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Night shooting, my experience and a few questions

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I did a night shoot the other day. It was a really good learning experience. My shooting was not good at all, but I was not concerned with all that was going on. I'll explain.

I headed to the range before sundown to get my targets and gear set for what I hoped to do. I was the only person there. I was shooting steel targets with my .22lr converted AR that had a laser and light, my Canik TP9SF with light and laser, and my CZ EVO with light and laser. I started with the CZ. There were several things I should have done before I got there....the AR and the CZ both have red dot sights and lasers. I have both red dots sighted for 25yds. I had not yet sync'ed up the laser to the red dot, they were close but off enough to make a difference. I futzed around with them about 15 mins, struggling in the dark without a headlamp to find the allen key to turn the set screw, so I was trying to do it with a hand held flashlight, by myself.....frustrating, I ran out of hands. Dropped the allen key onto gravel several times. Finally got them close, but will recheck them later.

Next problem was it was hot and humid as well, so I'm sweating bad and my clear safety glasses were fogged to the point of unusable. My mags were all preloaded, so no delay there. I underestimated how dark it really would get out there, never been there at night and not sure how much night lighting they had there. It was dark. So the next problem I encountered was the lights on my weapons. I have used them in my house searching about and testing them,  and they were more than adequate. However, outside, in the dark, trying to light up a target that was 25+yds away?........not so good IMO. So let's move on to the lasers, starting with the EVO. It still needed some minor adjustments. But I was able to put the laser on target, fire and hit the target. But I felt like something was not right as I was watching the laser and not working the red dot (light and laser were on at  the same time) Another problem I encountered was smoke from the fired round, it obstructed my view what seemed like way more than I would have expected. Follow up shots were delayed. I put 2 mags thru the EVO and moved on to the Canik, put 2 mags thru it, the laser was not set and again I was watching the laser and not the sights and my shots were not hitting target at 20yds. Moved on to the AR. 

The AR is outfitted with an Olight M18 (now discontinued) with pressure switch(discontinued) and a separate laser with pressure switch. Was using my new Manta switch covers. The light was really touchy, almost too light to activate. The laser worked well except it was not sync'ed up with the red dot. I also had a new trigger in the AR (CMC 3.5lb) So I futzed around in the dark (again) trying to sync up the 2. Close enough. The light switch began to get finicky and the battery died on my laser. But I did get thru 2 mags before all that happened. When the laser died, I had had enough of the experience to get an idea of what I needed to question, fix and do better next time. So I packed up and went home.

Yesterday I played with the AR pressure switch and promptly broke the wires off. Found my spec sheet for the light. That explains why the target was kinda dim at 25 yds, the light I think was 400 lum at max output. In the house, almost too bright, outside at a target of distance? hmmmmm......So now with a broken pressure switch, I discovered that they are not readily available, maybe ebay, but I could not be sure what they were selling. I have a second light , Olight M1X(EDC use)that is the same size and 1000 lum, but no pressure switch. Quick round of internet shopping and I found 2 of them, bought, done. Put the tailcap switch back on the M18 and now it is EDC. Brings me to my first gear question...those of you that use a light.....tail cap switch where the light remains on constantly or pressure switch that you must control by touch? I am aware of the pros and cons of both(giving up position, equipment failure, etc) Sorry, not going to buy night vision equipment. Now the laser with the touch pad, I think that is best for me. But, the EVO, it's light and laser combo are one unit and are operated by switching them on with a toggle type switch, not touch pad. They stay on until I switch off, it takes a slight bit more effort, acts more like a tail cap switch from an effort standpoint. It serves it's purpose. I played around with the Canik light and laser and the switch failed on it too, it might be fixable.

Conclusions: the failures of my gear was blessing in disguise. I have an Olight 400 lum micro weapon light for the Canik, no laser. That light is about 3 times brighter than the light and laser combo that failed and is rechargeable. So I now have brighter lights on my AR and the Canik

Question:  When you shoot in the dark with a light and laser and red dot, do you find yourself ignoring your red dot and focusing on the laser? Do you think the laser is sort of a distraction or introducing bad habits when shooting in the dark? Pressure switch or tail cap, preference? Is the 25 yd sight in distance adequate?

Oh, and I need a lot more practice and that would go a long way of improving my hit to miss ratio.

Edited by ARP

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Sorry to hear about your frustration.

On the other hand, trying to find an optimal "gear solution" to situations that may be better addressed with an improvement to understanding skillset and tactics can bring its own frustration (which may be preventable).

Yep, gear prep prior to arriving at the scene where the gear is going to be used is damned handy. ;) Double and triple checking the gear before departure can be downright convenient. Then, be prepared for it to go out-of-commission, anyway.

I don't shill particular light units for rifles, but I've seen my fair share of them used on different rifles brought to patrol rifle classes by students from other agencies (I helped teach those classes). Some didn't last the night portion of the class due to battery and switch issues, and some didn't provide the degree of illumination expected and desired outdoors. I almost always used one or another of my inexpensive, small handheld chipped LED lights to outshine any of the more expensive student rifle lights. Sometimes startlingly so. Imagine going prone (or utilizing a barricade) and being able to "free" a hand to use a handheld light, presuming you're able to effectively use the magazine to held support and stabilize the rifle.

