Flashlight Techniques for Home Defense

Harries Flashlight Technique

Lynn Givens demonstrates the Harries Flashlight Technique. This is the view her loved one has when she illuminates what she thinks might be a deadly threat. We used a dummy gun for photography, to prevent pointing a real gun at the photographer.

When private citizen students are attacked away from home, the typical scenario involves an armed robbery on the parking lot of some business, a carjacking, or some similar crime.

In these incidents, there is neither an opportunity nor a need to deploy a flashlight. The action tends to be close and fast, with sufficient ambient light to identify the participants and hit those who need it. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the only likely use of a flashlight in defensive mode for a private citizen is while investigating the “bump in the night” or a suspected prowler. This is the environment in which the flashlight and skill in its use can be invaluable.

 

… like all flashlight-assisted shooting techniques that have both hands together, holding the flashlight and pistol in a combined grip, these techniques have serious drawbacks for the home defender.

 

Unless one lives alone, the largest opportunity for tragedy in a home intrusion is shooting a family member mistaken for a prowler. Target identification becomes critical, as other family members may be on the move in the house, and most of these incidents occur during the hours of darkness.

The home defender needs the ability to positively identify the shadowy figure at the far end of the hall, without pointing a deadly weapon at him until he makes a decision to engage. This is why I am not a fan of weapon-mounted lights on home defense guns: to see your potential target, you must point your gun at someone under highly stressful conditions, without knowing whether that is a family member or intruder. This is a recipe for disaster! Thus, the homeowner needs to have a flashlight technique that allows target identification and discrimination prior to pointing the firearm.

The two most commonly taught flashlight techniques are the Harries Technique and the Rogers Technique, both named after their originators. Both allow good shooting, with the flashlight beam and bore line of the pistol coaxial and some two handed control on the pistol.

However, like all flashlight-assisted shooting techniques that have both hands together, holding the flashlight and pistol in a combined grip, these techniques have serious drawbacks for the home defender.

As trainers, you need to remember that range techniques that allow better shooting in a range environment may not be the best choice in a tactical environment, for reasons that have nothing to do with shooting. You will need to point out these realities to your students.

Drawbacks to Harries and Rogers Flashlight Techniques

The user has to point the flashlight, and by necessity the gun, at everything he wishes to illuminate. See my earlier comments about pointing-in prior to target identification.

The user must “lead with the gun.” The one environment in which an adversary could get within arm’s reach before you know it is in low light or darkness. Any technique that leads with the gun creates the danger of being disarmed.

Users of Harries and Rogers tend to point the gun at their own body parts during manipulations like getting into and out of the position, opening doors with the support hand, and similar activities, especially under stress.

With the hands held against each other, recoil causes the flashlight beam to bounce during firing. This is distracting, as your eye will tend to follow the bouncing light beam.

 

The [Neck Index] technique is easy to get into and out of without endangering oneself. Actions that put the support hand out front, like opening a door, don’t result in pointing the gun at the user’s support hand.

 

A Better Option: Neck Index Technique

For many years now, I have been using and teaching a very simple technique that eliminates all of the objections listed here. It is simply called “Neck Index,” and it has a lot going for it in the case of a home defender. As far as I can tell, the current version of this technique was first taught by Ken Good and Brian Puckett, who arrived at it independently at about the same time.

It is a simple, easily taught technique that does not depend on large hands (like the Rogers Technique does) or on complicated body mechanics (like a properly executed Harries Technique does). All one needs is a compact flashlight with a tail-cap switch, such as a Surefire 6X or similar, and a handgun.

The handgun is held at pectoral level, thumb of gun hand touching the pectoral muscle, trigger finger straight, muzzle depressed and pointing at the ground in front of the user. The flashlight is held in the support hand, thumb on switch, lens of flashlight protruding from the base of the palm. The thumb of the hand holding the flashlight is indexed on a readily repeatable spot, such as the cheekbone, the ear lobe, or the corner of the jawbone.

The body is swiveled at the waist, so that the eyes, the flashlight, and the handgun are always oriented in the same direction. This makes it very easy to get the light beam to shine where you are looking when you turn on the light, and if shooting is warranted, simply thrusting the gun out into the line of sight gets it on target quickly.

Advantages of Neck Index Technique

Neck index technique

John Parker demonstrates the Neck Index technique. Note that he can illuminate and identify a potential target without pointing a gun at it.

The gun is not pointed at a potential target until a decision to engage has been made. You can illuminate an object without pointing a gun at it.

This technique does not lead with the gun. In fact, the gun position is often described as a retention position when used in daylight conditions, and it works well for that purpose in low light. The support hand with the flashlight is already “cocked,” allowing the flashlight to be used as an impact weapon to help defend the pistol in an attempted gun grab.

The hands are far enough apart to avoid confusion under stress. There are documented instances of unintentional discharges involving flashlight/pistol techniques that have the hands together, firing the gun when the desired action was to turn on the light.

If shooting is needed, the gun is thrust into the eye/target line. The light beam will illuminate both the target and the pistol’s sights. The shooter will have a bright, clear sight picture, regardless of ambient lighting conditions.

The technique is easy to get into and out of without endangering oneself. Actions that put the support hand out front, like opening a door, don’t result in pointing the gun at the user’s support hand.

To me, the advantages of this technique are obvious. Give them a try and I think you will agree.

 

[ Tom Givens is the owner of Rangemaster in Memphis, TN. For over 30 years Tom’s duties have included firearms instruction. He is certified as an expert witness on firearms and firearms training, giving testimony in both state and federal courts. He serves as an adjunct instructor at the Memphis Police Department Training Academy, the largest in the state. Tom’s training resume includes certification from the FBI Police Firearms Instructor School, NRA Law Enforcement Instructor Development School, NRA Law Enforcement Tactical Shooting Instructor School, Gunsite 499 under Jeff Cooper, and more. ]