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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda is a retired LAPD sergeant with 34 years of law enforcement experience. He is the chief instructor of TAC-1 Defensive Firearms Training in Santa Clarita, Calif., and is a consultant for law enforcement training and litigation.

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former New York police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

The High-Compressed Ready Position in Low-Light Combat

Contrary to popular opinion, you are better off using your light and your handgun as separate tools than trying to combine them in a shooting grip.

July 18, 2007  |  by Rob Pincus

There are several “accepted” flashlight techniques that are taught for utilizing a powerful compact flashlight in conjunction with a firearm. Traditional combination techniques result in several things that I feel are detrimental to efficiency, consistency, and effectiveness in combat.

At The Valhalla Training Center and in the Combat Focus Shooting program, we teach officers to use the high-compressed ready position. When using a light with this technique, use the light to identify threats and the pistol as a pistol to engage them. But don’t combine these actions into one technique.

At Valhalla, we teach students to use the flashlight independently of the pistol, keeping it in close to their bodies near their off-hand shoulder, where it does not project out in front of their bodies. By shining the flashlight from this position, it is easy to direct it anywhere that your head can turn, including over your strong side shoulder by coming across your chin.

While your off-hand is shedding light on the dark areas of your environment, your strong hand is holding the pistol in the standard high-compressed ready position. From that position, the pistol can either be extended into a one-handed shooting position that is consistent with your standard (ambient light) shooting position or fired from a retention position in response to an extreme close quarters ambush.

You may think that a one-handed shooting position puts you at a disadvantage in terms of accuracy, but it really doesn’t in this scenario. It is unlikely that you will illuminate any threat with a compact flashlight that you cannot engage one-handed just about as well as you could two-handed.

And traditional flashlight techniques, are not really two-handed shooting. In my observation of shooters trying to utilize them during training, most use them awkwardly at best and do not show any significant improvement over one-handed shooting. In fact, most shooters slow down significantly with these techniques with no significant increase in accuracy over one-handed shooting at similar distances.

Consistency is the key to efficient dynamic shooting and trying to learn a third shooting position (not really two-handed or one-handed) works against consistency. Let your low-light/no-light shooting be another motivation for practicing one-handed shooting at close range. The day may come that you will need this highly underrated skill

One downside to the high-compressed ready position with a flashlight is that the light can shine off the back of your strong hand and firearm after extension. This casts a shadow on the target and can blind the shooter temporarily if his or her skin or firearm reflects enough light back. Using minimal light, aimed low at the target virtually eliminates this situation. Staying squared off toward the target and not blading also reduces the risk of aligning the light and your pistol.

Often, in low light there is plenty of ambient illumination for you to shoot at a threat but not enough to identify the threat in the first place. You can see the person, but not the lethal weapon in his or her hands. In this case, the flashlight can even be turned toward the floor or off as the pistol is extended and the target engaged.

As with all other aspects of tactical training, techniques must be practiced before they can be used efficiently. By limiting the options of ready and shooting positions, we make consistency easier and we can be effective faster during a dynamic critical incident.

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

jnc36rcpd @ 7/20/2007 7:17 PM

I think there is a lot of validity to this article. Most two-handed shooting/flashlight positions quickly become one-handed shooting. Indeed, one dash-cam video that I watched showed a trooper establish a two-handed grip with the full-size flashlight pointed back and toward the ground. I've attended training with both Surefire and Streamlight. I noticed that neither group paid particular attention to either two-handed techniques nor pistol-mounted lights.

tth183 @ 7/22/2007 12:19 AM

I would be interested in how many students are having trouble focusing two objects at once in a high stress situation. The theory behind the article is great and makes sense but people cannot focus on two things at one time (i.e., focus on the front sight or the threat- you can't do both simultaneously.) Trying to focus the light beam and the weapon independently at the same time is difficult at best. If shooting in a combat isosceles type stance and the light is held at the off shoulder as stated in the article then the light will generally be "aimed" where it needs to be, but effective light use would have one pointing (aiming) the light in the high chest/ face area of an attacker to further debilitate them and to gain valuable time for an offensive rsponse. I am interested in knowing if Mr. Pincus has any comments on how effective the light use was during the training situations he had conducted. Also, was there any noticed "delay" while the students were basically acquiring two aiming points? I have nothing but high regard for Mr. Pincus' work and only am interested in his professional opinion on these matters because he has the oportunity to see many more students in these situations than most of the part-time instructors (like myself) who work the street and train officers. I have always taught both the seperate and combined light hold methods, but I find personally that the two-hand FBI method with light in off hand and pistol in strong hand brought together gives me a quick sight picture and light in proper position with basically one aim point. I look forward to any comments. Thanks.

