Low Light Flashlight Techniques

Weapon Mounted LightsHow often have you prepared to fight with your firearm at night? If you were attacked at night, would you have a way to illuminate and identify your attacker(s) so that you could engage them? If you did have a means of doing so, would you know how to operate your handgun and the light at the same time? As you have probably concluded from our previous rant, we believe that All Handguns Should Come with Lights as a weapon mounted light is by far more manageable than any off-hand lighting technique. With that said, sometimes you will need to be able to implement off-hand lighting techniques no matter how well prepared you were. Whether your weapon mounted light failed or you just weren't carrying one, you should be well-versed in how to utilize a flashlight with your other hand to be able to effectively identify threats and engage them at night.

There are a number of common flashlight techniques that can be utilized in combination with a handgun. The technique(s) that you utilize will depend largely on a number of variables such as:

  • Size of the flashlight / handgun / shooters hands
  • Operation of flashlight (is the button on the side of the light, or is it activated at the tail-cap?)
  • Environmental limitations
  • Direction of travel / navigation around barricades

With that being said, let's take a look at some of the common techniques and try to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Harries Technique

Harries Technique

Harries 1

One of the most common techniques used by both civilians and law enforcement, and often portrayed in the movies, is the Harries Technique. The Harries Technique can be used with almost any size handheld flashlight and relies on a counter-pressure sense of securing the firearm's sight alignment in place. In this technique, the backs of the hands are pressed against each other which provides a stabilizing effect for the shooting hand. Though recoil management will be accomplished with just the primary shooting hand, this technique does allow for more control over the weapon during sight alignment and sight picture. Note that although the Harries Technique can be utilized by almost any flashlight, shooters might find it easier with a flashlight that has a tail-cap activated button and while utilizing an "ice pick" grip.

Harries 2One major advantage of the Harries Technique is that the beam of the light will virtually always be directly in line with the sight picture, which can dramatically improve target acquisition and shot times. One major disadvantage is that the shooter must handle the firearm with one hand, which can be difficult during rapid fire. Also note that due to the contouring of the body, the Harries Technique is often preferred by shooters that use the Weaver Stance as opposed to an Isosceles Stance. Also note that this grip can be utilized very well while navigating a barricade (corner or other cover) so long as it is on the same side of the clear route. For instance, in the provide image, the Harries Technique would work well to maneuver around the right side of a barricade, but not the left as the light would be blocked by the object directly in front of it.

Advantages of the Harries Technique:

  • Keeps the beam consistent with the sight picture
  • Provides counter-pressure / stabilization during sight picture
  • Can be used with most any flashlight
  • Very useful with navigating same-side barricade corners

Disadvantages of the Harries Technique:

  • Often more comfortable for Weaver Stance shooters
  • Recoil must be controlled by only the shooting hand
  • Light beam is blocked when navigating opposite side barricade corners
  • Can feel awkward for lights that are activated on the side instead of the tail-cap

Harries 4      Harries 3

Rogers Grip / Surefire Grip

Rogers Grip / SureFire Grip

Surefire1

Another common technique is known as the Rogers Grip or the Surefire Grip. Though many people know it as the Surefire Grip because of the rings that Surefire created in order make this grip more manageable, we will refer to it as the Rogers Grip for the purpose of this demonstration. The Rogers Grip utilizes a similar counter-pressure for stabilization as the Harries technique, but it does so in more of a traditional grip on the handgun. The bore of the handgun and the barrel of the light run parallel to each other, with the flashlight lining up about halfway up the length of the grip frame. The light is secured in place by being held between the index and middle finger on the non-shooting hand, with the tail-cap activator pressed up against the "meaty part" of the hand. To activate the light, the barrel of the light is pulled inward by squeezing the fingers of the non-shooting hand so that the tail-cap activator is pressed into the hand, thereby activating the light. If the non-shooting hand is big enough, the fingers of that hand can grip around the shooting hand's fingers similar to the way they would in a natural shooting grip. This is most easily accomplished with smaller flashlights and sub-compact handguns as it reduces the size of the objects that your hands are having to control. While it can be difficult to hold the light in correct alignment with the handgun's sights, this grip does allow for a more natural shooting grip as it allows the hands to be placed relatively similar to the way they are gripped if there isn't a light present.

