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Until recently, I had no idea there were so many ways to combine a flashlight and a handgun. I was familiar with the two-handed style I now know to be called the Harries technique and like everyone else I’ve seen the FBI style on TV. But there really are a plethora of techniques to choose from. This morning, I was privileged to receive a little bit of training in several of the most common techniques from an esteemed coworker. He guided me in my attempts with the FBI, Chapman, Surefire/Rodgers, and the Harries Techniques. I quickly deduced that I do not do well at all shooting one-handed in the dark, and hardly any better with the two-handed techniques that involved wrapping fingers around both light and gun. Small hands… multiple objects… not the best combination.

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(Now here is where I need to quickly interject the ubiquitous disclaimer: *Your results may vary.* I am a 5’ 7” slender woman with small hands and mediocre upper body strength. The following analysis is highly subjective to those parameters. Thank you.)

 

The FBI Technique

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The largest tactical disadvantage of using a flashlight is the light provides an excellent bullseye for any bad guys desiring to kill you. The FBI developed the technique of holding the light out at a 45 degree angle to mitigate the danger of being struck in a vital organ. The obvious advantage of holding the light out and away from your body is that the light is likely to draw the fire of your enemies to your hand and arm and away from your head and torso. Other advantages of this method include: 1. easy to learn and use and, 2. great for scanning large areas. There are, however, several disadvantages to this technique; 1. fatigue of the arm, 2. accidental illumination of self, 3. does not provide a solid platform for the shooting hand. (I personally struggled with all three of those disadvantages.)

 

The Chapman Technique

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During the ‘60s, Ray Chapman developed a two-handed technique for use with larger, older style flashlights (such as the Maglight) with barrel activated switches. Hands are held together with the non-shooting hand holding the flashlight between the thumb and first finger and the rest of the hand supporting the shooting hand. The stated advantages are: 1. centers the light beam and firearm upon the opponent, 2. allows for rapid threat appraisal, 3. allows for adequate control for both light and handgun. The main disadvantages are: 1. does not work with butt-cap activated flashlights and 2. does not work well for people with small hands. (Even with a relatively small Surefire combat light I struggled to grip my shooting hand. I quickly disregarded this technique as a preferred option for me.)

The Surefire/Rogers Technique

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In my research, I have seen the method of holding the light like a syringe referred to as both the Surefire and the Rogers technique. Whichever name it goes by, this method has the advantage of allowing the support hand to more firmly grip the shooting than the Chapman technique. The butt-cap is activated by the palm or base of the thumb. (Using the base of the thumb worked best for me, but also tended to cause a downward angle of the light. While I did find my light beam was instinctively closer to the target than it was with the FBI method, I also found myself fumbling in an attempt to get the light beam directly on target. With much more training and practice I believe this technique may work well for me.)

The Harries Technique

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Developed in the 1970’s, the Harries technique requires you to bring your support hand under the shooting hand and lock the wrists together with the backs of your hands touching. This technique works well with butt-cap and barrel activated lights. The light and firearm are aimed simultaneously enabling rapid target acquisition. The biggest advantage I found was the control this technique gives you. My accuracy was greatly improved with this method. The largest disadvantage is the possibility of sweeping your support hand as you come into position. For this reason, much training is required to use this technique.

To Sum It Up:

Overall, I was surprised to find I felt the most natural utilizing the Harries method. I was much more accurate and adept in the technique I expected to like the least. I believe many of my issues with the other methods may be solved by more training (and consistent upper body workouts), but my first foray into low-light training is certainly drawing me towards the Harries. One thing I have definitely learned from all this, I need more training. The experts make it look so easy (not to mention Hollywood), but it really is a skill that needs training, practice and time to be done right. I encourage all handgun owners to make a similar foray into the world of low-light training. A large majority of bad guy encounters happen at night, shouldn’t we be prepared for them?

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Follow Up…

I received a comment on my last article that I believe bears deep consideration and possibly even soul-searching. In essence, it was pointed out that the downside to using a mounted weapon-light is that it ensures you are always pointing a loaded gun at whatever you are illuminating. While I definitely don’t want to be pointing a loaded weapon at my roommate (who may happen to surprise me by being in the wrong place at the wrong time), I also don’t want to hear a bump in the night and not be able to identify that large object coming into my room. Occasionally, bad guys will cut the power to a house, so I cannot depend on my room lights. My futile attempts this morning revealed I am not capable of holding a flashlight and working the pump-action of my home defense shotgun or even activating said light, acquiring the target, and merely holding the shotgun steady on target. (It was truly quite comical, I’m sure, to watch me grapple with two such familiar objects that had suddenly morphed into this unwieldy beast.) This experience and careful consideration of my environment are encouraging me towards a weapon-light. I realize in doing so I will place an incredible amount of dependence on my trigger-finger training and control. Finger off the trigger until target is acquired and you are ready to fire. In my situation, if I am awakened in the dark of the night, I have no expectation of clearing rooms or seeking out the threat. I expect to hunker down in a safe location and prepare and pray. Should they open that door, they have identified themselves as a threat, and the light will only confirm it.

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*Again, many thanks to Richard McLarin, representative for SureFire, for sharing his knowledge of tactics and flashlights.
*Thank you, Tommy Harper for sharing your knowledge and time as well!

For Further Research

http://www.gunlight.org/2010/handgun-flashlight-techniques/

http://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/basic-flashlight-techniques/

http://www.usacarry.com/6-flashlight-shooting-techniques-you-must-know/

http://www.firearmstalk.com/entries/Handgun-Flashlight-Techniques.html

http://www.gundigest.com/tactical-gear/tactical-military-arms-blog/4-tactical-light-techniques-for-concealed-carry

http://iwillnotbeavictim.com/flashlight_hold-page.html

https://www.tactical-officer.com/articles/flashlights-hand-held-or-weapon-mounted/

https://www.tactical-officer.com/articles/hand-held-flashlight-shooting-positions-the-ayoob-method/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbNBlyyiydM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1DBQeX7iSQ

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Comments
  1. MamaLiberty says:

    We each must look for and develop what works for us, obviously. Good luck with this. 🙂

  2. Tommy Harper says:

    Excellent job!! I’m sure that those who read this blog will feel the need to get proper training in low light defensive shooting. Our time together the other day reminded me my need to practice!!!!

  3. […] is the FBI technique. Just sharing in case… http://www.combatreform.org/harriesstanceandgrip.jpg How Do You Hold This? | Autrey's Armory Your "For one, Mike Seeklander who currently teaches a technique that uses the non-dominant […]

  4. Paul Blackburn says:

    The weapons mounted lights allow you to keep both hands on the weapon which aids significantly in accuracy even in low stress shooting. The Surefire/Streamlight can be mounted with ease at night and removed and used independently for daily carry. Generally speaking for self defense in the home we will not be hunting and illuminating potential threats but hopefully be in a safe room/point of domination and ID’ing/discriminating the threat(s) that come to us just before the decision to shoot.

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