Using tactical lights for self defense

Using the tactical flashlight as a defensive tool

This post addressed the use of a tactical light as a defensive tool without a handgun.

I have another post that addresses the use of a tactical light in combination with a handgun.

Finally, I have a third post that addresses the use of a gun mounted tactical light.

All three of these techniques are unique and important to understand.

Why use a tactical flashlight?

There’s something about nighttime and low light that brings out the worse in people.

Potentially, although I don’t have any scientific proof, most criminals, or those with criminal intent, are probably not early risers and are simply out and about at night.

We know that the IQ of a criminal is lower than the average person.

Finally, low light simply provides cover for illicit deeds.

Consequently, shedding a little light on the situation is often a good thing.

In fact, a tactical flashlight can not only be used to identify an assailant or dangerous situations, but it can also even be used to disarm them with a strobe (read my article here), and as a last resort, it can be used to strike an aggressor.

Perhaps just as important, the right tactical light can accompany you where ever you go – at home, on the road or even on an airplane. No other piece of defensive tactical gear can claim such universal acceptance. 

What tactical flashlight to use


It is important to select a defensive flashlight with a size that you’ll easily and continuously carry. Too small and it might be ineffective, but too large and you won’t want to carry it.

Grip according to Control Buttons

We know, from some of the other articles posted on this site, that tactical lights come with control buttons – tail and side, that may or may not be suitable for defensive use.

The position of the control button ties directly into one of three common flashlight grips – the Sword Grip, Ice-Pick Grip, and the Syringe Grip.

  • The Sword Grip

    • refers to holding the flashlight like you would a sword blade, with the lens end of the flashlight on the thumb side of the hand. This obviously is conducive to a side button switch and the inherent drawback is always to ensure that your thumb is aligned with the button switch.
    • I have found this facilitated by aligning the clip with the button so that button acquisition can be accomplished even in the dark.
  • The Ice-Pick Grip

    • refers to holding the flashlight as you would an ice pick and requires lights with a tail button switch. The benefit, as opposed to the Sword Grip, is the immediate and easy location of the button control.
  • The Syringe Grip

    • refers to holding the flashlight between two fingers like a syringe. This grip is facilitated with a tactical ring on the flashlight and the light is activated by pressing the tail button into the palm of the hand.


From another post, you need to recognize some of the features that are essential to a defensive light, such as:

  • It needs to be truly operational with only one hand. Lights that require you to press one button to turn on and yet another button to select a strobe are not effective for defensive purposes.
  • It should allow for easy access to a momentary light. The momentary light is used to identify a subject without totally lighting you up as a target.
  • The momentary and permanent bright light should be accessed without going through additional lighting levels.
  • It should allow for easy access to a strobe. Obviously, the strobe is helpful to disorient an intruder.
  • It needs to be really bright. Unfortunately, home invaders often travel in groups of two or more. You want to see as wide yet as focused an area as possible.
  • It needs to be dependable.

How bright?

In my article about brightness, I brought out the fact that although bigger is not always better, my recommendation was that:

Although I’ve read numerous suggestions on how bright a tactical light should be, one of the most definitive books written on the tactical use of a flashlight, “Deployment of Illumination Tools – Law Enforcement Training Primer” by Ken J. Good, states that the recommended brightness for a tactical flashlight should be “a minimum of 250 lumens for an adequate light source”. He further states that “traditional 2/3-D cell flashlights using incandescent bulbs, are inadequate sources of light”.

You can read the post to learn more about brightness levels and lumens, but it’s especially important that you select a quality brand that is not fudging the number of lumens. This not only guarantees that you are getting a light that is bright enough but that you’re getting a quality light that you can depend upon.

What about features like Strobe?

I’ve also discussed earlier in my Strobe post, that “yes” strobe is effective. In fact:

Especially at close range, and when a subject is dark-adapted, the effect of a strobe-mode on a Tactical Flashlight can be overwhelming. More often than not, eyes close immediately, heads turn, hands come up, and balance is disrupted. This is known as the “Kodak Moment”.

Additionally, the subject’s sense of your distance and their overall depth perception is confused and even unascertainable. Remember, however, this is an optional tactic, and the impact is not effective past room distance ranges. These are also the conclusions of Ken J. Good, in his Deployment of Illumination Tools – Law Enforcement Training Primer”.

Selecting the right light

In addition to some of the other posts that review tactical flashlights, I do provide and keep current a Recommended Gear page which you may want to check out to select the right light.

In the meantime, I want to cover a little about self-defense techniques.

A Simple Defensive Tactical Flashlight Technique

A word of caution about strike bezels – I am not a big advocate of running around with the most aggressive flashlight bezel and using the light as a striking tool.  I am aware of stories where the strike bezel of a tactical light did stop threats in close quarter situations. But these illustrations seem to be “last resort” kind of of issues.

I am also aware of some tactical lights with really aggressive strike bezels that were confiscated by TSA before the owner was allowed to board their plane. So, a word to the wise, there’s no problem with a normal strike bezel, but it is a last resort option, and too aggressive of a bezel could end up causing complications whereas a normal or no bezel will probably not cause any issue with TSA or anyone else.

That said, Klarus does offer a highly agressive strike bezel that can be interchanged with the standard bezel that comes with some of their lights. This is just another option that can be considered.

Steps to using a tactical flashlight in a defensive mode:

  • Select the correct tactical flashlight that is comfortable and that you will always carry.
  • Ensure that you know how to operate the light and can easily locate the controls button.
  • In low light situations, hold or have your tactical light accessible to your weak hand.
    • In fact, using and manipulating the light in your weak hand (the other hand from your dominant hand 🙂 should be practiced until it becomes second nature.
  • In low light situations, hold or have your keys or another defensive tool in your dominant hand.
  • Walk purposely and maintain situational awareness.
    • Do not get engrossed in your cell phone or some other distraction.
  • Illuminate areas as you feel reasonable or necessary.
  • If you are confronted, shine the light directly into the eyes of the aggressor and even flash the strobe.
  • As soon as possible, assume an FBI Technique position which is discussed in my post on the use of tactical lights with a gun.
    • What you’re doing here is simply raising the flashlight above and to the side of your body.
    • Since the assailant can not see you, any attempt to charge you will be towards the light. By you being on the side of the light, you will be in the position to strike back with your keys or whatever another defensive tool you may be carrying, if necessary, and should be completely out of the way of the assailant’s attack path.
    • If your strobe is effective in disabling the assailant, they will be hampered in accurately measuring distance, in which case you will have the opportunity to back up and retreat.

Effectively then, this simple technique will facilitate your ability to do the following:

  • identify the threat,
  • stop the assailant,
  • strike without being hit should the assailant charge, and
  • retreat to safety if the assailant is disabled due to the strobe.

Of course nothing is 100% guaranteed, however, the right tool with the right technique will afford you options you otherwise would not have.

This is a technique everyone should be aware of and use – men, women, teenagers.

Of course, the first rule would be to avoid any situation which could lend itself to a low light assault but sometimes we can’t always control that. Everyone in your family should be aware of and trained in this simple defensive technique. Again, it has an almost universal application, can be used anywhere you carry your light, and it all starts with a simple but correct, tactical light.

If you are armed, then you’re afforded even more options, however, what we’re discussing here is simply the use of one tactical flashlight.

Hopefully, this has been helpful.

Always be prepared, be well.