The world is dark for at least half the day outside, and not every room will be brightly lit when you’re inside. This is just the nature of the world: it will get dark at some point.
Nighttime, dark, lowlight, etc. The common theme is that it’s dark, and visibility is minimized because of that. I tend to use “lowlight”, simply because it’s a broad term that covers the scenario: minimal to no light that reduces visibility.
From a non-military/LE perspective, lowlight is when I would be the most concerned about being victimized. It’s when I’m more likely to encounter someone attempting to commit some sort of crime, whether it’s against myself, my property, or just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and incidentally become involved. What are the realistic chances of this? I couldn’t tell you, but this is one of those low-probability but high-impact situations (black swan) that should be taken into consideration.
Lowlight isn’t relegated to when the sun goes down either. Walk inside a building without the lights on, even if it’s broad daylight outside. You’re going to find that visibility is reduced. The amount that it’s reduced will depend on how the room is laid out, but you’re going to find areas with heavy contrast involving bright natural lighting, hard shadows, and everything in between. The shift towards the hard shadows or no lighting is where things get difficult.
What are you going to grab when something goes bump in the night in your home? Or when you see something that might be a danger when you’re out and about? If it’s enough of a threat, then probably a weapon of some sort, along with a light if it’s dark.
If you’re reading this blog, then that probably translates to a handgun and a handheld light. My recommendation is to have a weapon mounted light (WML) in addition to a handheld, and here’s why.
A handheld light is excellent and can offer some intense output. They excel for administrative purposes but aren’t the best first choice once things become a violent defensive situation. Using a handheld light in conjunction with a handgun means that you’re giving up one hand to operate the light. This gives up half the control over the handgun, which reduces your effectiveness under an already stressful situation.
The ability to use two hands to control your handgun while also having a light is one of the key secondary benefits to having a WML. You gain the ability to see where it’s dark to positively identify a threat, and you can properly control your handgun should you need to use it. Those two aspects alone should be reason enough to seriously consider keeping a WML on any defensive handgun or firearm.
That said, a WML is not a replacement for a handheld light. A WML is there to compliment a handheld, for when the situation shifts to needing a weapon and a light at the same time. A handheld is a good primary option for a basic check of an area until you’ve figured out if a weapon would be needed as well. The basic safety rules still apply, regardless of the situation.
When should you have a weapon ready? That’s something that you’ll have to learn about and decide for yourself. A few examples I can think of would be that someone is actively coming at you after being told to stop, someone has broken into your home and you fear for your safety, or someone is attacking you. These are cut and dry scenarios for self-defense. The difficult decision to make is figuring out when the situation has reached the threshold of being enough of a threat that you need to use your weapon.
This is where you need to decide to shift from using a handheld to a handgun and WML, or you’ve already shifted to a handgun and WML and need keep processing the situation and threat. And you’ll be at an advantage of being able to maintain visibility on the threat while having the most possible control of your weapon should you decide to use it.
The fanciest gear and most Gucci of guns won’t help you become John Wick. You won’t magically know how to work the switches, think clearly enough to aim in through your sights or optic, or how to work building interiors. That’s only going to come through instruction, trial and error under a watchful eye, and practice. Find the best gear you can afford, find a good instructor who can teach you sound principles, and then get after it.