BBAD GUYS ARE op­por­tunis­tic preda­tors who take ad­van­tage of the weak and un­pre­pared. They’re no dif­fer­ent than the preda­tors in the wild, who pounce when the right op­por­tu­nity presents it­self.

Bad guys like the anonymity of dark­ness and the sur­prise it af­fords them. One of the most over­looked and best per­sonal pro­tec­tion tools at our dis­posal is light, and you should use it to your ad­van­tage.

MOST VI­O­LENT crimes oc­cur dur­ing con­di­tions of lim­ited vis­i­bil­ity. This gives hu­man preda­tors their best chance for suc­cess. It’s also why flood­lights and mo­tion-ac­ti­vated lights around peo­ple’s homes are pop­u­lar and ef­fi­cient pro­tec­tion tools. The same logic ap­plies on the street.

Imag­ine a mug­ger lurking in a dark park­ing lot. He’ll tar­get the car or person in the dimmest, dark­est area. If you’re strolling across the pave­ment with a highintens­ity flash­light, your chances of be­ing at­tacked are dras­ti­cally re­duced.

This is be­cause light draws at­ten­tion, cir­cum­vents the el­e­ment of sur­prise, and elim­i­nates the anonymity of a po­ten­tial at­tacker. Light also con­veys an im­pres­sion of power and con­trol.


▪ THE CHAR­AC­TER­IS­TICS of the best flash­lights for per­sonal pro­tec­tion can be rep­re­sented by what I call the Rule of the Three Ls: lithium, LED, and lu­mens. Let’s ex­am­ine each to bet­ter un­der­stand its im­por­tance.


▪ SINCE THE s, we’ve re­lied on al­ka­line bat­ter­ies for flash­lights. Their up­side is cost and their down­side is dura­bil­ity. They’re also prone to leak­age. Ever opened a flash­light to find a mess of white cor­ro­sion? That’s al­ka­line bat­ter­ies for you. Flash­lights pow­ered with al­ka­line bat­ter­ies also dim slowly as the bat­ter­ies lose juice, and the bat­ter­ies de­grade over time, even when they’re not used. Lithium bat­ter­ies can pro­vide twice the out­put of al­ka­line bat­ter­ies and won’t de­grade over time. How­ever, when they do die, they die fast, and they cost twice as much as al­ka­line bat­ter­ies.


▪ THE MOST COM­MON flash­light bulbs are in­can­des­cent and LED. In­can­des­cent bulbs pro­vide high out­put for their size and pro­duce nat­u­ral-ap­pear­ing light. They re­quire pe­ri­odic re­place­ment and are not im­pact-re­sis­tant. LED bulbs are solid-state cre­ations, last a long time, come in a va­ri­ety of col­ors, are en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient, and are very rugged. They’re also more ex­pen­sive, but they de­liver ex­tremely long run­times at low il­lu­mi­na­tion lev­els.


▪ FLASH­LIGHT OUT­PUT— bright­ness—is mea­sured in lu­mens. The best flash­lights pro­duce con­sis­tent il­lu­mi­na­tion across the en­tire beam—mean­ing the edges of where the light hits are just as bright as the cen­ter of the beam. Over­all bright­ness comes from con­sis­tent beams, bat­tery power, bulb qual­ity, and the re­flec­tor de­sign. Self-de­fense flash­lights should have a min­i­mum of 60 lu­mens, but twice that is a bet­ter place to start. This is enough bright­ness to search a build­ing or tem­po­rar­ily blind an at­tacker.

If 120 lu­mens are good, 240 should be bet­ter, and 480 should be great...and so on up the line, right? Yes and no. As the lu­men rat­ing in­creases, so does bat­tery draw. More lu­mens of­ten means larger and heav­ier flash­lights. The Sure­fire Hell­fighter pro­duces

3,000 lu­mens and is about the size of a roll of pa­per tow­els. It will melt a vam­pire and burn the hair off a were­wolf, but you won’t want to carry it to town or even to the out­house.


▪ YOU WANT A light that is re­li­able and rugged, of course, but for per­sonal pro­tec­tion, a light needs to be com­pact, con­ceal­able, and com­fort­able to carry. Sure­fire’s E1D LED De­fender epit­o­mizes all of these re­quire­ments. It pro­duces 300 lu­mens of felon-blind­ing light, weighs only 3.4 ounces, and mea­sures only 4.5 inches long. It comes with a pocket clip for easy carry and ser­rated end caps to pro­vide ex­tra strik­ing po­ten­tial, and it has a low-out­put 5-lu­men beam to help you read the menu in a dark restau­rant or find the stuff you dropped be­tween car seats. Re­tail­ing for $240, the E1D might sound too ex­pen­sive. How­ever, it will last longer than you will and is prob­a­bly more de­pend­able.

Weapon lights are of­ten con­sid­ered an al­ter­na­tive to a hand­held flash­light. But keep in mind that with a weapon light, you’ll have to point your gun at any­thing you want to il­lu­mi­nate. This could not only be un­safe and un­wise, but in some ju­ris­dic­tions point­ing a gun at non-threat­en­ing hu­mans is wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment—a crim­i­nal of­fense. A weapon light is great for shoot­ing in low light, but it is not a flash­light and should not be used as one.

Re­mem­ber, in a vi­o­lent en­counter, light equals power, and he who con­trols the light is in charge. And be­ing in charge is def­i­nitely a good thing.

A light braced un­der your shoot­ing arm can steady your shot.

A weapon­mounted light frees both hands to work the pis­tol.

A small LED flash­light can help you turn the ta­bles on an at­tacker.

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