Put a Little Light on the Subject

I’m man enough to admit I’m scared of the dark. Bad things happen in the dark.

As a kid growing up in rural Wisconsin, I engaged in the ritual backyard camping as a summertime tradition. I think my parents encouraged it just to get me out of the house. Back in those days, carrying a flashlight was grounds for an incredible amount of torment by the other boys. I will not repeat the names I was called; they are just too painful.

But I was vindicated on the night something approached our tent in the dark and roused all four 10-year-olds from a peaceful slumber. To this day, I believe each of my companions owes me a debt of gratitude, because it was my flashlight that lit the way to the back porch while some unnamed, blood-thirsty creature scratched at the back wall of the old Coleman tent. That little 50-yard dash proved to me the value of a flashlight.

I’ve kept flashlights of all types and sizes in my vehicles, on my person and staged at different locations around my house for most of my adult life. It started when I was 19 and had been cut orders to move from the Defense Information School at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana to Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia. Along the way, I got a flat tire along the highway and struggled in the dark for the better part of an hour.

I stopped at the next hardware store and bought three different types of flashlights. About two months later, when my vehicle was burglarized on the streets of Newport News, Virginia, the crooks happened to leave my flashlights. It was dark when I found my broken window and ransacked vehicle, but as I looked over the damage I heard someone approaching. I grabbed the nearest light, which happened to be a big Maglite, and shined it right in the face of a teen who was walking my way. He froze for a minute and then bolted. I knew right then that a good flashlight could also be a self-defense tool.

Over the years, I have watched with joy and wonder as flashlights just got better and better. Right now, you can get an 800-lumen light with several hours of run time, a strobe mode and all sorts of other features for less than 100 bucks. That is enough light to temporarily blind an attacker and give you the chance to make tracks or counterstrike.

I know I am harping on the importance of carrying a flashlight as a self-defense tool, but I can’t stress enough how versatile a good flashlight really is. Shining some light in dark places is not just an analogy; it’s a good defensive tactic. Take away the element of surprise. Know your target. Temporarily blind your adversary. These are all good things. And, there will likely be times that you don’t need to use a gun. In those cases a flashlight will often suffice, and shining some light on the subject could just defuse things before they escalate.

If a flashlight is not part of your everyday carry gear, change that. Today.