When most people think of flashlight tactics, they think of the application of the light in conjunction with a handgun. But just as the gun is not a cure-all for all self-protection needs, the potential of the flashlight as a personal-protection tool is also much broader than just a headlight for a gun.
A good flashlight offers many advantages as a personal-defense tool. In the simplest sense, it allows you to see in the dark—a function that takes away the bad guy’s advantage of concealment. It also greatly expands your awareness because it reminds you to look around and motivates you to be alert in diminished light.
From a combative perspective, a flashlight makes an excellent striking weapon, providing all the same function as a kubotan or yawara stick, in a much more innocuous and “PC” package. Since it is more resilient than your hand and doesn’t feel pain, you can hit harder with it than you can with flesh and bone alone.
Best of all, a good, bright flashlight can be used as a force-multiplier, blinding and momentarily disorienting an attacker to either create an opening for a strike or an opportunity to escape.
Tactical Flashlight Anatomy
To function well in all possible personal-defense applications, the tactical flashlight needs to have the following attributes:
• At least a 65-lumen output with a pre-focused beam
• An impact-resistant bulb—either an LED or a shock-isolated incandescent bulb
• Solid, high-quality construction that supports its use as an impact weapon
• Ergonomics that allow a solid grip and effective management of impact shock when used as a striking tool
• A large enough size to grasp firmly with at least a half-inch of the light protruding from each side of your fist
• A small enough size to be conveniently carried
• A pocket clip or carrier that allows an immediate access and draw
• A tail-mounted switch that allows momentary actuation of the light
If your light has at least all of these features, it qualifies as both a lighting tool and a potent weapon. Other features, like multiple output levels and strobe functions, can also be useful provided they do not over-complicate the basic operation of the light. In simple terms, you want to be able to mash the switch and have the light come on at its full intensity. When you release the switch, it should go off. Lights that require complicated sequences of button pushes, bezel twists, and other fine-motor manipulation are too difficult to operate in the stress of a violent encounter.
The first level of using a flashlight in personal protection is as an awareness tool. Obviously, if you can identify a potential threat from a distance, you have the ability to avoid it altogether. That is always your safest course of action. Since many attacks occur during the hours of darkness, or at least diminished lighting conditions, a flashlight is an ideal tool. Functionally, it provides the light you need to illuminate areas of darkness and search for possible threats. More importantly, it is a physical reminder for you to ratchet up your level of awareness and get your head in the game. If you develop the habit of putting your light in your hand every time you step out into an unknown environment, you will prompt yourself to be more aware. Actively searching for potential threats also offers another benefit: It lets the world know that you are alert and actively aware of your surroundings. Criminals typically look for victims, not challenges. Using your light proactively creates a “hard-target” appearance that can, by itself, be a powerful deterrent.
The next level of application of a tactical flashlight is to use the beam as a blinding tool. If a potential threat manages to get close to you, he has to see you to target you. As a preventive tactic, you can assume a low-profile guard stance with your strong side back, the light in your strong hand, indexed near the side of your jaw, and your open weak-side palm facing forward. A universally recognized sign to “stay back,” this stance is also a fully functional fighting stance without appearing aggressive. Combined with good verbal skills, it can be a highly effective boundary-setting tactic.
If boundary setting alone is not enough, shining the light in the threat’s eyes can disrupt his vision and make it difficult, if not impossible to target you with a physical attack.
In a low-light environment, a criminal lying in wait to attack you probably has dark-adapted vision. His eyes are much more sensitive to light than in normal lighting conditions, so the beam of a high-powered flashlight hits hard. Combined with physical and verbal boundary setting, it may be enough to force him to back down. It also gives you a great head start on your escape, since he won’t be able to see well enough to follow you effectively.