In order for our defensive training to be valid, it should match the pattern of the anticipated encounter. Traditional martial arts, which work great in the dojo, often come up on short on the street. By the same token, those techniques that score high “cool points” on the range may, in fact, get you killed when going up against an adversary who is shooting back.
Having been involved in law enforcement training for the better part of three decades, I can report that things have gotten considerably better. Progressive instructors everywhere have raised the bar and modern law enforcement training is more reality based than ever before. This is especially true in defensive disciplines where trainees must meet certain performance standards rather than merely qualify. While hardly perfect, role playing and force-on-force simulations provide both students and instructors better feedback as to what one’s capabilities might be. They also give us greater insight as to what techniques and tactics might actually work in the unforgiving, real world.
Is there room for improvement? You bet! Things have clearly gotten better, but we’re not quite there yet. One area that we still could use a bit of fine tuning is low light operations. Sure, we all go out and shoot a few rounds in the dark, but that only represents a small part of the picture.
Low light threat management remains an often misunderstood topic. For years, we have been teaching police officers to shoot in the dark, with and without the aid of a light. That, of course, is all well and good, but in the grand scheme of things, how often does that actually happen? On the other hand, we are constantly using our flashlights to probe and search. On occasion, we may have to draw the handgun along with our light and manage a threat incidental to arrest. Exactly how much training time are we devoting to that? Shooting remains a far less likely scenario than searching or managing a threat at gunpoint.
SEARCH vs. CONTROL
For the last several years, I have been teaching a flashlight search protocol that seems to work out quite well. In most “search” events, no threat has been detected and the officer probes the dark area while the gun remains in the holster. This is the most routine task and is performed multiple times over a single night shift.
In those instances where the officer senses things may not be quite right but no specific threat has been identified, the gun is drawn to a “ready” position. The pistol is held close to the body with the muzzle angled down and away. Hands remain apart and the flashlight continues to probe the problem area independent of the muzzle of the gun.
Should things get a little more exciting, we now move from a “search” to a “control” function. A specific threat has been identified, but there is not yet a justification to shoot. Assuming the officer prefers a “hands together” shooting technique, the strong hand holding the pistol and support hand holding the gun come together in a single unit. The light is on the threat and the muzzle is slightly depressed in order to see the subject’s hands and waistband. A loud verbal challenge of “Police, don’t move!” is given. If there is sufficient justification to apply deadly force, the gun is brought to eye level and fired.
That term works out very well for all but the most unusual situations. When searching for threats likely to be armed in fairly close proximity, consider Close Guard. Gun and light are locked up with the elbows bent 90 degrees. This puts the gun and light roughly at low chest level, parallel with the deck. Should a deadly threat quickly appear a few feet away, the gun can be fired without delay.
I have come to favor the small high intensity tactical lights for just about all my illumination needs. When going in harm’s way, they are faster into action and much easier to manage than the big old school lights. Gun handling skills such as loading and clearing stoppages are much easier to perform while managing a small light. These little torches can be discreetly carried until needed and one is seldom far from my reach. Over the last several months, I’ve had the opportunity to check out some new models and one may be just right for you.
BLACKHAWK NIGHT OPS
The BlackHawk Products Group introduced their Night Ops line of illumination tools a few years back and these innovative lights continue to impress. Recent entries to the line include the Sentinel PL3 XTR, Ally PL3 XTR and Legacy XP-9. These new lights are all spinoffs from previously introduced models and boast enhanced performance characteristics.
The Sentinel PL3 XTR is a highly refined, very compact light which is optimal for discreet carry. Rated at 65 lumens, the Sentinel PL3 XTR is among the brightest in its class and boosts more output than many larger lights. The 3 watt CREE LED is powered by a single CR123A lithium battery which delivers a run time of one hour.
Other key features include a high quality glass lens and pocket clip. The pocket clip positions the light for bezel up carry and provides a measure of security. A clickable tail cap switch provides for momentary or constant on activation.
One of my favorite BlackHawk lights is the original Ally PL3. Its performance, however, is eclipsed by the new XTR version which produces an incredible 110 lumens of blinding white light, a 60% boost over the original. A pair of 3 volt lithium batteries will deliver full power for one hour, plus two additional hours of useable light output. The Ally PL3 XTR also features a CREE LED, pocket clip and glass lens. Its body sports a grenade-like outer surface for a non-slip grip.
