Let there be light!

Lately, I have had the opportunity to regularly practice my low-light shooting, and as I mentioned previously when talking about lasers the experience has been illuminating (I crack myself up).  A couple of fun observations I’ve had:

  • Sights that gather light are better than sights that don’t.  Non-illuminated 3-dot sights are the worst for low light, fiber optics or gold beads are better, and actual night sights are best.
  • Guns that produce light are awesome, whether it’s with a laser or an onboard flashlight.
  • That whole argument about how “ported guns will ruin your night vision” is nonsense.  In low light, my 625 shoots a fireball out of the cylinder gap that doesn’t ruin my night vision, so I have a hard time believing that 2-4 tiny jets of flame from ports will.
  • Your sight picture doesn’t change when it’s dark.  Seriously, if there is enough ambient light to see the sights and it’s a situation where you’d use them anyway, then you should probably use your sights.
  • Point shooting can be very helpful.  Last night’s stage in particular had 2 initial targets that were wide open and less than 5 yards – point shooting those guys will you fast and accurate hits.
  • Marksmanship doesn’t change.  I’ve seen people utterly go to pieces when the lighting changes on targets they would have shot clean in regular light.  Sight picture and trigger control are the same whether or not you can see perfectly.

I really can’t encourage people enough to shoot their carry guns in low light.  Take a class, go to a club match that does that, but the opportunity to shoot your defensive firearm in a situation that’s similar to an actual defensive shooting scenario is incredibly valuable.  Low-light shootings are wildly different from brightly lit indoor ranges or shooting on a sunny afternoon; but at the same time they’re not so different that you have to reinvent the wheel to shoot in low light.


  1. The problem with ported guns occurs when you shoot them from a retention, close quarters, position-2-of-the-draw position. When the gun is down at waist or mid chest level, tucked in close to your body and firing, the fireball and focused jet of hot gasses comes out of the ports straight up into your face.

    The usual deal is that people want ports on short barreled guns to make them have the same muzzle flip as medium or full size guns. You give up velocity with the shorter barrel to begin with. When you put holes in what little barrel is left you lose more velocity.

  2. I took the Personal Protection Outside The Home student class recently (required to take the instructors course) and it involved a fair amount of low light. I totally agree that the guys with night sights had the best of it. It was pretty close range so I was able to hold my own point shooting but I’m going to night sights when I can.

    Everyone kicked in a round or two of their *real* carry ammo so we got to see what the various round’s muzzle flash were like. CorBon seemd to stand out to me as having a much reduced flash compared to the plain old Winchester or Remington a lot of us were using for training ammo.

  3. I wonder if there is any research/published information/gun rag articles on reloading for reduced muzzle flash?

    I would assume that quicker burning powders would be part of the recipe, so that more burns while it is still in the barrel, but I wonder what else is involved.

  4. Great advice Caleb! Being fortunate enough to have our own range here at home, we do practice in low light regularly. Some folks would be amazed in very low light how much muzzle flash is coming from their favorite 2″ snubby! (not that it ruins their night vision – just amazed is all)

    I’d also encourage others to take out their favorite side-kick in the pouring rain and on extremely cold days. Can you hold onto it when it’s wet? When your hands are wet AND muddy after falling? If it’s winter, are you pulling off the gloves or operating the gun with them on? Can you manipulate the gun with gloves in the cold?

    Many fair-weather shooters might be surprised the first time they work in less than ideal weather conditions.

    Dann in Ohio

  5. In my first IDPA match, they actually turned the lights out for the last stage, and you had to shoot the whole stage with a flashlight.

  6. I was fortunate that my local range let me turn out most of the lights one afternoon when I was the only one there, shooting a Springfield Micro-Compact V10 .45. It’s got 10 little ports in the barrel and matching slots in the slide.

    Shooting it in the dark was a lot like having somebody set off a flashbulb in my eyes. Shooting regular 230gr JHP’s through that short barrel meant that I could aim only the first shot…the next five were all point shooting.

    I see that Speer is selling (at least through Natchez) a Gold-Dot HP round for .45ACP called “short barrel”, but at $1 per round I’m not sure I’d want to shoot enough of it to want to carry it.

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