Half the time, it is dark out. Indoors, it can be dark all the time. You need light to see, and you need enough, but not too much. Yes, yes, yes, we’re all giddy about the prospect of having 1,000 lumens to light the night. I love Surefire as much as the next shooter, but this is too much.
“A thousand lumens, too much? Have you tried to see across a parking lot?” If you are looking at, or for, a threat across a parking lot, you’d best have a rifle, and then no, 1,000 lumens isn’t too much. But if you are checking the hallways and rooms of a building, the first wall you encounter that is painted Navajo White, you’ll regret having 1,000 lumens at your disposal.
Light, like fire, needs to be controlled to be useful. Uncontrolled, light is a nuisance, and gunfire is a disaster. At a distance, you need lots of light, and you need it in a narrow beam, to punch through the night to the point of inquiry. Indoors, you need a flood of light, a wide cloud of it, to see without being blinded, and to see what might be on the periphery of your point of focus.
There is a case to be made for the dual-beam approach; the hard, sharp, bright cone in the center, and a broad cloud of light outside of that. But simply buying illumination products, based on sheer output, is missing the point. You need control, or controlled, light, to serve you.
While we’re at it, can we talk about strobe?
Cool, yes. Maybe I’m going to give away my age here—after all, I got my inoculation back in the disco era—but while I find strobe annoying, I don’t find it disorienting. There’s a momentary, “What the heck?” reaction, and then it is just another source of light. I suspect that there are some few people out there who will react badly to a strobe, due more to how their brains are wired than anything else, but not the strobe itself. Strobe I’m not interested in. If you’re strobing me, I know you are more interested in tricks and gadgets than in actual practice.
So, for rifle, I want both options: a wide beam for CQB, and a bright, hard, narrow beam for distance. For shotguns and handguns, I want a cloud of light. I want the whole world in front of me bathed in a fog of light, one that lets me see what is there, and not get locked into the narrow area directly in front of me.
The fog of light also allows me to do something that I require: light things without actually pointing firearms at people. Aiming a deadly weapon at someone is considered assault in a lot of jurisdictions. Now, if you are justified, you are justified. But if you are searching (and let me be clear, you should search with a non-weapon-mounted light whenever possible) you don’t want to have to point a firearm directly at someone when searching. If you can keep the muzzle pointed at the ground, and still see (the fog of light lets you do that, the narrow beam does not) you can avoid accusations of assault—a charge that could become assault with a deadly weapon in some jurisdictions.
Which is best? I could offer suggestions, but in an hour, a day, a week, they would be old news, because the field is advancing quickly. I have had really good luck with SureFire and Streamlight. Visit their web pages, get their catalogs, and find the illumination tool that is best for your needs.
Me, I have to do that same. It has been a couple of months since I checked which lights were best, and made sure the batteries were all fresh. Can’t be too careful in the dark.
There are things that go bump in the night. I want to be able to bump back.