Little Lights Range Trip

I always suggest that if you get the opportunity to practice or train in low light, that you do. It allows you the opportunity to confirm your dryfire flashlight work, confirm your techniques, and see what works and doesn’t when you’re actually shooting. This last weekend, I had the opportunity to get some range time at a private range in NW Georgia. I wanted to try out some of the small flashlights I have been collecting and make sure I’m not taking crazy pills when I say that 60 lumens is still enough. It was impromptu, so I didn’t have an elaborate testing plan. I would have set up something more thorough if I thought of it ahead of time.

Weather: light cloud cover which minimized moon light. The range was very dark.

With each light, I wanted to check the distance at which I could identify two inch numbers on a target, and the distance that I could see the targets themselves. I also got some shooting in at various distances and positions using a Shooting Solutions AR500 silhouette and a range barricade I built recently. It’s not scientific, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s about what I can see with my eyes and my lights. I’m happy if I can identify details (things in hands) at 7 yards or so.

The Flash Lights (left to right)

This is the dinosaur of the bunch. It’s actually a good size. The light is that sort of dingy yellow when compared to the brilliance of the white LEDs. It was a good baseline for the other lights. I could readily read the numbers on a target out to about 15 feet, and see the target itself to about 40 feet.

The AAA streamlight was very bright when it came out several years ago. 30 lumens is lacking a bit, though. The ranges were (surprise) approximately halved when using 30 lumens. 15 feet for reading numbers, and 30 for seeing the target well enough to shoot. Considering the recent improvements in lights, I would pass on this one. We didn’t even get pictures of the beam on this one.

Docooler AAA light. I got this one for $8 last week just because 120 lumens seemed pretty awesome for $8. The beam is all ‘spill’. The light is evenly distributed with no real ‘hotspot’ in the center. The tail cap isn’t momentary. It clicks on and stays on. This isn’t preferred for a tactical light, but I didn’t have much trouble actuating it on the range. My wife’s worn out hair bungee makes a good finger loop so you can drop the light to manipulate your pistol. I could read numbers out to 20 feet or so, and see the target at 50 feet.

Streamlight AA Protac. This light is several years old and pretty beat up. The lense is scratched on mine. It’s actually a little long for my liking. Momentary with a slight push, and then will click on. A poor strobe feature isn’t that useful (compared to a Klarus strobe). This light has a more discernable hotspot so it was good for a few extra feet, 25 and 60. I think one could do better, and cheaper, currently.

Pelican 1920 2xAAA. This one continues to be my favorite. The diameter is close to a sharpie, and the length is great clipped into jeans or dropped into a pocket. It stays oriented pretty well in a pocket and one can get a good grip and cheek/neck index quickly. The beam (on high) was actually the winner despite its lower specified output. Both my friend and I agreed that this was the winner of the bunch. It fills the hand well, and could be used as a fist-load for striking, or you could hammerfist with it if you had to. I wish it were a single output, but it’s not that bad. It was similar to the Streamlight AA for me, but seemed just a touch brighter.

Some lights I want to try (apparently I’m scared of the dark):

Nitecore MT06 – 165 lumens, 2xAAA

5.11 2xAAA – 95 lumens, 2xAAA single output

Klarus XT1C – 245 lumens, 1xCR123
Get out and practice with your lights. For the urban or suburban gun person, these lights would serve your purposes. Easily carried in a pocket or purse, you can light up the dark corners of your life. If you live in the country and are surrounded by wide open spaces, you’ll need more light. All of these lights are perfect for lighting up a dark parking deck, looking around the house, walking the dog, and for shooting at defensive distances. No weapon meant for defensive purposes should be without a light nearby.

Remember When 60 Lumens Was Enough?

This won’t be a long winded post, like they usually are. Someone recently asked what flashlight I carry, because he was getting tired of having a 6 inch roll of quarters sized Surefire G2X Tactical in his pocket every day. I gave him a quick answer, but it got me thinking about what we gun-totin’ parents and average folks need in a flashlight.

My training in flashlight use consists of short modules in several pistol classes and one where flashlight technique was a huge portion. Shivworks A.M.I.S. (a must take), Armed Dynamics Pistol 1, Paul Gomez and Claude Werner impromptu tutorials and a few local classes. Not a lot, but probably enough for my needs. That and a lot of home practice. So turn back now if that’s not enough for me to have an opinion.

LED flashlights have spoiled us. Remember when 60 lumens in a xenon G2 was plenty for a defensive light?  It needed 2 CR123’s and is the same size as the G2X noted above. It would allow us to identify threats, light our sights, and fill the room with enough light for what we needed…60 lumens.

We live in a golden age of LED technology as they get smaller and brighter and cheaper. The tactical/LEO/MIL guys, rightly so, are screaming they want “All The Lumenz!!!”. When I’m out with my family, I’m not that guy. I just need enough lumens.

My needs in a handheld:

  • Ability for momentary on with a tail button
  • Bright enough to identify people/critters/trip hazards/dropped keys at 15 yards or so. Let’s say 50-100 lumens
  • Bright enough to identify what’s in someone’s hands at 5 yards or so
  • Size envelope that doesn’t require me to wear the baggy 5.11 style pants to fit the light in my pocket. My wife likes me in jeans. This matters.
  • Readily available batteries, since it’s also getting used in a utility role.
  • Price point less than $50, because I lose pocket lights like it’s my job.

That’s pretty much it.

Here’s some lights that I have bought and carried in the last few years:

All I’m saying is, let’s remember what we need and keep the context clear. I need to be willing to carry my light first and foremost. Are there gripes with the above lights? Yes of course. I wish they’d be single mode, momentary push/twist on. But, I don’t want to have to wear suspenders to keep my pants up with my every day carry stuff, so I make due. 60 lumens used to be enough. For my current needs, it still works just fine. Your mileage may vary.

