Effective personal defense means being prepared for all situations … anything from a cold-blooded murderer to an active shooter to a belligerent loudmouth in a bar parking lot.
To do this, you need the right tools for the job and the knowledge to use them properly. There is no weapon that can solve all your personal-defense needs.
In actuality, your mind is your greatest weapon, and you should consider all your other gear as just tools. You should have an assortment of “tools” – each with a specific function – and the know-how to use each of them.
Today I want to discuss the flashlight as a self-defense tool.
The tactical flashlight is a less-lethal tool, but keep in mind that you can use almost anything as a deadly weapon with the right training.
Many of you only think about a flashlight when your power goes out or when you need to find something in the attic or when you need to fix something under the sink.
But I can tell you from experience that a good flashlight is an extremely versatile tool, and it should be something that is part of your everyday carry kit – stashed next to your folding knife. You should also keep separate flashlights in your home, in your vehicle and at your job.
What is a tactical flashlight?
To be specific, I am not talking about any old hardware store flashlight. I’m talking about a “tactical flashlight.”
|Tactical flashlights come in a variety of shapes and sizes – but many pros consider the smaller models best for personal defense.|
Traditional flashlights are made from plastic or cheap aluminum. They’re unreliable and do not have much in the way of lumens to show you your way or “light up” an attacker.
Tactical flashlights are designed smaller, many fitting in the palm of your hand. But they are made from military-specification (mil-spec) aluminum, and come with a tail-push, on-off button. Many have a striking bezel – a scalloped or pointy crown around the rim of the head – which makes them more effective for personal defense.
These flashlights come in a variety of lumens – a measure of brightness – which means you can buy a light to suit any purpose or objective. With some, you can adjust them to be brighter or dimmer as you need.
Some have strobe lights or S.O.S functions. Some have lanyard holes so you can attach cords or straps, for retention, which makes them harder to lose. Some of them are even waterproof!
Since tactical flashlights were designed to be used by the military and law enforcement, many of them can be mounted onto a handgun or rifle for use in low- or no-light situations.
If tactical flashlights are designed for the military and law enforcement, why do I like them for private citizens?
No matter who you are – a retiree, a work-from-home parent, a high-powered executive, a student, a police officer or a soldier – the tactical flashlight is a remarkable personal defense tool. The bright beam can help you identify a threat, blind or disorient them temporarily and be employed as an impact weapon in the event you need to strike the attacker or hostile.
Let’s talk lumens.
In simple language, lumens are a measure of the total amount of light from a lamp or light source. The higher the lumen rating, the brighter the lamp. Just to put it into perspective, the flame from a candle is about 12 lumens. A two-cell, double-A, Mini Maglite averages about 14 lumens.
Thanks to advanced technology, individual tactical flashlights can deliver from 120 lumens to well over 2,000 lumens. The incredible power that can be emitted from these very small handheld flashlights is more than enough to temporarily blind an enemy.
By the way, some companies purport that the threshold you need to cause temporarily blindness in someone who has night-adapted vision is 80 lumens. However, the majority of manufacturers today consider 300 to 500 lumens as the new standard to induce temporary blindness.
The tactical flashlight for personal defense
There are a number of advantages that the tactical flashlight can provide for personal protection.
Illuminate your way: This is perhaps the most obvious. But because tactical flashlights emit more light than a standard flashlight, they help you see better in the dark so you don’t step in the wrong place, whether you’re walking the dog at night or in a movie theater. They offer luminosity for any purpose.
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Help identify threats: Attackers often strike under the cover of darkness to gain an advantage. Having a tactical flashlight can help you identify threats in low- and no-light situations, which can help you turn the tables on the attacker or at least level the field.
Temporarily blind or disorient attackers: In low or no-light, your eyes go through a process called “dark adaptation.” Your eyes work much in the same way a camera does.
The iris of the eye allows light to enter through the pupil and acts as a diaphragm to regulate the amount of light that is let in. In the dark, the iris dilates the pupil to let more light in so you can see better.
By shining a bright light on the attacker, you are taking advantage of this dark adaptation. Because when a high-intensity light floods the iris, it causes temporarily blindness and even disorientation.
This may cause the perpetrator to falter or flee. But more importantly, it can give you a tactical advantage by allowing you to escape or by at least giving you a second or two to deploy a weapon or use your hand-to-hand combat skills to defend yourself.
Can be used as an impact weapon: Modern tactical flashlights won’t bend or break easily because they’re made of high-quality materials.
They are built with self-defense in mind. This is evidenced by the fact that many of these lights have a striking-style bezel around the head. This bezel can be employed for defense as well as for collecting DNA.
The bezel styles vary from scalloped to pointed. But one thing is for sure. The sharp edges and protrusions have been carefully designed to puncture, rip and tear skin as well as to gouge eyes.
|The sharp edges on this bezel turn the flashlight into a formidable weapon.|
Provides a tactical advantage when used with other weapons: When you use the tactical flashlight in combination with other personal-defense weapons – such as a firearm, a knife or your empty-handed body weapons, such as fists, elbows, forearms, knees, and feet – it provides an excellent way to disrupt and disorient the attacker, causing him or her to falter, pause or lose focus so that you can launch an attack or flee.
If you are armed with a handgun, knife, tactical pen or baton, the tactical flashlight can help you create time and space to deploy your weapon. The bright light also masks your position and intent so they may not even see your weapon until it is too late.
Other than the reasons listed above, the tactical flashlight is also easy to obtain, does not require licensing and has no restrictions. It is perfectly legal in every state of the United States. And while I cannot comment on every country in the world, suffice it to say that it is an unrestricted tool that is used all over the globe.
