Adding a Pistol Light to Your Defensive Handgun: Part Uno

Putting a weapon-mounted light on a handgun is easier than it’s ever been. You can see it in the image above. I simply pulled down a lever on each side of the light, slid it onto the Picatinny rail and released the levers. Bingo! It really can’t get much easier. But at the same time, putting a light on your pistol is hard. There is much more that goes into it than just the mechanics of physically attaching the light. That isn’t a bad thing. I kinda like it to be difficult.

I’m happiest when I am learning something new. This personality quirk of mine is great from the standpoint of personal growth. At the same time, I often feel my desire to learn dragging me down into the rabbit hole. I get distracted easily and It isn’t necessarily easy on the pocketbook either.

I’ve been hanging out at Alliance Police Training a good bit lately and I’ve been doing it in the dark. When you spend time in the dark with guns you have this desire for lumens. Cloud Defensive took care of me when it comes to the rifle lumens (and more importantly the candela,) but my handgun has been kind of a black hole.

Why am I adding a pistol light to my handgun?

I decided last week that I was done wondering how things would go in the dark if I needed my handgun. I made my decision for three reasons:

  1. Lots of folks say that there is no need for a typical CCW holder to have a light on their concealed carry handgun. They say the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. I want to find out for myself.
  2. I enjoy learning and change. Adding a weapon-mounted light to my pistol provides that opportunity.
  3. Gear is cool. I am without a doubt a gear head. If there is a technological solution to a problem, I would love to have it and become proficient with it.

Now, I think it is important to remember that I’m not sure that I need, or even want a pistol light on my gun. What I do know is that I want to find out if I need or want the light. That’s what this is all about and I’m hoping that you might learn something along the way as well.

Selecting a Handgun Weapon Mounted Light

This was the first hurdle when it came to putting a light on my gun, actually deciding what light I was going to pick.

What Brand of Pistol Light?

I began to narrow it down by brand. There are several brands out there, but really only one that makes sense when it comes to attaching a torch to a blaster. SureFire. At least for me.

I am pretty hard on gear. I shoot a lot and I expect my gear to perform. I also have had plenty of experience buying inexpensive gear only to find out later that it is just plain cheap. I do resist paying more than I have to. I’m not likely to spend extra for features I don’t need. You might be in a different scenario. No sweat. You do you.

Now back to why I bought a SureFire.

SureFire has a reputation not just for bright lights, but also for bright lights that work when exposed to recoil. Other brands don’t project the same confidence when it comes to pistol mounted lights. Recoil is abusive and it causes lights to flicker and break. Some switching mechanisms are problematic as well.

Another issue is compatibility. Most lights are going to fit about any gun with a rail so that’s no problem. The difficulty is stuffing that pistol into a holster with the light attached. We will come back to this in the next section, but the fact is SureFire is the Ford F-150. There are a ton of them out there and that means there are a ton of accessories as well.

Reliability and availability of accessories for SureFire lights mean, for me, other brands dropped off quickly.

I hope in the future there will be more brands that are reliable options as handgun WML’s. Cloud Defensive and Modlite have delivered quality lights in the rifle world. It’s just a matter of time before they do the same with pistols.

Which SureFire Pistol Light?

It took me a few minutes to work through the weapon mounted models that SureFire offers and only a few minutes more to narrow those models down to the SureFire X300 Ultra. There are other WML’s from SureFire but each had a disqualifying attribute.

  • XH15 – Love the $159 price tag, but 2010 wants all 350 of its lumens back.
  • X400– – Fancy, but the $500 and up cost coupled with the laser I don’t need and won’t be able to find a holster for… Nope.
  • XH30/35 – Overly complicated and Joe Weyer from Alliance once said, “If you have a light with a strobe function go ahead and choke yourself now.” Joe says things for reasons. I listen to Joe.
Pistol light - SureFire XH35.
The strobe, high, and low modes and all the switches that come with it make the XH35 too much for me.

This leaves the X300U-A and the newer X300U-B. I’m a gear guy, so of course, my gut told me to go for the newer version, but the internet told me that the X300U-A was the better choice for plastic rails.

After I Made My Choice

I ordered up the 1000 lumen, 2 x 123a cell SureFire X300 Ultra – A from my distributor. I didn’t have to pay the hefty $299 MSRP or even the ~$265 street price on the light which is part of the reason I’m interested in this experiment.

It arrived a couple of days later. I opened the box, cast the owner’s manual aside, opened the tail cap, removed the battery saver strip and closed the tail cap. Then I drew my Smith & Wesson M&P 9 from my holster, removed the mag, jacked the round out of the chamber, checked to make certain it was clear and locked the slide to the rear.

Then the big moment… I pressed down on the levers, slid the light onto the rail, gave it a tug to make sure it was seated and flipped the switch.

I had a weapon-mounted light on my handgun.

Pistol light - Surefire X300 Ultra A.
Here is the SureFire X300 Ultra A mounted on my full-size M&P.

My Next Steps 

As easy as it was to actually attach my new light to the gun, there was a good bit of leg work that went into making it happen before I turned my pistol into another sun. What I think might be even more important to note is that I’m not even half done.

And that is where I’m going to pick up with the second installment in this two-part article. Remember this is my concealed carry handgun. I need to deal with a holster and some training to make sure that I didn’t add a liability to the front end of my pistol.

Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor.  He has spent the past decade and a half studying how humans can perform more efficiently in violent confrontations and honing his skills as an instructor both in the classroom and on the range. Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of Critical Defensive Skills courses in more than a dozen states annually.  Courses range from Concealed Carry Classes to Advanced Critical Defensive Handgun Courses and include instruction for the defensive use of handguns, rifles and shotguns.  Safety Solutions Academy regularly hosts other industry leading experts as guest instructors to make sure that SSA's students have the opportunity for quality instruction across a broad range of Critical Defensive disciplines.

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