I have a lot of experience in low light/night time tactical scenarios due to my time in the military, specifically in US Army Special Operations. This experience has led me to uncover some truths about fighting in low light situations and the use of white light in general. I have discovered that there are almost as many cons to the use of white light at night as there are pros. White light is without peer as a tool to identify threats and target discriminate; however it can also be used against you by illuminating your position for the enemy. This potentially fatal flaw is often overlooked or not fully understood in the world of tactical training as we know it today.
There are a couple of rules I live by when it comes to the use of white light. They are as follows:
1.) Use only when necessary. Do not fall into the bad habit of wanting to turn night into day by turning your light on and leaving it on. This gives you a false sense of security and letâ€™s everyone know exactly where you are located – including the enemy.
2.) Use it extremely sparingly. There is no better way to announce to the world your exact location during periods of low light than turning on a white light. It gives the enemy an exact fix on your whereabouts and can turn your white light into a bullet sponge.
Night Vision Goggles are a tremendous asset that should be used instead of white light when outside or in areas such as warehouses or aircraft hangers. These large open areas are unique in that any white light self illumination will serve to put you at risk without any of the benefit of white light for the end user. This is due to the high likelihood of an enemy being outside the effective range of the white light. NVG’s with an IR cover for the white light is a better solution in these scenarios. Minimal use of IR light is also a good rule of thumb with the increasingly wide spread use of Night Vision devices worldwide.
Some law enforcement trainers and agencies teach once you have a subject illuminated you should keep it illuminated. That technique works well if you only have one threat; however if there are other threats nearby it is good way to become a human bullet trap. My attitude would be to use your white light conservatively until you have a definite handle on who you’re up against. You can always use more white light if needed – it is much more difficult to teach yourself to use less.
Ken Hackathorn and I have developed a unique approach to the use of white light at night. We both are now teaching it with excellent results from students in our classes. It is called the Hackathorn/Vickers Flashbulb Technique or HV Technique for short. It incorporates movement along with a distinct flashbulb effect for illumination and target discrimination. The basic premise behind the technique is only use a minimal amount of white light to identify your target, then if needed another “flashbulb” application to determine if it is a threat. After that, engage if necessary to eliminate the threat. The entire time continue to move so if the target begins to return fire it is directed at where you just left, not where you are located now. It requires practice but the results tend to be dramatically better than any other technique that Ken or I are aware of. These courses will focus on proper use of white light using the HV technique as well as the tactical applications of Crimson Trace lasergrips and lasers in general. All things related to shooting and fighting at night with a carbine and pistol will be covered in detail including night sights, point shooting, equipment selection, and house clearing.