Surefire Flashlight GripAdvantages of the Rogers Grip:

  • Allows for a more natural grip, assuming the hands are large enough
  • Assuming correct alignment, the light beam and sight picture are always in line with each other
  • Having two hands on the weapon allow fore more control over the gun, especially if your flashlight has the Surefire Rings on it

Disadvantages of the Rogers Grip:

  • Grip can be difficult to get used to
  • Requires a tail-cap activated light
  • The position of the light can interfere with (or even press) the magazine release on the grip frame of a semi-automatic
  • Maintaining the alignment of the light parallel to the bore of the firearm can be quite tricky

Ayoob Technique

Ayoob Technique

Ayoob Flashilight GripThe Ayoob Technique is very similar to the Rogers Grip, and provides many of the same advantages. It's primary difference is that the Ayoob Technique (developed by Massad Ayoob) utilizes a flashlight that is activated by a button on the barrel of the light. With this grip, the shooter will rotate their non-shooting hand outward away from the grip frame of the gun while maintaining the "sword style" grip on the barrel of the light. Note that this technique originated before the evolution of a lot of the newer flashlights, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't understand it. If a larger MagLite is all that's available to you, this might be a great grip to understand.

Modified AyoobAnother interesting variation of this grip is when the light is tilted slightly up, allowing the direction of the light to go up and in front of the shooter. In a small room or hallway, this can be advantageous to prevent "washing out" the target which can occur due to reflection or glares in small areas.

Advantages of the Ayoob Technique:

  • Easy to understand and control the light
  • Should allow for the light beam to be properly aligned with the sight picture
  • Allows for a little bit of counter-balancing stabilization of the shooting hand
  • Can be modified for a variation of the grip which illuminates the area in front of and above the shooter to prevent "wash out" in constrained areas

Disadvantages of the Ayoob Technique:

  • Designed for older, heavier flashlights that are activated on the side of the barrel
  • Can be fatiguing, largely because of the extended grip on a heavier flashlight
  • Handgun manipulation and recoil management must be done with the shooting hand only

Ayoob Flashlight Grip      Ayoob Flashlight Grip     Modified Ayoob Flashlight Grip

Chapman Technique

Chapman Technique

Chapman Flashlight GripIn my opinion, the Chapman Technique could be loosely described as a combination of the Rogers Grip and the Ayoob Technique. Instead of the light being gripped between the index and middle finger as they are on the Rogers Grip, the barrel of the light is placed in between the thumb and the index finger similar to the Ayoob Technique. This allows for the activation of the light from the side barrel position. Assuming that the shooters hands are large enough (or that the flashlight and handgun are small enough), the rest of the fingers on the non-shooting hand can wrap around the shooting hand similar to how they would be gripped if there were no flashlight present (much like the Rogers Grip). As should be expected, this grip method offers many of the same advantages and disadvantages of the two grips that it so closely resembles.

Chapman Flashlight GripAdvantages of the Chapman Technique:

  • Allows for somewhat of a natural grip, with both hands (at least partially) controlling the weapon
  • Assuming correct alignment, the beam of the light should stay in line with the sight picture
  • Arguably easier to master than the Rogers Grip

Disadvantages of the Chapman Technique:

  • Limited to side-button lights
  • The size of the light can severely limit the control of the weapon
  • Can be fatiguing, especially when used with a larger flashlight

Neck-Index Technique

Neck-Index Technique

Neck Index

The Neck-Index Technique is different than the first set of grips and techniques that we have looked at because it separates the flashlight from the firearm. Because this technique does not attempt to join the hands together, it basically removes the restraint of size or type of the flashlight being used. It can be utilized with tail-cap activated or side button flashlights of virtually any size comfortably and consistently. Because it is basic in nature, pinning the flashlight to the side of the face/neck of the shooter, it can be mastered within seconds by inexperienced users. The purpose of pinning the flashlight to the shooters head area is to make sure that the beam of the flashlight is always aligned with the sight picture of the shooter. This can also help to illuminate the sights on the handgun in the event that the firearm is not equipped with night sights. This method can also be deployed very quickly and from virtually any position.

That's not to say that this technique is without any drawbacks... Obviously the shooter is left to manipulate and operate the handgun completely one-handed, without any support or counter-balancing pressure from the other hand. Another potential drawback of this technique is that there is a theory that the attacker will shoot at the source of light. Unfortunately, in this situation, that source of light is pinned to your head or neck, which obviously isn't a place you want an attacker shooting. There is also a chance of "washing out" your sight picture depending on the strength and concentration of the light's beam.

