Handgun Mounted Tactical Lights: The Home Court Defensive Advantage

Choosing the best handgun light and deciding whether it makes sense for every defensive situation.

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I have not always been the fan of handgun mounted tactical lights that I am today. There were two main reasons for my former mindset.

First, I had worked the first 26 years of my law enforcement career without them, in large part because handgun mounted tactical lights hadn't appeared on the scene yet. Early handgun lights were powered by incandescent lamps. They were low powered and unable to withstand the forces of recoil. Around 2006 effective LED lights began to appear. LEDs are just about impervious to recoil. It was the development of the LED that made the tactical handgun light practical.

Second, it took time for me to realize that a handgun mounted lights were a plus for uniformed patrol officers. It was a no brainer that they were good for SWAT, but I was unsure of their use by patrol officers. When I wrote the book "Own the Night" in 2009 (F+W/Gun Digest Publications) I had access to a wide range of tactical lights and realized that the use of handgun mounted tactical lights are a good idea not only for uniformed police officers, but are also essential for anyone forced into a home defense situation.

I don't recommend handgun lights for the concealed carry permit holder's carry gun, or for an off-duty cop's gun. Uniformed cops encounter many situations that require a drawn handgun for long periods of time. These situations range from searching buildings to conducting felony traffic stops in dim or dark lighting conditions. However, in situations encountered by off-duty cops and civilian permit holders, the action comes quickly, often without warning. There isn't the time or the need to activate the light. Drawing quickly, and firing just as quickly are the top priorities.

Home defense situations are different, in fact, they directly parallel a police building search/clearing mission. The only difference is that the searching is going on in your house (or place of business) and you have the home court advantage. It is in these situations that the importance of a handgun mounted tactical light becomes readily apparent.

While writing Own the Night, I had mounted a 90 lumen tactical light on my Glock 32 for testing purposes as a "nightstand gun". About 1 am one morning, there was a "bump in the night" sound that awakened me. I grabbed the Glock to search the house and found that having the pistol light was as advantageous for searching my house as it was for clearing a strangers on a SWAT mission. While I fortunately found no signs of attempted entry, I was thoroughly convinced that handgun mounted lights are essential in the home defense role.

What kind of handgun light should you purchase?

First, when choosing the best handgun light to buy, I strongly recommend choosing one with the highest number of lumens available. Second, get one from a reliable manufacturer. My favorite tactical lighting manufacturer is Streamlight. Streamlight products are innovative and reasonably priced. Streamlight has a wide variety of gun mounted and handheld tactical lights. One of my favorite Streamlight handgun lights is the LED TLR-1 HL (High Lumen).

The TLR-1 HL mounts easily on pistols, rifles and shotguns equipped with Picatinny railing. Powered by two CR123 lithium batteries, with a continuous run time of 2.5 hours, the TLR-1 HL emits a blistering light output of 630 lumens. It has two activation paddles for ambidextrous operation by either index finger, with constant-on or momentary modes. There is a devastating strobe capability which is activated by a quick double-tap of the paddle. Anyone faced with 630 lumens of light in the strobe or standard mode will have their night vision temporarily destroyed, and you will have no doubt as to whether a surprise visitor is friend or foe.

Should you have to deploy a handgun mounted light in a home defense situation, use the light sparingly, and keep the interior house lights off-you know your home turf better than any intruder. If you confront an intruder try and put the brightest portion of the beam in their eyes while loudly directing them out of your house or business. I am not a huge fan of attempting a capture. I want any intruder away from my family, which means OUT! Hopefully the intruder will be so disoriented and startled that they take your suggestion.