BreachBangClear’s Thyrm Switchback Review

IMG_23542

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.
thyrm002

 

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.

G42 recoiling. Note that the light is still on.

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.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


Advertisement

  • Don Ward

    It’s imperative that if a firearm is expected to be used at the dinner table, that the user have the ability to mount a steak knife on it. This is why bayonets are such important firearms accessories, but weapon-mounted knives, while highly convenient, present a problem: What if you want to cut something on your plate, but not also point a firearm at it?

    • Plumbiphilious

      Wisdom.

      • ghost

        You never had to eat my ex wife’s cooking.

    • It may have been a bit over the top. I was very tired when I wrote it. 🙂

      • You were dreaming when you wrote this, we’ll forgive you that you went too fast…

    • PatrickHenry1789

      LMAO! Beer doesn’t taste nearly as good when it comes out of your nose.

  • Vitsaus

    Might the Firearm Blog create a section with awards or spotlights for a new catagory “Most hilarious gimmick” since such products seem to come out every other day. If its not brass knuckle 1911 grips, its an AR muzzle break that does your taxes, or an AR pistol grip that dispenses hand lotion.

    • Warren G

      You just caused me to google “1911 brass knuckles”, and the I age results indicate that the brass knuckles+1911 disease has crept into all manner of firearms hilarity! Thank you.

    • RealitiCzech

      I want a switchblade mounted to the rail of a 1911, activated by snicking off the safety.
      Or a slidefire stock with a fleshlight attachment.

      • Fruitbat44

        Would someone please pass the brain bleach?
        😉

    • nadnerbus

      Hey, operators need to maintain their silky smooth hands.

    • Bill

      Somebody made a mainspring housing for 1911s that had a big spike sticking down out of it. Im sure reloads became challenging, and I already have to reinforce the insides of my jackets with duct tape where pistol butts wear against them.

    • billyoblivion

      I’d buy an AR muzzle brake (sic) that did my taxes, as long as it got them right, and was cheaper than Turbotax.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    I came expecting the comments on this to fully miss the idea of low light shooting. Was not dissapointed.

    …. As far as syringe grip goes, it’s my least favorite for sure. At least with stacked, FBI/offline, and neck index you can put the light where it’s most effective while also putting the gun where it’s most effective, and no one with low light training should be under the impression those are the same place.

    I don’t like syringe with the proper Surefire light, and I don’t figure I’d like this but I’d try it. As far as the ring goes, I love the hell out of my RCS rings, if this could be used in a similar way that’s cool.

    • Nicks87

      I’ve always used the harries technique if I don’t have a light mounted to my pistol but mounted is the way to go, no need to fumble with a light in your support hand when it might be needed to open doors or move obstacles or whatever.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        I used Harries a lot until I got low light room clearing and force on force, saw for myself just how much the light gets shot!

        I feel like offline looks dumb in the light, but with a momentary control its hard as hell to see someone doing it right inside a house.

        I appreciate that you are one of the few people here who obvious has proper training, btw. And it is obvious.

        • Nicks87

          Thx jump, same goes for you.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            I could tell you were LE long ago 😉

            As far one person low light, the SF/PMCS guys I learned from really advocated strobing the light of different surfaces and angles. Basically snapshot, move, light/snapshot somewhere else, move, etc. I didn’t fully value it until I was an aggressor in force on force… I COULD NOT tell where the guy was even when I was 10ft away, I was sold.

            Basically got me away from weapon lights a bit at the same time. Now if I see the opportunity I try and pull my x300 of my glock and use it as a handheld 🙂

          • Nicks87

            Not a bad idea I will try it out next time we do force on force.

    • Don Ward

      You must be new around here.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Says part of the problem :/

        • Don Ward

          The product is a solution in search of a problem.

  • Thomas Carr

    I haven’t used this one, but I have the Surefire Combat Ring on an old 6Z and it works fine. For all my other flashlights (of varying diameters), I just make my own with O-rings and split ring. Similar to the Raven Concealment Pocket Clip.

  • Nicholas Chen

    I use the Thyrm on my PK FL2LE light and I EDC it. I love it. The SF combat rings requires a second hand to activate the light of using it with a pistol. You have to pull the tail cap into your firing hand knuckle. Compared to the Thyrm which is activated by the support hand only.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I can appreciate the difference per your text and pics, but I still feel like if I’m going to force myself to have to look where my weapon is pointed I’ll prefer a weapon mounted light.

