Weapon Lights: Serious Problem or Bad Reporting?

Beretta PX4 LEO weaponlight

In a recent Denver Post article, the reporters addressed the potential problems of white lights mounted on handguns based on their research of accidental shootings by police officers.  Do weapon mounted lights increase the likelihood of an accidental shooting, or is this a case of incomplete journalism?

The Evidence

The article is written in a way to persuade the reader, rather than a clear presentation of facts.  Therefore, one has to ignore the personalized aspects of the writing to find the relevant details.  While the human aspects of the events are moving, they do not help one make a reasonable conclusion based on the facts.

Here are the facts distilled from the article:

  • The Denver Post identified five incidents in which people were unintentionally shot by police officers in the United States during a nine year period.  According to the Denver Post, these incidents were related to the use of weapon mounted flashlights.
  • In two of the incidents the victims were other officers.  Three of the incidents involved victims who were suspects or bystanders.
  • An unknown number of incidents not involving injury have occurred.  Unintended discharges are not tracked in a national database, and the Denver Post located a small number of incidents they claimed were flashlight related but did not result in injury.
  • Training with the lights varies from department to department from no specialized training to intensive low light classes.

The relationship between the flashlight presence and/or use and the unintentional shooting is tenuous in several of the cases identified by the Denver Post.

  1. Feb 2005: Officers are searching a dark house for a suspected felon.  While walking down basement stairs, an officer attempts to activate a weapon mounted light and “hit the trigger instead,” shooting his partner in the leg.  The injured officer then sues the flashlight maker.
  2. May 2009:  A detective unintentionally shoots a passenger in a car after a short pursuit of a fugitive believed to be in possession of a firearm.  A court document states the detective attempted to activate a weapon mounted light and the gun discharged.  The court guessed the gun discharge might have occurred “…as a result of his finger slipping and hitting the trigger.”
  3. October 2010:  An officer “tried to shine his flashlight on a suspected drug dealer,” but had an unintentional discharge which struck and killed the suspect.  The officer was using a weapon mounted light with a remote pressure pad mounted on the front strap of the pistol.
  4. December 2010:  An officer attempting to gain access to an attic space climbed on top of a table, fell and unintentionally shot another officer’s foot.  The Denver Post only notes that the officer had a light mounted on the light, not that the officer was doing anything with it.
  5. January 2011:  An officer unintentionally shot an uninvolved party during an arrest.  The Denver Post stated the officer “…tried to adjust the flashlight on his Glock pistol…” when “he accidentally hit the trigger…”  This incident the Denver Post noted was with a pressure switch mounted “below the trigger.”

Frankly, the article failed to convince me that there is any relationship – much less a causal one – between weapon mounted flashlights using a pressure pad mounted on the front strap of the gun and unintentional discharges.  That doesn’t mean that there is not one, but the writers did not do an adequate job of showing the relationship.  In fact, in three of the incidents, the writers did not even state if pressure pads were involved.

The Denver Post failed to address any of the non-flashlight issues in the five incidents.  For example, in four of the incidents, the Denver Post presents no information on the general firearms training that any of these officers had.

In incident #4, the officer most likely clenched his fists in a sympathetic nervous system response when falling, causing the trigger finger to curl in and press the trigger.  In incident #5, fiddling with a loaded gun – regardless of why you are doing it – greatly increases the odds of unintentional discharges.

Do Weapon Mounted Lights Increase the Odds of an Unintentional Discharge?

Unfortunately, the Denver Post article asks, in a roundabout way, a good question, but fails to deliver very many useful facts.

Here’s my takeaway:

  • Ignore the basic gun safety rules and people can get unintentionally hurt.
  • Anyone who carries a gun should be trained with it and all of the accessories that might be attached to it.  This goes for armed citizens and police officers alike.
  • Police departments do not provide adequate training for their officers, and until the public gets involved, that is not likely to change.
  • A study of weapon lights and how they affect (if at all) unintentional shootings may be a good idea.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks to Al for the tip.




Richard Johnson

An advocate of gun proliferation zones, Richard is a long time shooter, former cop and internet entrepreneur. Among the many places he calls home is http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/.


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  • 101nomad

    Another take might be, LEOs should not have firearms. Just flashlights. Or, just firearms, flashlights kill. Never know what is going thru the twisted minds of the ‘news’ media.

  • MatKep

    Bullets travel in very precise trajectories whereas light can be diffused to cover large areas and reflected off of surfaces to light adjacent areas. Keeping the ‘second rule of gun safety’ in mind and knowing these basic principles of ballistics and light, I am confused as to why the officers were pointing their bullet shooting lights at people whom they didn’t want to shoot or destroy?

