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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.

Using Light To Illuminate Threats

Weapon lights and laser sights can help you identify and intimidate threats in low-light conditions.

August 29, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

Photo: POLICE file
Photo: POLICE file

The vast majority of police shootings occur in low-light conditions. Even when officer-involved shootings happen during the day, they often take place in dark areas such as poorly lit warehouses, interior hallways, and inside shuttered buildings.

That's why light can be one of an officer's most valuable allies in close-quarter battle. A tactical light helps you identify and neutralize threats. It also prevents you from dropping the hammer on a fellow officer or a civilian who is not a threat. And when concentrated in the form of a laser, light can help you put rounds on target or even intimidate a potential attacker into backing down. Weapon lights and laser sights are not just lights, they are threat illumination.

Unfortunately, some agencies will not let their officers carry weapon lights because they are afraid the officers will get into the habit of pointing their sidearms at things just to light them up. Such a concern seems silly when you consider that officers can and should carry multiple lights in the field and officers are better trained than to just brandish guns at people when such treatment is not warranted. Fortunately, many other agencies encourage weapon lights, especially on long guns, and some issue handgun weapon lights to specialty officers such as SWAT and K-9 handlers.

Agencies also have similar prohibitions against laser sights. Some administrators see these tools as "too aggressive." Other agencies have said that laser sights are a crutch for officers who shoot poorly. The truth is while laser sights may look "aggressive" to some, they have a proven record of preventing gun battles. And despite what movies and TV have shown us, they do not guarantee accuracy. Proper grip and precise trigger control are still essential for putting rounds on target.


PHOTOS: Weapon Lights, Laser Sights

Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Lon @ 9/3/2012 6:35 AM

"officers are better trained than to just brandish guns at people"- this statement stood out to me and made me dwell on it. Isnt this part of the big police ability lie? Many agencies shoot no more than a required 1 time a year. The standard may be a % value in the 70-100 to pass on a paper non-moving target. Some of those folks have trained them selves to violate the cardinal rules to gain a fraction of a second that they feel they need to keep thier job.

I have been able to train with other agencies from around the country and some of them are amazing at the training they provide their officers, others have not been sued for failure to train because of luck.

I have read agency reports that have statements in them like "I was so concerned for my safety i slacked out on the trigger".

I would love to know in my heart that agencies provide the quality, amount, and frequency that they should to safe lives (public and police) but we know they dont. They know they dont.

Things like banning quality equipment (like a WMLS) for fear of officers pointing guns at folks is really an admission that we don't give them enough time to train.

Doug @ 9/20/2012 8:14 PM

When I bought my own weapon light for my Glock 22, my chief jokingly told me not to use it as a general flashlight (pointing it at people to illuminate them). I responded with something like "duh." He told me that a bigger department about an hour away actually had guys do that when they first got weapon lights.

gwot06 @ 11/4/2012 5:44 PM

The notion that laser sights are a crutch for personnel who shoot poorly is so much B.S. If, in fact, that were true, then those Department Chains of command that hold that view ought to issue the laser sights if they intend to keep the officer who shoots poorly on the job, armed, and in the public arena. This should be especially true for those departments that do not provide for adequate in-service firearms training. I have even seen some (stupid) comments in the public forum that complain that laser sights make the shooter "too accurate"; isn't that what we want to avoid collateral damage and the resulting liability. Laser sights should provide an advantage for point shooting (e.g., from retention) and shooting from awkward positions. They also enhance dry fire practice. The down side seems to be that initially at least you can fall victim to concentrating on the laser beam/spot to the detriment of sight use, muzzle alignment and proper grip.

Red @ 1/22/2015 7:03 PM

Too many small departments can't afford the training they need. The more things they have to deal with on our pistol when we are in the dark under stress the more likely any of us are to make a mistake.

With my 70 some year old eyes I have 2 flash lights in my pocket a laser on anything I carry and Laser Lights on any thing that will take them. If I ever draw a gun I sure want to know what I am shooting at.

I have at least a quarter million rounds experience over 60 years and its not near enough.


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