It’s imperative that if a firearm is expected to be used at night, that the user have the ability to see at night. This is why flashlights are such important firearms accessories, but weapon-mounted lights, while highly convenient, present a problem: What if you want to illuminate something, but not also point a firearm at it?
This all but by definition implies the off-weapon light, but those come with baggage of their own. An off-weapon light is another item to keep track of, which can be lost, misplaced, or forgotten in a time of need. It monopolizes the use of one hand, meaning the user has to pick two of the three essentials (weapon, light, and phone/radio), and that less control is afforded to the shooting hand.
There’s no easy way around these difficulties – for my situation, the choice I have made is to use a weapon-mounted flashlight as a backup sighting device to my home’s lighting. However, for those using off-weapon lights, Thyrm offers one possible solution to the issue of control:
The Switchback is a pretty cool concept: it’s a tactical flashlight accessory that lets you transition from holding the flashlight in your off hand in search mode, to holding your weapon in an almost-two-handed grip with the light illuminating your target.
I say “almost two handed” because your offhand thumb and forefinger are busy with the light, leaving only three fingers to assist with stability. Even without a full two-handed grip, it’s designed to be far more stable than any other method of firing with a flashlight (other than using a WML, of course).
It’s an interesting concept, and Chris Hernandez of BreachBangClear thought so, too. However, he did encounter some difficulties in using the Switchback effectively:
Simple, right? I thought so too. Then I tried it. I found out it is a great concept, but it’s not simple. There’s a formula to make it work right.
The first time I handled the Switchback, it seemed easy to use. Offhand trigger finger goes through the loop, offhand thumb presses against the projection at top of loop which presses power button against offhand middle finger and activates light. I practiced the grip many times at home, and it always worked fine.
So in June, I tried it out at a Graham Combat class. I was firing a Beretta Nano and had two sizes of Surefire lights, a Fury and a smaller Backup, with Switchback attachments. The power button on the Backup is momentary-only, meaning it can’t be left on, but the Fury can be operated in momentary or standard mode. I used both in momentary.
We were shooting at night, from behind vehicles. The positions were a little awkward, and the targets were about fifty meters away. That sounds far for a Beretta Nano, but it’s not. This sounds crazy, but earlier in the day Graham had walked us back from ten meters all the way to 130, and had us shoot steel silhouettes every ten meters. I made a first round hit with the Nano at 130 meters (and I sure as hell wasn’t going to tempt fate by firing a second shot). So I knew I could hit a target at 50 meters, no problem.
I lined up on the target with the Backup. The grip felt awkward as hell and I had trouble keeping the light oriented on the target, but I got the light in the right area, and squeezed the trigger.
I missed. And the light turned off. And the friggin’ thing hurt.
Well, that sounds… Sub-optimal. Chris continues, though:
As it turned out, the answer didn’t come from the heavens. It came from the almighty Glock.
I had quit carrying the Nano because it was having constant malfunctions, and went back to my trusty G27. But the G27 is like carrying a brick. So I was in the market for a smaller, reliable concealed carry pistol. I bought a Glock 42.
Not long after I got my G42, I took it to the range with the two Switchbacks. The Surefire Fury still didn’t quite work. But the smaller Backup light performed beautifully.
The Glock 42, with its (shockingly) small frame, comes to Chris’s, and the Switchback’s rescue:
I fired about eighty rounds with the Backup. I was able to maintain a good grip, fire accurately (at close range), and keep the light on constantly as I engaged. I was carrying spare mags in my weak-side front pants pocket, and I was able to pull mags from the pocket, reload and rack the slide without taking the light off my finger.
I had unlocked the formula: hand size + correct light + the right gun = successful Switchback use.
In hindsight, this should have been obvious. I’m a short, thinly built guy with tiny hands (and feet, but I swear every other appendage is HUGE), and I should have started with a G42 and Backup light. On the other hand, guys who are ten feet tall, bulletproof and have fingers so thick they’re banned from practicing proctology will have better luck with the Fury and a larger pistol. I’m going to stick with the G42 and Backup for EDC.
I have other reasons to choose the Backup over the Fury. Besides being smaller and easy to carry, the Backup also has a retention clip independent of the Switchback; that means I can set the Switchback ring and retention clip to the most comfortable positions for however I decide to carry my light. The Fury, on the other hand, is considerably larger and has a fixed retention clip. I’d be happy to carry it on my police duty belt or in a pouch on my military plate carrier, but for EDC it’s impractical.
For those whose needs fit the Switchback, I think it is a pretty interesting product, provided one can get it to work. It isn’t, however, something I would put on a flashlight without at least one trip to the range to try it out.