Bug Out Gun Lights: Part 2

As noted in part one of Bug Out Gun Lights, mounting a light on a weapon, whether long gun or handgun, is Bug Out Gun Lighta necessary option for every bug in and bug out scenario.  The light is not just for discriminating among potential targets, but also to light the escape route, to light the impromptu medical theater, and to signal others as needed. In part one, the generalities of WMLs or weapon mounted lights were explored.  In part two of Bug Out Gun Lights we will consider long rifle implications, shotguns, and specific lights.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog
This article is Part 2 in a series on Bug Out Gun Lights (Read Part 1)

Have vs. Want

The next time I get mugged, it will be in broad daylight, under a noon blue sky, inside the lobby of a police station, during SWAT open house, while POTUS is in attendance, and I just happened to have started my demonstration of how to load an MP5 with live ammo.

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Unfortunately statistics are not on my side. Most violent encounters in the US happen after the sun is well on it’s way to China.  In other words, it’s dark. So training with a weapon mounted light is an important piece of the survival puzzle.  FBI stats have shown that over 50 percent of LEOs that were killed in the line of duty met their end during the hours between 8pm and 6am. And even worse, 92% of all assaults on LEOs occurred between those same hours. While you might not be a LEO, the risk of assault, robbery, and pretty much everything nasty in between is more likely to happen at night. Thus the need for a WML. But also the responsibility of the gun owner to absolutely know his target. Wandering in the dark is ignoring 80% of the input the brain prefers to use to process a situation. Sight is our dominant sense, and light is essential for sight.

Related: Compact Flashlight Comparison

Not all LEOs were giddy about dedicated weapons lights when they arrived.  In fact, it was the K9 officers who were first in line to adopt WMLs.  With one hand perpetually attached to a dog leash, they had only half the number of available upper torso appendages to begin with.  By making gun and light one unit, the K9 cops could move around more like their unleashed brethren.

Location. Location. Location.

Now that WMLs are powerful enough to be practical on a rifle, it really is only a matter of time before you get one. But where to put it?  Many modern ARs have three linear feet of rail or more, but only the final two inches near the muzzle will work for a light. If you have a fixed front sight, you probably don’t want to mount the light on the top rail since the photons will hit the first object they encounter the hardest (the front sight) and under maximum intensity it causes an unacceptable hotspot that will compromise your vision and aiming. If you are right handed, you might want the light opposite your support hand’s grip (the left side). That leaves the bottom rail and the right side as good choices.  A bottom mount behind the muzzle will create a shadow above the gun, while a right mount will create a left-side shadow and can cause issues when rounding corners just as a left-side mount will.

For forest and ranch work, I don’t mind the under barrel mount on my AR.  In this case I would rather have a clean view of the ground for safer travel. But a simple twist of the carry position moves the light into the 9 or more likely the 3 o’clock position minimizing any forward shadowing when needed.

Most mounting choices lock-in the light in one of the 90-degree positions: 12 O’clock, 3, 6 and 9 O’clock.  The two things to consider are light activation by the support hand, and preferred shadow position opposite the light.

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If an intermediate option to the four standard coordinates is desired consider options such as the Daniel Defense light mount or the Magpul offset light mount. A downside to the Magpul mount is that it is screwed onto the rail (two bolts), and the flashlight is attached to the mount (two more bolts), so switching between using the light in-hand and-on gun takes time and tools. The Daniel Defense option is much simpler but three times as expensive. It uses a single large knob to attach the mount to the rail with the light held to the mount like a scope in a ring.


Muzzle blast and recoil can damage lights and coat their lenses with light-diminishing debris. Some lights Gun lightslike my now-discontinued Leupold have synthetic sapphire lenses to deal with the harsh life of living next to muzzle blast.  Other lights might seem tough at the store, but a few mags later are crying for mommy.  While I thoroughly appreciate the effort Leopold put into their now-defunct MX modular flashlight system, it should have been built for continuity with interchangeable LED modules since the lens, battery barrels, and switches are good for decades but the LEDs are evolving faster than the Avian Flu. So much good tech has gone to pasture due to fixation on the present.