Advantages of the Neck-Index Technique:

  • Incredibly easy to master
  • Quick to deploy from virtually any position
  • Aligns the light with your eyes, allowing you to only worry about lining up your sights
  • Not limited to a particular type of flashlight
  • Can be used for clearing obstacles/corners around weak side (left side of a barricade for a left-handed shooter)
  • Can potentially help illuminate the sights of the handgun

Disadvantages of the Neck-Index Technique:

  • Must operate/manipulate handgun one handed
  • Could potentially draw fire toward your head/neck as that is the location of the source of light
  • Could "wash out" the sights on the handgun, depending on the strength/focus of the light

Modified FBI Technique

Modified FBI Technique

Modified FBI Grip

The Modified FBI Technique has evolved from multiple "schools of thought" during the training progression of the FBI. Using this technique, the shooter holds the flashlight in their non-shooting hand and extends their arm out to full extension in multiple angles. For instance, they might use their first burst of light at a 11:00 position, and then their next might be at a 9:00 position.

The theory behind this technique is that many times a threat will shoot at the light, or where they believe the light to originate from. Therefore, if you are utilizing a Neck-Index Technique and the attacker shoots at your light, their shot is likely to hit you in the face. By extending the arm out and away from the body, it is believed that if the attacker shoots at your light that they stand much less of a chance at hitting you. Their is a counter argument to this theory... The counter-argument is that most shooters are right-handed, and most untrained shooters (such as the attacker) have a tendency to slap the trigger. If a right-handed shooter slaps the trigger, their shots tend to miss low and left. Therefore, if you are utilizing this technique and the attacker slaps the trigger while shooting at you, their miss might actually hit you!

This technique provides you with a different set of advantages and disadvantages from most of the other methods. This technique provides the most "freedom" in the relationship between the light and the gun, which is both a good and a bad thing... It's good that you can scan freely and that you can use the light to move with your eyes at a more rapid pace, but bad in that your sight picture can have a very difficult time keeping up with that pace. In that event, it is very common to see shooters focusing their light somewhere other than their target, or aiming their gun somewhere other than their light. It is more difficult for a person to line up three things (sight picture, eyes, and flashlight) than two things (sight picture and eyes). Since the light is not locked on either your eyes or your sight picture, this can be more difficult to manage, especially for newer shooters.

Advantages of the FBI Technique:

  • Allows for more flexibility in placement and scanning of the light
  • Hopefully will draw incoming fire away from your body
  • Works well with any flashlight
  • Very versatile and flexible when working around barricades and cover

Disadvantages of the FBI Technique:

  • Difficult to do with an injured arm
  • Difficult to align sight picture, light, and eyes
  • Arm fatigue after prolonged use

Weapon Mounted Light

Weapon Mounted Light

WML 1By far our favorite lighting method is the weapon mounted light. This provides an incredible advantage in virtually every way possible. For starters, having a weapon-mounted light means that you have both your weapon and your light readily available during one draw stroke. Because they are attached to each other, that draw stroke is the exact same draw stroke that you have practiced tens of thousands of times. Your grip is literally unchanged from your normal proper grip of a semi-automatic handgun that you are very familiar with. Most weapon mounted lights come are ambidextrous, meaning that you can operate them with either hand. This becomes increasingly important if you have to fight one-handed for any number of reasons such as injury or holding a by-stander.

Remember that you are carrying a light that is mounted to your weapon and that you should never point your weapon at anything you aren't willing to destroy. Therefore, when carrying a weapon mounted light, make sure to not ever use it as an administrative or utility light. It should be used to identify and illuminate threats that you are aiming your weapon at, and nothing else. Also, weapon mounted lights, just like any other light, operate off of a battery. When that battery dies, so does your light. Therefore, we recommend that you be in the habit of carrying both a weapon mounted light as well as a utility light such as the StreamLight ProTac 2L. This eliminates the urge to ever use your weapon mounted light for administrative/utility purposes and also eliminates the single point of failure of solely having a weapon mounted light.

Advantages of a weapon-mounted light:

  • Far more manageable handgun operation (recoil control, sight alignment/picture, etc.)
  • Allows for weapons manipulations (reloads, malfunction correction, etc.) to be done with both hands as they naturally would
  • If one hand/arm is injured, lighting and aiming can both still be accomplished
  • Draw stroke is not changed from regular, whereas utilizing a separate light is another draw stroke to perform under stress
  • Light beam is always in line with sight picture

Disadvantages of a weapon-mounted light:

  • Light originates from the gun, so if your attacker is shooting at the light, that is likely directly at you
    • Wouldn't this be true for muzzle flashes also?
  • If not carrying a backup light, the weapon-mounted light can be a single point of failure due to over-dependency
  • Potentially harder to conceal, depending on the size of the light
  • If not carrying another light, you don't have an administrative/utility light because you don't want to point your weapon at non-threatening objects
  • Requires a different holster
  • Additional cost of the light itself

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