The Surefire Switch Assembly for X-Series Weapon Lights
- A DCM "Dutch" product review for Law Enforcement and Military personnel.
I get asked often about different pieces of my gear, what I have used and why and this piece of equipment is simple yet has been a critical piece in my kit throughout my career. So I am here to offer you my “why” and what it is.
Law enforcement agencies, as well as Military units the world over spend a great deal of time practicing tactics, techniques, and procedures to ensure success during real world and training missions. Some however, have seemed to overlook one mission-critical piece of equipment, the flashlight. More specifically, the weapon mounted light and how it is used. There is little guidance or even proper training for this especially important tool.
The pistol-mounted light has become a market and industry-standard issued to various federal, state, and military units. Due to the advances in the market as well as tactics in the field, there remains what I can only see as a lack of clarity in the proper setup surrounding the pistol light. I see it as an identifiable need that should be addressed. I have spoken about it often on social media platforms or to students that I have the privilege instructing. It is something that I find to be quintessential to your ability to manipulate this most unforgiving platform (the pistol) correctly to maximize your survivability in the line of duty. Especially as it is the almost always the primary weapon. There are misunderstandings, misuses, and a general lack of training concerning lights whether mounted or handheld. This has had its effects on officer or soldiers' critical threat response process in use-of-force engagements. We rarely consider the science of human factors affecting individuals and devices in a high-stress environment. Stance and grip to include the biomechanics of our bodies, sight picture, sight alignment, and trigger press all play a crucial role in the proper use of the pistol platform.
Now, add lighting systems which have all evolved and technology that have been modernized to the use of these systems in today's environment.
Methodologies have grown over the years bifurcating in technique.
- Hands together technique so that the gun hand and the light hand are pressed together as demonstrated in the “Harries” method which allows the shooter to duplicate a two-handed firing grip.
- Then there is the hands apart technique. This is where the gun hand and light hand move independently, a commonly used technique is the FBI method, it was designed to maximize tactical considerations in the field.
Let us talk for a moment some of the differences between a weapons light or admin light in general. It is important to note that you must distinguish between these two lights. This distinction clears up any misunderstandings about combining the two functions on one platform, I am speaking of course of a weapons mounted light. I only mention this because it has happened before, and tragic accidents (sympathetic shooting among them) have been the outcome of this oversight. I am not here to argue that a handheld light cannot be used in one of the above-mentioned methods, nor that during the implementation of a weapon-mounted light in a low light environment cannot function in any other capacity than to light up a target but to say that I have found what I see as the best method/product for myself and those officers I train.
With that cleared up let’s review why you need a light in the first place. The low-light environment is one that we often find ourselves navigating. Whether it is the transition from an outdoor well-lit space into a dark building or basement or the hours of darkness we must patrol in. This means our physiological receptors in the body change and forcing them to adapt. We have diminished eyesight, slowed response time, and difficulty distinguishing shapes and threats in the dark. Our practiced muscle responses stay the same, defeat the holster, present, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger squeeze for effect, but obviously we cannot target with accuracy what we cannot see/identify.
So what have we done? We said let there be light! It is a beautiful thing to have the ability to illuminate the target and get proper threat identification. In addition to gaining the advantage by effecting the would-be perp’s eyesight. We want to work accurately and with extreme violence of action when it is required. Remember “my rifle is your shield”. So when you pull the weapon and can illuminate the target, analyze the threat, and neutralize it from the environment, you win. Look at the data below, if you are in a law enforcement capacity that you are most likely to engage in a firefight or tactical situation during hours of diminished light or no light. That is taking into consideration METT-TC for all you military folks.
The FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA), which provides data on officers who are killed or assaulted in the line of duty. LEOKA data states that 238 of the 505 officers feloniously killed and 251 of the 533 officers assaulted between 2005–2014 were attacked during hours of low light (8 p.m.–6 a.m.)
- In addition to LEOKA data, a 1996 statistical analysis from the New York Police Department found that 77 percent of officer-involved shootings occurred in “diminished lighting, low ambient lighting conditions.”
- Miami, Florida, Police Department had provided data showing that 62 percent of their outdoor shootings (1988–1994) occurred in “other than ‘daytime’ conditions.
