Saturday, February 23, 2019

Pistol Mounted Lights--A Solution in Search of a Problem?

Denver — A Denver Police officer faces a 10-day suspension for accidentally firing his weapon nearly striking a suspect. Officer Asher Rose accidentally pulled the trigger of his pistol while trying to turn on his pistol mounted light. Officer Rose was attempting to use his light to illuminate a suspect hiding under a truck when he fired a bullet that hit a rear tire inches away from the suspect’s head.

We just started our 6th year of low light classes and we have had several police officers attend our classes and practice sessions--some are issued pistols with mounted lights. These officers did very well; however, in general I don’t believe that issuing pistol mounted flashlights to police officers is a good policy.  Unlike the officers in our classes who come to learn and practice low light techniques, the average officer is unlikely to practice activating and using the light under stress.

Pistol mounted lights with the proper switch configuration can make hitting a target under low light conditions easier. However, searching with a mounted light virtually guarantees that you will point the pistol in an unsafe direction. For that reason, I require students to master hand held light techniques and search with their hand-held light. If they decide to engage a target, they are free to release the hand-held light and go to the pistol mounted light if they have one.

Lights that require you to change your grip or that require you to push a button with your support hand or trigger finger to activate are awkward at best and impossible at worst under stress.

A remote switch that activates when you tighten your grip on the pistol (such as the one in the picture above) greatly simplifies the process of activating the light; however, it also carries a substantial risk of accidentally firing the pistol if you fail to apply proper trigger finger discipline.

KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU HAVE MADE A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO INTENTIONALLY FIRE A SHOT!

Even with a remote switch, training remains a critical component. The human body’s sympathetic nervous response makes it difficult to tighten your grip without simultaneously tightening your trigger finger. For the same reason, it is difficult to squeeze one hand and not squeeze the other hand. If you have your finger on the trigger and tighten your grip to activate a light, you will likely tighten your finger on the trigger and fire the pistol.

On 13 October 2010, an undercover Plano, Tx police sergeant shot and killed Michael Anthony Alcala as he was trying to turn on his pistol mounted light. The sergeant told investigators he was trying to turn on the light when he accidentally fired his weapon.

The sergeant stated that he never intended to have his finger on the trigger nor did he intend to shoot Alcala. The light the sergeant had mounted on his pistol was a Surefire x300 without the DG remote switch. The sergeant had used remote switches in the past and tightened his grip thinking he was activating the light. Finger on the trigger, tightening his grip, pistol firing--the sympathetic nervous response in action.

During the last practice session we completed the Texas Department of Public Safety (Texas state police) old 60 round qualification course with a possible score of 300 as outlined below. The new qualification deletes the support hand string at seven yards.

3-yard line - 19 shots:

-- Holstered: 2 steps right, 3 shots, 5 seconds

-- Holstered: 2 steps left, 2 shots, 4 seconds

-- Holstered: 2 steps right, 2 shots, 4 seconds

-- Holstered: Strong Hand, 6 shots (3-2-1); 4,3,2 seconds

-- Ready: Support Hand, 6 shots (3-2-1); 4,3,2 seconds

7-yard line - 18 shots:

-- Holstered: 6 shots, while reloading 1 step right, 6 shots, 20 seconds

-- Ready: Pistol in Support Hand (you may use two hands), 6 shots, 15 seconds

15-yard line - 12 shots:

-- Holstered: 6 shots, 1 step left, 6 shots, 20 seconds

25-yard line - 11 shots:

-- Holstered: 6 shots, 1 step right, 5 shots (standing or kneeling), 25 seconds

We used the Austin Police Department modified Q19 target with shots within the Q19 outline (red zone--see picture below) scored as 5 points and shots outside that zone but on the threat as 2 points. Everyone passed (80% or 240 points) and I shot a possible score of 300 with my SIG P320 using a hand-held light with only three shots outside the center rectangle.




Is a light on a long gun a good idea? Absolutely. However, a pistol mounted light may be a solution in search of a problem. They are expensive, speciality lights designed for a single purpose. You can purchase a superb hand-held light for much less and it will serve for everyday use as well as for the rare emergency when you must engage a threat with your pistol under low light conditions.

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