Dealing with What Goes Bump in the Night

Statistics tell us that 60 – 70% of criminal encounters will occur at night or in low light conditions.

So, it only makes sense that we train under those conditions. Most criminals prefer night as they feel they have a greater opportunity to move in the cover of darkness and potentially avoid detection. In such conditions, it is vital to remain calm.

Often when one sense is taken away, the other senses become heightened. Allow those senses to work for you as you plan your search or exit. For instance, use your sense of smell to help detect a potential threat or adversary (body odor, cologne or perfume, smoke cigarette or tobacco) or any smells uncommon to your environment. Allow your movements to be slow and methodical unless executing a rapid/dynamic entry or exit maneuver. Be conscious of noise to help you locate a threat or potential adversary.

Often it might be more beneficial to stay put behind cover and let your adversary come to you if an immediate escape is not available. The primary reason for a light is not to see the sights on your handgun, but to identify a potential adversary and provide you with positive target acquisition. This allows you to better scan the environment and when a potential threat is located, to better scan their body or bodies for potential weapons or monitor their movements.

The light sources may often be standard white, halogen, green or strobe lights. Strobe lights often make it harder for a threat or adversary to pin down your position within the illuminated area. However, those same lights may also make it harder for you to detect minor movements on a potential adversary.

In low light situations, the potential threat or adversary has four major options:

  • Stay hidden, if they have not been detected.

  • Choose to fight.

  • Choose to flee.

  • Choose to submit and comply with your commands.

Please be very conscious that once you light an area, you have compromised your position. Since the threat now realizes you are there and may consider any of the above once you turn the light off to move again. You need to remain mentally and physically prepared to deal with any of the above options.

Considerations in Using a Light:In defensive or tactical situations, you should avoid using a light unless or until absolutely necessary.  Keep the element of surprise in your favor. Consider using short bursts of lights 1 – 2 seconds on then off as you scan an area. If no threat is detected, with the light off move to a new location before turning it on again. If working with a team or family member, keep a little distance between you so that it is harder for the adversary to line you up. If a potential threat is detected, remember to scan the body with a focus on hands and feet as they can be used most quickly in a harmful manner. If your partner stays outside of the light beam, he or she will often remain almost invisible to the potential threat. The person holding the light should keep it pointed in the direction of the potential threat, but both that person and the other team or family member should also remain alert to other sounds or possible movements as the potential threatening intruder may not be alone. Remember to be conscious of what is potentially behind you (check your six).

Searching for a ThreatIn searching for an adversary, there are three primary considerations: 1) avoiding the potential threat (i.e. tactical escape), 2) finding the potential threat, and 3) engaging the threat.

Below are my typical sequence of actions:

  • Flash – Move (This is for target verification)

  • Flash – Shoot – Step – Move (This is for target engagement of a verified shootable adversary)

When it comes to selecting a tactical flashlight, understand its primary points of focus are critical situations and/or self-defense. Unlike everyday carry (EDC) flashlights which often feature lower output modes, adjustable settings to often include stroke features. I like a low output feature if I am trying to find my seat in the theatre or a strobe feature if I am changing a tire on the side of the road.

However, when it comes to low light or night fighting, brighter is better because movement, depth, and overall target identification is significantly tougher under those conditions. When time is life, I also prefer a single output option as you can’t afford to activate the wrong illumination setting and comprise your ability to see the threat. So, having a light with enough lumens to properly illuminate the target is critical. If in the course of the engagement, the situation potentially turns from a lethal one to less than lethal, but still a highly intense and confrontational situation, tactical flashlights often feature strike bezel. One of my favorite self-defense techniques is the “flash and bash,” where the light is used to blind or disorient the threat before striking.

When it comes to sights and optics, illuminated reticles whether holograms or red dots are best followed by sights with tritium inserts and plain iron sights. Also, understand when the muzzle flash from your handgun is going to adversely impact your night vision from anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes so train for it.

