Monday, May 21, 2012

Weaponlight Primer: Nightstand Pistols

Pistol-mounted flashlights are a curious thing.  They look really cool, for one. Yet they aren't always practical.  If your pistol is your primary home defense weapon, a weaponlight may be a good investment.  If your pistol is a tiny pocketgun that's carried for defense while out and about, then a mounted light is likely not a good idea.  They're bulky, only fit in very specialized holsters, and really not practical for situations other than "clearing" a room or scouting that curious noise that your wife heard at 2:00 a.m.  I actually do not use a weapon mounted light myself, but instead employ the offhand (or weakhand) flashlight method show here.  However, a mounted light can be a real asset at times, freeing the off-hand to other tasks, like calling 911.

If you were living in a movie, the typical home invader would cut the power before he came in, rendering your room lights useless.  This isn't likely to happen in real life, but it is likely that if you're sweeping your house for a burglar, you'll either not want to take a hand from your pistol, or often you would be exposing yourself to the room in order to turn a light on. Not a good tactical maneuver. So having a weapon mounted flashlight that's super bright and focused generally in the same direction as the muzzle, or point of aim, can be a very good thing in that situation.

Some things to look for in a weaponlight are brightness, ease of use, battery type, and reliability.  Being that you shouldn't be carrying your weapon holstered with the light mounted unless you're a member of a tactical ops entry/assault team means that for the typical home user, bulk and weight are not critical issues, in general.  Obviously you don't want a brick strapped to the front of your pistol, but a little extra weight out front isn't a bad thing for a night-stand gun.  It helps steady your aim and control recoil for a quick follow-up shot.

Brightness covers two aspects of the light for me: Is it bright enough to see everything I want to see for the distance I can effectively shoot this weapon? And is it bright enough to blind an attacker temporarily, giving me tactical advantage?  Most any weaponlight will cover the first for a pistol. The second is another matter.  What is bright enough to blind someone?  Look for a light over 100 lumens.  My handheld Surefire G2 with the upgrade bulb head is 120 lumens.  At close range, it will easily temporarily blind someone.  However, there is another way to blind someone that's much more effective.  Strobe.  You can't achieve the type of strobe that will do this by simply tapping the switch quickly with your thumb, either. 


A rapid, super-bright strobe in someone's face will not only render them temporarily blinded, but will keep them that way longer because their eyes don't know what to do.  Is it bright or is it dark? This confusion of the pupil conveys straight into the brain and addles the person, confusing them cognitively, and possibly even inducing nausea (I speak from experience after testing it on myself).  It's a highly effective initial layer of defense, before a shot is fired.  If you tell the person you have a firearm while they are staggering about, they may surrender, keeping you from having to fire a shot.  Have them lay face down like a starfish until the cops arrive.

Ease of use in a pistol weaponlight means basically one that's easy to mount, and easy to remove when you need to carry your weapon concealed in a holster.  It also means a switch that's easy to get to and manipulate in a panic, adrenalin ridden situation.  When adrenalin is up, fine motor skills diminish.  Imagine you're wearing a set of thick winter gloves, and then consider if you could effectively manipulate the switch on the weaponlight you're considering purchasing.

Battery type is another crucial piece of the puzzle.  Never, I repeat, never rely on a weaponlight that uses a standard alkaline battery.  AA or AAA batteries are cheap and plentiful for a reason.  They go dead.  Imagine grabbing your gun from the bedside safe and the battery is dead in your light.  Why bother?  Be sure your weaponlight uses lithium batteries.  These have very good shelf life (typically ten years or so) and are only significantly drained while being used.  You should still check the light once a month or so to be sure it comes on.

Now for some examples before this post gets too long.  ;)

My Favorite:

Streamlight TLR-1s (the "s" is for strobe), in my book the best close range weaponlight. While a approaching the large side for a pistol light, it throws out 160 lumens and has a strobe setting that is the most effective I've seen. At $116 (on Opticsplanet), it's a worthy investment, and very high quality.  There are a few varieties of this light as well.  The TLR-1 doesn't have a strobe feature, is only 135 lumens and is $5 cheaper.  Trust me, the strobe is well worth the $5.  I really don't know why Streamlight bothers making the non-"s" version.  There is also the TLR-2 which incorporates a laser sight onto the bottom of the light.  It's a little pricier, at almost $250 typically.  My dad loves his.  It's a little rich for my wallet, though.

Excellent Choices:

TLR-4 on Springfield Armory XD-9 Compact
Streamlight TLR-3, more compact, still very bright at 90 lumens, but no strobe feature.  For $87 it's maybe a little high for what it is, and to me the price difference to the TLR-1s is worth the upgrade.  But if you want Streamlight quality, and the cheapest "top brand" weaponlight out there, this is it.
In addition, the Streamlight TLR-4 is the same light but 110 lumens, and with a lower mounted laser, similar to the TLR-2. The TLR-4 laser/light combo rings in as a relative bargain at only $129. Now if Streamlight would just give it a strobe feature for another $5, this would take my top choice spot!

A Bargain Hunter's Light:

Firefield Tactical Pistol Flashlight.  Having not had one of these hand-on, I cannot attest to it's quality myself, but products from the manufacturer consistently get good reviews by consumers and professionals alike.  They seem to make good products at incredibly good prices.  This light puts out 120 lumes and costs only $39! The old standby method of a riflescope ring with a Surefire G2 stuck in it is now more expensive than this weapon mounted light!





4 comments:

  1. Is this Gun with a flash Light?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Spotlight by Streamlight has been used as a piece of Crime Scene Investigation Shows on TV. Have you seen those cool, downsized yet powerful electric lights that the police pros bear a scene?

    ReplyDelete

Keep it clean and courteous people. Lively is good, mean spirited is bad. Thanks for participating!

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