    • Dave

      Because when a weapon mounted light is a mounted correctly and B: practiced with, as in search techniques, signaling, etc people dont get shot. Only thig the artcicle pointed out was bad equipment placement, in the pressure pads, etc.. Much better systems and poor training with the weapon mounted light.

  • buzzman1

    These cops sound like Barney Fife wanna be’s and should only be issued 1 bullet. Which of course they’d used to shoot other officers

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Walk a mile in their shoes before you judge

      • buzzman1

        Related to lots of cops and have had a lot of friends that are cops. None have high opinions of most of their coworkers. My Great Grandfather was a State Trooper killed in the line of duty and my father was also a trooper. I didn’t go into law enforcement because I didn’t want to have to deal with the dregs of society every day.
        Face it, although standards have changed through the years for the better, most municipalities don’t have the money or inclination to hire quality people. And that little thing called the blue wall has always bothered me. You know the one where cops hide the criminality of bad cops.
        And cops carry weapons but few can use them proficiently. Add that to heavy triggers needed to try and stop the negligent discharges and you end up with lots of innocents taking bullets in large urban area’s. I remember in the old days police not shooting any better than now but at least there firing was slower and the spay pattern was closer to the perps.

        • claymore

          I call BS on your whole rant. Nobody that had a relative killed in the line of duty and a father in law enforcement would be that callus in spouting opinions like yours with no facts to back your specious opinion.

          • sauerquint

            I call BS on your calling BS.
            No true Scotsman…..
            See how that works?

          • claymore

            The OTHER claymore not a scotsman. So you believe his rant?

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          They actually shot better a couple of decades ago. They were usually brought up shooting. These days some recruits have never shot a gun prior to recruit school.
          I’ve seen the transition and decrease in the amount of training and it;s not good.

          • 2hotel9

            I got to throw this in, I have several friends who have been in the Basic Training system of Army and USMC since the 1980s and they have been making the same point about new Boots. Since the late 90s numbers of recruits that have zero weapons handling experience(other than video games, shudder) has really jumped.

            And before anyone jumps it, yes, they became GS employees after leaving service and basically kept working in the same field. Sorta. Slight difference between DS/DI and civilian employee.

  • iksnilol

    How about not pressing the trigger when you want to turn the flashlight on? Worked for me, then again I am not an operator or LEO.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      This has nothing to do with a conscious choice of oresing the trigger or not. This is in hyper-stress scenarios, cops putting their finger of the trigger at all. Using a weapon light and sympathetically squeezing all their fingers.

      It’s a training issue of trigger discipline and nothing more, not a conscious decision, which I thought was clear.

      • Vhyrus

        Do you even lift, bro?

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Yea. But I don’t see how that relates to spreading around nonsense with firearms discussion. Like someone not practicing malf drills because they think “their guns don’t jam”. Or that you can use a switch mounted weaponlight like a flashlight and that’s ok as long as you know the “difference between switch and trigger”.

          You have anything to add on the topic?

    • john

      you have no idea what your talking about….. Jumpifnotzero does.

      • iksnilol

        Again, I am not an operator. I prefer being in the darkness. Though I keep a light on me for identification.

        On topic: whether it was conscious or not, they did pull the trigger when they shouldn’t have. AKA learn to use the bang switch AND the light switch.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          I sort of still think you are missing the real issue. This isn’t a conscious or unconscious issue. It doesn’t matter.

          Your trigger is outside of the trigger guard. Period. End Of Story. It doesn’t matter if you are running a light or not. It has zero bearing whether you want to turn a light on under stress or not.

          You can’t unconsciously shoot someone when using a weapon light if you are doing what you are supposed to with trigger discipline. This isn’t something you need to learn as it’s something that literally can not happen when you have mastered basic handgun safety.

          You could remove “light” from every instance of this story and still have a valid complaint against police and lack of training.

          There is nothing OPERATORY about this.

          • iksnilol

            I thought what you said (keep finger of trigger) was implied by my first post. Guess not.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            I always operated my light with my left (support) hand.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            And if you want to use it one handed? I can JUST BARELY run an x300 with my strong hand, but all shots are taken in the dark and it’s a serious finger work out to constantly switch back and forth from light to trigger on the range.

            The grip switch has it’s uses. For police who may be going for radio/phone, cuffs, less lethal, a handheld light, blocking a punch or object, opening a door etc. Single handed operation seems required. Hell, most of those things are on my list as a civilian.

