I cannot believe there is still a raging debate (mostly on the internet) concerning whether or not one should use a light to assist during a deadly force encounter. Well, maybe I can believe it.

This column is certain to fan the flames of this debate. I will not settle anything here because so many people “just know” that a flashlight is some sort of bullet magnet and will cause every bullet fired by the bad guy to hone in on you like a heat-seeking missile. To read some of the comments posted online, one would think that anyone carrying a flashlight into a gunfight is already dead and just holding that light so the coroner can find the body.

Interestingly enough, those barstool commandos who “just know” that a flashlight will get you killed never talk about target identification as an important element in a deadly force encounter. It’s as if all good guys will just instinctively know the identity of all bad guys and target identification will never be an issue.

That’s just plain wrong. Flashlights, both hand-held and weapon-mounted, provide an exceptional tactical advantage in a gunfight WHEN USED CORRECTLY.

Did you notice the added emphasis? I shouldn’t need to include that emphasis, but apparently the discussion of flashlight use rarely includes a discussion of flashlight training. And training, as you know, is the key to success. So important is training that I could say this: A firearm will provide an exceptional tactical advantage in a gunfight WHEN USED CORRECTLY.

That latter statement will have only a little more impact because we are just now getting to the point where gun owners are beginning to admit that they need training to win a gunfight. For years, the average gun owner “just knew” how to shoot because his father or grandfather or uncle had taught him to hunt and shoot. I’m glad to say we have gotten to the point where men actually understand the need for training. (I’m making this gender-specific because most women are outstanding pistol students who know the importance of training and don’t come to class thinking they know everything. But I digress. Flashlight use was the issue here.)

Yes, using a flashlight might give away your position, but that’s really only important if you are searching for the bad guy. Searching for the bad guy is something we do not suggest. That’s like going looking for a fight, which goes against the idea of conflict avoidance. But I will grant you this: If you turn on your flashlight, leave it on and go looking for a bad guy, that light will telegraph your approach and give away your position. There are methods for using a light effectively during a search, but since I constantly advise against conducting a search, I will not go into detail about them.

I will say this: A flashlight will help you in the deadly force incident. Shine it on the bad guy. Shine it right in his face. When you do this, take one step to the left or right. He will not be able to see you well enough to aim at you. He will not be able to aim well enough to hit the light if he shoots at it. If he hits you with a shot fired at the light it will likely be pure luck. Fighting an adversary temporarily blinded by your tactical light is far better than fighting an adversary with full use of all five of his senses.

And more important than that, knowing your target and what is beyond it is important to make sure you only put rounds on the bad guy. You are responsible for every round that goes downrange.

Get a light. GET TRAINING IN ITS USE. Use the light to win the fight.