AAR: Defensive Concepts Low Light Handgun, 4 Dec 2010, Carthage, NC
“Many shooters overlook night shooting because they think it is too inconvenient, too difficult, or just not as much fun as shooting in the daylight. I will have to let you in on a little secret. Bad things happen at night! Most engagements take place during hours of limited visibility.” -Kyle E. Lamb
Defensive Concepts NC Low Light Defensive Handgun
04 December, 2010
Chris Clifton and Steve Hawley, Defensive Concepts NC
Christmas-like. That is the best way to describe the weather we encountered during this course. It was colder than the proverbial witch’s tit in a brass bra - in the thirties, with periods of snow, sleet and rain. Add in falling temperatures as darkness fell, and you have the makings of an epic class. Eleven of us braved the elements to learn an important skill, shooting in low visibility conditions. Funny, but bad guys seem to like to do bad things when the light is not so good. Yet shooting in these tough conditions is something many of us rarely do. We can’t expect ourselves to rise to the occasion, blah, blah, blah (we’ve all heard it a million times, but it is still true).
Lots of good shooters in this class. Obviously, it’s a more advanced application of shooting fundamentals, so a certain level of proficiency is required. We had current and former .mil, LEO’s, contractors and sheep dog minded civilians ready to sharpen this important skill. And Chris Clifton and Steve Hawley with Defensive Concepts NC were more than knowledgeable and capable to help us down the path of achieving this goal. After introductions and a medical brief, Chris delivered a very informative 45 minute class room discussion on low light operations, complete with handouts and examples from real world experiences. Myths were deflated and truths revealed. Even with temperatures near or below the freezing mark, and little dexterity left in my fingers, I scribbled notes furiously.
The nucleus for the material covered in this course is the 10 principles of low light engagements: read the light; operate from the lowest level of light; avoid/control backlighting; see from the threat’s point of view; light and move; intermittent use of the light at different heights; dominate with light; align the eyes, sights and light; carry more than one light; and (most importantly) relax and breathe. We also covered hardware associated with low light shooting. Handheld lights and the ideal features, weapon lights, and sights were covered in detail. Some salient points I took away – light, even when very bright, is NOT a weapon (more on this later). Constant on switches are bad. Body mounted switches are less desirable. LED lights are the way to go due to differences in how they operate over incandescent bulbs.
We stepped onto the range with plenty of daylight left to begin building the blocks of what we would use that night. We started with a reminder of the five rules of firearms safety, conducted some diagnostic tests, and a few brief trigger control and trigger reset drills. We then moved to four techniques for using a handheld light. Harries, modified Harries, neck index, and modified FBI. There are many more methods out there, but due to the scope of this course and time constraints, Chris wisely limited us to these popular methods.
We broke for diner to allow Mother Nature to finish setting the table for the evening’s main course. I’m not much of a fan of Chinese, but must admit that the Flying Tiger in downtown Carthage wasn’t bad. Though Chris swears he has never experienced gastrointestinal issues from dining in this fine establishment, there were times when standing near him on the range later that evening it sounded as if someone was ripping canvas. As luck would have it, while at diner, the snow mix turned exclusively to sleet and freezing rain once the sun went down. Wet and cold are not a particularly fun combination.
Once back from diner, we applied all of the techniques practiced during the waning daylight hours in complete darkness. We were given ample trigger time with each method to determine which methods were better in different situations. We conducted drills in which we illuminated a target with a handheld or weapon mounted light, then turned it off, moved and shot from darkness. Surprisingly, my vision did not suffer much when the light went off after the momentary on, and my night sights worked very well. I was still able to deliver accurate hits (for those that have trained with Chris, his definition of “accurate hits” is much tighter than most other instructors). Next, we tested the theory of strobes and their ability to disorient. Shooter after shooter was able to hit the A zone of an IPSC target with multiple rounds with a bright strobe behind or flashing directly in their faces. No one pissed their pants or forgot their name. So much for that theory.
We rounded out the evening with some drills on steel utilizing different techniques depending on the situation. Shooting around cover requires the use of different techniques. It is important to have many options in the tool box to deal with what an engagement gives you effectively. Finally, we set up a scenario in the shoot house (and I use that term loosely). Eye opening. We were asked to apply the ten principles were learned and different techniques to deal with each room as we cleared it. This exercise wetted my appetite for further training on the tactics of applying these principles in a real world situation.