      That said, I rarely want my weapon and light pointed in the exact same place.

      • Nicholas Chen

        That’s why I isually keep a weapon mounted light on my pistol. I have the flexibility of using either one.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Ok, maybe I’m not grasping what you are trying to say, because to me, it looks like then you have two options that effectively point the light where the gun points, and I’m trying to explain I rarely want that.

          • billyoblivion

            I think the point is that if he doesn’t want to point the pistol at something he removes the non-dominate hand and lets the light swivel around, triggering the light wiht his thumb.

          • Thomas Williams

            I think Nicholas is saying that’s why he carries both; a light on the weapon and a small backup. Which is what I would suggest doing if possible.

            Although I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want a light on the thing you’re shooting at night, as you seem to be claiming.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Lights go in eyes where they are most effective. Guns go center mass where they are most effective.

          • Thomas Williams

            In the real world, I sincerely doubt that you’re going to be able to pull that off (independently orienting a light in the eyes with one hand and a firearm center mass with the other), but you’re entitled to your opinion. If it works for you, go for it.

            Based on my training and experience, a weapon-mounted light is the best option all around, especially when you have the option to carry a handheld backup for situations in which you’d like to be able to search without flagging what you’re looking at.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            It’s a slight turn of the wrist in Harries and entirely natural with FBI/offline and neck index, but ok.

  • Fruitbat44

    Speaking as an armchair gunslinger it has always struck me as a problem with low light scenarios. Hypothetically, using a light mounted gun, or the Harris technique, you investigate a mysterious noise from the kitchin late at night, you end up pointing your gun at your hypothetical teenage daughter who was fixing herself a midnight snack and who didn’t want to distrurb the house by turning the lights on.

    OTOH while using a separate light for searching, this hypothetical mysterious noise turns out to be a home invader with a shotgun. His gun is pointing at you, your light is pointing at him, but your gun is pointing somewhere else . . .

    Hmmm . . . I suppose if it’s stupid and it works it aint stupid.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Yes and No,

      There are ways to use a syringe grip handheld and a weaponlight without pointing it at people. I prefer to just use a handheld that I can pivot around. Surefire designs there lights with a “hotspot”, you can bounce light off of walls, objects, ceilings, etc.

      To your second thought, the gun is pointing in the direction of where threats could be and compressed ready dead ahead if you have no idea. If you were doing 1 person room clearing (which is a bad idea in general) you wouldn’t have your light fixed on constant, it would be momentary. When you find something worth shooting, you want all three planes to align, your eyes, your muzzle, and your light. In the scenario where you are room clearing by yourself with a home invader with a shotgun ready to fire on you – you’ve pretty much already made a bunch of mistakes.

      The far larger issue is, that guns are to be pointed at center mass because that’s where they are most effective, and lights are to be pointed at eyes because that’s where they are most effective.

      • Fruitbat44

        Hmmm . . . interesting point about one person room clearing.

        Hmmm . . . I suppose if you are part of a military or police team you’ll have your buddies with you, but if you’re a home owner and you do want to investigate mysterious noises, then there is a good chance you will be doing it alone.

        Of course there is one option available to the homeowner that is not necessarily available to a military or police entry team, turning on the lights.

        For police, and I got this from a Doctor who works in forensics, who was commenting about CSI where they always search a crime scene with flashlights rather than just turn the lights on; the light switch might have fingers prints on it, and some crooks have apparently been known to rig things so that turning the lights on fries their PC’s hard drive. And for the military where they operate mains electricity might not be available, or concerns about some nasty man wiring the light switch to an IED.
        I suppose turning the lights on in your house might deny you the cover of darkness, then again it might scare off an intruder because they now know the homeowner is awake and alert to them.

        Just some random thoughts from an armchair gunslinger.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Yeesh… Um,

          – if you have to check/get family, do so. Otherwise, I’m not sure why anyone would be investigating a potential home invasion themselves. Nothing in your house is worth dying for. People looking to get into a gunfight have already lost. The last force on force class I was at a couple ran the house together, way more effective.

          – It doesn’t matter how badass a Seal Ranger Delta Team 1 member a guy is, no one room clears alone. Not if you can help it.

          – If you do have to room clear partially or entirely, the lights stay off. What is it you know about your house that a home invader doesn’t? EVERYTHING. You know there the dog and kid toys are (ish) you know where steps, surfaces, furniture, plants, etc are, a bad guy doesn’t. The lights should stay off. You practice and learn to ‘game’ your own house. I will occasionally run into things in my own house at night, imagine how stumbly someone else would be.