Also Read: Streamlight TLR-3 Review

Lights must be strong enough to shake off gun recoil.  While LEDs usually ignore impacts, the circuits, switches, battery contacts, and lens components can get their bell rung.  Batteries have mass and thus prefer to remain still when the rest of the light is accelerated in a direction opposite of the bullet.  Simple Newtonian mechanics. This can lead to compression of the springs and contacts that normally ensure a complete circuit that keeps the electrons flowing. Darkness falls whenever there is a break in the circuit causing the light to blink or go out all together. And sometimes the electricity never flows again. But this is a double-edged coin to mix my metaphors. Any working light will work until the trigger is pulled. So basically you have at least one shot with any WML. Good lights will keep running. Weak lights…well, you need to move to plan B.

Moving Parts

Most good lights have O-ring seals at all material interfaces.  But that won’t necessarily keep the light from Best Weapon Mounted Lightsunscrewing itself over time or during repeated fire.  Keep an eye on the connections between components, and give the light a good shake every once in a while to listen for parts rattling around inside the tube.

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And speaking of moving parts, the design of the switch on paper is completely different from the operation of the switch in a human hand, especially when contacting that wonderful opposable thumb we’ve been taught separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. The thumb switch should have the right amount of resistance and tactile click to talk back during the activation.  Of all my lights, there is just something about the Surefire and Fenix lights that have that proper click.  Although you might have noticed that Fenix does not make any WMLs.  That’s because they do, but they are marketed under different brand names and non-competition clauses will prevent Fenix from selling any for at least a few more years.

Toyota spends millions on the feel of it.  And so does Geissele, Magpul and Daniel Defense.  You see there are very few places on a weapons light that involve human interaction so those companies that pay special attention to the human-flashlight interface are those that I prefer.  The reason for stressing this particular tangent of weapons mounted lights is that when the S hits the Fan, your pulse spikes, adrenaline is dumped into your bloodstream, and your vision tunnels, the operation of a WML must be like every other human reaction that has evolved over millions of years. Not time for memorized luminosity sequences. No time to wonder, to paraphrase Sigmund Freud, if a click is just a click.

Related: Bug Out Flashlight Wisdom

Another area to consider is the composition of the lens.  Super-high-end lights use sapphire glass material, the same stuff in your Rolex watch crystal.  Moving down in price is impact resistant glass of sufficient thickness, followed by glass. Then polycarbonate plastic. Then plastic of unknown origin.  But anything near the business end of a rifle should not be made of a meltable oil-based material like plastic.

Bolt Upright!

Mounting solutions run from simple to complex, and cheap to expensive. If the light has a built-in rail mounting option, then the rail slots must match the light’s size. On full-sized autopistols like the Glock 17, small form-factor lights may generate a substantial gap between trigger guard and light. A raw fact to keep in mind is that if a solidly mounted light extends further forward than the pistol’s barrel, it will be possible to jam the gun into the perp without concern of a misfire due to the slide being pushed rearward and out of battery while the business end of the gun squishes into the flesh of the bad guy.  To put a friendly face on this important fact, there are notable events where a LEOs bacon was saved by the perp punching their unlighted muzzle into the cop’s belly or forehead and jerked the trigger but no bang followed.  All possible by the lack of a slightly-forward mounting of a WML.


On the other side of the coin, if you have a light such as the Surefire x300 Ultra you can enjoy the ease of Gun Light Reviewswitching the light between guns, hands or pockets. Do note, however, that the x300U fires up quite easily in the hand and pocket compared to traditional dialed-in flashlight designs due to its pressure activation in addition to its switch rotation. I’ve also fired up my x300 just by grabbing the gun out of a case. If done in the dark, you just shot your night vision all to hell. Just food for thought.

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Inexpensive and versatile mounts include the ExtremeBeam Weaver mount. For $14, you can mount any one-inch diameter light to almost any gun.  The mount can grab standard rails, or use the included rail mount to secure it to a barrel.  I have used this mount on a 20 gauge Remington 870 shotgun in addition to ARs.  There are almost no aftermarket tactical accessories for the 20GA 870 platform since it seems the entire rest of the world only cares about the 12 gauge so I was on my own to find a light mount. Lately I’ve settled in on using the rail mount of the ExtremeBeam Weaver to hold a Streamlight TLR-4 light/laser to my house-bound blued pump blunderbuss.

1000 Is The New Black

For a WML, 500 or more lumens is a great number for a pistol these days. But for a rifle that might breathe some fresh outdoor air once in awhile, 1000 lumens is my new best friend. Surefire makes some triple-cell lights under the Fury name. I have both the tactical version and the regular one. The P3X Tactical Fury has a no-click tail cap switch, but instead just a pressure button that fires the light as long as the rubber is held down. The Tactical only has one setting…full blast, which limits its general usefulness as a flashlight. To keep the light on, the tail cap must be rotated clockwise. I like to mount this light on the nine O’clock position so I can fire the light easily with my support hand thumb while keeping a tight grip on the handguard. If I want the light to stay on, I just grab the tail switch like the cap on a beer bottle and give it a twist.

