FIGHTING WITH LIGHT
Brute force, or as trainer Tom Benge says, “cubic inches” can make a big difference in a fight. But if your assailant is more versed in martial arts than you or the fight is blade- or projectile-based, you may be making a trip to the E.R. or worse. However, if your assailant can’s see you, he or she will have a much more difficult time harming you, especially if you don’t remain in the same place.
In 1991, when asked of U.S. strategy against Iraqi surface-to-air missile sites in Operation Desert Storm, General Colin Powell said, “First we’re going to blind them and then we’re going to kill them.” Not long afterward our Stealth FA-17s literally blinded the missile acquisition radars, allowing the planes to send smart bombs down enemy radar beams to destroy every installation.
Dr. John Matthews, founder of SureFire LLC, is a pioneer in what today we refer to as blinding white light. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Matthews teamed up with U.S. Navy SEAL trainer Ken Good at the Navy’s Special Warfare School in San Diego, California. There the school was conducted on board an old ship where there were NO lights below deck. Ken Good told Dr. Matthews that his lights were great, but not bright enough. When Matthews asked Good how bright he wanted a light to be, Good asked him if he could make one that would “shine into the eyes and come out the ears.”
That was the beginning of the high intensity white fighting lights Sure-Fire is famous for today.
Not Just Flashlights!
You can buy a flashlight at your local “stop-n-rob,” but they don’t sell fighting lights (tactical lights). Sure, you can check your oil with a fighting light, but that’s not what it was designed for and you’ll be wasting some of the hi-tech energy stored in the light. These lights are not meant to be left ON, but pulsated. What’s that, you ask?
In 1999, SureFire’s V.P. of engineering sent me a prototype of what is now the SureFire M3 Tactical Light. With an output of 150 lumens, this light takes three 123 lithium batteries and has a long run time if left constant on. But like most such lights, it will get hot enough to start a fire if placed next to a combustible. These lights are designed to be pulsed by activating them one or two seconds to see what you need to see. I took that prototype M3 on a week-long bear hunt in Canada, where it was often pitch dark when I was picked up from my tree stand. One night, after sitting around the campfire with other hunters, I decided to turn in, but my tent was about 200 feet away. As I started down the path, I held my SureFire light up and pressed its rear end cap to activate it for a second. This allowed me to not only see what lay ahead on the patch, but I could see my tent. After a couple more flashes of the light, one of the hunters yelled, “Hey, what kind of a light is THAT?” I told him it was a special one and it was. The batteries in that light lasted almost a year and I still use it on a regular basis.
Pulsing for Keeps
While in the dark, some trainers teach to keep your light on all the time, as “the light is your eyes.” This is fine if you are searching for a lost person who doesn’t want to hurt you and you have enough spare batteries to last the mission. It’s usually OK when the action is over and a suspect is being secured and then searched. However, your light is also your adversary’s eyes. He or she knows exactly where you are at all times and can use the beam to plan an ambush or other trap, or use your light to plan an escape route. Worst of all, your light being on constantly may bring bullets your way. If you pulse your light, an assailant will be confused as to your location, direction and how many of you there are. Pulsing the light helps defeat any plan he might want to make and it also builds stress within him and diminishes his ability to think clearly.
How to Pulse Your Light
First, you need a light with a pressure switch on its rear end, and virtually all hand-held tactical lights are set up this way. Pulsing your light is best done by holding your light like a knife with your thumb on the rear end pressure switch cap (only lights with a rear end switch should be used). The light CAN be used while holding it in one place close to your body, but this is not recommended, as even a split second of light can attract bullets. So hold the light in a different position each time it is pulsed while waving your arm in an arc. Just as good is to also move it laterally
away from the direction you are headed while keeping the light on for one second.
Pieing, the Quick-Peek and Going Dynamic
Pulsing your light in the dark works both outdoors and indoors, but on the inside when you approach a doorway you have several options. First, I believe you should “pie” the doorway. If it is alongside a hallway, you should start from the direction you are coming, attempting to see as much as possible by pieing the corner ahead of you as you move to see into the center of the room. Again, this is in pitch dark, so you have the advantage of controlling all light. You can pass by the doorway while pulsing your light on for a second and waving it in the opposite direction. This will require you to transition your pistol and light to opposite hands if you’re a right hander and the door is on your right. But it lets you move past the danger zone and see what you need to see of the center of the room. Once past the opening you can pie the opposite corner.