bssthound98 @ 7/27/2007 3:42 PM

I'm pretty new to law enforcement, this topic has intrigued me, b/c I used to use a separate flashlight / pistol combo to clear buildings for instance. I've since gone to a weapon-mounted light and carry a small streamlight strion on my belt. My personal opinion is that is the way to go, but I've learned that you will always have someone who prefers it a different way... so the bottom line is to train how you play.

I'd love to attend low-light schools to see what kind of information they can provide on teh subject, like the surefire school.

Punisher @ 9/9/2007 7:42 PM

Its always good to read and learn new techniques. How many times have we trained one way and then when the time comes and we are facing a threat or dangerous situation, do we opt for something more natural or have to adapt to what the situation gives us? I think we all should at least be familiar with several different techniques. I know there has been times where a weapon mounted light would have been nice (climbing a ladder to search a loft in a barn), and times where a small light in the off hand was best. Good article. Train a lot. Train differently. And train like you work.

David Davis @ 12/10/2007 2:53 PM

So do I understand that you and your flashlight are looking off to the left and your gun is pointed forward? I think your weapon and your line of sight should be working together to cut down on reaction time. If I am using my light to shine at an angle (across my chin) I wonder how long is it going to take me to bring my weapon up to cover my threat. Even if I have trouble with the concept I will none the less be out in the dark trying it. Hate to be hard headed. And the more methods we have in our bag of tricks the better. I do know that when s*** hits the fan I'll probably throw the light at him and shot myself.

furby91 @ 12/20/2007 11:48 AM

I agree with tth183, getting your hands to do two different things under stress is very difficult. Thats why we get sympathetic squeeze when holding a gun and grabbing a suspect. We get stuff to work in trainging because things always work better in training do to the fact we cannot reproduce the stress of a deadly force encounter. In my 31 years of LE I have been to a fair number of schools and do not recall ever being told to point a weapon one direction and search the other with or without a light. As an instructor we have always told officers their light, gun and eyes go the same direction at the same time. If you give each hand a different task, the further you seperate them the more concentration it takes, which is what you can't do under high stress. Interesting article though. Maybe I would have to actually see how they are teaching it to truely evaluate it?

SFCMike @ 1/28/2008 7:42 AM

After twenty years in the Army as an MP, I think opinions are as subjective as the individuals themselves; myself included. After spending a majority of my time in uniform as a trainer/instructor, I have to suggest that all the interested folks need to practice with both techniques, pistol/light as one unit and the light as a separate tool. With either tactic that is used, it comes down to your training and how proficient you become. I've read all the comments and see the wisdom from all of the contributors. Every tool we use is only as good as our training with that tool. I will say that my personal choice would be to focus my eyes(line of sight) with my weapon and light, using my peripheral vision to take in secondary targets or concerns. One technique taught in rifle marksmanship is to always keep your weapon focused to a target or potential target, yet always scan the area around you.

[email protected] @ 3/21/2008 1:38 PM

Anecdotes are great teaching techniques, but can't be taken at face value. Instructors can master a technique to the point that it seems simple to the observer. But nothing is going to happen to you exactly the way it happened to the other guy. And when you practice a new technique it is always harder than you thought. Same thing with plan A, it goes to dust after the first shot is fired. There is always need for a plan B. The moral is: hear everything from everybody, practice as many techniques as you can, always have a plan B, be confident on your abilities and always - always - fight to win. I'm old (61 this April) an slow. These SWAT guys are godsend when the s---t hits the fan. But aren't always close. If I need to chase anyone, alone, into a dark place, I guarantee that I'll come out as whole as I possible can. But I am not telling how. Not here anyway! Too many ambulance chasers, supervisors, reporters and DA's may take issue...

bateson @ 8/31/2008 8:32 AM

I think the two-handed/one-handed debate will continue as long as the 9mm/.45 debate has over the years. And, like most things, an effective compromise has already been worked out. Most cops now carry a .40 caliber handgun and likewise, most cops I know are mounting the light directly to their gun. That way you can have a two-handed/well lighted target when you need. And, as needed, can use your other hand to call for backup/open a door/push the guy down/etc...

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