Next up for consideration is the Legacy XP-9. The Legacy XP-9 is the polymer body version of the original X-9. The good news is that the XP-9 weighs a shade less than the original and is significantly less expensive. Best of all, performance is every bit as good which makes it a best buy for underpaid cops.
The Legacy XP-9 is equipped with a Xenon high intensity bulb and puts out 120 lumens of white light. Unlike some inferior lights in its class, the XP-9 comes with a glass lens and a pre-focused beam that eliminates shadows and ugly artifacts. The bezel is an anti-roll design to facilitate grounding of the light while searching or containing a threat. A trio of 3 volt lithium batteries is used to fire up the XP-9 and yield a run time of one hour. It too, has a tailcap activation switch with constant on and momentary capabilities.
FIRST LIGHT TOMAHAWK
A few years back, First Light USA broke the mold with the introduction of the innovative Liberator. Prior to that time, the recipe for a hand held light hadn’t changed in 100 years. Most lights consisted of a cylinder containing a battery pack with a lamp affixed to the end. The Liberator, on the other hand, represented some outside-the-box thinking in that it successfully merged new engineering with the classic angle head design, the end result being a very different type of tactical flashlight. First light has now come out with the Tomahawk line which has proven to be every bit as good as the Liberator.
The Tomahawk uses an angle head lamp similar to the Liberator, but is slightly more conventional in design. Whereas the Liberator is secured to the back of the support hand via its proprietary handle, the Tomahawk rides inside the hand. By hooking the index finger through the provided finger loop, the Tomahawk is stabilized in the support hand and is perfectly positioned for thumb activation. A MOLLE ready retention clip can be used to secure the Tomahawk to the vest, shirt, or pants pocket.
Several different versions of the Tomahawk are available and my copy is the Tactical LE variant with several enhanced features. Maximum light output is rated at 120 lumens; however, medium and low power settings can also be selected to extend battery life. The thumb operated switch can deliver momentary or constant activation. A lockout feature is also included to prevent inadvertent activation during storage or transportation.
The Tomahawk LE also includes a ready strobe which can only be activated as a momentary function. This intense white strobe can prove useful in helping gain control of combative or resistive subjects. Blue and red LEDs are also part of the mix and can be selected by depressing the cycle control switch with the thumb. A combination red, blue, and white emergency strobe is yet another Tomahawk LE feature.
The Tomahawk LE represents a great deal of light capability in a small package. It is, in fact, different, but once acclimated with it, operation is very straightforward. The unique geometry of the Tomahawk also makes accurately firing a pistol easier than with most traditional tube shaped lights.
SureFire’s E1B Backup epitomizes that old saying about good things coming in small packages. Measuring just 4 inches long, the E1B Backup is the perfect light for uniformed officers, plainclothes operators, tactical specialists, or other armed professionals. As its name implies, the E1B Backup is the perfect understudy to a larger light; however, performance exceeds that of many bulkier, full size units.
The Backup is outfitted with a virtually indestructible LED that is capable of generating both high and low levels of light. At the brightest setting, light is rated at 80 lumens. This is more than enough light to temporarily overwhelm the night adapted vision of an aggressor. Switching back to the low 5 lumen setting, the E1B can be effectively used for map reading, ID check, or navigation. From a single 3 volt lithium battery, run time is 1.3 hours at the high setting and 37 hours at the low.
A two-way pocket clip is reversible and one can opt for either bezel up or bezel down carry. No knurling or sharp edges are present and the unique melted down design is unlikely to snag on clothing.
Another innovative SureFire product is the G3 LED Holster kit. A palm size G3 LED flashlight is offered along with an ergonomic holster designed for quick deployment. In addition to the light, the holster also contains three spare batteries to extend field run time of the G3 LED to over 18 hours, far more than a ni-cad rechargeable light. The reversible ambidextrous holster will hold any SureFire light with a 1.25” aluminum bezel.
The light emitting diode of the G3 LED flashlight is virtually indestructible and will last thousands of hours. To protect against moisture intrusion, the G3 LED is O-ring sealed. Momentary activation is realized by pushing the tailcap switch while twisting the switch, delivering constant on activation.
Maximum light output is rated at 80 lumens. The precision reflector of the G3 LED creates a smooth beam without dark spots or rings. Made of rugged Nitrolon polymer and aerospace grade aluminum, the raised surface of the G3 makes for a positive hold.
Have a favorite flashlight you know you can depend on while on duty? Let us know which one by leaving a comment below!