Weapons Mounted LightsWhen it comes to fighting, simpler is better. Weapon mounted lights are much easier to use than handheld lights, as they don’t require the same level of coordination or dexterity to operate during a potential deadly force encounter. It often allows the operator to maintain their regular grip when engaging with their firearm. The light may be operated by an on/off switch at the back of the light or a pressure switch.

Even if you have a weapon-mounted light, many people particularly security and law enforcement practitioners often carry both. For those who have a natural aversion to pointing a weapon at someone, they usually prefer to search with a handheld light and then transition to their weapons mounted light.  Whether with a handheld flashlight or weapon-mounted light, when I am conducting a solo search for a bad guy, one technique I have found beneficial is to quickly illuminate the ceiling as it helps light the entire room. I can then direct the beam toward the threat if required. This keeps me from flagging a non-shootable adversary with my weapon.

Handheld Flashlight TechniquesThere is a multitude of light options you can consider. They range from integrated operating systems (light attached to your weapon); to the simplest option of holding a traditional handheld light in your support hand. They may be operated by on/off buttons mounted on the side or rear of the light source to pressure switches.

BACKHAND (HARRIES) POSITIONWorks like the Weaver shooting position. While gripping the flashlight in a backhand fist, the gun hand comes forward and creates dynamic tension as it presses against the back of the flashlight hand. The flashlight arm pulls toward the body and moves underneath the bottom of the magazine well, similar to the Weaver stance for enhanced stability. The disadvantage of this position is it may draw fire directly at the light which is positioned near the operator’s vitals.


The thumb and forefinger of the support hand hold the light. The thumb of the support hand points forward toward the target or adversary. The remaining fingers wrap around the gun hand for a two-hand grip. This technique works well for flashlights with side-mounted switches. The disadvantage of this technique typically comes into play with operators who have small hands using a heavy flashlight.

FBI MODIFIEDThe Modified FBI technique is accomplished by holding the flashlight in an “ice pick” or “hammer fist” grip with the arm extended away from the body and the gun hand. The hands-apart technique helps the operator avoid “marking” their position through intermittent use of light at random heights.

The technique also works well with right- or left-hand shooting.  The light is often held at multiple heights to avoid identifying the operator’s center of mass.  To prevent the user from self-illumination, the flashlight is held slightly in front of the body.

The major disadvantage of this technique is the operator may become fatigued during extended use. It also requires extensive practice to perfect as most people are not used to making both hands operate simultaneously but independently while performing fine motor skills.

NECK INDEXThe Neck-Index technique is achieved by holding the flashlight in an “ice pick” or “hammer fist” grip against the jaw/neckline below the ear. This helps reduce fatigue as the flashlight is placed in the natural crevice created by the neck and shoulder. This allows the light to move with the operator’s head with minimal impact on the operator’s peripheral vision. The disadvantage of this position is it may draw fire directly at the light which is positioned at the operator’s head.

ROGERS SUREFIRE (SYRINGE TECHNIQUE)The flashlight is held between the forefinger and middle finger of the non-firing hand with the tail-cap pushbutton positioned against the palm/base of the thumb (similar to how a doctor or nurse would grip a syringe). This technique is often preferred by operators who have flashlights with a combat ring. The flashlight (reaction) hand is then brought together with the strong hand, the pinky and ring finger wrap around the gripping fingers of the strong hand below the trigger guard as normal to form a two-hand firing grip. The light is activated by exerting pressure to depress the tail-cap pushbutton.

Some Reputable Light CompaniesThere are a multitude of light companies in the market, make sure you pick a light that reliable, sturdy and can manage the recoil associated with the weapon it may be deployed with. Below are some of the more popular flashlight and weapon-mounted light companies:

  • Inforce

  • Niecore

  • Olight

  • Surefire

  • Streamlight

Once you’ve secured your light, then train like your life depends on it… because if you are searching/fighting under low light conditions, it truly does!

Dealing with What Goes Bump in the NightMark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS

Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC.  He is an internationally published author, keynote speaker, security consultant to educational institutions and frequent contributor to several print, broadcast and online media.  Panther Protection Services is a full-service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Protective Services, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction.

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