Low Light Essentials #2 – Gear – General Purpose Tactical Lights

The most obvious solution to a lack of light is to bring a light source with you. These days there are literally thousands of light options out there.

Practically every home in America has a tried and true Mag-Lite in it. This is a good thing as they are durable, dependable lights that almost all of us have used at some point or another to deal with a blown breaker or to fix a broken belt on the side of a lonely road on some dark night. (Well, maybe that last one is something only old timers have done) I have over a dozen Mag-Lites in my house as I type this. I have depended on them for years.

…but let’s face facts. As a light used for self defense purposes, THEY ARE TERRIBLE.

Yes, I know that back in the day every cop walking the beat could be found to have a Mag-lite on hand at all times to use in conjunction with his Smith & Wesson model 19 revolver and that they managed to use them successfully… but the reason they used the 4 D-Cell mag lites back in “the day” was because they were pretty much the only available option. Times have changed and technology has changed with it. Today there are lights that are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand that put out good amounts of light, with almost indestructible LED lamp elements that never blow out, and that don’t weigh more than a .44 magnum with an 8 inch barrel on it.

These new generation lights can be had for VERY reasonable prices and are MUCH easier to carry on your person at all times and to use in conjunction with a handgun, which is the main personal defense weapon for most people in the US.

Yes, I know you can’t crack a grizzly’s skull with one of these smaller lights, but I would challenge those who bring that up as a reason to keep using a Mag-lite to tell us whether or not they go about their daily life with one of those big beasts on their belt or in their back pocket at all times. The answer, dear reader, will be NO. Buying a big, hardly carried, hard to use light simply because it would make a better impact weapon is about as sensible as buying a Walker Colt revolver as your primary self defense handgun because it will make a bigger dent in somebody’s skull when you pistol whip them with it.

There are dedicated tactical lights out there meant to be used in conjunction with a weapon under stressful conditions to stop a threat. YOUR MAIN CARRY LIGHT SHOULD BE ONE OF THESE LIGHTS. Leave the mag-lites (this also applies to mini-mag-lites) at home or in the trunk for less deadly emergencies. Stick to dedicated tactical lights for every-day carry. Every tool has its limits. Mag-lites are great tools for what they are… but they are NOT the best tool for every job.

Now that we’ve dealt with the dinosaurs of the flashlight world, which of the modern dedicated tactical lights should you choose?

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Surefire’s 6P lights and the derivatives of that design set the standard by which all other tactical lights are judged.

They are compact, reasonably light, powerful, and easy to use in conjunction with a weapon. They are essentially the Glock 17 of the flashlight world.

Many years ago I purchased a Surefire 6Z, a derivative of the 6P that had some improvements aimed at making the light easier to use in conjunction with a handgun.

The light had a lanyard attached to it to allow for dropping the light without losing it if you had to do something like clear a malfunction or reload your weapon. It also included rubber O-rings around the smooth body of the light with one larger ring just behind the mid-point of the light to allow use of a light technique called the “Rogers technique.”

The Rogers technique is similar to how you see doctors use hypodermic needles. The big ring allows the user to set the light between the index and middle fingers of the weak hand.

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Instead of putting his thumb on the pressure button, the user instead rests the rear of the light against the meat of his palm.

This allows the user to turn on the light simply by applying backwards pressure against the large ring, which presses the rear of the light into the base of the thumb, activating the light.

This hold allows the user to still get at least three of his weak-hand fingers around the grip of the weapon.

To this day I have not found a handheld light technique that works better in conjunction with a handgun than the Rogers technique. (Also called the “hypodermic needle” technique, “cigar technique”) As a result, the configuration found on the 6Z has remained my favorite configuration for a tactical light.

I bought and carried two of them because the incandescent elements, while very powerful and bright, had a bad habit of blowing out on me at the worst time. I was not alone in this experience which is why you hear people often tell you that with flashlights two are one, one is none. A few years ago Surefire released a polymer bodied update of the 6Z called the Z2 combat light.

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This is essentially just a 6Z in polymer with a couple of improvements like a roll resistant bezel.

I bought one as soon as they came out and I’ve been using it as my primary carry light ever since.

I heartily recommend these two lights to the defense minded individual.

NOTE: Surefire still offers these “combat” lights but they now have different model designations.

Now does that mean that all other lights are unsuitable for the task? No, it simply means that after much trial and error those are the lights I have found to be best suited for using in conjunction with a handgun, which is the primary defensive weapon for practically every legally armed individual in this country, LE or ordinary Joe.

There are other lights that will work with the Rogers technique like Surefire’s G2 or the old 6P, but I find them more difficult to use with the technique than the dedicated “combat” lights.

Surefire has, however, recently released a line of rings for the G2 and 6P style lights that will let you configure them to look very similar to the setup seen on the “combat” lights. I haven’t had the chance to thoroughly evaluate them, but from a glance they look like they may be just the ticket for someone who wants a more positive use of the Rogers technique.

There are other arrangements as well. Use of a large key ring affixed to the light is also a fairly popular (and effective) technique.