Selecting the Proper Weapon Light
Why Mount A Weapon Light?
A firearm mounted flashlight accomplishes some critical objectives. Most importantly, it allows the operator to see and identify targets in dark environments. Additionally, it can serve as a tool to blind and disorient an opponent while preserving its operator’s night vision.
Brighter the Better Right?
While there are no set minimum requirements for a gun-mounted flashlight, the amount of light needed requires some thought. Some factors to consider include ambient environment and conditions as well as expected range. The brighter the environment that the operator is working in, the more light is required. Additionally, as targets are further away, more lumens are required to achieve the desired effect. 60 lumens is considered the bare minimum output for a weapon light used against night-adapted vision at a distance of 10 years or less.
Other factors to consider include reflected light, battery weight, and bulb life. As the lumen output increases, light can bounce off of walls, mirrors, and other reflective surfaces. This not only can reveal the user’s location in a tactical operation but can also degrade night-adapted vision. Increases in output also increase power consumption resulting in a higher battery demand load. More batteries add more weight to the weapon making more fatiguing to carry and use as well as less maneuverable.
What About the Beam Pattern?
There are two types of beam patterns. A wide flood pattern or a narrow pencil pattern. The choice between the two depends on the expected application. A handgun for example with a relatively short range would benefit from a broad flood pattern while a long range rifle would be best suited with a more farther throwing pencil pattern.
Xenon or LED?
A xenon incandescent lamp has the advantage of being less expensive and producing a full spectrum of light output. This is especially important when using IR filters in conjunction with night vision devices. The downside however is that even with the highest quality tungsten and shock dampening systems, incandescent lamp filaments will eventually fail. They are also less efficient than LEDs and have higher battery supply demand.
LEDs are solid-state devices that do not have filaments and never need to be replaced. The highly impact resistant and can withstand the impact of recoil when utilized as a weapon light. They are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, so they have longer runtimes between battery changes. The downside, however, is that they output a limited spectrum of light and very little infrared radiation so they cannot be used with night vision devices. Specially designed IR LEDs are required for that application.
How do I Mount this Light?
There are some ways to mount a weapon light depending on the light itself and the type of firearm that it is being attached to. Most commonly used is the Picatinny rail mount. There many mounting options available to securely attach the light to a Mil-Std 1913 rail. For rifles without rails, mount are available that attach directly to the barrel or magazine tube. Lastly, complete forend replacements with integrated weapon light attachments can be used to integrate the light and to switch into the forend without any exposed wiring.
In critical situations, activating the weapon light needs to be simple and fast. Having a reliable, properly mounted and positioned switch is crucial. Push-button side-mounted switches, as well as tactical pressure switches, are available depending on operator preference and proficiency.