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How To Select A Weapon Mounted Light

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A weapon mounted light (WML) can provide a significant advantage in self-defense and home defense situations, and if you haven’t considered one for your pistol, rifle or shotgun platform, now is the time to do so. Today’s WMLs come in a variety of configurations and styles, and you’ll want to select a model that fits your individual needs. Manufacturers like Inforce, LaserMax, Primary Arms and SureFire all make great options for a variety of firearms. Let’s dig deeper into the important process of weapon light selection.

Advantages / Disadvantages

There are several advantages to using a weapon mounted light as part of your self-defense/home defense regiment. First and foremost, your hands are free to use a weapon, but you have a light available to clear a room as well. You certainly can’t effectively clear a room with a flashlight in one hand and a firearm in the other. How are you going to open doors? WMLs also aid in target identification. You absolutely want to identify that dark blob in the room before you consider any other action. In some cases, a WML can blind an attacker and provide the upper hand in a confrontation. After all, it’s hard to shoot straight when a powerful beam is being pointed in your eyes. WMLs can also improve accuracy, especially in low light situations.

Inforce’s standard 200 Lumen Rifle WML ($107.48).

To be fair, there are also some disadvantages to be aware of before using a WML. First, a WML when used improperly can give away your position far before you’re ready to shoot. If an attacker / intruder sees you coming, it will give them ample time to hide and ambush you. This can be solved with practice and a fast on/off switch on the light. Still, there’s no guarantee it won’t give away your position if you turn it on at the wrong moment. Second, pointing a WML at a target can escalate a situation quickly. Once the target sees a light and weapon pointing at them, they are bound to react quickly if hostile. This may also illicit an unwanted response, for example if a WML is pointed at police. If these issues concern you, then you may want to revert to using a flashlight to scout in home defense situations.

How Much Light?

Your first step in selecting a WML is evaluating how strong of a light you’ll need. Using SureFire’s breakdown of beam types, you’ll usually find two types of WML beams. The first, a flood beam, creates a large swath of light that illuminates a large surface area. These beams are great for close quarters use, but at longer distances they are ineffective. Alternatively, a spotting beam emits a powerful, narrow beam that reaches out to farther distances. The drawback of this beam comes when it is used in close quarters. It will reflect off walls and other close surfaces, and this may end up blinding the user. For this reason, a flood beam is your better option for home defense. Certain manufacturers like SureFire have developed hybrid WMLs where the beam is narrow but isn’t overpowered. This prevents the undesirable blinding effect in close quarters, and these lights are certainly worth a look as you select the best for your needs.

Mounting Options

WMLs can be mounted in a variety of ways, and determining which is best for you naturally starts with which firearm you use. Pistols will generally use one of two mounts – a rail mount and trigger guard light. Rail mounted WMLs can only be used with pistols that have a rail on the barrel. If your handgun doesn’t have an integrated rail, the option for you might be a trigger guard light which attaches to the pistol’s trigger guard / below the barrel and essentially sits in the same position a rail mounted laser would (See LaserMax’s Centerfire Weapon Lights). You may also consider choosing a pistol light that is activated when you draw it from a holster. Brands like Safariland make excellent models with this feature.

The LaserMax Glock Centerfire WML ($119) installs as part of the trigger guard.

Shotguns offer a few mounting options depending on your model. The most popular comes in a forend light that either replaces or alters your existing shotgun forend to hold a WML. These forend lights are popular because they’re sleek and don’t stick out much, and they are easily activated since the user’s hand is already on the forend when they hold a shotgun. Shotguns with rail mounts can accept a variety of rail mounted lights, and often these rail WMLs will sit off to the side of barrel. Finally, a shotgun may be able to accept a barrel mounted light, which essentially uses the barrel as a mounting point for the light. Make sure to check compatibility with your model before purchasing any WML.

SureFire’s unique Shotgun Forend WML. This model is for a Remington 870.

Finally, rifles offer the most diverse WML mounting options. Naturally rail mounted WMLs are popular with rifle users, and quad-rails offer the ability to mount a light in several different positions. The handguard itself can be replaced to hold a drop-in handguard with an integrated WML as well. Barrel mounted lights are available for those that prefer not to use rails or don’t have the option of mounting on a rail. Finally, the foregrip itself can contain a light, and these WMLs provide an interesting option for those who prefer to have a foregrip on their rifle platform.

The Primary Arms Gen III Ultimate Weapon Light ($89.95) has a stunning 750 lumen output, more than enough to blind anyone in its path.

Infrared Lights And Laser Combos

Before you decide on a visible WML, there are a couple other options to consider. One appealing option is the use of a infrared WML. Infrared lights have to be used in conjunction with night vision, but the result is illumination that is nearly undetectable to others. Infrared lights eliminate the downside of giving away your position while scanning and clearing an area, but you still get the target identification perk. Of course using infrared is more expensive and it takes some getting used to clearing with night vision, but this is definitely a good option for those committed to it. Infrared lasers can be added to this setup to improve accuracy.

There is the option of a WML and laser combo to consider as well. These devices offer the best of both worlds. You get improved confidence with your aim from a laser and the target identification ability that a laser alone can’t provide. Finally, there is one other option to consider –  a low power or filtered WML. The best example of this is a red WML, which offers the advantage of keeping your eyes tuned to the dark while providing a small degree of illumination. You can also get these lights in green for hunting and blue for blood trail identification in the dark.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of options to consider when shopping for a weapon mounted light, but we’re here to help. The advantages of a WML certainly outweigh the disadvantages, and it’s a nice option to have in home and self-defense, even if you don’t end up using it very often.

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