Handgun mounted light with green laser for precise target shooting

The Benefits of a Tactical Weapon Light

Adding a tactical weapon light is a popular custom firearms upgrade for many gun owners interested in self-defense and dynamic tactical shooting drills. Gun lights come in various shapes and sizes for both pistols and long guns. They’re made with a variety of features, different illumination technologies, and enough options to ensure there’s a custom choice to fit the needs of anyone who chooses to add one to their gun. Despite the variety, weapon lights aren’t right for every shooter. You need to understand the benefits they offer to make sure it’s the right gun accessory for you and to help you ensure you’re picking the light that will best fit your needs.

What is a Tactical Weapon Light?

Holosun PID Weapon Light mounted on a handgun

An evolution of the tactical flashlight, tactical weapon lights attach directly to your weapon in a forward-facing position to create a broad area of illumination directly in front of your barrel. They can be mounted to a rail underneath the barrel, the trigger guard, forestock, or along the side of the barrel, depending on your weapon’s configuration and equipped mounting surfaces. They use a small power source to provide plenty of light and are frequently activated by either a manual switch or a pressure plate or switch attached to the frame or trigger mechanism. 

I Heard Gun Lights Make You a Target

This opinion is based on highly conditional circumstances. For service members or police officers who find themselves moving through dark alleyways, desert villages, or forests under the cover of dark, an errant beam of light can absolutely make them a target. In a self-defense situation, whether it be a home invader or while walking the dog for a midnight bathroom break when a would-be attacker approaches, you’re already a target. They know their intent and your location, making your defensive capabilities your sole major remaining advantage.

Properly used, tactical weapon lights are not for navigation–after all, anything your gun light illuminates, your weapon is pointed at, so waving it around willy-nilly to see where you’re going violates several different gun safety rules. You likely can already navigate from your bedroom to your front or back door in complete darkness, so you don’t need it to see your surroundings. You need it to see your target window, and that will only be illuminated for a fraction of a second while you identify your target and choose shoot or no-shoot. Under these circumstances, the light is more likely to be disorienting than opportunistic.

Tactical Weapon Light Benefits

  • Directs Light At Your Sight Picture – This is the primary benefit most people are looking for when they add a gun light. By fixing the light to your weapon, you get reliable placement where you need it. You can see to identify targets, aim your weapon, and be sure of what’s behind your target for safer gun usage. It’s the perfect addition to a gun with precision optics as it makes using your reflex sight more efficient without the need to adjust brightness settings or track down your night vision gear in an emergency.
  • Keeps a Hand Free – Before modern tactical weapon lights were developed, shooters had to find a comfortable flashlight after dark. Some tactical instructors taught keeping it away from the body, others taught a parallel hand positioning, while some preferred to teach a crossed wrists style with the flashlight hand passing under your gun hand and then aiming the flashlight ahead. All of these left your gun unsupported, reducing accuracy. They also left you with a choice if you needed to open a door, baby gate, or curtain. Which do you put down? Adding a gun light lets you keep two hands on the weapon when engaged and keeps the target area illuminated and covered when you do have to use your off-hand for something else.
  • May Help Mitigate Recoil – Modern tactical weapons lights don’t weigh much, but when you’re factoring in muzzle flip, every ounce counts. The added weight at the end of your barrel can ease the amount of perceived recoil so you can get back on target faster for follow-up shots.
  • Improves Safety – Was that bump in the night a burglar or your teen sneaking home after missing curfew? Did a child get thirsty or need to use the bathroom? A gun light can help you make sure that you’re not about to make a tragic mistake by misidentifying a target in low-light situations. Just remember your gun is pointed at anything in the light, so keep your finger off the trigger.
  • Protects You From Increased Liability – It’s a reality of self-defense that, after the smoke clears, you may be called upon to explain or defend your actions in a court of law. Arguments will be made about perceived threats, every decision will be scrutinized, and it may fall to a group of strangers to determine if you acted responsibly and legally. Having the right equipment for proper target identification helps you make the case that the use of force was reasonable and necessary.

Features to Look For on a Gun Light

  • Brightness – You need your tactical weapon light to be bright and clear, with a white beam that lets you pick out details in the area it illuminates. 
  • Pattern – Your light needs to find the balance between the focused intensity of a spotlight to keep your target well-lit and the saturation of a flood which gives you a wider field of view to keep the perimeter clear. An intermediate pattern that provides the necessary spillage over a reasonable cone with a focused central beam for precision shooting is perfect.
  • Activation – Some tactical weapon lights are turned on manually while others are pressure activated. Switches may be on the side of the housing, the underside, or extend to the front strap of the trigger guard. Make sure your light has an activation method and style you’re comfortable with.
  • Laser – Laser aiming devices are popular for fast, precise target acquisition, but they don’t help with target identification. Some gun lights have an integral laser to give you the best of both worlds. 
  • Battery Life – The last thing you want is a battery running dead when you need it the most. Make sure your tactical gun light battery has a suitable service life. If possible, opt for a model that has a rechargeable battery that can be periodically “topped off” to make sure your weapon is always ready when needed.

Quality Firearms Parts, Accessories, and Upgrades

When you need to build your gun out to do more, we’ve got you covered with the gear you can count on. Sign up for our email newsletter to get the top new products and limited-time savings opportunities delivered to your inbox. Order your tactical weapon light from JSD Supply today.