Conclusions and Take Away Points
Shooting in the dark is hard. Shooting the in dark in near-freezing temperatures in freezing precipitation is harder. But it can be done accurately. A hand held light of at least 65 lumens is like the American Express card – don’t leave home without it. More importantly, don’t leave home without two. A weapon mounted light is an important SUPPLEMENT to a quality handheld light. Shooting with a weapon mounted light is faster and easier than a hand held light, but it does not replace it. There are too many important uses for a hand held light. That said, my experiences in this class reinforced my belief that a handgun carried for defensive purposes should have a light on it. Reloading with a flashlight in your reaction hand while wet and cold is harder than you think. Practice it even in the daylight. The methods for employing a handheld light will be incorporated into my dry fire practice. Maybe not every day, but often enough to be comfortable and proficient with each technique. Believing a powerful light will overcome an assailant by itself is akin to convincing yourself you can use a Jedi mind trick to achieve supremacy in a deadly force encounter. Further, the PROPER use of a light neither ruins your night vision, nor gives the bad guys something to shoot at. The .357 Sig round is an f’ing flame thrower at night. I think I have a sun tan on the right side of my face from standing next to Kevin on the firing line. XD’s are the Yugo’s of the gun world. This was strongly reinforced during the class. I met some great guys in this class, not the least of which is Topher. He is thick skinned, and funny as hell. I’m glad the Amish have embraced something as technologically advanced as gunpowder and flashlights. I hope to shoot with all those in attendance again.
In summary, if you carry a firearm in your every day job, for personal defense, or even own one for home defense, find a quality low light class. If you are nearby and can train with Chris and Steve with Defensive Concepts NC, even better. Actually hitting the range and shooting in low light conditions will dispel many myths and wives’ tales and reinforce proper TTP’s that could save your life.
“Warriors have a moral obligation to protect society and its citizens. Individuals who refuse to participate in realistic training should not be in the business.” -Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
This AAR pretty much covers it.
Out of the 4 Classes I have taken with DCNC this was by far my favorite..
Always learn more about myself every time I take any class.
I really need to work on slowing down and getting those shots off accurately when adrenalin is pumping.. "RELAX AND BREATH"
Looking forward to the Lowlight Carbine in February and the Home Defense/Indoor Tactics Class in April..
Second class with DCNC and like CXS I'm looking forward to more. I've taken the 'big name' classes and DCNC is a competitor. I think the Vickers Shooting Method designation gives DCNC the recognition they deserve. enough smoke blowing.
before TD1 the comms were sufficient
Training began on time
Training after dinner began on time
break time wasn't extended for BS sessions. We jacked mags and kept shooting
45 minute Lecture was excellent with handouts. I have taken higher priced training with zero handouts and for me it tells me the trainers give a rip about the students learning. Handouts alligned with class
Time on the range with daylight was appropriate. This was my first low light anything and the day work was what I needed to prepare to learn at night
Facilities were 10/10. My wife would even take a dump in that port-a-dumper.
There was some shuffling around from range to range but that was due to comm errors on the part of the range owner. DCNC was not made aware of another training co. on the range. Chris worked around it and even managed to align the class schedule with available range areas and most impressive was putting us under cover just before the sleet started. The moving around wasn't an issue.
When I considered taking the low light class I assumed it would be 8 hours working with the TLR1 on the Sig 226. I was mistaken and I was very impressed with Chris' explanation of why so much time on the hand held positions and principals - this was excellent stuff. The hand held light is the foundation.
The drills were a good mix of all 10 on the line, 2 firing orders of 5 each and individual courses of fire.
Advertised round count was close to actual
targets were changed and not shot out or left up out of convenience. Taping and changing out made sense.
The only failure I was aware of was with an XD. I don't know the details but it wasn't good. Sigs, Glocks, M&Ps and other XDs all ran well. I ran XS big dots for the first time and my accuracy suffered. I broke a set of factory sig TFOs the week before and switched to the Big Dots. I have a good idea why Chris is not a fan of the Big Dots. DCNC maintains a high accuracy standard and the XS sights work against that.
All other equipment seemed to work well. I was surprised there weren't any light failures or dead batteries in the middle of a course of fire. I think it's attributed to the fact that we learned light discipline for lack of a better term and it paid off when it came to battery life.
Debrief was time well spent with an open discussion and good feedback. Left with a nice sheet of paper for the scrapbook but more importantly a solid foundation to start building a low light gun fighting mindset on. I have a long long way to go.
Take this course if offered again.
Well done DCNC