The integration of accessories into firearms has always fascinated me. It tickles that cyberpunk itch I have with firearms. Certain accessories integrate better than others, and lights are seemingly one of the more popular choices for weapon integration. We typically add lights to handguards and rails, but what about building them into the rifle? True integration of light and firearm. Integrating a weapon light isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s kind of an old idea we’ve gotten away from.
The OGs of Integrated Lights
Surefire was one of the first when they were still Laser Products Corporation. It wasn’t a light necessarily, but a laser that was integrated into the tube of a Remington 870. When Surefire became Surefire, they continued to integrate weapon lights and accessories. They built the integrated shotgun pumps that really defined weapon lights for pump shotguns.
They went on to design handguards for the MP5 that integrated a weapon light and followed up with the M4 handguard that did the same. This was before Picatinny Rails and certainly well before M-LOK became the star of the show. These systems used built-in buttons and allowed the user to control the lights in a rather ingenious way.
With the rise of M-LOK and rails, most of these faded away. Shotguns are one of the few platforms that still commonly use integrated lights. The main problem with these older lights was a lack of customization. You could change their orientation or place the button right where you want it. This poses a problem because we are a people who right like to customize and control the crap we stick on our guns.
Modern Integrated Lights
I’m using modern to describe any light system from 2010 til now or so. We’ve seen a few rail systems integrate lights. The Merklight X Series handguards integrated 8 LEDs into a handguard and apparently had 740 lumens of power, but I’m betting the candela and range were rather low. Another option was the Luma Shark, which offered 1,150 lumens of light from two integrated lights that sat on the bottom of the M-LOK handguard.
One of the more impressive examples of integration comes from the Taurus Curve. I know what you’re thinking, but I’ll give credit when it’s due. The Curve was the first time I ever saw a handgun with a light built into the frame. Sure, it was dimmer than the light on my keychain, but it was a step forward.
The only successful integrated weapon lights still come from shotguns. This includes the TL Racker, the Surefire DSF series, and the oft-forgotten Steiner Mk7. Due to the specific needs of a pump shotgun, these lights excel at their role and are widely fielded.
What the Future Could Hold
I don’t think weapon lights integrated into rifles will gain any real acceptance anytime soon. People like being able to place their lights in a way that better interacts with the other gear on their rifle rails. Shotguns are covered, and I really think the future of integrated weapon lights comes in the form of handguns.
The Curve had it right. With handguns, we have one place to stick the light, and it’s under the barrel. With handguns like the P320 and the Echelon using these removable fire control groups and chassis, the advent of a grip with a built-in light can’t be too far off. The smart idea would be to use interchangeable switches and replaceable heads that match something like the Surefire X300 series.
It could save bulk and weight from a fairly bulky combination. SIG has done a laser grip module for the P320, so someone is thinking about it. It would be interesting to see the integration and how big or small lights could be with integration, and potentially other avenues or battery integration. As long as the current standard for power can be met, I’d love to see light integration become an option with particular frames and designs. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait too long on the future.