Mental Workout: App Assisted Awareness Exercises

One of the most challenging things I’ve faced in the last year is a slow degradation in physical capacity due to chemotherapy and resulting side effects. It has taken me away from the gym, the grappling mats, and recently, it has slowed my ability to hit the range and compete. For the record, I’m on the mend and the doctors expect the symptoms to resolve over the next year or so. Since I couldn’t make it to the Rangemaster Conference this year, I decided to be useful and write this post. I digress…

I, not being content to roll over and quit, have been looking for ways to be a better ‘me’ today than I was yesterday. I have narrowed down the best bang for the buck to be mental training. When I go to the range, I do decisional and thinking shooting exercises like I mentioned in this article and this one. The requirements for success in these drills (and extrapolating to actual defensive situations) boils down to rapid processing of new information as it becomes available, rapid visual processing and decision making, and the ability to memorize lists of information or details that might help later when recalling the situation to teammates or authorities. It’s not news that research shows that the brain will atrophy with age, and that it can be ‘strengthened’ with use.

On a lark, I downloaded Einstein Brain Trainer HD and started messing around with it. For me, it has been well worth $3. There’s a free version that will give you an idea of what it’s about.

What I like about it:

  • Some of the games are directly applicable to awareness and memorizing details

This game will let you look at 2, 3 or 4 people with names, then it will ask which person had which face, article of clothing, or  item in their hand. For whatever reason, this is hard game for me, especially when it’s more than two people. I see direct benefit to self defense because sometimes the best course of action is to be a good witness. If you can recall clothing details, facial features, or license plates, it is helpful to police for catching the bad guys. There are also games about remembering directions, sequence of events, and numbers. I’m sure you can think of plenty of ways this could be useful.Screenshot_2015-02-14-12-13-17

  • There are logic games that force you to work on  patterns and processing several layers of instructions within a given time limit.

This game is almost exactly like working a decision shooting drill. It adds movement of the shapes as well as colors and shapes. It ties my mind in a knot pretty quickly.  There’s another 5 logic games in addition to this.Screenshot_2015-02-14-12-09-30

  • It works visual speed and processing, as well as perspective and spacial relations.

This game asks you to choose from which location the top image is being viewed from. This is useful in visualizing cover, room layout, depth, hiding spots, as well as shooting problems. I find that I’m quite good at the visual games. I think I’m wired to do well at these, it might be part of why I chose engineering as a career.


  • It rates you and gets progressively harder. You can see what areas you excel at, and then work on the weak areas. Well-rounded is the goal.


  • It gives you a reminder to do a daily workout. It takes no more than 5 minutes to run through the games. As Cecil pointed out in his article one small thing a day, and the premise behind Claude’s 1,000 days of dryfire, daily disciplined practice is the true way to mastery. Why should mental training be different? Do your daily workout on the John in the morning. Done and done. You’re re-wiring your brain. You’re becoming a better protector for your family. You’re going to be able to make change at the grocery store faster. There’s no downside.

Get your mental plasticity on! Make yourself a little better today than you were yesterday, even if your body is broken. Do Work.

Protect the Brood,


PS: Here’s some other mental trainers I found on Amazon that might also be useful. I have no experience with them. You might also find most of them on Google Play or ITunes.
Brain Trainer Special Pro

Mind Games Pro

Fit Brains Trainer

Securing Your Guns: New Use for NanoVault

One of my great fears is that one of my firearms will get stolen and subsequently used in a crime. I would feel terrible if I found out that a rifle or pistol that I failed to secure from unauthorized access was used to kill an innocent person. As a result, I take every precaution to keep my guns locked and secured.

In general, I lock all of my guns away in a safe when not being carried. The large home safe is great for the non-essential guns that I don’t intend to access quickly. I also like to have more readily accessible guns in more convenient areas of my home besides the one I carry as my underwear gun. The best and most affordable option is the GunVault NanoVault. I own several of these. I use one in my house to lock up my larger carry gun when I get home. I use one to secure my pistol and other valuables in my vehicle when I am forced to go into a truly non-permissive environment like a courthouse. Hell, I even used one when I was in India to secure my spare cash when we had to leave our bags in a sketchy hotel in Gurgaon.

Travel Safe

I recently realized they ALSO can be used to secure long guns. I have been shooting a rifle competition at a local gun range. The timing of which requires me to leave the rifle in my car at work and go straight to the range after work. A few times I rolled the dice and hoped that concealing the rifle in the cargo hold of my vehicle would prevent a theft. I wasn’t satisfied with this so I worked a solution. I secured the wire loop to a structural point of the car, passed the wire through the mag-well of my AR, and attached the NanoVault. They would have to pass the safe through the magwell, which probably wouldn’t work too well. This requires me to break the AR down, which technically only secures the lower receiver. My hope is that it buys enough time and is frustrating enough to keep a scumbag from walking away with my long gun. It also works well on shotguns. I haven’t tried it with an AK, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. The only limitation is the diameter of the wire crimp on the cable being able to pass through the action.


Is it super fast to get the lock off and get the rifle into play? No, but that’s not the point. I have no delusions of shutting down an active shooter with my rifle. Gunfights are “come as you are” events. This setup just gives me peace of mind while I’m workin’ for the man.

Any other ideas for securing long guns in vehicles? I’d love to hear them.

Protect the Brood,

Defensive Daddy

PS. I hope everyone is having a restful holiday and enjoying the time with your families. Talk to you after the New Year!