Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lighting up the night.... mounting a light on an AR-15

No question... lighting up the dark can be awful darn handy at times.   Especially times where bad people might be planning bad things to those you care about.

Lights on weapons is not a new idea.  It's been around since battery powered handheld lights happened.  My dad told me stories of WWII GI's in his unit strapping Rayovac flashlights to their rifles while on sentry duty, utterly against their orders of course.

Skip forward a few generations, and weapons mounted lights are all the rage with the cool kids in shooty land.  Seems everything (up to and including my new coffee mug) has a picatinny rail for mounting all kinds of goodies.  Even my regular carry pistol, a compact Glock G-30, has a short little rail built in.... for short little gadgets I guess.

Lights mounted on pistols...... The Fat Man is not really a fan.  My experience runs to a time when armed people carried flashlights on their belts, and smart ones trained in how to combine their use with a sidearm.

For me, the issue with a pistol mounted light is the weapon is pointed at anything the bearer lights up.   I understand, the upside to that, but the downside just worries me more than speed or convenience makes up for.  I carry a very bright flashlight.... and I know how to use it.... and I DON'T have to point a weapon at someone to light them up.   Considering I have brightened the lives of several people who needed it muchly, while never shooting even a single one.... that works for me.

A weapon mounted light on a long arm..... different story, at least for me.   While rifles and shotguns might be leaps and bounds better as defensive weapons than pistols, pretty much universally they require TWO hands to operate correctly.   Now, The Fat Man's math skills are always in question... but even he can figure out that two hands on the rifle leaves.... um.... add column A and carry the five and divide by the orbit of Venus.... um...  NO hands left to work a flashlight.  That could be a problem.

To answer that need, the household defensive rifle here at The Carteach Cave Of Doom (The house) just grew a new appendage.   Mounted to the left side on the handguard, there's now a 300 lumin LED flashlight installed with an offset Picatinny rail gadget thingie.

For those keeping track:
The light:
 Fenix PD31 Limited Edition Flashlight
The mount:
And, the Magpul rail for my MOE handguard:
Magpul L5 MOE Rail Section

In use, the light is activated with the support hand thumb.  A light touch equals momentary brilliance, a harder bump means full time brilliance, and another light bump gives the bearer a stuttering strobe light that's a real bugger to face on a dark night.

In this case the mount is built for one inch body lights, and this particular Fenix flamethrower is slightly thinner.... so a few wraps of abrasive tape formed a bushing that made a tight fit which should never move.

In use..... it's bloody bright, and easy to use, and takes some practice.  Don't assume just having a light on your rifle makes you (To DAA) Super Ninja Night Warrior!   It requires practice to move with the light, and activate it at will.  Combined with the required weapons handling skills, it can get finicky. Many nights moving around the house and property are called for.  All with an UNLOADED weapon to start with, at least till those two separate hand motions... 'Lighting up'  and 'Firing' can be engrained into muscle memory.

For a real eye opener... swap the rifle over to your other side, righty to lefty, and try the movement again.  Carteach's first time.... and 21st time... came out to be the click of a hammer falling, followed by the flashlight coming on.   This could be a serious tragedy if it happened under the wrong circumstances.  My own take.... I simply can't safely operate the light while carrying the rifle as a lefty.   Bloody good thing to know BEFORE it all goes pear shaped.

Carteach is pleased with the addition, and recommends it.  The bottom line.... for about $75, my 'house gun' now has serious after dark capabilities it never had before.  I are happy with that.


TXGunGeek said...

In defensive long gun class, I try to emphasize that when thing go pear shaped and you do grab a long gun for defense, you are needing three things; L,S,A . Lights Sights and Ammo. What is on your gun is what you bring to the fight. Nothing more. You may have a fancy tactical chest rig and all kinds of kit but when things go bump in the middle of the night, this is what you have to work with. having a good light on your long gun is essential.

Old NFO said...

Tex is correct, and yes one more thing to PRACTICE with... :-)

lee n. field said...


Any thoughts on a laser mounted in the same way?

Anonymous said...

Hey Teach,

Hypothetically speaking, If I had an AR with an Eotech or other red dot sight, would it work in conjunction with a light or would the light wash out the sight image? Come to think of it, what's your opinion on those type of sights in low and no light situations? Love the blog!


Carteach said...

I have not combined a flashlight with the Eotech. Since the Eotech works fine in broad daylight, turned up, I'm sure it would work fine with the flashlight as well.

Now... for defensive 'Down the Hall' ranges, is it needed? Or wanted?

For my 'crash in the night house gun' I try to avoid anything complicated that must be turned on. Having TWO things to turn on.... distracting.

Ryan said...

I recently did a similar project with a Surefire Defender/ VTAC mount and the same Magpul MOE illum kit.

I am very happy with it.

As to optics to optics. Don't think plain old iron's would work even with a light as the light is pretty much in front of them leaving the black iron sights still in the dark. I would say iron sights with trijicon in them or some sort of red dot/ illum reticule is pretty darn important if you want to be able to aim instead of just point.

Mine has an ACOG but that is probably not perfect for an HD gun but good for an all around rifle.

RegT said...

I have been doing business with a company called Battery Junction for three years now, and have found their prices excellent and service great. Any problems with an item are addressed immediately, not that I've had many.

They have the Fenix PD32 (330 lumens) at the same price Amazon charges for the PD31 304 lumen. They do charge shipping, but their shipping prices are not exorbitant like some retailers (CTD comes to mind).

Personally, I am fond of the Olight T (tactical) series, having mounted several T-20s on long guns (AR and 870), with two others for carry on the belt. I really like them, and the prices are much, much better than Surefire.

Consider buying rechargeable CR123A batteries (RCR123A). The newer chemistry of the LiFePO4 batteries are supposed to be good for 2000 (yes, 2k) cycles. Even if that turns out to be drivel, and you only get 500 charges, they have then cost you pennies per battery, even including the price of the charger.

Also, the LiFePO4s will not overheat and catch fire, as the Li-poly batteries are said to do on occasion.

RegT said...

Sorry, here is the web site for that retailer: