Team Room Discussions: Pistol Lights
With Fall approaching and half the day or more soon to be in darkness you need to be prepared to fight in the dark. Statistically violent crimes occur more often during periods of darkness stateside and overseas so training only in daylight leaves plenty of gaps that need filled. Whether you are in the Military, Law Enforcement, or a responsible citizen you need to be prepared to fight while away and able to defend your home at all hours. Often those who carry a gun for a living train very little during periods of darkness compared to the daytime and can often miss the gaps that darkness plays in life-or-death situations. Which is why we are putting on a Low Light/ Low Visibility course to train you to working through darkness.
Positive Identification (PID) is just as crucial at night as it is during the day to eliminate the threat and modern technology has given us a wide variety of tools for the job. I am showing some options to use on your handgun in this post that fall in the Mid-High Tier category of equipment that can be used in multiple different ways, focusing specifically on handgun mounted tac lights. I am comparing three weapons mounted lights to help you decide what is best for your purpose and budget. The three models I used are the Surefire X300-V, Streamlight TLR VIR II, and Streamlight TLR 7A. Each of these provide a slightly different purpose, but since you can only use one on your pistol, lets figure out what is more appropriate for your needs. Remember these are lights designed for handguns so consider the distances listed of what your handgun caliber can do.
This will be broken down into two categories: With or without night vision
With Night Vision: There are two ways to fight while utilizing NVGs; Passive or Active aiming. Active you solely rely on your weapons laser to point at your target, able to hold it in a multitude of ways that you couldn’t if using an optic. Passive, you aim through your optic with your NVGs. *Most optics are not NVG compatible unless your model says so specifically.
Anyone who has shot with NVGs (passive and active) has experienced the difficulty of identifying targets at distance. The ambient light plays a huge factor in what the NVG device can illuminate, requiring an IR illuminator (aka an IR light) to get PID on a target, just like if you were to use a white light flashlight in a pitch-black room. Also, don’t forget that when using an IR Illuminator anyone else with NVGs will see you light up immediately as well (understand your enemy’s capabilities)
For this comparison I set up guns for active and passive aiming with PVS-14 NVGs.
Passive Aiming: I used a Sig P320 AXG with a Holosun 508T Green Dot (NVG compatible) and a Surefire X300-V
Active Aiming: I used a Gen 5 Glock 17 with a fiber front sight and blacked rear and Streamlight TLR VIR II
Surefire X300-V: A dual head light that can switch between white light and IR light running off two CR123 batteries. Average price about $430.
Best used for: Duty grade handguns/Pistol Caliber Carbines (PCC) in conjunction with NVGs and NVG compatible optic/IR aiming device.
Pros: Incredibly powerful white light and IR light for the size, could positively identify a person in the woods at 100m+ with white light or IR light. In conjunction with a NVG setup you can engage targets at the max effective range of a pistol. For a use on a rifle, I trust it to hold up, but would consider a dedicated rifle light with more power and battery capacity. The beam on this unit is a crisp white/blue hint that is much more directional than others in this list with limited flooding up close. Likely to blind anyone immediately. Don’t let the 350 Lumen rating fool you, it is an incredibly powerful light.
Cons: Overall size is very large for concealed carry handguns, wouldn’t prefer to jam down my pants everyday especially since I am not carrying my NVGs everywhere. With such a powerful dedicated beam it can be intense for the user especially indoors when coming from the darkness under NVGs. The beam bounces off walls, mirrors, and doors forcing you to squint. For white light only in a slightly smaller package check out the Surefire X300 Turbo models.
Streamlight TLR VIR II: A dual head light that can switch between white light and IR light, also has a constant IR laser (unable to be turned off when using the IR light) average price $315
Best used for: Handguns without an NVG compatible optic, PCCs, or rifles used in limited range while using NVGs. I wouldn’t rely on this device for engaging targets over 25m with no to little ambient light. Viable option for those who have a sidearm and NVGs but are unable to mount a NVG compatible optic (looking at you MIL/LEO with obscure rules). Indoors this thing is great, outdoors it will likely match the shooters capabilities with a handgun. *side note I have been seeing these used more often in night shooting competitions on handguns/PCCs with success.
Pros: The white light projects out to 100m with a semi concentrated beam, but still flooding the immediate area. The IR light is fine up to 35-45meters to make out fine details but disappears after that sharply. The IR laser is surprisingly easy to spot out to 150m+ (in a 50%lume open field night) and comes with easy dials to zero it to your optic while under NVGs. The IR flood is generally just under where the laser is in these pictures.
Cons: Any ambient white light washes out the IR light easily, especially after 25meters (laser is still easy to find). The white light almost has a yellow tint to it when reflecting off white surfaces and is not nearly as intense as the Surefire but gives a slightly shorter and wider area of coverage. While not as long and wide as the Surefire it is still fairly large size and not what I would prefer to carry everyday for its multipurpose uses over a dedicated white light.
Target is approximately 20meters away, heavy cloud coverage. The Surefire does wash out the target this close, but the Holosun dot is easily seen (not pictured).
The house is approximately 75meters away.
Without Night Vision: Majority of gun owners do not own and/or have immediate access to NVGs, plain and simple. You do have options to carry a stand-alone flashlight, weapons mounted tac light, or both if you prefer. Either way learn to work with it!
Streamlight TLR7A: A very small white light only unit that is easily configured for use on a wide range of handguns. Not the brightest, but that is the tradeoff I am willing to make to carry it every day. Average price $125.
Best Use: Compact or subcompact everyday concealed carry pistols, 35m white light range with a very wide flood.
Pros: The size allows for comfortable concealment of any gun it is mounted on.
Cons: Like the VIR II, the light is a yellowish color on white cabinetry and dull color at any distance past 25m.
Note the beam dispersion immediately from each light.
Note the shadows at different distances and flooding below the light.
The market is flooded with different brands of pistol lights these days these are just some styles to consider. For professional/duty use, out the waistband (or IWB) I will highly recommend the Surefire X300 lineup, for the average concealed weapons carrier the Streamlight line up is dependable when you need it. Final note: Don’t use new and old batteries in any weapons lights as they can build pressure causing catastrophic results.