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The regular P3X Fury has a two-stage tailcap click switch that fires first a 15 lumen beam, the a thousand lumen one if clicked again within a second. I prefer to pocket carry this Fury since most of the time I use it in first gear.

The Dust is Settling

At the moment, we are at an intellectual transition about weapon-mounted lighting. Much of the negative Best AR15 LED Lightpress and skeptical opinions are based upon old knowledge, old designs, old filament lights, and old tactics. Where modern bug out wisdom diverges from conventional law enforcement procedures is with duration of use, location of use, and situational use. Plus, in a bug out you are hopefully not running towards trouble like the LEOs are paid to do. In a true WROL, I will skew the rules in my favor. As they say, a fair fight is any fight you can lose. I know there are risks to using a weapon-mounted light, but frankly we’ve said the same things about so many other aspects of personal safety until the next generation’s embrace of the technology proved our historical concerns to be no longer founded in 21st century reality. So light it up.

Got a weapon mounted light and/or advise about your use of it? Tell us about it in the comments below.

All Photos by Doc Montana
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14 comments… add one
  • Jonny V June 7, 2016, 10:40 am

    Lights attract bullets. If you are outdoors at night, and you turn on a light, any light, you give your adversary the ability to rain down accurate fire on your location from distances of even hundreds of yards away. You however, will not be able to return accurate fire because your light points only in one direction, even though it can be seen in a 360 degree arc. You are also likely to be blinded by your own light.

    The only limited possible use of a weapon mounted light is in indoor engagements at very close range. Even then, if it’s your own house or BOB, you’re far better off without the light because you know the floor plan and your attacker probably doesn’t. If you are the attacker, then yes, most likely you do need the light.

    Oh, one other thing….using a weapon mounted light to facilitate working on an injured individual is beyond reckless. You’re making a bad situation worse by violating at least three of the four basic firearm safety rules.

    Keeping your flashlight in your pocket allows you to perform all the tasks you’ll need it for, and most likely will keep you alive in the event of an armed confrontation. Don’t believe me? Then try this simple test….

    Two people go outside at night, both armed with wrist rockets and marbles, or even paintball guns. One person has a medium power LED headlamp, the other has no light. Start out 75 or so yards apart, working towards each other, with our headlight wearer turning on his light halfway or so… Which one do you want to be????

    • Doc Montana June 7, 2016, 3:22 pm

      Thanks for the read and the comments JV. My thoughts and viewpoints skew more towards the rural and great outdoorss o your mileage may vary. I really try to limit my time in big cities. But to address some of your great points:

      Regarding lights attracting bullets, I would first have to wonder why anyone would be wandering around hostile territory in the dark while the enemy is 100 yards away? How about some light discipline? I’d venture that either they didn’t know there was a threat, or there was no active threat. Either way that sounds like the luck of the draw since a sniper waiting in the wings out of sight is a threat 24/7, daylight or not. This isn’t the fat dude on Doomsday Preppers who sweeps the great outdoor darkness like a drunk looking for a lamp pole (then lost his gun rights for mental instabilities).

      My WMLs cast a beam in one rough direction of 20-50 degrees, not 360 degrees. That is what lanterns and candles do best. And if I were to have a light, being at the end of my rifle and away from my body gives me better odds than a flashlight at only a forearms distance from my vitals. At its core bugging out is about avoiding conflict, not challenging every bump in the night.

      Regarding being better off without a light, that is never a option when there is truly no light. Humans have limited low-light vision and no amount of carrots can change that. So someone can bumble in the dark or sit still. Without light, there is not much else to do. As bug out lights go, the environment is very likely new so familiarity is not always an option. Remember that this is bugging out, not LEO actions, bugging in or intention CQB looking for insurgents.

      Weapon mounted lights can behave as excellent flashlight holders. Firing up your rifle’s WML and leaning the long gun in a corner can fill the space with usable light. I’m not talking about having someone aim the gun in shaky hands at their own midsection while you stitch them up. But you will need to assess your own level of acceptable risk.

      I do recommend carrying a flashlight in addition to a WML. In fact flashlights are successful light grenades that could be tossed into a dark room (another good reason for quality). So successful is the light grenade concept that actual light grenades are available for sale like the Brite Strike RID-3 Tactical Balls.

