Although crime happens at all times, you’ll want to practice defensive tactics in low light or no light conditions (especially in the dark). A tactical flashlight must serve two purposes: Identification and illumination. In other words, you need to identify the threat/intruder but also you need to illuminate areas so you can see where to move to next or find cover.

One easy way to do this is with a handgun that has a rail on the frame. The rail enables you to affix mounted attachments – such as a weapon light or laser along the base of the frame closest to the muzzle. However, keep in mind that you point your handgun at everything you shine the light on. Trigger finger discipline is a must as well as identifying the target prior to pulling the trigger otherwise you may inadvertently shoot someone who lives in your house who got up to use the bathroom or grab a late-night snack from the kitchen.

In the absence of a rail mounted flashlight, hand and eye coordination are a necessity in defensive situations when threat perception is increased, and an effective grip or hold is vital for accuracy. In this article, we’ll explore four of the most common techniques that exist to hold both a flashlight and handgun simultaneously. These four are known as the FBI technique, Harries, Rogers, and Neck/Jaw Index.

1. FBI Technique

Strengths: The oldest flashlight technique developed by you guessed it, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This method eliminates hand confusion when firing. The handgun is in one hand, while the flashlight is held in the other hand, off to the side, or held high like an ice pick. The exact positioning in this technique will vary. The ice pick reference means holding the light in your fist, with the lens closest to your pinky. The intent of this hold technique is for searching, and the hold is disorienting your body from the intruder with their focus on the light itself. The belief is if the home intruder fires at the source of light there is a greater chance of non-fatal injury to your body. Another advantage is the free movement allowed by the support hand to adjust the orientation to a different hold style quickly if needed.

Challenges: Modern flashlights have powerful lumens, and especially considering light colored walls and ceilings inside the home, the way light bounces can inadvertently illuminate you instead of blinding the intruder. Additionally, you must fire one handed, and the hand/arm with the light can become tired easily after long periods extended without support.

2. Harries Technique

Strengths: The most widely taught technique, which includes several variations (ex. Ray Chapman’s, Massad Ayoob). Often misidentified as “Harris”, the Harries Technique was developed by Michael Harries, a colleague of the renowned Father of Modern Handgun, Colonel Jeff Cooper.

The backs of your hands cross forming an “X”, with the shooting hand crossing over the support hand with the flashlight held like an icepick. Then you push and pull: the back of the firing hand pushes against the support hand while pulling the support hand against the firing hand using isometric tension for stabilization. The supporting hand with the flashlight should align where the elbow rests low. 

Challenges: This technique is ideal short-term usage only. It can be fatiguing in extended periods mostly because of the unnatural wrist to wrist opposing pressure with isometric tension. Best used with a thumb operated light.

3. Rogers Technique

Strengths: This technique is non-fatiguing and was developed by Bill Rogers, a former FBI agent, police instructor, and a competitive shooter. Rogers has over 60 patents and has invented equipment used by the military and police worldwide.

The Rogers Technique is commonly known as the SureFire technique due to the SureFire branded flashlights designed for and later copied by other companies, to use in this technique. The flashlight is held like a cigar or a syringe between the index and middle finger of the support hand. The bottom three fingers wrap around the firing hand for two-handed firing support whereas the index and thumb activate the light. The thumb activates the rear switch, or the middle finger if the light has a side switch.

Challenges: The Rogers technique can be awkward, especially for Isosceles stance shooters without continued practice due to the technique requiring both elbows to bend, like a classic Weaver stance.

4. Neck/Jaw Index

Strengths: The neck index, or often called the jaw index technique, works with various sized flashlights held like an ice pick right below the ear close to your jaw and neck. This technique can be used with an injured arm or hand and allows the light to be braced in a natural corner of the neck and shoulder. The support arm is pulled back against the side of the body.

This technique helps to illuminate the gun sights as well as enough light to identify the intruder. Additionally, it allows for quick transition from neck to FBI technique.

Challenges: This technique creates the ability for improper indexing the light where it illuminates the rear of the handgun, and not useful in identifying the Intruder/threat. In addition, it can draw the intruder’s attention to your head and chest area of the body. This technique also limits you to single-handed firing.

So, which of these techniques work best? While they all have their usefulness as well as drawbacks, it depends on your preference. Try the different techniques and find at least one that works well for you. Of course, several other variations of these exist but these are just four of the most common. If you find these techniques to be cumbersome and awkward another choice might as well be night vision goggles and infrared lasers. You can also look for low light courses offered in your area. These courses are typically advanced courses and not intended for beginners.

Not sure which flashlight to use? This also depends on preference. Older flashlights had different degrees of lumens dependent on your use that cost hundreds of dollars and varying switch activation orientations. I prefer small tactical lights, thumb activation, with a clip to easy slide onto my pocket. Whichever you choose, be sure to practice with an unloaded handgun to master the technique.

You’ll want to dedicate training time to knowing how your eyes and these tools work for and against you in varying degrees of darkness. For example, I routinely get up in the middle of the night and unlock my Fast Box® using the keypad in the dark. Why? The SecureIt Fast Box® works perfectly on the underside of my bed where I can quickly access my loaded handgun and tactical light and have time to move to a safe location with my children. Also, repeated habits stick. This frequent way of opening your safe with your handgun and flashlight ready can help when seconds count in a stressful situation such as an intruder breaking into your home.

Keep in mind, you most likely know the layout of your living space better than an intruder. Try toggling your flashlight off and on to guide your movements from one point to the next instead of fully illuminating your position(s) to the threat. The burst of white light should be around ½ a second, just enough light to allow you to navigate around and to see what you need to see.

The more you practice the better your ability will be able to develop what is called muscle memory. Before you know it, the low light technique you practice will become second nature, where you don’t have to think about the technique formation you just do it autonomously.

Written By Emily Pritt