          • Sulaco

            For those not used to it stress under fire or otherwise throws all this “training” out the window especially for armchair operators.

          • 2hotel9

            Got a problem with the whole “formal” training meme. I know too many “instructors” who are teaching crap. Your point basic weapons handling is as far as you need to go. Learn it, love it, live it. Practice requires no “formal” setting, and far too many people go in for the latest greatest training courses which are quite often crap designed to part marks from their money not teach fire arms handling and safety.

            And yes. My “formal” training came courtesy of US Army, my real training came from men who had been and done, and I have kept up my training AND helped many other people on their training. Since I have never, even under stress, accidentally fired a weapon I believe I am alright.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Formal means Proper. Proper means you’re not out practicing hondo rolls with loaded guns. Part of seeking Formal Training is that you are going to a legit instructor.

            Practicing the things you know, does nothing for the things you don’t. I seek training from people who have been there and learned different ways of doing things, I leverage their experience. I can run a shotgun far better than most police, I can confidently take an SBR carbine out further than most people will ever take their hunting rifles, I shoot handgun out to 100y regularly and know when it’s going to hit before the steel rings back. Some of the techniques and proper fundamentals I could never have learned on my own with years of just practicing.

            You should seek formal training because “practicing” at the range will almost certainly mean you never do the things you don’t want to do. It could be shooting weak hand only, or strong hand only malf clearing, or running 200y than trying to precision shoot, 20 burpies before shooting a handgun at distance, etc. You don’t do the things you don’t like. Those are the things that need work.

            Army training is good. But it’s not enough. Esp if you weren’t infantry, and super-esp if you’re getting in now. No single training is great. I’ve taken instruction from multiple marine scout snipers, and have learned different things from each of them some of the things were explicitly opposite of how they were taught initially. A single army shooting package is not sufficient imo. More than 1/2 of the things you’ll learn don’t exactly translate to civilian life anyhow. In all the training I’ve taken, I’ve YET to meet an Army, Marine, Air Force member who has out-shot me, I did meet one Navy guy once but only one.

            If you’ve never accidentally fired a weapon… You haven’t shot enough I fear. It happens to everyone eventually. That’s not a sign of perfection it’s a only a sign of what is sure to happen eventually.

          • 2hotel9

            I have learned lots of things the hard way. Never trust your security element with a Lt. Never believe that voice on the radio telling you the extraction bird will be there any minute now when you can clearly hear there is NO chopper inbound. Always stand on 19. And just because the RTO says the batteries are fresh does not mean smacking the crap out of the radio is NOT the proper way to get it to work. Some times you just got to smack it.

            I malf train with all my carry weapons. Do mag drills using either hand and have someone else load mags, between 2-5 rds per mag and randomly mix in empty casings to simulate malfs.

            One of my stress fire drills is running wind sprints and then engaging popup targets randomly switched around by a sadistic Jarhead who loves to drop and raise them so fast they barely make it upright. He also loves to call weapon changes randomly. He’s such a pal.

            My problem with the current school of thought on training is there are so many complete idiots with some paper hanging in a frame selling “formal” training to people. And what they are teaching is crap, crap that is getting people injured and killed.

            In the end it is your weapon, on your person, and only you are responsible for your level of training. There is far too much information available for people to not be getting it right.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            so many complete idiots with some paper hanging in a frame selling
            “formal” training to people. And what they are teaching is crap, crap
            that is getting people injured and killed.

            No doubt. That’s why my point is that formal training to me at least, means GOOD LEGIT TRAINING FOR TACTICS THAT ACTUALLY APPLY TO ME.

            There are definitely too many people coming back from OIF/OEF/whatever and hanging a sign that says “TRANEING”. So part of seeking formal training is weeding those guys out.

            Really, as it were, I don’t care if it’s a civilian who can teach vs a 20 year SF recon dude who when dressed up looks like Mexican general but doesn’t know how to teach. If the civilian is a better teacher I’m going to go with him in a heartbeat. If I need a bodyguard, I’ll go with the other guy. So yea, you need to get the right training.

            There is far too much information available for people to not be getting it right.
            True… and go look back at the comments on some of these articles :

          • 2hotel9

            “doesn’t know how to teach.” Dingdingding. There it is. I have always been a better demonstration instructor than a verbal instructor. I got nice patter, know how to pace each element, work on keeping each student’s attention, in the end I am just better at showing you how to do it than telling.

