Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Low Light Essentials

Low Light Shooting Essentials

Those who know me know that Low Light Shooting Skills are a favorite topic. Why? According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), 80% of all shootings CONUS occur in Low Light/No Light conditions. Interestingly, that number goes to 70% when it is LE shootings only. With that in mind, statistically you have a 20% chance of using your weapon in the daylight lighting conditions, almost all training is conducted in. My opinion, train for the most likely use – Low Light/No Light.

What makes Low Light shooting different and worth training for? First, there is a  lack of positive target identification. Next, sight visibility concerns. If you can’t see what that noise was, much less identify it in the night, you can not safely engage that noise, contrary to Joe Biden said.  Let’s say that you follow Biden’s advice and shoot at the noise, can you see the sights on your gun? You didn’t? Oh so where did your unaimed gun shot go? So there are two things that are essential for a “fighting” weapon, White Light and a visible sighting system. I’m going to cover those next.

White light:
Buy a light that is reliable and able to hold up to the recoil of a weapon. I personally only run Surefire brand lights on my weapons, with the exception of the Inforce WML, Haley Strategic version. Personally I have found that anything less than 200 Lumens is to low output wise for target identification on a long gun. Pistols may be needed to identify and engage a threat at distance as well meaning you may as well say 200 Lumens on the pistol as well.

Location of the white light:
Where you put the white light on a rifle is important. Barrel shadow, Switching, Light location relative to sights and cover, etc are all determining factors in light placement. On a rifle, the closer you can get your light to 12 O Clock (where your sights are located), the better things will be. Avoid placing the light between the 3 O Clock to 9 O’clock locations on the bottom of the rifle at all costs. This will avoid the barrel shadow being above the gun and therefore in your immediate sight picture as well as allow the best use of cover. Barrel shadow is going to happen no matter the light location, but some locations are far worse than others, especially at the 6 O Clock region as it puts the shadow right into your field of view thus not allowing you to identify the threat. . Obviously a Pistol is limited to 6 O Clock only and a Shotgun due to its design is mainly limited to mounting in 3 O Clock to 9 O Clock under barrel region. This is a nature of the weapon systems and can’t be changed.

Switching Options:
For switching, refer to part 3 of my KISS series.
More on switching though. The old rule of thumb was NO to tape switches. The Surefire Tape Switches are much better quality now from what I understand. I only got one after I heard good things again about them and haven’t had an issue with them. If you are using a pistol light (X300/X400) on a rifle, the best place is 12 O Clock. This will allow your thumb to push forwards and activate the light momentarily or to push up/down to lock it on. If you run this at 3 or 9, you’ll notice in momentary activation your thumb gets trashed.

Employment of the light:
Practice this “dry” at home with the lights off as well as with partial lighting. Be familiar with what light does on your walls – reflecting or not. Observe where you can create shadows and dark holes in a room by activating the light. This will also move right into the next topic, sighting systems. Can you see your sight with the light off? With the light on?

Sighting Systems:
Iron sights are useless in a Low Light No Light environment. Some sort of a Trijicon powered pistol sight or battery powered red dot (Aimpoint T-1 being the king) are a must. Being able to see your sights in the Low Light/No Light conditions where 80% of shootings occur, is in my opinion, the smart choice and statistics point that way. Being able to see and use your sights in the day time, is being prepared for the 20%, in which I see little to no utility.

A red dot of visible iron sight (Trijicon) will allow you to see your sights in the Low Light/No Light conditions, regardless if you have a white light activated or not.

I posted this series of drills in the KISS series, and encourage you to shoot them with your weapon light and non-weapon light equipped weapon in a Low Light and in a No Light condition. Try it with iron sights only as well as with your powered optics. All shot from the low ready.
·      7 yards, 2 shots on 1 target 2.5 seconds.
·      15 yards, 2 shots on 1 target 3.5 seconds.
·      25 yards, 2 shots on 1 target 4.0 seconds
·      50 yards, 2 shots on 1 target 6.0 seconds.
·      7 yards, 2 shots per on 2 targets 3.5 seconds.
·      15 yards, 2 shots per on 2 targets 5.0 seconds.

You can skip the 25 and 50 yard targets if you want with your handgun, but should shoot them with your rifle or shotgun.

I found that my personal shooting practice was enhanced by making sure at least 50% of it was done in Low Light/No Light conditions. This is shooting, dry practice and tactics. Much of this can be done dry with unloaded weapons, especially the house clearing tactics.

Hand held lights can be used, and should be practiced with, but that is another topic all together, much of which you will see is shown in why not when shooting the low light standards with a hand held vs. weapons mounted light. 

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