      Regarding your nighttime force-on-force scenario, I agree that given your defined conditions, one side has more advantages. But rarely is a Bug Out so predictable. I will use my lights to my advantage, and minimize their weaknesses. If I was worried about a 100 yard threat that was firing on a light source, I see that simplicity as a tactical advantage. I all I need is a decoy light and the sniper will be overwhelmed with confidence and focus that he won’t notice me creeping up on him like a velociraptor.

      In the end, that option is not available if one does not have that option. If I need to run through the dark with a light, or walk/crawl without one (one does not want to step off a cliff), I’ll take the WML anyway of the week.

      I should also point out that I am counting on a near 100% of my bug out encounters ending peacefully. Again, that’s the point of a bug out. I won’t do my family any favors dying a hero just when the WROL hits the shores like a tsunami.

    • 3rdMan June 8, 2016, 11:14 pm

      Johnny V,

      Your statement reflects someone who need to be trained in the use of a weapons mounted light. Your concerns are legit, but can be correct through proper training. I agree with you that a WML should never be used to provide light in a medical situation. You should always have a non-lethal light option. What that means is have a secondary light that is not attached to a weapon.

      • Doc Montana June 8, 2016, 11:48 pm

        “should always” is wishful thinking. I cannot count the number of times I violated the “should always.” I routinely violate it. But I never advise violating it unless it is keeping you from enjoying life.

        Personally, I figure society “should always” behave itself so bugging out is never required. We’ll see how that goes soon enough.

        As I noted at the beginning of the article, there is plenty of weapon light wisdom out there, but little of it directed at the bug out. If you have training tips, please share them. But the application is to bugging out, not LEO work or in-home personal defense. They are different things. I consider the barrel shadow in terms of running through the woods more than IDing threats in alleys and basements. So I set up my bug out guns to help me when I break the rules. Ever used your rifle-mounted light to guide your rappel by slinging the gun over one shoulder, barrel down, light on. I think I broke all the rules on that one plus a few more. And my buddy above me got to break one more.

        In fact I do many things I probably shouldn’t under a headlamp or flashlight. Like bushwacking at night in bear country, climbing and repelling, exploring caves and mines, backcountry skiing, canoeing, mountain biking at night in actual mountains, trail running in the winter, crossing rivers, and hauling game out of the hills. In every case I broke rules. I broke rules to get into the situation where I needed to break rules to get out. And I know that my actions will be met with disgust by the masses if my adventure goes sideways (that’s if they ever find my body).

        • 3rdMan June 9, 2016, 11:27 pm


          We do not violate the basic safety rules that is when you or a loved one gets hurt or killed. That is not acceptable under any circumstances, even SHTF. As a prepper I thought you would follow the rule of three, which would include three sources of light. As far as barrel shadowing is there are WML that eliminate that. One you can purchase through BCM and another is a rail mount that affixes to the front sight allowing the light to be in the 12 o’clock position. This is the idea place for a light on an AR type rifle. If you still must use a WML to see what friends and family are doing around you never point it directly at them. You can use the peripheral light of the WML to accomplish this task without violating the basic safety rules. If you need light to move through an area there are ways of doing it that will reduce your own exposure as a target. Like I stated above it is about receiving the proper training. As far as all the situations you described above are concerned, use a light. No one is shooting at you and you would be foolish to not use light to increase your safety!!!

          • 3rdMan June 9, 2016, 11:52 pm

            Ok, so here is your training tip in using a light when moving through the dark weather rural or urban. This is the guy I was trained by in low light tactics. His tactics are solid. It would serve you to attend some of his training. His videos are great but they do not replace the hands on training he also provides.


  • Edward Smith June 7, 2016, 5:24 pm

    Hi I have a Mossberg model 500 .410 bore pump shotgun with pistol grip forearm with an 18.5″ barrel it is the home security bantam 50359. I want to mount a flashlight on it, and since it is a .410 and also has the pistol grip on the front. I could possibly use a rail if I used a light to fit the rail or I could use a clamp system. Do you have any suggestions on how to fit a flashlight to this shotgun. I have contacted all of the companies listed on the Amazon and Brownells site but they all say no to this particular gun. Thanks, Ed Smith

    • Doc Montana June 7, 2016, 9:37 pm

      Hi Edward,

      The two ways I’ve mounted lights on non-12 gauge shotguns are by the ExtremeBeam Weaver mount mentioned above, and by drilling and screwing a short piece of rail on the bottom of the sliding forend of a pump shotgun. Then using a traditional lighting solution.