            I always worked better with troops I did not share a language with. Throws up one road block and yet moves others. Small kids love me, pre-verbal/toddlers and autistic/Downs especially.

            Always been more a “Do as I do” rather than a “Do as I say” kinda person.

          • 2hotel9

            Oh, and no “accidental discharges” because I have spent 100s of hours working on trigger discipline. In fact every time I hold a weapon is a trigger discipline drill. Muscle memory. Its not just for pilates.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            You can be sure as you are breathing. It will happen. So long as you aren’t flagging something bad, it’ll be fine and just hurt your ego. But it will happen eventually.

          • 2hotel9

            Sorry, brah, no. I been using arms since 1971 and when the day comes I am popping off rds accidentally is the day I lay them down.

          • Rob Gonzalez

            There is a lot of data about sympathetic trigger pull. Often times it happens because your non-firing hand is doing something like maybe fighting off an attacker. Our brain somehow tells the other hand to do what the one hand is doing. It’s automatic and rigorous training and practice is the only way to teach your body to do something different. Like squeezing a ball in your non-dominant hand and work on keeping your dominant hand still…but it has to be done without thinking. So I think just walking around with a ball, squeezing it with the non-dominant hand and lightly paying attention to what your dominant hand is doing. It’s called muscle memory and it is probably the most important thing to develop if you are a hand gunner. It applies to everything about shooting a handgun. Basically just remember to keep your finger off the trigger until you want to fire….but it’s not easy under stress to think about such things and that’s where muscle memory comes into play.

          • Geodkyt

            Yup — sympathetic nervous respons happens cross-hand as well. Holding a flashlight in your off hand won’t avoid NDs if your finger is still on the trigger. When you activate the light in your weak hand, the fingers of your gun hand will STILL “want” to move, especially under stress. Period.

            Same things for straight out startle reflexes, with or without a light.

          • Steve

            “You can’t unconsciously shoot someone when using a weapon light if you are doing what you are supposed to with trigger discipline.”

            I’d say that’s impossible to achieve for 100.000% of people in 100.000% of situations. Human beings are fallible and always will be, no amount of training can make someone 100.000% competent, mistakes will happen. There’s proof that general motor skills deteriorate with age (think pressing the gas when you think your foot is on the brake), meaning that even if you think you’re doing the right thing you may not be.

          • 2hotel9

            So? Are you telling us it is time for you to just end it all? Okey dokey. Its a free country, knock yourself out. Or however you plan on do it.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Steve, that changes nothing. If you can’t be 100% with a light, you’re also not 100% without it.

            I know all about sympathetic reflex. My argument is that the light didn’t cause these trigger pulls. Poorly training police (I have a long history training with police) is the problem here.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      The light I use has a switch that pushes in from the side so it’s an entirely different motion than pulling the trigger. The thing is simple which I like. One tap and the green laser and white light comes on. Another push and it’s off.

  • Michael Hardy

    Two things: 1- a pressure switch that shuts it off in the holster, and 2- a light sensor that turns it on in dark conditions. I am not one to want to rely too much on technology, but if there is confusion about which switch shoots a beam of light versus the one that just SHOOTS, apparently they need one less switch to worry about.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Dear god no!

      Take a reputable low light training class PLEASE! Before posting more of whatever that was on the Internet!

      You DO NOT want a weaponlight to automatically come on from draw! You DO NOT want a weaponlight to stay illuminated.

      The entire issue here has nothing to do with weaponlights, and entirely everything to do with trigger discipline.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        We already have those types of lights using the companies holster.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Yea, I know. Viridian is bad for this. And these products are BAD. Maybe helpful if you have a handicap or you are only going to draw on wildlife.

          Otherwise they’re entirely the “wrong” gear. These only make sense if don’t know what a weaponlight is really for (momentary on and move)

          • 2hotel9

            Their products are bad, and they should feel bad! I have always loved that line.

  • Bruce

    In case #1, the shot officer followed the first rule of suing someone, make sure they have money. If only more attention had been paid to other rules….

  • Nicholas Chen

    More training. Low light training is desperately needed.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I’m amazed at low little low light training people have. This particular issue with these cops is not low light though, it’s trigger discipline. But looking over some comments here, it’s clear to me that people with low light experience in a formal training setting are extremely rare.

      • http://www.bluesheepdog.com/ Richard

        “I’m amazed at low little low light training people have.”

        Unfortunately, I believe this is true. In my experience, few law enforcement agencies teach low light courses, and even fewer regularly train in it. Yet, more than half of all officer involved shootings happen in some kind of reduced lighting environment.

