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This article sheds some light on a little-used self-defense weapon, the flashlight. 

If you asked a group of martial artists what the best self-defense weapon for the average person is to carry, a flashlight would probably not be mentioned. However, for a person who cannot legally carry a firearm or knife, or chooses not to carry, the flashlight is a useful tool and personal protection device. Even if you legally carry a deadly personal defense weapon, the flashlight is still useful as a tool that can be used as a weapon when required, which is why law enforcement personnel carry them.

Considerations on usage as a weapon

  • Most self-defense situations take place in areas that have low or altered light, such as parking lots, alleys, parks, transportation stops, etc. at night.
  • If you are in bed and there is an intruder in your house, the house will be dark, which will make it difficult for the intruder to move around, but you know the layout of your own house and may easily move around in the darkness. If you turn on a room light, you will see the intruder, but the intruder will see you, and the intruder may also see the layout of the house, so you should move in darkness and use a flashlight to spotlight the intruder and temporarily blind them so you can take necessary action.
  • When surprised by a flashlight beam, an intruder may instinctively shoot at the light, so when you use it, hold out fully out to the side. The intruder will be blinded by the light for a few seconds, so if the intruder has a weapon, you will only have a few seconds to decide if you are going to fire first.
  • Strobe type flashlights may confuse the intruder, but the light will also affect your vision making it more difficult for you to hit your target.
  • The light from a flashlight is composed of two parts, the bright spot of light in the center of the beam and the large circle of dimmer light around this spot. Do not focus your eyes on the spot, keep your eyes scanning the entire lighted area.
  • Be careful of light that reflects off walls or shiny surfaces into your eyes.
  • When shooting at a target, use the sights of the gun to aim at the target, do not use the light to aim.
  • When using a flashlight alongside a handgun, be careful of hand placement. If you are using a revolver, do not let the fingers or thumb of the hand holding the flashlight extend beyond the front edge of the cylinder. If you do and you fire the weapon, the side blast from the front of the cylinder will severely injure them.
  • Long, metal flashlights can be used as a baton.
  • When near a person, hold the flashlight high to the side of your head in a hammer grip with the lighted end down. Then tilt the wrist backward so the beam shines on the opponent. This swings the barrel of the flashlight away from the person so he or she does not notice it and it also protects it from being grabbed. When needed, all you do is to angle the wrist forward with a flick and strike with a downward motion.
  • Just carrying a tactical flashlight will not be enough, you must learn to use it properly when confronted or attacked. You may find flashlight self-defense techniques on the Internet or your martial arts instructor may be familiar with techniques to use.

Benefits of carrying a flashlight for personal protection

  • Legal to carry almost everywhere. Basic flashlights are not considered weapons anywhere in the world. However, if a flashlight is incorporated into another object that may be considered a weapon, or if the flashlight is large and heavy, then you may have a problem.
  •  Discreet. A flashlight is very discreet and non-threatening. No one is threatened by a flashlight, whether it be on your belt or in your hand. The exception being a long, heavy flashlight that could be used as a bludgeon.
  • Causes disorientation. When a high-powered beam of light shines into your eyes, especially at night, it may disrupt your vision for a few minutes, cause you to become disoriented, or it may even be painful. These effects, even though they are temporary and cause no permanent damage, give you ample time to escape a confrontation or attack. At night, even at a close-range distance, a bright light hides your exact position and any weapon you may have.
  • Effective against animals. Most animals have increased night vision, which makes them even more susceptible to the effects of a bright light shined into their eyes. Animals do not know what a flashlight is and are apt to stop an attack and even back away from a bright light shined into their eyes.
  • Illuminates threats. Human predators, be they animals or other humans, do not want to be seen before they attack. They lie in wait or creep closer and then make surprise attacks. A flashlight allows you to illuminate the area around you to discourage or expose predators or other threats.

Considerations on choosing a flashlight

  • Pocket or palm-sized. You want a flashlight that is always convenient to carry with you.
  • Lumens. The flashlight should be capable of producing at least 100 lumens of light. This is enough light to cause significant pupil constriction, pain, and a momentary loss of vision, even in daylight when used from a close range.
  • LED bulb. LED bulbs last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs, cause less battery drain, and may generate a brighter light than an equal size incandescent bulb.
  • Rugged construction. You want a flashlight that is sturdy enough to stay lit even if dropped or when used to strike an attacker. Look for flashlights made from mil-spec hard anodized (Type III) aluminum, which is strong and light. Hard plastic may also be selected but it tends to be heavier and bulkier.
  • Waterproof. To be ready for any circumstance, look for a waterproof flashlight.
  • Brands. As with any other tool, established brands tend to be better made and more durable than cheaper brands. Flashlight parts may wear out from use. Better made, small, bright flashlights are relatively expensive, so if a part fails, it is better to replace the part than to buy a new flashlight. With established brands, replacement parts are readily available. When selecting a self-defense flashlight, remember your life may depend on it working properly. If you have little regard for your life, select a cheap flashlight.

Techniques to use when using a flashlight alongside a handgun

  • Crossed (Harries). Hold the flashlight in a hammer grip with the lighted end on top. Place the back of the flashlight wrist under the gun hand and pull it back against the back of the gun wrist firmly, with the flashlight elbow held downward and forward. It is a good grip to use except when aiming around a corner on the gun hand side.
  • Uncrossed. Hold the flashlight in a hammer grip with the lighted end on top. Place the flashlight fingers vertically alongside and against the gun hand fingers with the thumbs touching to keep the flashlight hand away from the pistol slide or from getting in front of the revolver cylinder.
  • Syringe. Same as uncrossed except the flashlight extends between the first two fingers like holding a syringe. Use it with a small handheld flashlight that has a groove that allows you to apply backward pressure against the palm to activate a rear-mounted switch.
  • Syringe supported. Same as syringe except for the bottom three fingers of the flashlight hand wrap around and support the gun making this a two-handed shooting grip.
  • Jaw lock. Hold a small flashlight in the mouth. When used with a one-hand shooting position, the light will light your sites. If you are wearing glasses, it may cause glare.
  • Extended arm. The flashlight arm extends forward so it may be used to light inside something, such as extending it inside a car window.
  • Mounted. The best technique to use is to have the flashlight mounted on the weapon. Make sure the light will stay in place while firing. Do not let your hand get in front of the muzzle when attaching or un-attaching the light.
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