Every night, somewhere in this country, a police SWAT team kicks down a door and rushes in to arrest dangerous perpetrators. They are dressed in black, clad in bulletproof vests and helmets, and they are carrying submachine guns, shotguns, and pistols equipped with tactical lights. Tactical lights are flashlights that attach to firearms via an accessory rail (usually either a Picatinny rail or a universal accessory rail). Since they are mounted right beneath the gun barrel, tactical lights shine whereever the firearm is pointed. For law enforcement officers, lights such as the Insight Technology SSL-1 Tactical Light illuminate suspects and ensure that officers can see a suspect’s movements. For special police units entering buildings filled with criminals, tactical lights are a great idea.
Are tactical lights a good idea for a homeowners who wishes to defend his life, his family, and his property? If a homeowner hears a loud noise in the dead of night, he might want to grab a modern firearm and investigate. He could lock and load, activate his tactical light, and then sweep through his house like a trained professional. The tactical light will allow the homeowner to see everything he aims his firearm at in this time of supreme stress. A tactical light will allow the homeowner to see whatever he might shoot. Of course, the homeowner will have one major problem. By using the tactical light to illuminate things within his own house, the homeowner will be violating a fundamental rule of gun safety. The muzzle of a firearm should always be pointed in a safe direction.
According to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the number one rule of gun safety is “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.” NRA educators stress this is the most fundamental rule in handling firearms. According to the NRA, “a safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.”
If you respond to a suspicious noise in your home by sweeping through your abode like a police SWAT team member lighting your way with a tactical light mounted beneath your gun barrel, you will almost certainly point your gun at your TV, your computer, your cat, your dog, your child, or your spouse. Most suspicious noises have fairly benign causes. Your young child could be getting a glass of milk. A possum could be sitting in your sink doing the dirty dishes that you put off until the morning. Your teenager could be violating his or her curfew by sneaking in or out of the house. Your dog could be turning over the garbage can. A tree branch could have fallen on part of your house. Your spouse could be searching for some antacid. None of these harmless happenings warrant the pointing of a loaded firearm in an unsafe direction. Unlike a police officer who knows with a high degree of certainty that dangerous criminals can be found in a certain area, you do not know what caused a suspicious noise. If you use a tactical light, you must rely on good training to make sure that you follow the second fundamental rule of gun safety: “ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.” It’s not always an easy directive to follow in a stressful situation.
While it may be prudent in some neighborhoods to arm yourself before investigating a potential problem, the muzzle of your firearm must always be pointed in a safe direction. In addition, you must positively verify with your own eyes that a bona fide threat exists. This can be done by using a traditional flashlight or even the mundane light switch on your wall. As a resident, you know where each light switch can be found. You can be certain of what or who is making a suspicious noise in your home. You should not investigate by pointing your gun at every shadow or noises. Since mistakes with firearms can have consequences that last forever, you cannot violate fundamental gun safety rules. You have to be certain of the existence of a threat, of your target, and what lies behind your target. A tactical light like the Surefire X2000 or the one provided in the Surefire M600 KIT01 Scout Light kit can be very useful for well-trained professionals under certain circumstances, but a gun-mounted tactical light might not be the best idea for home defense.
Fortunately, there are a number of traditional flashlights that have been ruggedized for use in serious tactical situations. The aluminum tube of a traditional Maglight makes such a formidable weapon that some police departments have restricted its use. You could also use a rugged military-style angled flashlight like the PentagonLight MOLLE Light or a compact aluminum light such as the Surefire L4 Digital Lumamax. If the mysterious noise in your house turns out to be a hungry family member raiding the refrigerator, you’ll feel much better illuminating him with a flashlight that is not attached to your firearm.
NRA Gun Safety Rules ( http://www.nrahq.org/education/guide.asp )