      I’m pretty quick to grab a drill and start modding my guns. It’s only plastic, wood and metal, right?

    • Drew June 8, 2016, 6:19 am


      I don’t believe anybody makes an aftermarket fore end for the .410 bore Mossbergs – which is a shame, because not everyone can handle the recoil of a 12 or even a 20 – especially in a smaller home-defense sized package.

      I would look towards AR-15 barrel clamp-on mounts with an integral rail, since AR barrels are usually much narrower than 12-gauge barrels. Something like this may do the trick:

      Good luck!

  • Pierce June 7, 2016, 8:06 pm

    This is the light I have on my AR at home. I live in a 1300 square foot apartment, so distances are small and 1000 lumens would blind me if I shined the light at the wall, main reason I have a light on my rifle is to identify who the hell is in my home. It could be my wife’s cousin coming in because he needed to crash for the night and forgot to tell us that he was coming, I’m not gonna point my rifle at him if I suspect it is him obviously.
    I have a flashlight in my pocket for identifying things at a distance and lighting up rooms to see.

    • Doc Montana June 7, 2016, 9:33 pm

      Hi Pierce. Thanks for the read. Again, my article is addressing WMLs for the Bug Out, not standing your castle grounds.

      Using an AR in a small space will blow out your eardrums. But regarding your light, I see 20 lumens as way too few for a WML. Fine for reading a map in the car or navigating a dark living room. Even under the best of circumstances, you might be able to ID a target with 20 lumens at 20 feet. In practicality the light will do little more than keep you from walking into a wall or falling down stairs But for real-world use interacting with a potential threat is a not something I would choose.

      If 1000 is too much, try 500, or 300, but not 20. Might I suggest a variable powered light such as a Surefire Fury two cell. It will give you a low-lumenn first click and a whole pile of lumens should you need to light up a larger space or the situation moves outdoors. One night a while ago I called in the LEOs in for a disturbance nearby. The perp stood across the street in the shadows. As the cops were approaching on foot, I lit up the guy with 1K of lumens from at least 50 yards away. The dude didn’t know what happened since no car headlight could angle into his hiding spot. With night into day, the fuzz had no trouble corner and cuffing the perp. I didn’t have to say a word. Surefire did the talking.

      In closing, my take is that if your home PDW is an AR, then you should match your lighting power to your firepower.

  • Drew June 8, 2016, 5:59 am

    I have a Fenix PD35 TAC mounted at the 3 o’clock on my grab ‘n’ go AR,and it’s a phenomenal piece of gear. However, I opted for the Fenix pressure switch, and I’m less than overwhelmed – mostly with the old-school curled-up phone cord type of wire that runs between the tail cap and the pressure switch. I got sick of trying to figure out the best way to route that damn wire, and now it’s just zip-tied down to my Troy Alpha rail. Wish they’d make a straight, short wire…just sayin’…someone should write an article on pros and cons of this sort of stuff. I got the Fenix flashlight rail mount as well. It’s well made, but stands the light off the gun quite a ways. Might look into that Extremebeam mount or others.

    On my home defense 870 (sorry Doc, it’s a 12 ga) I just have a Streamlight Polytac in a VTAC mount, clamped to the rail on the Magpul MOE fore end. Simple, effective, and super inexpensive. Haven’t had a problem with it yet, even mounted on a 12 AND on the fore end, where it sees lots of reciprocating motions.

    Most lights that take two CR123A batteries can use one 18650 Lithium-Ion battery – and you can get these in a rechargeable format. Might be a good option if you have a solar panel in your SHTF gear.

  • BamaMan June 9, 2016, 9:00 am

    Home defense, I would rather the bad guy have a light so I know where to aim versus the opposite. Unless you are in unknown territory you might not want a light, and still might not.

  • Ray June 10, 2016, 9:06 am

    “Moving cross country”? If you are using a light you will be seen by EVERYTHING with eyes, within line of sight. If you are using a light under “blackout” conditions you will be seen by everything with eyes out to the horizon. Nothing on earth will give up your position at night better than an unfiltered white flashlight. If you have one mounted on a firearm you WILL turn it on at some point. Since your “weapons light” has a maximum effective range(for you) of 25 yards or less, the only “advantage” it gives is to whoever might want you dead. Weapons lights are for room clearing and nothing else.


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