In Shooting at Night: Part 1, I talked a lot about the anatomical side of shooting at an armed attacker at night. Now for Part 2, about putting accurate rounds into an armed bad guy in no or low-light situations. Spoiler Alert: It’s still all about protecting your night vision and training yourself to function in no or low light.
Shooting at Night: Train to Shoot with Low or No Light
Minimize the use of your flashlight at night until you really need it when facing an armed attacker. Stop waving it around and hurting your night vision. You should be able to use the available “urban glow” around you to see properly. With so much light coming from street lights, the moon, passing car headlights, exterior building lights, etc., it doesn’t make sense to use your flashlight unless no light exists.
Use good judgment and don’t fall over something just because you don’t think you need your flashlight. But rely on the many sources of surrounding natural light (unless you live in the complete sticks) and after a few minutes outside, you should be able to see just fine. (If you want to be a real bad ass, get a box of chem lights/glow sticks and use one of those as your flashlight. This may convince your attacker you used to be a Navy SEAL and they might just split without a fight. Seeing someone hold one of those, along with a gun, would certainly get my attention.)
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Shooting at Night: Stay in the Shadows
Avoid the normal human instinct to move toward the light when out of your house on foot. Stay in the shadows as long as you can. Walking in the “cones” of light offered by street or porch lights just makes you a better target. Stay near fences, walls, and buildings where the light is lower.
Remember that good crooks almost never use flashlights. Professional burglars don’t usually rely on flashlights to see because they draw attention. They rely on their night vision and the natural or ambient light around them and so should you. When possible and before you move, stand outside for a few minutes and let your eyes adjust to the available light before you go forward.
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Shooting at Night: Flashlight Methods
If you have to use your flashlight, keep it in your support hand and as far away from your body as is comfortable. No sense giving the bad guys a shiny target to aim for. Practice these three flashlight techniques at the range: the LAPD Method (gun hand braced on top of your flashlight hand), the Forehead Method (hold the flashlight to the side of your head, so you and your gun see what your eyes see), or the Extended Method (hold the flashlight as far away from your body as you can).
Shooting at Night: Remain Alert
Instead of trying to pick out details in the darkness, be alert for movement first. Don’t try to focus on specific shapes, colors, or objects. In low light, these things are hard to spot. Just be alert for any sense of movement. You’ll be able to guess accurately as to what is moving by looking at the outline of the object. Since there are few six-foot tall squirrels, you’ll know what is human and what is not.
Spend just as much time listening for movement as you go looking for it. Stand still, slow your breathing, keep yourself and everything you’re holding, carrying, or wearing quiet, and just listen for a few minutes. This is very important when shooting at night.
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Take up a good observation position and adjust your eyes for a few minutes, watching, waiting, and listening for any movement of a potential human predator. You may just hear a bad guy you’ve previously confronted come crashing out of the bushes the minute he thinks the coast is clear.
Shooting at Night: Protect Your Night Vision
To protect your night vision, don’t look directly at approaching car headlights. It’s hard to avoid this habit, but even a brief glimpse at a bright passing car headlamp can throw your night vision out of whack, forcing your eyes to quickly adjust. Look at the sides or edges of the lights.
Around the exterior perimeter of your home, choose areas to walk through that have less light rather than more. Get comfortable with the shadows and with the smallest amount of light you can operate in safely. Don’t expose your position just because you want to feel safe and secure in the light. Standing in the darkness will save you more times tactically, than standing in the light. They can’t hit what they can’t see.
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Close one eye to both protect your night vision and improve it. This sounds dopey, but it really works. You can trick your pupils into cooperating and speed your night vision along. The next time you have to walk from a brightly-lit area into a dark one keep your “strong” or dominant eye closed and squint slightly as you approach. You’ll make the adjustment to night vision mode much faster when shooting at night.
Shooting at Night: Use Your Tools
Use all of the natural and man-made sources of light whenever possible. Put away that flashlight and start relying more on what’s around you: the moon, the light reflected from low clouds on to the street, streetlights, window light, porch or building lights, car lights, passing headlights,
Your night vision is a tool, like your pistol or revolver. The only difference is it’s already built-in to your body. The fact that it’s there all the time leads us to take it for granted, abuse it, and fail to protect and maintain it appreciatively. Treat it well and it will keep you alive by helping you assess the level of danger posed by bad guys, so you can shoot accurately at them, if necessary.
Being armed at night demands extra vigilance. The survival playing field is not the same at zero-dark-thirty as it is at oh-bright thirty. Always think about how and when to protect your eyes, concentrate on developing your night vision, and use your knowledge of light and its absence to stay two jumps ahead of your attacker when shooting at night.
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