A Shot In The Dark

Shooting at night can provide unique challenge, but there’s help available. (SHELLEY SARGENT)

By Shelley Sargent

From home defense to self defense to competition being able to shoot in less than ideal conditions is an important skill for shooters to hone. When the lights go out and the adrenaline starts pumping everything from target identification to sight picture to clear thought gets more difficult.

Shooting at night can provide unique challenge, but there’s help available. (SHELLEY SARGENT)

There are no real immediate problem solvers to the issue of having to shoot in the dark, nothing that can help more than practice and planning anyway. But there are some tools available that make the dark a little bit more comfortable.

I for one am I big advocate of Crimson Trace instinct activation laser systems. They have them for a lot of different guns and they’re small enough and light enough not to interfere with carry guns. I guess this fondness comes from a GunSite trip I took last April. I was set ot the task of clearing a shoothouse using simunitions in a Smith & Wesson M&P equipped with a Crimson Trace laser grip and light guard. I remember identifying my targets, and by that I remember seeing a cardboard gun pointed straight at me, and then I remember shooting at it.

In high intensity situations it’s easy to forget yourself. “Front sight picture, trigger press” all seems to fade, of course it all depends on how much you practice, but for me – I was staring straight at the threat. The only thing that really let me know my gun was pointed at the right place was the little red dot that was on top of my threat. When we walked back through the house all of the holes in the target were on the hand holding the firearm. My focus was on one thing and the laser allowed me to see that my gun was pointing at is, although nothing is a replacement for good practice.

Having a flashlight around the house is also important. I keep one in my purse, one on my dresser, one next to my bed, one in my car – of course I also have the habit of stumbling around the house in the dart trying to kick the cat out of my room. One of the best tools I have for cat extraction, coincidentally, is a laser/light combination foregrip that’s not attached to anything.

When purchasing a flashlight there can be some contention. I’m not an advocate of 1,000,000 lumen ultra high intensity whatever lights. I like my flashlights to have both a low and high setting, I have sensitive eyes and ruin my night vision one way or another, but I find that the lower light settings can make it a lot easier to see closer objects while the high intensity settings can sometimes cause a blinding reflection.

Thermal imaging systems such as this Scout PS-Series Handheld Camera from FLIR don’t come cheap, but they have a wide variety of uses. (SHELLEY SARGENT)

A cool product I just discovered recently, to help with night-time shooting woes, is thermal imaging. It turns out that while thermal imaging systems aren’t cheap, they have a broad application of uses I didn’t consider. I wasn’t at all surprised to find them popular among hunters and outfitters, but farmer use them to survey livestock, and home owners have set up thermal cameras and hooked them into their bedroom TV to survey property in the dark without getting out of bed, a way to feel more comfortable about a bump in the night.

Of course, the most effective way to shoot in the dark is not to. We live in the wonderful age of electricity and, at least when it comes to being in doors, most rooms are now days equipped with these things called “lights” that are often attached to “light switches”. You simply flip the switch and the entire room brightens and you can see exactly what is going on.

Whether preparing for a big match or class, setting your home up for self-defense or hunting for a concealed carry gun it’s important to ask questions and be ready to shoot in the dark. Having the right equipment can go a long way toward easing the stress of not being able to see in the night.

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