        From what I’ve seen, there are even fewer (percentage-wise) armed citizens who have formally trained in low light techniques. I don’t know if that is because there are few training classes offering low light skill development, or if there is little demand for such classes.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          I’m seeing it with training in general. No offense to anyone ‘in particular’ here, but a LOT of commenters and anonymous posters clearly have no idea what they are talking about. To a frightening effect. Have never taken a formal class, have taken maybe basic military instruction decades ago, or have just spent so much time plinking that surely that’s “enough”. Yet would go to their death insisting they are “excellent shooters”.

          If 1% of firearm’s owners actually seek formal training (a number I feel is probably close). I’d say only MAYBE 2-4% of them have any sort of low light training.

          Yet I couldn’t possibly keep track of how many weapon mounted lights I see on people’s guns.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            I actually go to the range at night and practice. In fact I take some of our local officers out there as well. I do wish it was mandatory.

        • A.D. Hopkins

          There used to be quite a bit of it done at local gun club until it was decided official club staff had to be in charge or range at all times. Probably a good policy that I believe has eliminated some problems, but one consequence was that there wasn’t enough staff to keep the range open at night as well as day. So little is done now.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            My range is very much “big boy rules”, but low light is the one thing they don’t really allow. I’m pretty sure it’s actually for the people that live around the range and noise concerns.

            The only contention to your post I would make is that Range Time is not Training. It’s more practicing. I’m talking about Training as in formal instruction into techniques and their application. That’s something you may never learn on your own even with infinite range time.

          • A.D. Hopkins

            You’re right to make the distinction. They did both here formerly, but not so much anymore, and I wish they did both.

          • Geodkyt

            Yup — “Blue gun” or “Cleared & flagged” light manipulation can be done off the range. Good training, too — most low light incidents WON’T end in shots fired anyway.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            Our range is the PD range so it’s not open to the public unless an officer takes someone out there and they’ve signed a waiver.
            That does make it good in many ways since we can train how we want when we want.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        The amount of low light training is very low indeed and that should be changed no doubt about it.
        Trigger discipline should be reinforced from day one.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Agreed Nick. In earlier years we actually had more training. I know as my career rolled on we got less training and range time.

  • gunslinger

    in other news was found to cause in less than of incidents, and therefore must be banned!

    • Steve

      There is no assertion to ban anything in that article

  • Pete Sheppard

    Any switch close to the trigger raises the possibility of NDs, so additional training on trigger discipline is indicates. A useful counter-point that apparently was NOT made was how many people were NOT shot because a mounted light made positive ID possible in a field setting?

  • guest

    If you can not distinguish a flashlight switch (which never ever is exactly the same as the gun’s trigger) then GTFO from everything called LE… and for that matter, never own a gun again. And don’t breed too, that would also be nice.

    I really hope the flashlight manufacturers win and absolutely destroy those “cops” in court.

    • ColaBox

      First thing that comes to mind is NYPD.

      • Kivaari

        NYPD is a scary police department. Mostly what I read about NYPD is they shoot fellow officers and innocent bystanders more often than shooting bad guys.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      You realize it has nothing to do with “confusing” the trigger and switch right!?

      Sympathetic reflex. But the index finger should be nowhere even near the trigger. Yes, training issue. Yes, most cops have terrible firearms skills. Yes, a weaponlight is not a flashlight. But none of this is because anyone was confused about the feel of anything.

  • dan citizen

    If you need a light and it’s stuck on your gun, you’re gonna be waving your gun around at stuff you want to merely see, not shoot, violating rule #1

    “only point your gun at what you are want to shoot”

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Yea…. BUT…. There is a topic of people who at a moment aren’t bad enough to shoot, but not good enough to trust either. Surefire has one if the best low light training groups in the world, and even they teach that anyone detaining a subject leave the light on them. You can point a gun at a suspected threat.

      • 11b

        Agreed. Its not an issue of “the weapon isn’t a flashlight”, but an issue of trigger discipline.

        • dan citizen

          several of the instances cited in the article were the officer using the weaponlight as a flashlight, add in some poor trigger disciple and you have an accidental shooting.

          I have thought about it a lot and I don’t have a better idea. having a separate light can be a solution, but as JumpIf NotZero pointed out there are situations where a weapon light really is the best option.

          It’s also very possible that these were negligent discharges that would have occurred anyway, maybe the flashlight was just an excuse made up later.

          • Dan

            “It’s also very possible that these were negligent discharges that would have occurred anyway, maybe the flashlight was just an excuse made up later.”

