Boy, has the LED cost/performance curve been falling off the cliff the last few years. You can now get a 600 lumen bright white “torch” (as the Brits say) that fits in the palm of your hand. For less than a box of ammo. Sometimes much less. Which is good news because we should all have a bright tactical light with us all the time, most particularly when we’re carrying.
But unfortunately, most of the new lights on the market, including the high-quality ones, are tactically useless. Scratch that, they’re dangerous. For three reasons.
The switch This is the biggie. Most of these units have dual-function momentary/constant on tail cap switches. Press a little for momentary-on, harder to click to constant-on. Which is suicidal. Your light gives you away, and draws fire. You need to blip and move; blip and move again; blip and move some more. Even if you understand this and try to press lightly, under stress you will press hard and become a bullet magnet. I’ve been to lots of LE light-use seminars and courses, and all but one didn’t understand this — they all taught the traditional Harries, cigar, etc. holds and the use of a light that was usually on, and in any case not bilpped with the ferocity of Irish-dancing feet. Suffice to say, they were all taught in one-way shoot houses or structures.
The only place where the proper and effective use of a blipped light was taught used to be the old Surefire Institute under the direction of Ken Good, and it’s lineage of schools. The technique they taught was a ferociously aggressive, wild movement of the light hand coupled with a spastic all-directions blipping of the light. The result was that while you knew that someone was “out there” with a light, you had no idea where or how close. It was fantastically effective. Back in the mid-90s I attended a course at the SIGARMS Academy where the Surefire boys were teaching. The turned the lights off and split us up into teams. I was initially sent back into the multi-room plywood “house” to be the BG lying in wait for the entry teams. Then they forgot about me and didn’t rotate me out…which turned out to be very educational. I was easily able to “kill” every cop on every team that came in looking for me, even the SWAT guys. Then the Surefire guys came in, and they were literally in my room, illuminating me, and shooting me before I even knew they were there.
Yeah, it’s that good. But the technique is difficult to learn and complex to perform. TANSTAAFL. And it most definitely requires a momentary-only tail-cap switch.
Size Did you hear about the new gun that just came out? Through a combination of engineering and FM* it holds 15 rounds of 9mm, but is only 2 inches long, 1.5 inches high, and 1/2 inch wide.
What’s that you say? A device an be un-ergonomically too small? Whaddayaknow? Wonder if that applies to torches?
Output I’ve read people, who bother to investigate this stuff, claim that once you get past 200 lumens a light can be too bright. That’s because indoors with light, reflective walls, the splash-back will degrade your vision while providing no increase in BG-locating ability. I don’t know if this is true because I haven’t tested it (I think my brightest light here is 400 lumens) but it sounds reasonable. Certainly 200 lumens is a whole lotta light, and past some point you can have too much of a good thing.
Basically, Surefire got it right the first time around: a 5-inch tube, a little less than an inch around, with a momentary-only tail-cap switch. Stick a 200-lumen head on it and you can see a man at the end of a football field, manipulate it in your hand easily, not blind yourself indoors, and, if you put in the time and effort to learn Ken Good’s stuff, use it effectively for mano-mano combat, if you’re so unlucky as to have to.
P.S. Yes. military and SWAT teams will often constant-on their M4-mounted lights as they enter. That’s different. 1) They are using rifles and it’s often harder (without the right light and more training) to independently blip a light off and on. 2) they are storming a place, not trying to be stealthy, and they try to do so when their target is asleep.
(*) FM is a technical term that engineers use; it stands for fuckin magic.