Recently, a woman mentioned that she didn’t feel completely safe in town after dark, but was not yet comfortable with carrying a handgun. I asked her, “Have you considered carrying a flashlight?” Most people would answer ‘No’. In fact, most people don’t even think of a flashlight as a defensive tool. However, when properly employed, a flashlight is not only an effective deterrent, it can be an essential part of an everyday carry kit.
I often tell people, “If you carry a gun, you should consider carrying a flashlight.” (I don’t say you must because nothing is absolute. You don’t even have to carry bullets for your gun if you don’t want to.) It goes without saying that the most likely scenario for a violent encounter is in the dark. A statistically significant portion of defensive handgun uses happen after dark,or in dark areas. If you end up in one of these scenarios, it’s imperative that you know what you’re shooting at. A flashlight allows for confidence in accuracy by illuminating your target, as well as allowing for visual confirmation of a potential threat. ‘Be sure of your target’ is no less true in a defensive scenario than anywhere else. With the threat of a lawsuit or criminal charges over a wrongful shooting, it might be more critical here than at any other time to know exactly what you’re shooting at. In the dark, that isn’t going to happen without the aid of a light.
However, the flashlight is far more valuable than simply for illumination in a defensive shooting. A light is lower on a use-of-force continuum than almost any other tool, and is can be used as a deterrent or to disorient a suspicious individual. Because you can use a light even before any threat appears, it can be used to prevent a possible encounter from developing.
"If you carry a gun, you should consider carrying a flashlight…"
As many handgun instructors have preached, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. If you are observing your environment and looking for potential threats, someone looking for an easy mark might decide to move on to someone else. If you have to cross an unlit area, or move down dark streets, using your flashlight for navigation might be enough to deter an opportunistic attacker. If something does go down, you’ll know your surroundings and see them coming.
In a more deliberate scenario, a light can be directed at an individual acting suspicious. Say you’re crossing a parking lot after a movie, and some seems to be following you, or maybe they’re moving in at an angle towards where you’re headed. Put the light on their torso, illuminating their hands, or even directly towards their face. Combining the light with a loud “Hey, man, what’s up? Do you need something?” might deter an attacker. It will also make you more noticeable to others if something else happens. Even if your suspicion was misplaced, you haven’t truly done anything, and there’s honestly no harm done. I’d rather say, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t see you”, than get jumped by someone at the last minute.
I recommended a flashlight to the woman at the beginning of my post because I believe it is an effective deterrent. A powerful light in an attacker’s eyes can disorient and open an opportunity to escape. Would I recommend that she learn to carry a handgun, and become proficient? Absolutely. But before she gets there, she can pick up a compact, powerful flashlight and carry it today. That light can make a dark city street a little brighter and even a little safer. Even if you carry a gun for protection, a light may be all it takes to get you home without incident, which is all any of us really want after all.
About Adam Bower
Adam Bower runs www.InvictusTacticalReview.com, and writes gear reviews, tactics articles, and opinions on the mundane. You can find him at Facebook.com/InvictusTactical, and on Twitter.com/InvictusReview