            I was actually going to say that as well. Reading it reminded me of when I was 10 and shot my nephew with a bb gun. “I was putting on safe and accidentally hit the trigger”. Except in my case I intentionally shot him.

            It just sounds like they screwed up and instead of saying I had my finger on the trigger the whole time they blame the light as if it is a more legit reason.

    • Geodkyt

      I do only point my gun at things I want to shoot — or are pretty damned sure I am likely to want to shoot real soon now.

      Having a light on the gun allows me to actually SEE what a person covered at gunpoint is doing, and ID them if I am in a situation (most likely for a homeowner) where facial recognition could be key. And do so while minimizing what I need to juggle, and ensures that I am illuminating EXACTLY what I am covering.

      Of course, I ALSO have a flashlight with a wrist lanyard for looking around. If I need that hand back, I can just open my fingers.

      It’s the difference between “search” and “track/fire control” — you don’t use a fire control sensor as a search sensor.

  • hami

    If you use your weapon as a flashlight you’re going to be pointing it at things you might not want dead. It will always be a slippery slope.

    • Rob Gonzalez

      An ultra bright led flashlight can illuminate a whole room even when your gun is pointed slightly downwards. With my lights you don’t have to point straight ahead to see pretty clearly. Especially if it’s really dark. You can also reflect light off of light colored walls and see quite well. I have a large 3500 lumen led flashlight that will light a whole block.

  • Michael R. Zupcak

    This is very interesting. Suppose you have a button on the front strap you activate with your middle finger. In a high-stress situation, how hard would it be for your brain to accidentally tell your trigger finger to squeeze when you’re really trying to squeeze the light button?

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Your index finger SHOULD be way up on the slide. So, it SHOULD be impossible to ND just because you are gripping the light.

      This article is full of one theme: TRAINING ISSUE.These cops have their finger on the triggers, and are using their weaponlights as flashlights (which they are NOT).

    • Geodkyt

      Since a standard startle response (say something like a cat, kid, or witness pops out from hiding) is to CLENCH THE FINGERS, you should have your trigger finger where doing so doesn’t hit the trigger, whether or not you have a light mounted.

      I will bet cash money that every single one of these incidents involving “involunatry sympathetic muscle contraction” involved someone who already had a booger hook on the noisy button.

      Look at films of cops in actual gunfights, captured by newises, dash cams, etc. – there are a Hell of a lot of cops with their fingers on the trigger when they shouldn’t have them.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Very easy. When adrenaline flows the body reacts by tightening muscles including the hands.

  • ClintTorres

    Most journalists are good at writing “stories”. In stories I’ve read that I’ve had knowledge of the subject matter, the journalist mostly get things wrong. It seems like they’re simoutaneously trying to dumb things down for their readership while crafting a narrative as well.

  • John Reynolds

    Considering the result of simply putting flashlights on firearms… just imagine the inevitable outcome of providing police with automatic weapons, night vision, and all the other military hardware being handed over to local law enforcement so obuma can have a ‘military grade’ force operating on US soil.

    • Kivaari

      The feds have been supplying automatic weapons to police for quite some time. I retired 12 years ago. Almost every agency in our region were provided M16A1 and M14 rifles. Some agencies had enough to arm each officer (including some reserves) with take home guns. Ready in case they get called out from home. Not too uncommon in rural departments.

    • Geodkyt

      The feds have been surplying police agencies with surplus military gear (especially automatic weapons) since AT LEAST the 1920s. (Remember, WWI was the “War to end all Wars” — no need for all those guns in inventory, and Prohibition enforcement and the related gang wars made big public splashes.)

  • Aaron E

    I agree that this media “attack” is not compelling. The article had an agenda, and its “facts” cannot lead a reasonable person to attribute these incidents to weapon-mounted lights alone.

    The use of weapon mounted lights on pistols is still fairly new, and there is not a lot of training that specifically addresses their use. Unfortunately, many LEO’s and citizens do not get adequate training with their firearms or their accessories. Part of this is due to a lack of training sources, but some is because of apathy on the part of police agencies and armed citizens alike.

    It’s easy to buy an accessory that’s cool and even has a real purpose, but to master its use and function requires a lot of dedicated study and practice (training).

    A weapon mounted light is NOT a flashlight, it is an illumination tool for a specific purpose – properly identifying threats and non-threats. If a threat is located the weapon light is appropriately used for illumination for accurate shooting. If a non-threat is located an immediate movement of the weapon to a safe direction is paramount and a secondary illumination tool must be used.

