Low Light Pistol Techniques - Sparrow Defense
On November 21st, 2014, I took part in a Low Light Course by Sparrow Defense in Watkinsville, Georgia. The course was a fantastic brush-up on previous low-light training that I have done and was hosted at a range which allowed a lot of night fire exercises. With statistics showing that the majority of violent encounters where a firearm is needed occur in low-light situations, this is a skill set that I highly recommend that everyone work on. The course syllabus showed that we would cover the following topics:
- How the eye works / what night vision is
- When and how to use light-gathering sights / night sights
- Techniques for using a hand-held flashlight in conjunction with a pistol
- Techniques for using a weapons-mounted light
- The use of flash sight picture in close quarters / dark environments
- How to search for and identify a target using direct and indirect lighting
- The use of light in a structure for home defense
- How to reload and manipulate a firearm when using a flashlight
- Clearing malfunctions in low light situations
- Use of cover and concealment
- What "Light Discipline" means and why it's important to you
The course began at 4:00 p.m. with a range safety brief and then a live run through the Georgia Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors' low light course of fire. Being 4:00 p.m., this course of fire was actually performed in daylight to familiarize the participants with the format and strings of fire. (We would repeat this course of fire later in the dark.)
After the first live fire exercise, we entered the lecture phase of the course. The instructor, Clark Sparrow, walked us through the content in the bullet points listed above. He also demonstrated and had us practice multiple methods of flashlight manipulation including the following:
- Harries Technique (a favorite of mine when clearing a corner around the right side of the barricade)
- Chapman Grip
- Ayoob Technique
- FBI Method
- Modified FBI Method
- Neck Index Method (a favorite of mine when clearing a corner around the left side of the barricade)
- Rogers (or Surefire) method
- Weapons Mounted Lights (the absolute best method, in my opinion...)
This lecture portion of the course provided enough time for the sun to begin to fade, and this was our queue to get back to the lines on the range. We shot live fire strings from the 3, 7, and 15 yard lines including multiple target engagements. It was interesting to watch the skills of very proficient shooters deteroriate rapidly as vision was effected as well as the introduction of a foreign object (flashlight) into the non-shooting hand. This forces the shooter to basically manipulate the gun one-handed, a skill that doesn't get as much practice as it should. Furthermore, getting a decent shot picture while trying to manipulate a light is much more difficult than it sounds. Instead of lining up two things (sights with our eyes), we are forced to line up three things (sights, eyes, and beam of the flashlight). Some guys were audibly laughing at themselves (myself included) as their front sight and flashlight beam seemed to act as similarly charged magnets, forcing each other away from the other when aiming. In my opinion, this course not only provided a lot of insight as to the content that is covered, but also to assist in the identification of deficiencies in each participant's skill sets.
Next, we took a break from the course moved back to the classroom to cover the judicious use of deadly force with a specific focus on the laws of Georgia. This portion is incredibly value, especially when taught by a Law Enforcement Officer who can provide insight as to the police view of the aftermath of a self-defense shooting. Specifically what to say and (equally important) what not to say can make a huge difference in the outcome of the ensuing legal battle that you will find yourself in after a shooting incident.
Next we were back to the range to repeat the live fire exercise that we originally shot in the daylight. While I understand that this is a Georgia Law Enforcement Standard, it is also a very elementary course for most intermediate level shooters (or higher). The shooter begins in the "scan" phase of target acquisition and the times provided are significantly longer than they should be, in my opinion. All the same, it is a standard course so it provides a way to quantifiably measure a shooters skill level.
The final exercise of the night was a live-fire IDPA style course which simulated a hallway in a house. The shooter would go from room to room, identifying threats and non-threats and engaging the threats utilizing the flashlight techniques we had been practicing. This provided an aspect of target discrimination to the course, and was a great way for the participants to use their skills in something other than a "standards" course of fire.
All in all, I can't recommend this course highly enough. I believe that utilizing a light while shooting is a skill that everyone should train, and I also firmly believe that anyone who trains in a low-light environment will have a new found passion for weapon mounted lights. In fact, I feel so firmly about this topic that I don't carry or own a firearm that I plan on potentially using to fight with that doesn't have a weapon mounted light on it. You can read our previous rant "Handguns Should Come with Lights" for more of my thoughts about weapon mounted lights.
Below is a video that one of the other participants took during the course. It provides a great look into the content and some of the exercises of the training.