I am a huge advocate of lights and lasers on carry guns and home defense guns and I am just back from the 2013 Crimson Trace Midnight 3-gun match in Bend, Oregon. I have some observations to share on the topic from my experiences there.
First of all, you need to test your lights and lasers extensively before you trust your life to them. During this year’s event there was always somebody in the safe area working on their guns and it was almost always a light or laser issue.
I had two light/laser units on my handgun go down; my primary and my back up. Both were brand name (not Crimson Trace) high dollar units that did fine during a quick test at home, but they didn’t make it through one night of competition before the laser lost zero on the primary and stopped working completely on the backup. That makes four different lasers that have failed on me in the past two months. Clearly, a few magazines of ammo through the guns are not enough to identify problems.
Last year at the same match I had trouble with keeping a flashlight on my shotgun. I had a well-known brand name “tactical” flashlight mount that was nothing but crap. It worked fine for a dozen or so shots, but before I hit twenty shots it would fall off the gun. The third time I put it back on, the screws stripped. I had to duct tape it to the gun to finish the match. The supplier I got it from tells me they still sell a bunch of them every year, which leads me to believe that nobody is actually testing this mount.
I am not going to start bashing brand names here, but I will say I never saw a Crimson Trace product fail in two of these matches. Nor have I had one fail in the many years I have been using them. I am not saying that won’t, anything can fail, but right now they are the best I have tried and they are what I trust on my carry and home defense guns. I suppose that’s why they put their reputation on the line by creating and hosting this unique, invitational 3-gun match. It is shot entirely in the dark where, with the exception of one stage, the shooter must rely on his own lights and lasers. The one exception was clearing a shoot house with I2 Technologies and Systems Integration night vision goggles and IR lasers on a GLOCK and a full auto SBR, which is about as cool as it gets.
I think what is happening is that most people install their light or laser and forget about it. A lot of them think if they adjust the laser to the sights, they are done. But as with any shooting system, you need to zero the laser by shooting at a target. Then you need to shoot the gun a lot to make sure the product can handle the recoil.
I think that most shooters are only using their guns after installing the systems to fire a few shots and then they stand it in the corner or put it on a nightstand to wait for the bad guys to show up. The trouble is, when the bad guys show up it is a poor time to discover that your weapon light or laser is going to take a dump. Rifles and handguns are bad enough, but shotguns are extremely hard on anything bolted to them. Lights fail or fall off, lasers break. Until you have a couple of hundred rounds of full power tactical ammo through the gun without problems you should not trust your life, or the life of your loved ones, to the lights or lasers on your guns.
Another thing I saw is that some of the top 3-gun shooters who were attending the match for the first time were struggling with their lasers. That’s because they didn’t train with them. It’s a different technique than using sights and like all techniques it requires practice and training. Find a way to practice with the lights and lasers in low light or total darkness. The time to figure it out is not when you are in a fight for your life.
There are more nighttime 3-gun matches popping up around the country and they provide a great opportunity to test your gear.
Another thing, a lot of old school trainers disdain weapon mounted lights and insist the students use a hand-held flashlight. These matches prove the folly of trying to fight with that system. A weapon mounted light is a much better choice. If you don’t believe me, set up some stages then shoot them in the dark. Trust me, the hand held light will make you crazy and slow you down.
Finally, on another topic. I spend a lot of time in airports and am appalled to see that most of the women and a lot of the men are wearing flip-flops or sandals. Bad idea for any emergency situation, but particularly for a plane crash. If the plane crashes they are about the worst thing you can have on your feet. They are difficult to back up in, provide no support if you must walk on an incline and are easy to damage or lose. If your plane lands, say for example, in the Hudson River, flip-flops are a very poor choice of footgear for climbing out on the wing. With the crash in San Francisco there was a young lady who was tragically killed after exiting the plane. It is not inconceivable that she was away from the other survivors because she was having trouble getting through the debris without protection on her feet. Imagine trying to navigate a crash site with all the debris and burning materials in flip flops, or more likely barefoot, as you are going to lose or destroy the flip flops very quickly. If you are unable to get away from the crash site, you can survive the crash only to die because of stupidity in footwear. It’s far better to have sneakers on your feet.