Sometimes technology advances faster than we can utilize its potential, which was exactly the case when John Matthew developed the first SureFire tactical flashlight back in 1988. Small, lightweight and blindingly bright, the new flashlight was like nothing else in existence. While Matthew realized that his new illumination technology could be potentially be a life saving tool for military and law enforcement personnel, he also knew that tactics needed to be developed for its proper application.

That was the inspiration for the SureFire Institute, created around 1989-90 as a sort of consortium where new ideas could be tested and evaluated. Matthew’s hope was that successful doctrine could be developed, enhanced and disseminated to those who needed it most. His strategy at SureFire was to surround himself with the most technically competent experts that he could find, both in designing powerful flashlights and finding personnel to man the new SureFire Institute.

Case in point is Bill Murphy, the SureFire Institute’s director of training. Well known in law enforcement circles, Murphy is a career law enforcement officer with 29 years on with the Huntington Beach California PD. Not only was he a SWAT officer but has also spent the last 17 years as an instructor at Gunsite. His extensive LE career, his ability to teach and innovate made him a natural choice to head up the SureFire Institute’s training department.

Murphy says, “At the time, a lot of flashlight companies had night shoots but they were very rudimentary and overly simple. SureFire came in, raised the technical level, increased the use of the light with the firearm and made it safer for them to use. Everybody had the idea that a flashlight was needed but they didn’t know how to use it. And a lot of times when they did use it, it compromised their safety because they didn’t understand the benefits of different techniques.”

“The lighting conditions that we usually work in actually give us the vision of someone that is legally blind,” says Murphy. “So, how can we make good decisions when it would be impossible for us to read an eye chart immediately in front of us?”

“Every officer has a flashlight and like any piece of equipment, it can be used correctly or it can be used incorrectly,” he says. “If we use it correctly we can prevent injuring people that don’t need to be injured. If we use it incorrectly we have a situation where officer safety is compromised or where a subject may be shot when they didn’t have to be shot.”

“Using the light as a force option- by shining it in their eyes- we achieve a certain amount of control over them. They don’t resist, they don’t fight and they are dealt with in a controlled manner. Or they react to the light and decide to fight but now they are fighting against the light-not necessarily against the officer.”

Murphy continued, “If we go into a room and it is dark, the advantage is held by the guy in the room because he knows where the door is and the officer entering is generally going from a lighter area to a darker area. But when we can change the environment by changing the lighting conditions, that makes it better for us because the hidden person’s eyes become dark-adapted and are more readily affected by the light.”

At the SureFire Institute Murphy and his cohorts developed a recorded doctrine and put it down on paper. “We have about 10 other guys around the country who work as instructors for us. We take instructors with a certain set of skills, then I train them up so that we all teach exactly the same thing. There are many ways to attack problems but as long as we do it in a uniform approach it makes it easier for people to repeat it and use it effectively,” Murphy explained.

Law enforcement, military and private security contractors are eligible to attend the SureFire Institute. But you don’t need a badge to avail yourself to this type of training. Bill Murphy does civilian training through his company, Firearms Training Associates, “Anybody with a CCW should be able to get good training. We don’t want them on the streets with a gun and a flashlight and not be able to work them. We also do classes at Gunsite for civilians and teach them the fundamentals of flashlight use,” said Murphy. Those interested in scheduling a class for their department or agency should contact SureFire’s Bill Murphy or Stuart Jager for class availability. Agencies can either attend the SureFire Institute facilities or host the class themselves.

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