  • A.D. Hopkins

    We had a case in Las Vegas where a minor drug seller was attempting to flush some controlled substance down a toilet when an officer charged in the door with a weapon-light equipped long gun. The light didn’t work and the officer shot and killed this unarmed suspect. Best I can understand — witness accounts are contradictory — the lack of light contributed to the officer misunderstanding what the suspect was trying to do, perceiving a threat where there was none. It has been my limited experience, and I have heard from others, that lithium batteries go dead immediately when they go, and in that case, it can tip a dangerous situation over the cliff into disaster.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Lithium batteries don’t just go out. I’ve seen enough dim weapon lights to be certain of that.

      However, what you might be seeing is that some lights/electronics use a switching power supply or a step up transformer. So the battery may only be 3V but the LED operates at 6V. In these systems, you can get an outright shut down under a certain voltage. But, this is the “fault” (side effect) of the light design and not the battery, the same would happen with LiPo NiCD, Alk, etc.

      For a good reliable light, I think a simple ON/OFF/Momentary beats out the whiz bang multi-mode ON/OFF/Momentary/Dim1/Dim2/Dim3/Strobe/SOS/Etc lights because the electronics are nearly guaranteed to be simpler and allow a wider range of battery life.

  • JLR84

    I’m not a fan of the SureFire DG grip switch, since it’s activation method is likely to cause a sympathetic contraction of the trigger-finger if proper trigger-discipline is not observed. However I have no reason to believe other common handgun WML activation systems are likely to cause that kind of problem.

  • Sulaco

    Just before I retired my department banned the use of mounted lights on Glocks (standard issue) after a series of gun jams in CA and a couple in my area where the weight of the light caused enough distortion of the plastic frame of the pistol to (seemingly) affect its function. SWAT was working at trying lights and setting up an approved list for patrol…

    • http://www.bluesheepdog.com/ Richard

      If I had to guess, I would say it was a third generation Glock 22 (.40 S&W). Possibly with a 165 grain hollowpoint? A lot of departments ran into issues with the 3rd Gen Glock 22 when mounting a light on it. There were some other models with issues, but that was the one that I kept seeing come up time and again.

      • Sulaco

        As I recall it was the model 22 (which was standard for our dept) third and forth gen., but we never used anything else except 180 grain.

  • Kivaari

    Good questions. I’ve tried lights on pistols and don’t like them. We had MP5A2s as standard issue for about 14 years. We liked the fore-end mounted Sure Fire lights. In training, I often forgot about them. In the field they were good when taking down suspects. I liked the control of using the left hand and not having to squeeze or push a switch using the firing hand. On pistols, I did not like how many officers were using the pistol as they would an ordinary flashlight. Pistols with lights should not be used as a flashlight. With few exceptions there is enough ambient light that using a gun mounted light would be unneeded while reacting to an emergency, like a driver taking a shot at an officer as the officer approaches the driver. During training, while others were fumbling with lights (on or off the gun), I would drop my big flashlight and shoot the target before the others could get the flashlight going and on target.
    Same with Lasers on pistols. I could have half a magazine load of ammo on the target before the others could chase their red dot.
    I don’t like either system.

  • greensoup

    Anything that has you poking around on the end of your gun in the dark is going to result in errors. You’re going from a well practiced safe gun behavior to a gun unsafe… finding something in the dark with my finger behavior.

  • big daddy

    Training, training and more training.

  • Rodger Young

    first thought, how many people DIDN’T get shot because of WMLs?

    • Steve

      If a plane crashes we investigate why to see if we can stop it from happening again, we don’t proclaim “look at all the planes that didn’t crash today, lets go home”.

  • clinton notestine

    an hour a year at the range plays a big part

  • Guest

    Both the information from the article and the comments from the Mr Johnson fail to convince me that ANY of the cases discussed were honestly reported — I am not saying that the reporter lied, but rather that I strongly doubt the accuracy of the official reports that he was using as source data. Most of these cases sound like the police version of “Gee I dunno what happened, it just went off…”

    • mig1nc

      You mean, like the scub bag tripped and fell into my bullet?

  • Ted Unlis

    Weapon lights should only be utilized by law enforcement in limited and narrow circumstances where pointing a firearm at a threat is justified, and should never ever never
    ever never ever be used for any circumstance that simply requires a flashlight.
    Switches such as the Streamlight TLR 1 and 2 Contoured Remote Pressure Switch (
    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/product/75513 ) have been banned by many law enforcement agencies as they should be. Any switch that is activated by pressing with the middle finger of the weapon hand can easily cause sympathetic rearward movement of an index finger that is carelessly positioned on the trigger, therefore, all responsible agencies have banned that type of remote switch since the risk of negligent discharge is simply not worth the risk. The only safe and responsible method to activate a weapon light is with a finger on the reaction hand while keeping the trigger finger on the weapon hand firmly anchored (indexed) on the pistol outside the trigger guard.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I can’t agree with “should be banned” because “carelessly positioned on the trigger” should not ever happen. Light or no light.

