The Case for Weapon-Mounted Lights

This article is primarily intended to piggyback on my earlier article on home defense. In that article, I touched on the overall utility of having a weapon-mounted light (WML) attached to a firearm used for home defense. In this article, my intention is to provide a rationale for their use as well as debunk some common arguments against their use.

They All Benefit

When we are talking about firearms used for defense, particularly home defense, a WML reaches its maximum utility on a long gun. Carbines and shotguns require two hands for effective employment, so a WML is of vital importance on these weapons. They allow the user to illuminate an area and effectively identify a target while still allowing both hands on the gun for maximum accuracy and controllability.

Mossberg 590A1 with Surefire Forend
Mossberg 590A1 with Surefire Forend

Since a pistol can be operated with one hand, a WML is not of as vital importance. However, there are still excellent reasons to utilize a WML on a pistol. First, most people shoot a handgun better with two hands than one. The WML will allow for similar accuracy in low-light scenarios as in daylight. Secondly, in a home defense scenario—as discussed in my home defense article–your pistol should be your “infantry” weapon. Accordingly, you may need to use your off hand for other tasks such as opening doors, scooping up the rugrats, etc. If your other hand becomes occupied, then the WML could suddenly be worth its weight in gold.

Glock 19 with Streamlight TLR-1
Glock 19 with Streamlight TLR-1

Concealed Carry with a Weapon-Mounted Light?

When it comes to your concealed carry handgun, should you have a WML affixed? I will answer this one simply: if you can, do it! I am a smaller guy and have trouble concealing larger or even some medium-framed handguns, and I also tend to carry appendix-style, so carrying with a WML is difficult for me. However, other than comfort/concealability, I see no other reason to NOT carry with a WML. If we assume that bad things often happen in the hours of darkness (and isn’t it dark outside for half of our lives?), then you may find it’s best to carry with a WML. Also consider that low-light scenarios can materialize even in hours of daylight (consider recent movie theater shootings: is a movie theater brighter at a matinee vs. an evening showing?). And, if you do not believe in their usefulness, I would urge you to attend a low-light course and see if you shoot better with or without the WML attached.


I’ve seen many arguments over the years against the WML, especially on handguns. The most common tend to center around violating the rules of firearms safety (pointing a gun at something you don’t intend to destroy) and revealing your position. I will address both:

  1. “Don’t point your gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.” It’s a good rule; there is no denying that. The argument against a WML is that, since the light is on the gun, in order to use illumination you are also pointing a gun at something/someone, potentially a non-hostile target. However, in defense of the WML, I will say that:

a: there are four rules for a reason. You need to break MORE than one for something bad to happen. In other words, if you still follow the other three rules, no harm will result. Indeed, in the dark, there might be no other way to confirm one of the other safety rules, which is to always be sure of your target and what is in front of and beyond it;

b: you can utilize the “spill” around the central core of your light beam in order to identify targets, rather than point your muzzle directly at someone. Indeed, some suggest using a compressed high-ready position and bouncing light off the ceiling or walls;

c: just because you have a WML doesn’t mean you MUST use it. You can do most of your searching with a separate, hand-held light, only using the WML when you have already identified a threat.

  1. “Having a light on your gun will reveal your position.” Sure it will. But this is not an argument against WMLs, but ALL lights. In other words, whether you use a handheld light or a WML, you are still making yourself a target. This argument also presupposes that you are just strolling around with a WML “on” all the time. That is why we move to new spots of cover after we flash some illumination. It is also why we use ambient light as much as possible to identify possible threats, so that when we do use illumination, we are putting that illumination right on the thing we want to identify (if we are talking about home defense, it depends on where you live. Where I am, there is plenty of light spilling in from windows from streetlights and such, so that anyone in my house should be recognizable as a human form). In short, we don’t search with a WML; we illuminate potential threats. Finally, those who say that using a light will reveal your position must have incredible night vision, because to use NO illumination means that they are violating the safety rule of always identifying their “target”.
Surefire E2D Defender, a good flashlight to keep handy
Surefire E2D Defender, a good flashlight to keep handy

Final Thoughts

I hate to use expressions like this, but the weapon-mounted light is another tool in the toolbox. Just because it is mounted does not mean it must be used all the time or in all scenarios, and one mounted on a handgun should not replace a separate, hand-held light. However, if you have one mounted, it is there if you need it. In future articles we may review some weapon-mounted lights or list some features to look for when considering the purchase of such a light.

2 thoughts on “The Case for Weapon-Mounted Lights

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