Yep, cartridge propellant smoke, as well as any dust blown up into the air (especially if you're low kneeling and prone over a sand/dirt surface) can play hob with lights (and lasers, if that's your thing). Then, think about any ambient and/or inconsistent bits of fog drifting through an outside night scene, or finding yourself in the midst of sprinklers activating. ;)  Things can interfere with light streams (and lasers, but those aren't exactly as useful as some folks might wish to think when things "get busy", even though they look cool in TV/movies).

One thing that many LE rifle students find surprisingly useful in night shoot situations is learning to effectively and safely utilize other light sources in ambient low/reduced light, being able to use other light sources to see and identify their targets. While outdoor lights and veh headlights may provide illumination (and the "wall of light concealment effect", depending on positioning), any lights used by other shooters may also be used in certain circumstances. We demonstrate this by having people without weapon lights (or just turning them off) stand to either side (1-3+ shooting positions distant to either side) of someone using a weapon light, and then just use the light field created by the one rifle user to see, ID and address their own threat targets. The threat targets of the other shooters using the light created by someone else usually display the same accuracy of hits as the target of the shooter actually using the light,

These things are best learned and practiced if you can find a local class that teaches low/reduced light shooting techniques and tactics. It may not only help reduce the frustration of trial & error efforts trying to figure out these things yourself, but also provide some useful tips and techniques, as well as hands-on practice (with an instructor observing, to help answer any questions). Might help save you some money spent trying different products, too.

Weapon mounted lights may be all the rage, and handy, but be prepared for them to fail at the most inconvenient moment. I used to see a pile of switches and other light unit parts sitting on a corner of the armorer bench at work, and I left them there as a reminder for other armorers and instructors ... but someone finally decided to clean up the pile to make the bench look cleaner.

 

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22 hours ago, fastbolt said:

Sorry to hear about your frustration.

On the other hand, trying to find an optimal "gear solution" to situations that may be better addressed with an improvement to understanding skillset and tactics can bring its own frustration (which may be preventable).

Yep, gear prep prior to arriving at the scene where the gear is going to be used is damned handy. ;) Double and triple checking the gear before departure can be downright convenient. Then, be prepared for it to go out-of-commission, anyway.

I don't shill particular light units for rifles, but I've seen my fair share of them used on different rifles brought to patrol rifle classes by students from other agencies (I helped teach those classes). Some didn't last the night portion of the class due to battery and switch issues, and some didn't provide the degree of illumination expected and desired outdoors. I almost always used one or another of my inexpensive, small handheld chipped LED lights to outshine any of the more expensive student rifle lights. Sometimes startlingly so. Imagine going prone (or utilizing a barricade) and being able to "free" a hand to use a handheld light, presuming you're able to effectively use the magazine to held support and stabilize the rifle.

Yep, cartridge propellant smoke, as well as any dust blown up into the air (especially if you're low kneeling and prone over a sand/dirt surface) can play hob with lights (and lasers, if that's your thing). Then, think about any ambient and/or inconsistent bits of fog drifting through an outside night scene, or finding yourself in the midst of sprinklers activating. ;)  Things can interfere with light streams (and lasers, but those aren't exactly as useful as some folks might wish to think when things "get busy", even though they look cool in TV/movies).

One thing that many LE rifle students find surprisingly useful in night shoot situations is learning to effectively and safely utilize other light sources in ambient low/reduced light, being able to use other light sources to see and identify their targets. While outdoor lights and veh headlights may provide illumination (and the "wall of light concealment effect", depending on positioning), any lights used by other shooters may also be used in certain circumstances. We demonstrate this by having people without weapon lights (or just turning them off) stand to either side (1-3+ shooting positions distant to either side) of someone using a weapon light, and then just use the light field created by the one rifle user to see, ID and address their own threat targets. The threat targets of the other shooters using the light created by someone else usually display the same accuracy of hits as the target of the shooter actually using the light,

These things are best learned and practiced if you can find a local class that teaches low/reduced light shooting techniques and tactics. It may not only help reduce the frustration of trial & error efforts trying to figure out these things yourself, but also provide some useful tips and techniques, as well as hands-on practice (with an instructor observing, to help answer any questions). Might help save you some money spent trying different products, too.

Weapon mounted lights may be all the rage, and handy, but be prepared for them to fail at the most inconvenient moment. I used to see a pile of switches and other light unit parts sitting on a corner of the armorer bench at work, and I left them there as a reminder for other armorers and instructors ... but someone finally decided to clean up the pile to make the bench look cleaner.

 

 It was a learning experience that was well worth the small amount of frustration. Things happened that I did not anticipate, I had the tools at hand to deal with some of them. Going forward, any night time shoot I do, I will have my headlight with me. Going forward, my AR lights will be at least 1000 lumen.   I knew that the lasers needed synced before I left for the range, but did not think it would be that difficult, would have been made easier with a headlamp, I ran out of hands. Was surprised when the laser battery conked out, it is rechargeable, I bought another one as a backup.

I recall that when I was buying a light for my AR, I had read that 400 lumen was almost overkill for an indoor light as reflection off the walls will potentially blind the shooter, and I bought based upon that bit of information. I even felt that 400 outside was more than enough, I'm rethinking that whole deal. Doesn't really matter now, I put the 1000 lumen light on there for now, and going forward in that instance, more is better especially when you can step down the lumen via the control switch.

I only have one location currently where I can night shoot. It gets pitch black as there is only star light or moonlight to use. Some of my lighting gear is not top notch, should it fail I'm not out a lot of money. The Olights so far are GTG.  I may get bored with the lasers and just go with red dot and powerful light, but the laser was fun to work with.

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