Rail Mounted Weapon Lights |
Ten years ago, finding a tactical light capable of being attached to anything smaller than a tank mounted 50 cal. equated to finding a needle in a haystack. Although there were some interesting schemes and elaborate setups out there, most of what was available amounted to little more than expensive Rube Goldberg contraptions. Poor lamps and large battery sizes limited what could be mounted to a sidearm, and what was available invariably had serious negative effects on the balance, manageability and weight of the weapon. Adding to the problem was the fact that handgun manufacturers were not designing weapons to accept many accessories beyond improved sights or scopes and so additional hardware was needed just to mount these lights. With the advent of high intensity LEDs and button batteries, all of this changed seemingly overnight.
Nowadays it is not at all uncommon to see elite police units or patrol officers with rail mounted lights on their sidearm. Manufacturers have been quick to recognize the value of a weapon mounted accessories like tactical lights and targeting lasers and now manufacture weapons designed to accept a variety of rail mounted equipment. Equipping a firearm with a rail mounted light is now as simple as sliding the unit into place on the weapon and tightening a couple screws, and then it’s off to the range for calibration. A huge variety of weapon lights are now available that add very little weight and can even fit inside a standard holster once mounted. Many of these lights are brighter and have longer run times than the traditional three cell flashlights once carried as an officers primary hand light. With LEDs becoming more powerful every year and new materials constantly being introduced, it’s a certainty that we haven’t seen the end of the rail mounted light’s evolution.
Rail mounted lights like the TL-LED-RM-1 Rail Mounted Tactical Light from Larson Electronics demonstrate the current evolution of rail mounted lights with over 80 lumens of intense LED light 2 hours of continuous run time if needed. They attach and detach in seconds and are effective enough to meet military Mil-Spec testing requirements. Best of all, they’re Made in the USA.
Part of the allure of weapon mounted tactical lights is that they can be operated with a firearm simultaneously. For officers whose fields usually leave them with only one hand free, like K9 units or mounted patrol officers, a rail mounted weapon light is almost mandatory if they are to manage a weapon as well as their animals at the same time. Rail mounted lights also offer a degree of target certainty and yes, even intimidation that can be of great benefit to an officer in high threat situations. Granted there is a long list of good reasons for the huge upswing in rail mounted tactical lights among law enforcement agencies, but this equipment also brings with it some serious considerations that must be addressed as well to avoid potentially disastrous mistakes.
One thing that must be realized is that a weapon mounted light cannot take the place of a general purpose hand light. Issues of safety and function prohibit using a rail mounted weapon light as a general illuminator although it can fill some of the same purposes. Even if your sidearm is equipped with a tactical weapon light, you’ll still require an intense all purpose flashlight. It doesn’t take much thought to understand why this is. For instance, questioning a motorist or reviewing their information with light from the end of a gun could be disconcerting for the innocent motorist to say the least. In situations where there is no need to draw a weapon, the last thing you want to do is to be pointing it at non threatening persons.
There is also the fact that it is not proper procedure, even with the weapon drawn in the appropriate search or challenge situation, to with the end of a gun. The simple fact of the matter is, pointing the weapon at people is only for situations where you are prepared to fire on them. When looking for a suspect or challenging them, a secondary light is preferable to keep the weapon only in a ready position and pointed in a safe direction. Then of course there is the all too real chance for accidents. If searching for a suspect with your rail mounted light, the last thing you want is to fire off a round as a reflexive response to being startled.
The upshot of all this is that a weapon mounted light is intended to assist you in hitting your target and little more. When dealing with low light situations where you have to fire your weapon, it’s almost indispensible. For general use however, stick to a good all purpose tac light and you’ll be prepared for all low light situations.