It’s a familiar debate to me and most of my friends — the spouse asking, “do you really need another ______?” My answer is the standard, “Yes, I do!” It applies equally for handguns, rifles, gun cases, etc. I’m always looking for new and better ways to be prepared while at the same time clinging to my tried-and-true companions. Sometimes, I find one that works better and opt for a change. Other times, I find what I have still fits the bill perfectly. Let’s see how this plays out in the popular category of lights and lasers.
When I began police work, I carried a (5) D-cell Maglite. When you work the midnight shift, light is a major consideration. As technology improved, I purchased a Surefire G2 flashlight, which I still have and use today. At 90 lumens it was top of the line, and its durability was unquestioned.
Can it do the job today? Absolutely! I don’t think it’s possible to buy a 90-lumen light anymore. Now we’re looking at 300, 500, and even 1000 lumens that are no larger than my trusted friend.
If I were working the street today, I’d carry something like the Surefire G2X-LE (Law Enforcement Edition). This is rated at 600 lumens for an hour and a half using the same 123A batteries that I use in my G2. Less than 5.5″ long, it’s easily carried and concealed. It also has a low output mode (15 lumens) lasting over 50 hours. This handy feature is efficient and practical. Let’s face it – you don’t need 600 lumens to look for the pen you dropped on the floorboard. And as an added bonus, you can choose between four colors: black, Desert Tan, OD Green, and Safety Yellow. At $70 price, it’s money well spent!
Streamlight TLR-8 A G
Handgun innovations exploded in the early ’90s. I turned in my Ruger GP100 for a Beretta 92 as our department switched away from the reliable wheel gun. Shortly thereafter, I carried the new GLOCK 22 in 40 S&W. Times were a changin’! The FBI Miami Shootout prompted a new level of thinking in law enforcement. Then GLOCK came out with a Third Generation G22 with an accessory rail. This opened up new doors and allowed many officers to carry rail-mounted lights (and in some cases light/laser combos). I purchased an Insight Technology M6. It delivered 80–90 lumens and included a red laser sight.
I still kept my G2X on my duty belt, but the M6 really shined (pun intended) on the street. Besides the light, the laser allowed me to do something critical when using my handgun — focus on the target rather than my sights. It’s hard to emphasize how important this is when your life depends on how well you can read the actions of another. Today, there are many options available from innumerable sources. The M6 still runs well today and is currently being used by a friend.
Upgrading today, I’d probably lean towards one of their newer models like the Streamlight’s TLR-8 A G. With 500 lumens, plus a brighter green laser, I’d have more visibility at longer distances and still get the reliability I insist upon. As an added bonus, this unit is much smaller and doesn’t change the way my gun handles. Retail is about $250.
Crimson Trace CMR-207G
Crimson Trace also offers dedicated lights and light/laser combo units. I have a CRM-205 Rail Master Pro I usually keep on a Beretta PX4. It’s one of my older units, but my wife or daughters can use this unit as a light only, laser only, or as a light/laser combo (its usual configuration) when I’m not around.
Crimson Trace now offers updated models like the CMR-207G. It offers a powerful 400-lumen light with the green laser. This would be the perfect combo for use in and around the home. It hits the “sweet spot” level of lighting without making the user uncomfortable with too much light. Plus, the laser takes away the worry of traditional sight alignment when under stress. It also hits the “sweet spot” with street prices around $250.
Crimson Trae LG-660 Lasergrips
Speaking of Crimson Trace, I added an LG-660 Lasergrip ($250) to my M&P 40 several years ago. It’s seen action at the Police Academy, Instructor schools, competitions and many hours of range time without a hiccup. I find it to be one of the most useful purchases I’ve ever made. There is no thought involved in its use; pick the gun up as you’d usually hold it, and the laser activates automatically. Its simple and reliable design is perfect for police use as well as concealed carry. Trust me, when you’ve been confronted with a gun-wielding suspect and get the automatic adrenaline dump, you don’t want to worry about switches, knobs, or buttons. Simple, intuitive and automatically functioning tools are critical to your survival. I’ve put my trust in Crimson Trace for decades and heartily recommend their products to anyone who might find themselves in danger. There are models available for a host of handguns and come in your choice of red or green lasers.
Streamlight TLR-1 HL
The addition of the Lasergrip to my duty/carry handgun allowed me more flexibility, but it doesn’t provide a light. Some would see this as a limitation. I see it as flexibility for everyday use, because I don’t have to have a special holster. My gun fits in a standard duty holster plus any of the various IWB and OWB or shoulder holsters I might carry at any given time. Once you add a weapon-mounted light or light/laser combo, standard holsters are rendered unusable. That’s why I still prefer to carry a light separately.
Having a separate light allows me to control how I use it. I don’t always want my gun pointed where my light is shining. Few people would relish the option of pointing their gun at their child, who might be sneaking in past their curfew. Another consideration is suspects will generally aim for a light shining their direction. Guess where your head is when you’re aiming with a light attached? A separate light also allows creative tactics, like placing the light on a hallway floor or doorway, leaving your hands free for other tasks.
On the other hand, there are instances where a weapon-mounted light makes sense. If I were a K-9 officer and had to use a light while also controlling a dog, or if I had to control small children with one hand, then a weapon-mounted light can be the best answer.
One great option (and the one I choose) is to have a weapon-mounted light that’s carried separately. By choosing a quick attachable/detachable light, you can have the best of both worlds. Hold and use it independently like a stand-alone light while still having the ability to mount it should the situation dictate. This makes sense for me using my lasergrip-equipped handgun. I like the Streamlight TLR-1 HL for this role ($149). It’s easy on/easy off, provides 1,000 lumens of light and is utterly reliable. You can count on this light to provide years of service.
You can see why it is important — nay, critical — you experiment with different options to ensure you find reliable tools for your needs. It’s equally important you buy lots of ammunition and take the occasional training course to keep your skills honed. Now if your wife or husband asks if you truly need the new (fill in the blank), then you can truthfully answer as I do.
And if you need extra explanations, you can add something about it being the price you gladly pay to protect him/her and your family.