White lights and lasers on your home defense gun

Does your home defense gun have a light on it? If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong. It should also probably have a laser on it as well, because being able to hit what you’re aiming at is kind of important.

Photo courtesy Crimson Trace
Photo courtesy Crimson Trace

I believe we’ve touched on this topic before, but whether your home defense gun is a shotgun, a pistol, or a carbine, it really should have a light and a laser on it. I’ll get into the reasons why in a moment, but first I want to talk about some of the common objections.

1. “You’ll give away your position!”
Who is breaking into your house, Spetznaz? Are you laying at the top of the stairs in ambush? Seriously, unless you’re creeping from room to room trying to do a solo clear of your house at 2am why do you care about giving away your position? I don’t know about you, but my position is going to be pretty clearly given away by me shouting “I HAVE A GUN AND I’M CALLING THE COPS DON’T COME UP HERE I’M AFRAID FOR MY LIFE” on the line with the 911 operator.

2. “If it’s so dark you can’t see the target, you shouldn’t be shooting.”
You’re an idiot if you believe this. THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT OF HAVING LIGHTS, to make it less dark. Also because 200 lumens in the eyes of Johnny Scumbag might actually make him reconsider some life choices, and maybe you won’t have to drill him. Later we can have the discussion about weapon mounted lights for searching vs hand-held lights and the various advantages/disadvantages, but seriously, white lights make it a lot easier to hit the thing you’re aiming at because you can see it.

3. “You can just turn a light on”
Okay. So you turn the light on in whatever room you’re in, but Mr. Home Invader is a room with the lights off. Have you ever tried looking into a dark room from a well lit one? You can’t see diddly. Point 200 lumens of justice into that room, and you can see plenty.

The truth is that most of the objections to lights and lasers on HD guns come from two kinds of people: 1) people with mall ninja fantasies about single person house clearing or ambushing a home invader at the top of the stairs and 2) people who’ve never fired a gun in low/no light situations. The first group are just idiots and can generally be ignored, but the second group, well, that can be fixed.

I usually two or three low/no light matches every year. Two are handgun only, and will involve stages in absolutely no light you have to use a hand-held light. Those are the S&W IDPA Nationals and the S&W BUG Championship. I would absolutely love to be able to mount a laser and a light on my gun for those stages, because it would make them much, much easier than using a handheld light. But without the handheld light, they’d be impossible. Those stages are usually no darker than my bedroom at night.

The other match I shoot is the full boat, the Crimson Trace Midnight 3-Gun that I just returned from. This match absolutely reinforces that you need lights and lasers on your gun. Hitting a big, white painted pepper popper is pretty easy during the day, but once the sun goes down? That target becomes a lot more challenging. There are also plenty of other issues associated with low light shooting that you understand when you actually spend time doing it; not the least of which is target ID.

In a match, if you’re shooting a low light array and have a weapon mounted light, that no-shoot you forgot was there doesn’t catch an extra bullet, because when you swing over to shoot at it thinking it’s a legit target, thanks to your WML you realize it’s not a threat, and move on. In real-life that no shoot is your teenage son sneaking back in through the window at 2am. I don’t think that WML should be used for searching, but they can be quite useful in helping you realize that the person in your home at 2am may not be the threat you initially thought they were.

Then there are lasers. Why are lasers important? Well, quite simply lasers allow you to do 2 very cool things: keep your eyes on the threat and make hits from awkward firing positions. With a laser (or a red dot optic) your visual focus stays on the threat, not on your front sight. That’s not a bad place for it to be, if we’re being honest with ourselves. You’re more likely to see furtive movements, be able to ID weapons, and of course the laser makes getting a clean hit a lot easier. The second advantage is that you can get those hits from compromised firing positions a lot easier. Need to pull the gun back near your chest? No problem, you’ve got the dot. Weak hand only while protecting a child? You’ve got the dot.

Bottom line: lights and lasers make the entire chore of shooting in low-light a lot easier. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself some time. There are quite a few low light matches around the country, or you could even try a dry fire run in your own home after dark. And if someone ever tells you that you shouldn’t put a light and a laser on your HD gun? They’re wrong, and they probably like Kel-Tecs or something.


  1. “It should also probably have a laser on it as well, because being able to hit what you’re aiming at is kind of important.” A lot of us practice using the sights mounted on the firearm instead of tacticool battery-powered gimmicks.

    1. You know, I shouldn’t be surprised when this comment shows up. Because it always does.

      I use the sights on my gun a lot. In fact, if you practice using the sights, a laser just makes everything easier. And if your laser breaks, which is probably won’t unless you buy a cheap, shitty laser, YOU CAN STILL USE THE FUCKING SIGHTS. It’s like people think if you put a laser on your gun, you’re suddenly never ever going to practice using the sights again.

      And if you think Crimson Trace lasers are “tacticool gimmicks” then you pretty clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

      1. Caleb- You are spot on right.

        I’m not calling anyone stupid or trying to start a flame war, but it is my experience with the “no laser” crowd that it is spoken from (objectively speaking now), ignorance. Maybe they tried it once but didn’t really spend much time training with them… or never at all (most likely). We’ll see what those same naysayers start saying in their “golden years” when they’re looking for XS sights the size of a silver dollar due to failing eyeballs! Maybe those Jitterbug cell phone people will market a “Jitterbug” front sight…..? CT laser; not a problem for my dad when his eyes were crap.

        I was introduced to the Crimson Trace platform at a Ken Hackathorn class years ago and never looked back. I already had Surefire X200s on my pistols, but married to the pistol with a CT laser…..’nuff said. To me, it was “where have you been all of my life?”

