APRIL 5, 2011

Voices from the Field: Gunlights, Switching and Gunpoint: An Analysis -- Part I

by Chuck Haggard
Recently a Force Science Research Center e-mail sent out to their mailing list has caused a great deal of controversy among police firearms trainers, SWAT officers, and police command personnel. The Force Science article starts with the warning "Gun-mounted flashlight device susceptible to fatal errors under high stress. The Force Science Institute strongly cautions LEOs to avoid a switching device that attaches to a popular gun-mounted flashlight and creates risk of an unintended firearm discharge during high-stress confrontations because of its design . . .", and continues with more information on their opinion. This e-mailing stems from two incidents where officers inadvertently shot suspects being investigated or taken into custody during arrest situations, one in Texas and the other in New York. Although I fan been a fan of the FSRC for many years, and I have met, attended classes by, and personally admire Dr. Lewinski, and I promote the FSRC information and website at every opportunity, I strongly feel for several reasons that the FSRC and "Dr. Bill" have jumped the proverbial gun in this case. First things first; No one outside of the investigators in these two cases has the full information on both of these incidents, so we are left with conjecture and media articles to work with. This is hardly the best position from which to make a sweeping opinion that can and will affect the equipment choices made by a huge number of tactical and patrol officers across the country. I also have several issues with the conclusions made by the good Doctor as they clash with my training and experience with this subject matter. My background is a career patrol officer with 25 years experience, almost all of it on some sort of night shift. I have 18 years working SWAT for a team with a very active operational tempo. I have also been blessed to attend training by the old Sure Fire Institute and Strategos International, much of which has been facilitated by some of the most knowledgeable low-light instructors on the planet, guys like former Navy SEAL Ken Good. I currently serve as a part time adjunct instructor for Strategos for low-light and active-shooter instructor level classes. Although I feel that I am merely a serious student of these TTPs, I also feel my operational and training background gives me some grounding in the topic at hand. The issues I have with the conclusions made in the FSRC e-mail includes the following. There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of DG switches currently being used by police and .mil forces across the globe. We have heard of two incidents thus far, which is statistically insignificant compared to how many of these switches are in use on a daily basis. The DG switch is, in my humble opinion, the very best switching option of all available pressure switches on the market. This switch is the easiest to use well, and under stress, is easy to use when wearing gloves or in the cold (as one would guess from a switch made for and at the behest of Naval Special Warfare guys), and feeds off of the very dynamics already in play with a good shooting grip on a handgun. Removing the DG switch from available equipment leaves officers using less effective or safe switching options. The dynamics of the use of the DG switch are similar to, or exactly the same as, almost every Crimson Trace laser grip on the market, as well as several other lighting switches by other makers who have copied the successful Sure Fire DG switch - and various "safeties," like the "squeeze cocker" on the HK P 7 pistol which has been used for many years by German special units and the grip safeties on many other successful handguns over the years, and in fact is pretty much the same as a good firm grip taught by almost all firearms instructors for use with a pistol with no light mounted at all. I would ask; If the DG switch is unsafe, then how can a shooter safely use any handgun under stress since the gripping dynamics for holding onto a handgun are the same, DG switch or no switch? Chuck Haggard is a police lieutenant with more than 24 years in law enforcement, 18 of those with SWAT, including serving as a entry team member, sniper, breecher, and team leader. He's a certified instructor in various firearms, defensive tactics and less-lethal weapon systems. (Part II will appear next issue - Editor)