      I’m not sure how anyone would be reasonably expected to be able to run a weaponlight one handed without one of those.

      • Ted Unlis

        Jump you don’t seem to be very familiar with weapon lights, I suggest you try one at the range equipped with and WITHOUT the above referenced contour remote pressure switch. If you do, you will see that any handgun weapon light with a standard switch configuration similar to Streamlight or Insight can easily and safely be activated one handed by simply moving the safely indexed finger (trigger finger) anchored on the side of the weapon to the standard weapon light switch which is located at the front but still outside the trigger guard of the weapon, it’s pretty much idiot proof
        since the trigger finger can’t be in two places at the same time. You don’t seem to understand what is at stake here, in a high stress situation where an officer is pointing a gun at a possible threat,activating a weapon light to illuminate the possible threat, and making a determination if his life is in danger all within a matter of seconds, the flow of adrenaline can easily and unintentionally cause a sympathetic reflex if the trigger finger has moved from the anchor point to inside the trigger guard when pressure is applied to the remote contour switch with the middle finger on the weapon hand. Even agencies that require proper weapon light training have banned the remote contour pressure switch because any chance of a sympathetic reflex unintentional shooting is not and never will an acceptable risk to any responsible law enforcement agency. Weapon lights can be activated just as quickly and efficiently while holding the handgun with one or two hands without the remote contour pressure switch and without risking shooting someone unintentionally.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Ted, I’m entirely aware of how to run a weapon light with one hand. Tail switch or not. So I do agree with you.

          However… A light can not be run one handed properly (light, scan, move) unless you want to break the shot in the dark. Which may or may not be acceptable.

          I’ve done both. It’s a serious workout to run an X300 in momentary, one handed. Light, scan, move, light scan, shoot, move. That shot has to break in the dark. Now, do I plan on having to shoot one handed in the dark – no. But do I practice it, yes, because if you can do it one handed, you can do it better two handed.

          I understand exactly what is at stake. But in no way is it ever acceptable to slack on trigger discipline, with or without a light. If you aren’t slacking on trigger discipline, it’s impossible to fire a shot just because you were squeezing the grip to activate a light.

  • Anthony

    The Denver Post is an anti gun rag. Nothing they publish is worth reading or taking seriously.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I do find it deliciously enjoyable when anti-gun types go on about police, police negligence, police brutality, etcetc. It’s always amusing to me how tough they are on police… UNTIL…

      The topic of armed civilians comes up… THEN… The police are the “only ones” qualified to own weapons of mass murder like the AR-15.

  • mig1nc

    One reason I like the switch on my M&P Crimson trace lasergrip is the switch is on the back of the grip, so you don’t need to have your welcome finger on the switch.

  • 2hotel9

    As Jump and others have already said, training, repetition, basic firearms handling. Not necessarily in that order, as long as you are keeping booger flinger off boomboom button you are good.

    That said, why have a light with switch near trigger? I never really got that. So many options, why go with that one?

  • derfelcadarn

    No matter what a finger pulled the trigger the flashlight did not shoot anyone, flashlights do not come with fingers.

  • maodeedee

    The article has it’s share of inaccuracies and false assumptions but perhaps even though inadvertently, it brings up some important questions.
    A weapon-mounted light (or laser) can serve to tell the recidivist felon AS WELL AS the cop or armed citizen where to aim and what to shoot at and therefore needs an on/off switch so as to be able to keep to a minimum the amount of time the light is exposing the light-wielding combatant’s position
    And this necessitates a well placed positive control of some sort and adequate training so that the operation of this control becomes instinctive.
    But first and foremost, regardless of how someone operates the gadget switch, more important is how anyone is trained to operate the TRIGGER, which is to say that the trigger finger MUST be kept out of the trigger guard until a target is identified and sights are lined up with that target.
    An AD is not possible unless the trigger is actuated and far too many people think that the way to hold a gun is with your finger on the trigger just like everyone on TV in in the movies does.

  • thebronze

    All five of the listed cases are training issues, not equipment issues.

    Piss-poor “reporting” by the Denver Post.