        As an IDPA match director for 7 years at a local club, we had the flexibility to run “low light” matches fairly often; weapon light and handheld. Talk about getting people out of their comfort zone….?!?!? Not to pat myself on the back, but I received more positive feedback and request for more low light matches so that the shooters could work out the wrinkles of their night fighting tactics. Yes, it’s a game, but where else are civilian shooters going to find a venue to find out what works/doesn’t work with their carry/nightstand guns (lanyards on handheld lights are a must….strobe lights are a gimmick).

        Final (anecdotal) story: after the GA State IDPA match a few years ago, the MD invites a handful of the SOs to run the match again…at night. I’ve got my G17 with CT laser and I’m taking major shit from my buddies about my “laser crutch”. Short story long, by the 4th stage it’s becoming apparent that not only are my hits faster than theirs in the dark, but they’re more accurate…….on movers, too! When all was said and done, buddy #1 (Glock armorer no less) calls me the following day to inform me that he’s just purchased a CT laser for his G17, and is having some shoe leather for lunch:-) Other night matches: same song, different verse. They work; for all of the reasons you mention and many more!

        If you don’t like them, don’t buy them, but don’t crap all over something that you haven’t at least given a serious try…..and I don’t mean the demo units on the blue guns at the gun store!

        I put a CT laser and CT LightGuard on all my carry guns now….period. End of discussion.

        Sorry for the long response!

        Call Me the Breeze!

  2. Lasers will make a prosecutor punish me for a shooting cause it shows I tried to make my gunz sooper deadly. You know if you use gunz for shootin people and there modified you get mega sued and nobody cares about good/bad shoot. Dat is why I carry a stock hi point painted pink…

  3. I think the crap lights/lasers get comes from people trying to justify their own cheapness.

  4. I just don’t buy any of the naysayers nonsense spewed regarding lights and lasers on weapons, particularly for home defense. I’d like to have both on my EDC but I can’t get used to the extra bulk, especially AIWB. But for home- FUHGEDDABOUDIT!! Off topic: people using the word “tacticool” irritate me WAY more than those/that being described as such. I wish I didn’t even have had to type it.

  5. I’ve never heard point #2 used as an argument against flashlights, only against night sights.

  6. I purposefully do not have a light mounted on my nightstand pistol because I don’t want to sweep the muzzle over everything that I might want to illuminate… i.e. kids, out the window towards neighbors, etc.

    1. Well, that’s a completely different topic. WML are not for searching, they’re for threat identification. Searching should be done with a handheld light.

  7. Caleb,
    Everything you’ve said here is true or could be seen as true, however you did miss one argument for not slapping a decent laser on everything under the sun.

    I personally have trained with and carried my Glock 17 ( hence no replaceable grip panels) since 2005. the rail mounts an m-3 which has always done right by me! So yeah the light I get it! However I don’t see a good reason to fix what isn’t broken, I can see my night sights just fine and I do have that light… So why would I go changing my grip (and probably holster too) or the balance of my gun?

  8. On the lasers, I think you’re attaching a false importance to them. Without a light, you would need lasers or night sights, yes…but then again, you won’t know what the heck you’re actually shooting unless you have a flashlight too…and if you have a flashlight, then sight picture is solved anyway. Nothing wrong with a laser, if that’s your preferred sighting method…but also nothing wrong with no laser, because as long as you have a gun-light more traditional sighting methods work just fine.

    I agree with your end conclusion on the flashlights, though I have to admit for very different reasons than you state. Let me tell you that when in your home during a home invasion, confused, not necessarily knowing exactly where the guy is, with the full knowledge in your head that there’s a possibility that if he figures out where you are first you might be about to die…yelling threats is not particularly high on your list of things to do. But being able to quickly flick on a gun mounted flashlight the moment before you pull the trigger on that dark moving mass you see so you’re sure you’re not shooting a family member or something (because doubt is in no short supply during such events) is definitely high on the list. Flashlight up, it’s definitely a good idea.

    1. If I had to rank my priorities for attachments on an HD gun, it would be white light fist, laser second. If you can get both, that’s ideal.

      1. Is it possible that the white light hot-spot could also aid in aiming at close distances- say within 7 yards? A sort of 80% guarantee of hitting somewhere within center mass?

        1. It is POSSIBLE and DOABLE if and only if you’ve spent enough time on the range to verify the hits, gotten lucky enough that the light lines up right (no up-down or left-right adjustments needed) and you have the beam adjusted… Having said that it isn’t a really ideal set up or what it was designed to do. But you could get lucky and it works with your gear… I did.

  9. Caleb,
    this is great advice and very timely. I just installed a white light on my AR, which already has a red dot and really believe that it is ready for anything or anyone trying to break in. P.S. all thanks to my son Robb for getting me the great light and mount.

  10. Caleb, you are right about most not having experience with night shooting. I have trained a lot of folks in low/no light shooting and people with little experience do dramatically better with a WML concerning making hits. For a dedicated house gun, WML is a must these days. Laser is also good, but more optional than the light.

  11. Isaac — They make lasers for Glocks that don’t mount under the barrel and shouldn;t interfere with holstering. They even make one that replaces the guide rod.

    Matt S –I have a WML on my home defensive guns (the pistol is faster into action because it’s right next to the bed, but the carbine is better if you have the time). I ALSO have a handheld tail cap activated, lanyard wearing flashlight right next to EACH. If i need two hands, I open my left hand, and let the flashlight dangle. If I need a light for searching, well, it’s right friggin’ there. (And my lanyards are deliberately attached with thin metal split rings that will rip away long before i get yanked around, if Sumdood grabs the light and tries to play Crack the Whip. People who dummycord their gear with 550 cord to hard point attachments with no breakaway are fools.)

    Saying you WON’T mount a light because you are afraid of using it as a search device is like ripping off the Sea Sparrow illuminators on an aircraft carrier, because you’re afraid someone will use them for general air search.

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