You can carry your tactical flashlight into places where firearms are prohibited, such as an airplane. And they are discreet because most of them can easily be concealed in a pocket, jacket, backpack or other bag, without causing the slightest concern that you are “printing” something that gives the impression of a weapon.
Lastly, in regards to advantages, the tactical flashlight can be quite effective against animals as my own experience proves. A couple of weeks ago, as I was pulling into my driveway one night, I noticed a good-sized raccoon sitting very close to the garage door.
As I pulled in it ran off, but I had the feeling this was going to be a nightly thing. A few nights ago, I was putting the garbage out for pick up the next morning. I had the inside lights off in the garage, but had my Surefire E2 Defender flashlight in my left hand.
Sure enough, that big old raccoon was sitting there and this time he was not in a hurry to leave. I quickly responded by hitting the tail switch on my Defender and shined that high-output light right in the raccoon’s eyes … and he quickly ran off into the brush.
I am not saying it’s the only tool you need for this or any purpose, but it sure is one tool you should have with you all the time.
|Don’t leave home without your tactical flashlight because you never know when you’ll need it.|
How do you use the tactical flashlight in a personal defense situation?
First, as with most weapons, efficiency is the key to effectiveness. So it’s paramount that you have the flashlight in your hand when you want to avoid a threat or defend against it.
Mobility with your flashlight in a low-light personal-defense situation requires a little practice. Turning the light on and keeping it on, can be a dangerous practice in the wrong situation as it will too often give away your position. And in the case of an impending distance threat, it provides a homing beacon that leads attackers directly to your position.
Of course if you are using the flashlight to simply illuminate an area without any concerns about threats, then by all means leave it on. However if you believe there is an impending threat, you will want to have a concrete method with which you can employ that light as you move through the darkness and identify threats.
Here is how you do that:
When you are on the move in a low-light or no-light situation and when you have either positively identified a threat or believe there is a threat in close range, do not leave the flashlight on as it makes you an easy target.
Instead do the following:
- Hit the flashlight “on” button or switch.
- Rapidly scan the environment to identify the position of threats.
- Turn off the light.
- Move to cover or concealment or, if possible, even escape.
- Repeat the process as many times as needed until you have either gained an advantage or put enough distance between you and the threat to escape.
Keep this in mind: We would rather avoid, prevent or deter an attack as opposed to risking life and limb in actual combat. So use your flashlight to emit short, bursts of light that temporarily blind your enemy so you can create distance to escape the area.
|Particularly at night, you can use short bursts of light to blind an attacker before you run or counterattack.|
If you can’t run, then you must defend yourself. Fortunately, the flashlight lends itself to special tactics that can be very effective.
Remember, I said that most tactical flashlights are small. They fit in the palm of your hand. And I also said they make excellent weapons for striking.
So be sure you hold the flashlight in your hand while you do errands, or you may not have time to get to it when you need it most. Even if you are just out walking the dog or taking an evening stroll, hold the flashlight in your hand so you are ready for anything!
That said, please note that there are a great deal of tactics and techniques that are possible with a flashlight for both when you are unarmed and armed. I can’t go over them all, but I will cover a few of them here for situations in which the attacker is not armed and there is a disparity of force.
After you’ve flashed the light to disorient or distract an enemy, then you can attack either by using the flashlight as an impact weapon or by using your body weapons such as forearms, fists, knees and elbows.
I call these “flash bang tactics” because you are going to flash them with a bright light and then bang them either with your flashlight or with your fists, feet or other body weapons.
Here are four simple “flash bang tactics”:
- Shine the light directly into your enemy’s eyes so you dominate their head region. This will immediately cause most people to bring their hands up to protect their face just long enough for you to hit them low, with say hard kicks to the shin, knee or groin.
- Put the flashlight in your non-dominant hand with that hand away from your head. Quickly shine the light directly into the enemy’s eyes and attack them with your dominant hand, using a backhand chop, a hammer fist or a forearm to the side of the neck.
- Put the flashlight in your dominant hand, give the enemy a good burst of light directly into the eyes. Then use your support arm (non-dominant hand) to sweep or slap away the enemy’s hand closest to you down and into their body as you strike them hard in an overhand blow with the bezel of the light into their head or face area. Make sure you keep striking until they stop or are incapacitated.
- Hold the flashlight in either hand, shine the light directly into the attacker’s eyes while holding the light far enough away from your body to give the impression you are standing to one side of the enemy while you attack from the other side.
Are there any cons to using a tactical flashlight?
Employing a flashlight properly for personal defense requires practice. Consistent training is the key as with any defensive or tactical training.
Some of the things I have learned over the years with flashlights are:
- Having more lumens is not always better. It really depends on the situation. For example, when you have a very bright light concentrated in a somewhat small area, it produces a stronger and deeper shadow, which can spell trouble for you.
- Pick the right flashlight for the application and skill sets that you have.
- Confined spaces leave less room for you to move around and position yourself and therefore can have a larger impact on the footprint of your shadow.
- Bad guys and gals can also purchase these flashlights and use them in a similar manner to gain a tactical advantage on you.
- Stay away from any surfaces that are reflective with your light, especially with flashlights that have a very high intensity output—this could cause you great problems by shining that light right back into your own eyes, blinding you temporarily!
As with all tools, the tactical flashlight is only as good as your ability to use it. Getting proper instruction is the key. Spend some time researching the right flashlight for you and always think about back-ups.
The flashlight may not be your first tool of choice for personal defense, but don’t underestimate its effectiveness. Be sure to add one to your everyday carry kit because it is a serious tool in your arsenal for personal protection.
Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall, stay safe and watch those shadows!
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