Why do I Need a Light on my Gun?

Attendees at an Off the Reservation Tactical Firearms class illuminate their targets before engaging

A question often comes up in discussion of gun accessories – do I really need a light on my gun? The short answer is yes, you need a light, and on your gun is the simplest place to put it.

Why do you need a light? Identification. If you can’t see it and know it is a threat, you shouldn’t be shooting at it. Because many attacks and home invasions happen at night, there is a very good chance that you will have to use a light to identify the bad guy. There have been multiple cases of homeowners shooting family members that were trying to sneak back into the house after curfew or even getting a snack in the middle of the night. How could that happen? Firing blindly at a dark shape without illuminating it and taking the half-second to identify it.

Is the light required to be on your gun? No. If you carry a handheld light, it can serve the same purpose. However, having a light on your gun ensure the light is always with your gun (so you didn’t grab it for something else and forget to put it back. It also allows you to keep both hands on your gun, helping to control recoil should you need to engage.

Now, one of the biggest arguments I’ve heard against weapon-mounted lights is that you shouldn’t aim the gun at something you haven’t identified. This argument assumes that you have to aim the gun at the thing you want to identify. It is actually quite easy to use indirect lighting to identify something without pointing the gun at it, so I don’t see this as a valid argument against weapon-mounted lights.

Lighting up a room with indirect lighting (off the ceiling). All lights in the room are off, this is flashlight illumination only.

Even with a weapon-mounted light, you could use the technique above with the gun at a high port, allowing you to quickly punch out and engage if you need to.


I consider a flashlight to be an essential accessory for anyone who carries a pistol or rifle for self-defense or on the job. Threat identification is key, and a weapon-mounted light helps that happen, preventing a fatal error.

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