Principles of Low Light Operation

Posted: October 1, 2013 in Self Defense
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How many of us of have ever reacted to a nocturnal, outside noise by turning on an inside light and peering out the glass? I know I have. As a child, I remember hearing many a frightful noise outside my window and trying my darndest with my little hands to block out enough light so I could actually see more than my reflection. Eventually, I learned it works much better to turn the inside light off and the outside light on. Unfortunately, this is where light analysis ends for most of us. We know it’s easier to hide in darkness than in light and we know it’s much easier for the person in the dark to see the person in the light. What many of us don’t think about is how this relates to self-defense and home protection. Even though there is controversy over methods utilized in low-light situations there are universal principles of light, darkness, and concealment.

There are 4 key principles of low light tactics we need to know as we build our home defense (and self-defense) plan:

 1. Read the light

When operating in no, low, or dim light conditions it is vitally important for you to assess lighting conditions in the environment. Where is the light coming from? What surface is the light hitting? Will you need to walk through or in front of that light? Do you need a light to safely navigate the area or can you wait for your eyesight to adjust? Where are the darkest areas (dark holes may contain threats)?

2. Operate from the lowest level of light


Operating in the areas that are the darkest (the lowest light level) is key for staying concealed. I saw the perfect demonstration of this principle tonight, walking down my driveway. As I walked towards the house, I realized I could not see my car. I unintentionally parked it in the lowest level of light, beside a large bush/tree that blocks the beams of the exterior lights. The picture does not do justice to how hidden my car is, but it does help illustrate the point. The same way my car disappeared into the darkness, we need to blend into the shadows and darkness.

 3. Avoid or control backlighting

home-invasion4Backlighting occurs when a higher light level is behind you and you are in a lower light level. For example, if you leave the living room light on and walk down an adjoining, dark hallway you will be silhouetted against the ambient light coming from the living room. Backlighting makes you an easy target for an adversary by revealing your exact position. Backlighting may also warn your adversary of your approach by throwing a long shadow. Frequently, the best ways to minimize backlighting are to close doors and turn off lights.

 4. See from the threat’s viewpoint

Often, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to put yourself in the mindset of your enemy. Analyze your house for weak spots in the security as if you are a thief or home invader trying to break in. Assess your jogging path as if you are a rapist looking for an opportune moment. Walk through your home at night deciding where you would hide and thinking of what you would do if you were a criminal. Constantly thinking of what your adversary would see as you move through your environment will help you maintain a cautious regard of light and backlighting.


The following 3 additional principles are for those who choose to use a flashlight to identify the target in a low light environment:

 5. Light and move

flashlightSeeing as how white light shows up extremely well in dark environments, using a white light may draw enemy fire directly at the light. The best way to protect yourself from this threat is to light and move. Momentarily activate the light in random intervals and at different heights to confuse and disorient your adversary and follow-up with movement away from the previous location.  The quick flash is enough to reveal your next few steps and/or the presence of the threat without making you a static target. If you must engage your target, it is also best to shoot and move. Enemies may aim at the location of the previous muzzle flash. You do NOT want to be in that location.  MOVE!

 6. Dominate with light

Many modern flashlights are so bright they may also be used as a weapon. The extremely high lumen output temporarily blinds and disorients the enemy. This approach is best used within close range to discourage further aggressive behavior or to enable you to seize the upper hand and take control of the situation. Frequently, it is also at this point that you are able to accurately assess the threat you are facing and determine a proper response.

 7. Carry more than one light

home_defense_534When you hear footsteps coming down your hallway, the last thing you need is for your flashlight to suddenly die. Murphy loves to rear his head at the most inopportune times, and a flashlight dying right when you hear a bump in the night would definitely be inopportune. I’m sure you have all heard the popular phrase, “One is none, and two is one.” Well, Surefire takes it one step farther and strongly urges you to have the “Tactical Trinity.” As a concept, the Tactical Trinity refers to identifying threats, disorienting opponents and illuminating targets. For all practical purposes, the Tactical Trinity is itemized as a primary light, a backup light and a weapon light. While this concept was developed for Law Enforcement, the principle applies just as strongly to civilians. If you plan on using a flashlight in your overall home defense plan, you need more than one light. If you rely on one light alone, Murphy’s Law just about guarantees it will not work when you need it.

To Sum It Up…

While it is easy to focus on this tool or that gadget, the skills and mindset required to correctly implement said tools (or operate without them) are much more important. The greatest tool you have is not the one in your hands, but between your ears. Relying on physical aides without developing skills is faulty logic at best and a lethal mistake at worst.

For further information and research….  Executive Course by Surefire Home Defense–Talon Training Group part 1  Gunsight: Low-light/no light Low Light Home Defense Tactics from Tac TV good info, annoying music


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