Weapon Light Employment and Home Defense

Weapon-mounted lights are one of the more controversial conversations in the gun world. There is a lot of bad information out there revolving around weapon lights, and there is also lots of good. My goal today is to expand the good and maybe help dissuade some of the bad. When the weapon light conversation comes into play, we have a split idea of necessity. For concealed carry, I don’t think a light is necessary. For home defense, though, I think it’s an absolute requirement.

Why a Light Is Necessary for Home Defense

The purpose of a light on a weapon is to practice positive identification of a threat. Inside your home and in the dark, there is way too much at risk not to positively identify the threat. Tragically, more than once, an over-eager home defender has fired a shot in the dark and harmed an innocent family member. I have a very stupid cat that lacks the grace and agility of a cat and constantly makes loud thumps in the dark.

Man using 4lux weaponlight
A little light can have tons of power.

One frightful night, we heard glass breaking. Coming out of a dead sleep to that noise isn’t exactly nice. It causes panic. In my mind, that was a window breaking. In reality, it was a cat who knocked over a glass vase trying to scale a bookshelf at two in the morning. A weapon-mounted light allowed me to gain this information quickly and confidently. Imagine if I popped off at every little noise without positively identifying my target. I’d have a dead cat, for sure. Instead, I didn’t fire a shot in the dark over a broken vase, and the cat lived to see another day.

Lights ensure a threat is a threat and not a cat, a sneaking teenager, or any other innocent person. Your home defense gun should have a light attached to it so you’re prepared, regardless of the scenario. If you have a handgun and a handheld light, then you still have a light, and that counts as well.

Home Defense Lights and Power

We live in a very diverse market of lights. We have Surefire, Streamlight, Modlite, Cloud Defensive, and many more pumping out great lights. There has been a steady increase in the power these lights offer, and conversations about lumens and candela are often had.

Your light needs both, and arguably, more is better. More lumens and more candela is more power overall. Getting a thousand lumens of light and 50,000 candela or more is quite nice and powerful. With that said, lumens and candela aren’t the only discussions to be had.

4lux indoors
The light shines bright indoors.

We also have to talk about how the beam performs. Some lights are designed to have a very focused beam that maximizes its range, while others are focused on having more spill and spreading light wider than average. For home defense, this spill and spread of light is valuable, often more valuable than an extremely focused beam.

Mounting Home Defense Lights

Mounting is pretty easy on most guns. Equipped with rails and other mounting solutions, modern handguns and rifles are designed with lights and laser sights in mind. Shotguns can be trickier, but options like the DSF series and TL Racker series make life a little easier. You typically want to mount the light as far forward as possible.

rig side view
Some lights are easier to mount than others.

This helps eliminate barrel shadow and gives you the most forward light possible. When mounting the light forward, you have to account for a few things. Can you activate the light? Without a pressure switch, it might be a challenge if it’s super far forward. Keep that in mind and plan for it.

Employing Weapon-Mounted Lights In Home Defense

The ideal home defense situation is that you blockade in whatever room you happen to be in. Get behind some sort of cover, orient your gun at the door, and call the police. You wait behind that door, not directly in front of it, obviously, and you are essentially ambushing your home invaders if they happen to come into that room.

In a bunker-down scenario like this, you need to keep the light off and have it pointed at the door. If something comes through that door, you turn the light on and identify the threat. You’ve also effectively blinded the threat momentarily and have a second to get through your OODA Loop. Hit them with the light and, if necessary, take the threat down to the ground.

The Other Case

If you live in a home with others, especially children, you may need to leave the safety of one room. Your ultimate goal is to protect your family, and if you can move from your location to theirs without incident and bunker down, then great. If not, you may need to navigate toward the threat to defend your family.

In this case, the light is not to be used for navigating your home. You typically want to practice something called light discipline. Light discipline involves keeping the light off as much as possible. This helps you maintain a degree of stealth and helps conceal your position.

RIG Bright indoors
The RIG fills a room with light.

If you have to use the light, fire it in short bursts. Use the light for only as long as you possibly need to. You want to be able to see what you’re trying to see and then shut it down. A light will draw attention, so after you use the light, it might be wise to move.

You know your home, so avoid shining your big, powerful light on mirrors or stainless steel appliances. These can reflect light and create discomfort. With a capable and powerful light, you can bounce light off of the roof and walls. This can be valuable to help ensure you aren’t pointing your gun directly at what could be a nonthreat. It’s also useful for looking around those reflective surfaces.

Got the Beam

Your eyes are not required to follow the beam’s hot spot. You can shine the light against a roof, floor, or other wall and focus on where the light is reflecting, too. This allows you to scan while bouncing the light. Using the light in this manner can also be partially deceptive to your opponent.

lighting up a hallway
The light certainly works well indoors and delivers excellent indoor power.

If you’re shining the light left but focusing right, they may be a bit mixed up on exactly what you’re doing and what you’re focusing on. You’ll still be using short deceptive bursts but in different directions.

Once you’ve located a threat, you can keep the light on and blast people with light. This can blind them temporarily and give you a slight upper hand if you need to pull the trigger. A good white light can be absolutely brutal to someone’s vision.

Which Light Should You Buy?

If you want an easy button, here are a few excellent lights for handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

The Streamlight TLR-1

The Streamlight TLR-1 is a classic handgun weapon light that’s well-made and designed for full-sized and compact-sized handguns. The Streamlight TLR-1 provides you with 1,000 lumens of light and packs a punch. It’s well suited for indoor and outdoor use and is tough as nails.

The TLR-1 tac-light.
A weapon-mounted light is important to have any time of the day, but especially for home defense. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Surefire M640 DF Scout Pro

If you have a modern rifle, a modern rifle light will take you far. The Sure M640 DF Scout Pro is the classic Scout series light with the new pro mounting system. This light is perfect bright for self-defense purposes and will work with a wide variety of different tail caps, pressure switches, and beyond.

surefire light
The Surefire is a proven classic.

Nightstick Shotgun Forend Light

If you have a pump shotgun, then a forend light is the best way to go. The Nightstick Shotgun Forend Light packs 1200 lumens with a huge, wide throwing beam that fills a room with light. It’s powerful, has ambidextrous controls, and is easy to use. The downside is the fact the light is only made for the Mossber 500 and Remington 870 series lights.

nightstick shotgun
The Nightstick SFL is available for the Mossber 500/590 series and the Remington 870 shotguns.

Get a Light

In closing, all I can say is that you need a weapon light of some sort for home defense. For concealed carry, I don’t think a light is necessary. For home defense, though, I think it’s an absolute requirement. Find what model works for you and train with it often. Remember to practice light discipline and positive target identification.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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