Mike the Mook
When bad things happen to good people, it will most likely be at night. Bad guys don’t come at you on the shooting range on a 70 degree Saturday afternoon. It will be 2 a.m. in your home or at midnight while leaving a movie theater. If you’re really lucky it’ll be while you’re reaping the whirlwind with the Residential Sergeant Major and you’re just about to get a round out.With that in mind, it makes sense to train for night shooting. Recently I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to do just that with LMS Defense and Instructor Daniel Bales, attending two different LMS Defense Low Light courses.
LMS (Last Man Standing) Defense is one of the top shooting schools in the country. All of their instructors are fully vetted and at the top of their game.
LMS Defense Low light
Bales is an experienced law enforcement officer who knows his way around firearms and is a patient and knowledgeable instructor. Our class was held at the Mustang Range in Fernley, Nevada. Not exactly a hop, skip and a jump from Nancy’s Squat and Gobble but hey – maybe the Old Lady will finally do what she’s been promising for forty years and open it up to franchising!
Technically these were two separate classes: Day one being low light pistol and day two for low light carbine. There were themes that held true throughout both, though. These were also not beginner classes and each had minimum prerequisites.
Shooting began after the 2:00 pm safety brief on both days. There was plenty of light in the beginning so students could familiarize themselves with the four different hand-held positions of the various weapon light techniques before moving into the lowlight segment. Each day the class ended with shoot house scenarios at 10 p.m., so a 4:45 pm sunset meant for a good 5 hours of low light shooting.
Bales puts shooting on the level of athletic competition. That is not to say that the classes are run like an IPSC shoot (or for that matter the creamed corn wrestling match at Nancy’s), but body mechanics and hand/eye coordination play a significant role, particularly when the temps are down along with the lights.
Physical fitness is important when it comes to defending yourself and maintaining mental acuity under stress. You should know this and be helping all us Minions preach it.
Courses are always a good way to gauge your tools and make sure everything is working properly.
We rolled out with what we had: my choice of the USP Compact Tactical 45 was base solely on the fact that itwas the only handgun for which I had a light compatible holster. Unfortunately it wasn’t a partial drop leg (no, none of us make that a habit) nor did it have MOLLE to allow mounting on our chest rig. My coat kept getting in the way of a smooth draw, re-holstering was a bitch and I ended up either shooting in the cold without a coat or tucking it into my belt.
What was it we’ve said since our first Victory First class so long ago? “Cover garment is a bitch.”
Thankfully I had zero malfunctions and all rounds stayed on target, even shooting one-handed. I noticed several other shooters having problems due to wearing gloves and their interference with the action of the slide or limp wristing due to unfamiliarity with one-handed shooting. Problem noted — they hopefully corrected those problems later.
The light looked dead an hour into day one, but it turned out to be an unusually heavy carbon build up on the bulb from shooting over 1000 rounds through a silencer without a wipe down. Your local dancing mom might do that for you if you ask politely, but always check your gear before a class. Another reminder brought home, this one quite personally.
Our only real equipment failure was breaking a rifle sling and swivel on day two, but I quickly jury rigged a new swivel and had a second sling in the truck.
Speaking of which, the rifle I used had a 4X Trijicon ACOG, Surefire M900 fore grip (yeah, I know, 2003 called and wanted their gear back). Still, both units worked well and we may have been on the lower end of the lumen scale, and I had no problems with these antiquated solutions. Keep in mind also the last time I did any serious lowlight training it involved an M16A2, ANPVS-4, mini-mag flashlight and hose clamps! It could be bit heavy firing one handed with our flashlight held in the other FBI style of course, but that wasn’t insurmountable.
Note that I did miss a bad guy going through the shoot house — not miss as in the shot, miss as in I didn’t identify him as a threat. A brighter light may have allowed me to see the threat’s weapon better.
Night sights are almost completely useless except right at dawn and dusk. You can see the sights in total darkness and the Heine Straight 8’s on our H&K USP Compact Tactical were mostly used to properly guide the pistol into the holster. You cannot see your target without a flashlight and the light renders the sights useless. Fiber optic sights on the other hand gather that light and give a better than average sight picture. I will never add Tritium sights to another firearm, nor pay more money for that option in the future (and we’re curious about your thoughts on the matter, so weigh in below in the comments).
The second day gave us 27 degree weather with rain, snow, sleet, hail and wind. I was thinking out loud about how much suck it was going to bring, but then Household-6 weighed in with one of her rare moments of tactical omnipotence by remarking,
“Yeah, but when you might need to use these skills, it will probably be in that kind of weather.”
A common problem, particularly in the shoot houses, involved most of us going too fast and “outrunning our headlights.” Whether it was adrenaline, trying to beat the cold or folks getting tired and trying to compensate, we all seemed to do it but we quickly recovered and dialed it down by the end.
When scanning for threats, remember to look up and down. During one course of fire we thought we had addressed every threat until it was pointed out that we completely overlooked two who were lying on the ground. Just like we learned in 1st MARDIV Patrol 101: LOOK EVERYWHERE!
The best takeaway was learning from the other students. LMS attracts shooters from all walks of life. Training at this level means your peers are more serious than the guy who just bought his first rifle and thinks the S&W SD40VE is the best thing since the railed Hi Point pistol he traded out of. It’s good company to keep.
If you are training to deal with a threat you must train for when it will happen and that is usually not when it’s bright and comfortable. Bad guys find comfort in the dark and so must we if we want to fight and prevail. Even if that means 27 degrees at night in the snow!
You can visit LMS Defense online here