey is out late seeing who’s got a light.
I know what you’re thinking; ‘Hey idiot, don’t go to those places.’ Fair enough. But the reality of life is that you’re not always in control of that and sometimes you end up places you are just passing through.
Having a gun-mounted light is very, very handy when you are in doubt about a source of possible danger. Pointing a light in any direction will give away your position instantly, even inside a room. The knowledge that you can illuminate and surprise any unwelcome guest is very reassuring.
However, I would not use this method in populated areas unless I were in immediate danger and needed to blind an attacker in the hopes of getting away without firing. By that point, of course, the threat is real and survival is the intention. Pulling out my gun in a mall parking lot to check where I dropped my keys isn’t a good look and I’d stay away from using a gun-mounted light for everyday illumination.
There are many times where I am in populated areas where I carry various options and configurations of light and gun. I will almost always carry a handheld flashlight with me. This is a general tool I use daily (mine is a rechargeable Surefire).
My typical carry guns in mild weather are either a P365 or a Glock 19 Gen5. My P365 has no light and I usually carry it IWB. My G19 is larger, of course, and I usually OWB carry it in a BlackPoint Tactical light-bearing holster.
The light I use on this gun is a Surefire X300U-A for easy removal. I have another BlackPoint holster that’s meant for the gun with no light attached.
In the winter and while hunting, I carry an M17 or a 1911, both of which will have lights on them. The lights don’t add much weight, so it’s nice to have when you’ve already got a bigger gun.
Having a light on your gun as well as a spare light in your pocket is quite practical if you have the ability. I’ll be talking custom holsters and such for lights in an upcoming article and this will hopefully shed some light on the state of where the industry is as far as light-bearing holsters and guns.
If you can put a light on your carry pistol, I would recommend you do so. Shooting at a threat in the dark isn’t great and it really helps to know what lurks beyond your immediate senses. This may mean you need to get a special holster for your exact light and gun combo, which can take a while on a custom order.
The more angles you can cover, the more you can reduce liability in your daily life. Again, no matter how hard you try or how you perceive the world, you are never, ever fully in control of what’s happening around you. You can, however, prepare yourself the best you can, day or night, pray to God, and hope for the best.
Having a light on your gun may indeed be a matter of life and death in some cases, and I think that the price you pay for that extra bit of surety is worth it in the long run.