For several years, BlackHawk Products Group has been training the “quick-peek” technique. In the above doorway scenario, the officer simply gets close to the door jam and peeks around the corner in the dark while flashing the light for a split second and moving it into the room to arms length as the pressure switch is released, and as he or she instantly retreats back out. This allows one to see anyone hiding in the corner. If no one is there, the technique can be duplicated around the other side of the door. But this time the officer goes low, since if an armed assailant were waiting, he would be ready and expect to see the light at the same level.
In hundreds of demonstrations where another officer role-plays the part of the assailant using the index finger as a gun, and even knowing what is going to happen, he or she cannot yell “bang” before the quick-peek is completed. Yes, it works. If there is someone hiding, the officer can take a better position and order the suspect to surrender, deploy a flash-bang, or take other action without having to further expose him or herself. If the suspect moves, he has had to give up his position and seek another that may or may not be as advantageous. Here’s the good news. The quick-peek works equally well under lighted conditions and you can still use your light to temporarily blind the suspect. In fact, you can use any tactical light of at least 60 lumens to produce a sensory overload (blinding light) at high noon on a sunny day. The quick-peek will usually be used after pieing. I call it “PQP.” Pie the doorway or corners and then quick-peek.
Trainer Bill Murphy, of SureFire and Gunsite, teaches a two-officer entry reminiscent of the “Israeli Partial,” where after pieing most of a room, two officers go high/low to peek around both corners at once, lighted pistols pointed in opposite directions to clear the walls on either side of a doorway to the nearest corners. Once clear, the standing officer helps guide his partner with his support hand on his or her shoulder to enter and continue.
OK, it’s still dark and let’s say that you’re searching a building such as a school and you come to an intersection of two hallways. You’ve pulsed your way down the hallway and now you pie each corner as best you can and the continuing hallway across from you is clear. You get a rough count of how many steps it will take you to cross to the other hallway and dash across in the dark, finding your way to one of the two walls there. Now you can pie the sides of the hallway from which you just crossed and quick-peek the entire hallway. The same technique can be used in a dark room if a quick-peek has revealed something like a hostage situation, but it is dangerous and requires extensive practice. It is far better to order surrender or negotiate and control, as best you can. Going dynamic in lighted conditions would require moving immediately after deploying a flash-bang or other distraction.
Mirrors are excellent tools to enable you to see around corners, whether lateral or vertical, such as attics, basements,
stairways or crawl spaces. Pocket mirrors are easy to carry, but require the user to not only be close to a corner but also to expose his or her hand while holding it. If a suspect does not know you are there, you may not be at a disadvantage. Larger mirrors on extension poles can be carried in a patrol car for use on slow, methodical searches. Various companies offer a broad selection of these, some with built-in lights or holders for the light of your choice. When reflected into an angled mirror, the light can illuminate a suspect hiding in a darkened corner. Many of these “tactical mirrors” are heavy and nearly all are expensive.
A good place to get a mirror is by ordering it from a septic tank service company, as such mirrors are used to locate pipes in these tanks. They are virtually unbreakable, light weight and of various sizes with extension poles of various lengths. These mirrors can also be used in conjunction with a hand-held light or a simple device can be created to hold the light on. Just as important is that they are relatively inexpensive as compared with most “tactical mirrors” offered by “experts” in this business. In addition to SureFire, high quality lights are offered by BlackHawk,
Streamlight, Insight Tactical, Pentagon, Laser Devices and others.
One of the most advanced tactical light systems comes in two forms from First-Light USA. These are the Liberator and the Tomahawk, both of which have all the features of the above mentioned lights. These lights are easier to use than traditional lights, as they leave your support hand free to perform other functions while wearing the light. This is because these lights are worn ON the hand and not merely held by it. The Tomahawk is actually worn on the middle finger, yet these lights provide plenty of blinding white light. They are revolutionizing hand-held tactical lights and the Liberator has been adopted by the ICE for K-9 duty.
