By Rob Pincus
There are several “accepted” flashlight techniques that are taught for utilizing a powerful compact flashlight in conjunction with a firearm. We teach to use the light to identify threats and the pistol to engage them separately. Traditional combination techniques result in several things that I feel are detrimental to efficiency, consistency and effectiveness, thereby make us less safe.
At I.C.E. Training (Integrity, Consistency and Efficiency), we teach the High-Compressed Ready almost exclusively for defensive pistol use. Keeping the gun in close to the body, with elbows at your side is very important. One of the advantages of the High-Compressed Ready is it’s consistent with our draw stroke from the holster. Also, it is a position that keeps the pistol in close to the body for better retention and less “projection” around blind corners.
Traditional techniques that place the off hand in contact with the firing hand result in the firearm being pushed out in front of the body much more significantly than the High-Compressed Ready, thereby reducing our retention ability, increasing our exposure around corners and also causing muscle fatigue faster. Of course, another huge drawback of other techniques is most people automatically point their pistols at everything they are trying to shed light on, potentially including family members and/or friends.
One thing we teach students is to use the flashlight independently of the pistol, keeping it in close to the body near the off-hand shoulder, where it does not project out in front of the body. By shining the flashlight from this position, it is easy to direct it anywhere that our head can turn, including over the strong side shoulder by coming across the chin.
While the off hand is shedding light on the dark areas of our environment, the strong hand is holding the pistol in the standard High-Compressed Ready position. From that position, the pistol can either be extended into a one-handed shooting position that is consistent with our standard (ambient light) shooting position, or fired from a retention position in response to an extreme close-quarters ambush.
It is unlikely we will illuminate any threat with a compact flashlight that we cannot engage one-handed about as well as we could two handed. Traditional flashlight techniques, of course, are not really two handed shooting. In my observation of shooters trying to utilize them during training, most use them awkwardly at best and do not have any significant improvement over one-handed shooting. In fact, most shooters slow down significantly with these techniques with no significant increase in accuracy over one-handed shooting at similar ranges.
Consistency is the key to efficient dynamic shooting, and trying to learn a third shooting position (not really two-handed or one-handed) works against consistency. Let your low-light/no-light shooting be another motivation for one-handed shooting at close ranges — a skill that cannot be practiced too much.
The most common downside to this technique is lighting up the back of the strong hand and firearm after extension. This casts a shadow on the target and can blind the shooter temporarily if the skin or firearm reflects enough light. Remember to use minimal light, aimed low at the target to eliminate this situation.
Staying squared off toward the target and not blading also reduces the risk of aligning the light and pistol. Often, in low light there is plenty of ambient light to shoot at a threat, but not enough to identify the threat in the first place (i.e. you can see the person but not the lethal weapon, etc). In this case, the flashlight can even be turned toward the floor or off as the pistol is extended and the target engaged.
As with all other aspects of tactical training, techniques must be practiced and trained before they can be used efficiently. By limiting the options of ready and shooting positions, we make consistency easier and we can be effective faster during a dynamic critical incident.