While weapon mounted lights are increasingly the norm, carrying around a broad selection of low/no-light shooting skills in your toolbox will keep you well-lit in even the darkest of situations.
Going back to the era of the old town watch of Colonial times, which employed men who were armed with a sword or polearm and a lantern, it has always been preferable for those wandering about in sometime perilous conditions to have both a weapon for self-defense and some portable illumination to know when to use it. Today it is no different. Woe is the EDC practitioner who carries a defensive handgun without a light and no access to one on their person. Let’s face it, in your typical 365-day cycle, about half of that time is spent at night or in twilight, while the prospect of our species, as predominantly urban dwellers, to be thrown into pitch dark at high noon as we move about our homes or offices– due to a simple thrown light switch or power outage– has never been higher.
While weapon mounted lights are popular and most full-sized and many compact semi-autos now come standard with accessory rails to accommodate them, carrying a dedicated flashlight in lieu of or complementary to a WML is a smart move. First, the standalone light can be used in several instances where it would be awkward or unsafe to use a WML– for example, no one wants to point the SureFire on their Glock at a dark doorknob just to find the keyhole. Talk about frowns from the neighbors! Second, all lights are battery powered and have components such as switches or bulbs that can break or just plain old decide not to work, which means even those with a WML can find themselves alone in the scary dark without a drop of illumination. This is fixed by carrying that pocket light as a rule.
But how do you use it in conjunction with a handgun?
Glad you asked. Please see the below for your consideration, in alphabetical order:
This is one of the older methods, popular with lights that have tube-mounted buttons. Using a “sword grip” the Chapman has both hands together for support but the fingers of the offhand firmly wrapped around the light. In our opinion, this is useful to learn should you be forced to use, say an old school D-cell Maglite pulled from a desk drawn, nightstand or trunk. Otherwise, put this one at the bottom of the list and make sure you have a more portable light.
This one is popular in law enforcement circles, especially with the feds, and as the name implies uses the light in the offhand drawn close to the head either at the eye, cheek or neck to force a cone of light out directly at the line of sight. The downside of this technique is that it leaves the handgun unsupported and, should the bad guy aim directly at your light, have him winging bullets at your face, which is generally frowned upon. One bonus of this method, however, is that it places the off hand at face level, which can help ward off or block a threat or blow to the head from an assailant.
Designed by former Air Marshal Matt Graham, this method uses lights with tail-mounted pressure switches, placing the light body in between the fingers of the off hand and, with a two-handed grip on the handgun, press the switch back into the grip or the weapon hand to activate it.
Graham helped develop SureFire’s Combat Rings as an extension of that while the Thyrm SwitchBack is a tool that can be classified as having a comparable concept of use. A bonus of using rings is that they give a great method of holding the light while changing mags without slipping, a prospect that requires too much juggling in most other techniques.
A crowd pleaser, FBI agent Michael Harries’ method is a supported technique in which the user welds the back of the hands together, with the off hand holding the light in an icepick style grip while moving under the gun hand. This method perhaps takes the most practice to master but provides a stable platform for the gun. On the downside, you still don’t have both hands on the firearm such as in the Graham technique and Harries can prove awkward in the learning stages, but once you have it down it feels natural.
Lantern or FBI technique
This one in a sense hails back to the old days of the town watch, meant for when lawmen carried torches or lanterns that had to be held away from the body to prevent nasty burns. In today’s world, the idea is that by holding the light far and away, should it draw fire said bullets are directed away from the user’s vital areas, offering up a narrow beam of light to target– especially if using a microlight— rather than the user’s center mass such as in, well, all the other methods. The bad news is that your handgun is unsupported and working a light overhead while aiming a pistol is akin to rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. Sure, you can do it if you think about it, but how about in a gunfight?
Rogers or syringe technique
Very similar to the Graham, this method uses a small light such as Streamlight Stylus, held in a syringe method with the offhand thumb on the tail switch, while using the hand and ideally some of the fingers in a support position on the user’s handgun.
In the end, none of the methods are perfect, and all have baggage associated with them. Best bet on choosing which is right for you is to pick up a couple lights you really like and could see yourself carrying and try all the techniques while using a blue gun or like to decide which is your favorite. The only right answer is the one that works best for you.