The Grip Pod
The best system for using a tactical light on a carbine is the Grip Pod with its new M1913-type rail. To this rail I mount a SureFire G2 light in a Vltor D-Ring mount. With the light positioned forward, I can retain almost a complete grip while activating the light rear end pressure switch with my support thumb. My support hand can also easily hold a First-Light Liberator or Tomahawk for use in wanding and I can use either light to pulse. If longer shots are called for, I can immediately deploy the bipod.
What about laser sights? Personally, I think lasers offer a terrific advantage in a number of areas. First, lasers allow you to point your weapon at your target with a good degree of accuracy in any low light condition. Point of impact depends on where your laser is mounted and for what distance it is sighted in. For CQB, I think sighting in at about 15 yards is a good place to start, but that depends on your CQB envelope. Whatever distance you sight your laser for, you must know where your bullet’s point of impact is at various other distances. But precision shots cannot reliably be made at distances more than a yard or two from your sight-in distance.
Using Your Laser
Whether your laser is mounted on a rifle or a pistol, a two-hand hold is obviously most effective. For the most rapid target acquisition, a laser-equipped firearm should NOT be brought up to normal sighting height but should be kept slightly below eye level, for several reasons. First, your iron sights will likely interfere with seeing your laser dot. Second, keeping the weapon below eye line will allow you to retain excellent peripheral vision. While the laser can be used with the weapon held lower than point-shoulder, the angle of triangulation between eyes, laser and target increases and the rapidity of target acquisition, for most, decreases. If you don’t see your laser dot when bringing your weapon up, simply bring it all the way up and use your sights.
As with pulsating light, the sight of a red or green laser dot increases stress in an adversary and has caused many to surrender early on. If the laser is activated as part of a light system it can be pulsed with the light. Some lasers pulsate by themselves, but all tactical lasers are weapon-mounted rather than being hand held, because they are indeed sights. Drawbacks of lasers include the fact that they are NOT eye safe. They can also be confusing if more than one laser is being used and if they reflect on mirrors or other glass, but this can also be used to confuse any suspects hiding by bounding the laser dot into another area. Either way, such problems can be minimized with training. Excellent laser sights are available from Crimson Trace, Insight Tactical, Laser Devices, LaserMax, SureFire and others.
As mentioned, some lasers are part of a white light system, such as those usually found on pistols, but they can be used on rifles too. A hazard here is that the weapon becomes the light/laser’s handle and when used to search, the weapon and the laser are likely to be pointed at things one would otherwise try to avoid, like one’s partner or a non-combatant. In such cases, if it is the only source of light, the weapon should be pointed at a low ready while searching. What I prefer in this case is a light/laser system that allows only the laser to be activated. I can then keep the weapon pointed low and use another light in my support hand independent of the gun. For this I have found useful a hand-held light suspended on a lanyard around my neck long enough for my arm to extend to wand the light. If I have to drop the light in order to perform some function, I can simply grab the lanyard and run my hand down to the light again.
”Why should your weapon have to be the handle for your light?”
Perhaps the best solution is the above mentioned Liberator or Tomahawk tactical lights from First-Light USA. Using either of these lights mounted on my hand or finger, my support hand is free to perform all functions. These lights can also be used effectively and safely with the support hand contacting the weapon while the strong hand holds the gun at low ready. If needed, the weapon can instantly be brought up to cover or fight with the support hand and the light automatically brought into play with it. The secret here is that the support hand and light are not controlled by the weapon. Think about it; why should your weapon have to be the handle for your light?
This has been a crash course in using tactical lights, lasers and weapons outlining a number of options and tools that continue to be a part of this evolutionary process. Although it is by no means the last word, think of it as a smorgasbord. Try a taste of everything and take a helping of the things that seem to work for you. Study all the web sites listed and check out all the tools offered by the various companies specializing in the tools mentioned. Network with other agencies, pass on what you have learned and practice the techniques every chance you get on those “routine” calls.
BlackHawk Products Group
Crimson Trace Holdings, LLC
First-Light USA, LLC
Grip Pod, Inc.
Laser Devices, Inc.
Vltor Weapon Systems, Inc.
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