Low Light Conditions: Do You Need a Light During the Day?

I remember when the standard procedure for low-light conditions was to hold your gun with one hand and a flashlight in the other. People had all different methods of interlocking their hands or crossing their arms to hold the light steady and still shoot with one hand. Then came along the weapon-mounted light and Picatinny rail on handguns. For a long time, this was considered extreme, and only SWAT teams used them. The light required new holsters and government agencies just don’t like spending money replacing stuff they already have.

Steiner TOR Fusion light/laser combo.
The Steiner TOR Fusion is a combination of light and laser in one package for your favorite handgun.

Citizens didn’t move on rail-mounted lights right away either. The need for a light during self-defense situations just wasn’t that pressing. Some things in the gun world take off like wildfire, and others are slow to move. The newest wave of must-have accessories is the micro-red dot for handguns. The light has already passed us by and while it’s common, it’s not a hot item for most CCW carriers. But should it be?

When do you need a weapon-mounted light?

One thing I find interesting is that people tend to place a light on their rifle before a handgun. Lights are great tools to have on a rifle, but handguns are used more often, and they are almost always used at closer distances. A rifle is great for self-defense but look up how many self-defense shootings take place with rifles compared to handguns. Firing a weapon in low light conditions without a light is not ideal.

A common argument is that lights make you a target and if you turn one on, the bad guy can see you. That’s true, but you also can’t shoot at something you can’t see. If you hear something in your home and need to investigate, what’s the plan? Are you going to turn on all the lights as you walk through the house? Or maybe just search the home in the dark and hope you can see everything.

Responding to an intruder in the night.
Accessing a firearm quickly is important, no matter where you are in your home. A light is essential during these times.

If I see movement in my home, I want to know beyond a doubt it’s not a family member. Lighting up my target just before pulling the trigger is an important option to have. A weapon-mounted light for your at-home self-defense weapon just makes sense. But are lights important during the daytime too? The answer is yes.

As a member of law enforcement, I have seen first-hand how important light can be during daylight hours. One of the biggest things we take for granted is electricity, specifically the power to our buildings and homes. Think about all the places you go to each day, every office, elevator, tunnel, store, etc. Have you been in one when the power goes out? It can get dark really fast, even during the day.

Low-Light Tactics

As I mentioned above, if you have a light coming from the end of your gun, the bad guy can see you. But remember the same goes for him too. Criminals don’t have superhuman eyesight for those low-light conditions. If you can’t see them, there’s a good chance they won’t see you. Two people shooting at each other in the dark makes a bad situation even worse. This doesn’t mean you need to flip the light on and keep it on either. It means you need the ability to light up your field of view. The method many police academies teach is the intermittent use of a flashlight. If you can’t see, use a quick burst to light up the area and then turn it back off.

Walther PDP - Need a CCW gun?
Being able to turn a light on before shooting a target in the dark is a must. There is a wide range of weapon-mounted lights on the market to choose from.

Doing this still makes your eyes have trouble seeing once the light goes back out, but not for long. There are times on the job when I keep my light on and times when I use it periodically. If the situation requires me to move quickly, I leave it on. If I’m searching for someone who may be in a home or building, I move slower and keep my light off most of the time. You can gain a lot of information from a one-second burst of light. If the area looks clear, the light goes back off and I decide where I’m moving to next. But if there is a threat in the area and my light reveals them, I have a good sight picture and confirmation of what I’m shooting at.

Training in Low-Light Conditions

Training in low-light conditions is extremely important. But sadly, most people never train in the dark. The potential for an incident to take place in low-light areas is higher, but we train for it less. This is because it’s easier to go shooting during the day—when we can… see. Think about that for a minute. We train when it’s easier to see and then carry a gun for protection when we can’t. The idea is to see your target before you shoot it. Another thing to remember is your light will blind the criminal if they are close by and you need to act.

Training for low light conditions does not mean you have to find a range that lets you shoot at night. You need to practice sometime with low light, but there is more to it than just firing the gun at the range. Take a handheld flashlight or a training gun (I use airsoft guns) and attach your gun light to that. Clear your home, garage, shed, or whatever structure you have. Practice moving through a dark interior and identify when the light is needed. When training at the range, practice tuning the light on just before you fire. Make sure you can identify the target before pulling the trigger.

Does everyone need a weapon-mounted light?

I will admit, not all my handguns have lights on them. Some of the smaller weapons I use for CCW don’t’ even have rails for a light. But I still make sure I always have a light on me. If the gun I’m carrying doesn’t have a light, I carry a flashlight in my pocket. The Streamlight Wedge is a perfect example of lights made to carry in a pocket. It has a clip to help keep secure in your pocket just like a pocketknife. The toggle switch is placed right where the thumb can find it, making it quick to turn on.

Weapon mounted light.
We train on the range all the time. But how often do we train in the dark with our lights? Don’t forget to add low-light training to the mix.

But if the clothes I wear allow me to conceal a weapon with a light, I always choose that method. Some lights are too big to carry concealed but there are smaller options. As technology improves, lights will continue to become smaller. The Steiner TOR Fusion is a laser/light combo. It’s not a micro light, but it’s more compact than others. Streamlight is a leader in the world of gun-mounted lights. They make some compact lights like the TLR-6 which takes up very little room compared to other weapon-mounted lights. The point is, if you carry a gun, you should carry some type of light.


It may be hard to find a compact light for a CCW gun because many of the lights on the market are on the larger side. They are perfect for home defense guns, but we are not always at home. Even during the day, we could find ourselves in a dark area. Low-light areas are where criminals like to strike because it conceals their location and identity better.

Light can disappear just as fast as it appears, so we shouldn’t assume because it’s daylight we won’t need a light for our gun. If a weapon-mounted light doesn’t work for you, carry a small flashlight. Any light is better than none. Don’t rely on the power company to keep the lights on for you. When the power goes out at the building I work in, it’s so dark I can’t see my hand in front of my face. What if it becomes that dark while someone is shooting? A light could make the difference between life and death. So, find a daily carry light, and don’t get caught in the dark.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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