Daylight training and low level light training are two very different evolutions. Low-level light training brings to the table a much different set of problems to overcome than that of bright, ambient light training. The simple fact that targets and circumstances become somewhat diffused and complicated is in and of itself, a complicating factor. What one can readily discern in daylight becomes unclear and sometimes even un-resolvable in very dimly lit circumstances. Whether a suspect is armed or not, the background to a target, the resolution of a target and the illumination of a target become very different when compared to those presented in daylight conditions. You cannot learn this from a book by the way. Years ago, the LAPD dictated that at least two of the twelve qualification courses an Officer conducted on a yearly basis were done on the night combat course.
Fast-forward to 2019 and an Officer may not qualify at night ever again once he goes through the Academy. From my personal experience four of my shootings were at night. Many shootings occur at night. I have been at locations where a shooting occurred at night and the investigation continued on into the morning hours. As the scene became brightly lit, the distances, objects and clarity of the situation appeared to be much different than what it had appeared to be at night. When you experience this phenomenon it becomes readily apparent that night evolutions differ radically from those of daytime.
Learning how to use light and dark situations to your advantage and when to do so can only be trained to in actual live fire scenarios. Putting to practice a theoretical technique must be done in a hands-on setting. The very simple scenario of pulling up on a suspect’s vehicle, orienting the doors and lights and vehicle itself, and then using these all to one’s advantage as we do in our low level light classes requires a hands-on approach. Students find that targets are almost obliterated by such factors as fractured glass and shadows and those that are seen are sometimes very different in their dimensions than they really are. The choice of whether to use headlights or flashlights or no light at all suddenly become split second decisions that must be made as one gets into a problem. If the situation changes then the shooter must adapt and rework the problem on ‘the fly’ so to speak. Using flashlights in conjunction with the handgun is an entirely different proposition altogether. Many beginning shooters find that they have to embrace an entirely different mindset and physical adaptation to the handgun and rifle and shotgun when working at night as opposed to daylight conditions. The choice of lighting systems that many shooters employ are less than adequate when applied in realistic life fire scenarios. This is due in part to the fact that the purchase of an item may be done over the Internet or from an ad that is simply designed to sell a particular product. When the shooters run through night problems with us they may find that the money they laid out could have been better spent on a different system that is demonstrably better than the one they purchased. The rule of thumb that we teach is to purchase a light that fits the hand, casts out a good deal of light and is user friendly. This may mean a fairly considerable outlay of funds but you only have to buy it once and then take care of it and it will serve you well. Night shooting must be experienced first hand and in realistic settings in order to grasp all of the intricacies involved. There simply is no other way to learn such a valuable and essential component for the combat shooter.
Since over 70% of shootings take place in low-level light, the problem is that only a small percentage of is training is actually devoted to low-level light as compared to that conducted during the day. Part of this is due to the times and season that training is conducted and part is due to range restrictions imposed on many locations. Once our students have satisfactorily completed our level I courses, they are strongly encouraged to continue with level II courses, which incorporate night time shooting techniques and teach our students how to handle firearms in low-level light. This is a critical part of one’s training to learn to properly and effectively handle firearms under nighttime conditions.