          – Slight note… NO ONE can “clear” alone. You can search, but nothing can be cleared. As soon as you leave a room, it’s uncleared again. So, when I write room clearing, it’s just that, a single room, no one can clear a house alone.

          – I can already tell you have a picture in your head of a home invader. Size, what he’s wearing, carrying, doing. Throw that out. You don’t know if you’re going to run across a 6’4 300lbs linebacker, or a 75 year old meth addict of 90lbs, or a 13yo pregnant girl with a glock pointed at you. It’s entirely another matter whether people can pull the trigger at an “uncommon” threat, but don’t get yourself caught up in picturing some hollywoood bs.

          – Likewise, do not imagine that you are dealing with anyone in a normal state. Normal people do not break into houses. This is by and far the biggest flaw with that never-dying line of garbage that is “I’ll rack this here pump shotgun to scare someone off”

          Take a low light class from a reputable group, and take a shoot house / searching / clearing class. If you can, do the above with force on force.

          • Fruitbat44

            Well you are right, I do have a mental picture of a typical home invader: big unshaven guy, domino mask, stripy jersey and a big sack with “SWAG” written on it . . . 🙂

            Interesting point about the difference between search and clear.

            Good point about there being nothing in your house worth dying for, with one exception of course. Although it does rather go against the grain to have everything you’ve worked hard for go to some scumbag too lazy to work for it . . . Okay, better call the Police, afterall that’s why we pay the rates, and ultimately my XBox360 isn’t worth dying for. And unlike a scumbag home invader I certainly don’t think it’s worth killing for.

            The one exception? You and your loved ones, though if the intruder is some nut job specifically looking to do you and yours harm, then they’ll be coming to you.

            Anyhow a good light can always come in handy.

      • Don Ward

        Or you can turn the lights on in your house.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Sure, I mean, you know your house in the dark and no one else does… Make it easy to see where a home intruder is going and where you are. Sounds like you really know your stuff!

          • Don Ward

            Yeah. You see there are these wonderful things called light bulbs which have replaced candles and whale oil lanterns. Give em a try. They’re totally tacticool and gives you the advantage of seeing what’s in your house, whether it’s a family member or friend who dropped by or one or multiple intruders. Furthermore, it allows you to move about the house without a “shoot me, I’m a moron holding a flashlight in the dark” sign, should the law of averages catches up with you and you do run into an armed intruder. As a bonus, turning on the lights helps you not be shot other members of your family.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Cool.

            What groups have you trained with? Which low light packages? Have you trained in a shoot house? In low light? What lights do you train with? And when was the last time you trained with a reputable group, and where?

            Because if the answer isn’t “I haven’t” like it clearly is in reality, I want to know what groups to avoid. Almost everything you are spouting off is foolish.

          • Don Ward

            The question is what groups YOU have trained with. Because clearly they saw a mark coming from a mile away.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Cool, so you with no training, you somehow have a valid and qualified opinion on low light shooting, and room tactics. That’s really amazing.

          • Don Ward

            You have no other arguments? Well then. I guess we’re done.

    • Don Ward

      I would ask why you are trying to tacti-clear your house in the dark? There are these handy devices called light switches. It’s your house. What are you trying to do? Save electricity?

      • Fruitbat44

        Good point and one which is touched upon further down this thread.

        • Don Ward

          Roger. Keep on truckin’ 🙂

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Could not be more wrong and it’s funny because instead of actually asking, you’re doing so in a condicending way that only highlights how little you know about indoor tactics.

  • Andrew Hobby

    Wait a minute, so I CANT put this on my wang?

    • Fruitbat44

      There might be an adaptor for your Apple though.

    • Don Ward

      If you clear your house wearing a FleshLight, the odds are you’ll scare off any intruders faster than Joe Biden racking an 870.

  • billyoblivion

    Frankly if something makes me grab my pistol in the middle of the night and I need to illuminate it, it’s going to get the barrel pointed at it.

    Yeah, breaks rule 2, but since I’ll be following rule 1, it’ll probably be ok.

    Besides they already violated Rule 0. Don’t wake Billy up in the middle of the night, makes him cranky. Well, ok, Crankier.

  • I’m always confused with whether a flashlight should be housed above the firearms barrel or below it. I could mixed suggestion when I googled my query. Hoping for something concrete here.