Unfortunately, some of this reference data is older than I would like to have and not all agencies or departments keep records publicly which we can access to further review the matter. We have established two key factors here. Number one is that I and so many others have and continue to operate in low light/diminished ambient lighting conditions. It has become like a second home often providing us with advantages over our would-be enemies or perpetrators suspected of a crime. Secondly, we have established that you and I have access to lights for our pistols, it has become a norm in today's world, more importantly, we have a wide range of options like Streamlight, Surefire, and Inforce to choose from. This is where we get into the meat and potatoes of today's post, the fundamentals. I am and always will be a champion of the fundamentals, that is what I have trained, continue to train, and have arguably mastered. Not to get too self-involved, I will step off my high horse and tell you that I constantly, daily, bring every aspect of my training back to the fundamentals. This hardens them and maintains a high level of proficiency which we need to operate properly in our chosen line of duty. If you have the proper fundamentals, along with training in stressful scenarios, then you can make clear cognitive choices under extreme pressure which is what a low light pistol gunfight is. So what are we talking about here? It is noticeably clear to me, good pistol manipulations that consist of the following individual tasks.
- Stance (solid footwork, body, and shoulder position to the target)
- Draw Stroke (defeat the garment, or holster)
- Grip (how your firing hand is seated firmly on the grip with your support hand wrapping around getting a good solid alignment with the pistol and opposite hand)
- Clean Presentation (sight alignment and sight picture)
- Trigger squeeze (manipulating the platform without moving the gun through a simple squeeze of your trigger finger. Sounds simple, but it is not without practice.)
That is it. Do those things and you can accurately throw lead downrange and hit what you are aiming at, but now add poor/low light conditions. Oops, I have got to be able to see what I am aiming at, so I light it up by manipulating my weapons light. Did I change my grip? Did I have to change the positions of my thumb thus changing the overall grip to get me the light I need to deal with the threat that I am trying to identify? Am I trying to manipulate my thumbs or hands to activate my light in such a manner that breaks my fundamentals, and I have gone and messed up my grip? What does this have to do with the title of the blog you ask me? It is simple and matter of fact, I have been using Surefire's light trigger for years and years. I am not sponsored by them or have any vested stock in their company, but they are the only ones who have provided "us", the tactically minded community, with a solution to a seemingly simple issue. Not moving away from my solid position/grip to illuminate my problem area and/or target. I now can get lumens and more importantly eyes on target without changing my grip at the moment of truth. I can react to what I see. As I said before, law enforcement officers are faced with the low light issue, often I have seen departments proudly show off the new kit, solving for whatever issue is at hand. I am ecstatic to see that our officers have the right tools for the job but often they have an 80% solution. Now they have a light source but no way to manipulate it without changing their fundamentals. Training being how it is across the board; it is not often that they get to practice low light shooting and work that good switch manipulation. This in no way is an indictment of their capabilities, I simply see a better way. The Surefire switch assembly allows me to activate my light with no change to how I hold my weapon, giving the shooter total control. I urge you to consider the fact that you can have your light and shine it too. It is not enough to have a light; you must think of the whole package and its use in your job. Is this a force multiplier, or does the solution give me more problems to work through in training than I previously had? Like I said before, those aforementioned LEO organizations had an 80% solution. With the weapon light I recommend, they had 100% control. Ok, folks that is my two cents, my brief if you will on why I love, use, and highly recommend this piece of kit. A disclaimer to all of you, I understand that you can learn to toggle and run the standard switch like a pro, and you might argue that the sticker price for the new assembly is not worth it because you've Jedi mastered your weapons platform. Well, I say to you go forth do your research, look compare and draw your independent conclusions. I am but one man and this is what I run and what I recommend. Thank you for taking the time out to read this.
Regards, Dutch SGM SOF (ret) USA
https://www.surefire.com/products/flashlight-accessories/switches/dg-switches/ 1 Federal Bureau of Investigation, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA), 2014, table 20, Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed: Time of Incident by Type of Assignment, 2005–2014; LEOKA 2014 table 99, Law Enforcement Officers Assaulted and Injured with Firearms or Knives/Other Cutting Instruments: Time of Incident by Type of Assignment, 2010–2014. 2 Thomas J. Aveni, “Officer-Involved Shootings: What We Didn’t Know Has Hurt Us,” Law & Order (August 2003), http://www.theppsc.org/Staff_Views/Aveni/OIS.pdf. 3 Ibid