Like any piece of duty gear, optics and lights must be able to handle the various demands of the real world. Those demands can vary greatly from environmental to incidental. Equipment needs to be durable or even bulletproof and lightweight.

New Technology and the Divide

Law enforcement tends to be hesitant about adopting new technologies. It tends to be even slower at instituting new ways of training and accommodating officers with new technology.


It is still common to see a police officer using a rifle without an optic, a quality sling, and no light mounted to it. Forget about seeing an officer in a major jurisdiction carrying an optic mounted on his duty pistol.

Trijicon MRO on a patrol rifle

Why not? Why not have quality optics on both the pistol and the rifle? Why not have quality, bright, LED lighting mounted to the firearms? An amazing amount of research into the reliability, method of use, and training curricula for implementing these tools are readily available at our fingertips on the inter-webs or quality schools teaching the proper use of them.

Another angle regarding optics that should be considered is for making reasonable accommodations for those that struggle with their vision as they get a little longer in the tooth.  Officers wearing transition lenses or the like often struggle with going from looking down range at a threat and changing their focal point to the front sight.

Train for It

But but…. “An officer might use a firearm mounted light to search for things and thus point his/her firearm at something they aren’t willing to destroy.”  Yep, they might be doing that already if they aren’t receiving the proper policy, training, and supervision.  Teach them to do it correctly and hold them accountable to doing it right.  I’m pretty sure they are already carrying a primary search light (with a couple of back-ups for the primary light because of Mr. Murphy.”)

Your Eyes Have It

Human vision under stress has a high likelihood of causing involuntary reactions such as loss of near focus.  Optics on rifles and pistols allow the user to keep our focus on the threat instead of switching our focus to front sight.  During the fight or flight moment that our body goes through during a use of deadly force incident, many complex issues occur in our body in a very short period.Not being able to see well because of lighting, holding onto multiple items in our hands, and transitioning from looking at the threat to a front sight doesn’t need to be part of the problem!

What About the Cost?

You’re right, purchasing a quality light and a quality optic cost money.  It’s worth the investment.  Is the cost really that overwhelming?  A quality optic for a duty pistol can be had for about $450.

You’re going to need a slide that accommodates the optic or have your current pistol milled to fit.  You could also go with a company like Dueck Defense or Raven Concealment that utilize the rear sight dovetail.

Plan for the future and purchase your next round of duty pistols with an OEM milled slide.  Many police departments use Glock or Smith and Wesson duty pistols.  Both offer an off-the-shelf ready configuration with taller back up iron sights and the ability to mount the modular optic system directly to the slide.  My Generation 4 Glock 35 was professionally milled for under $100 and Cerakoted.

What about the holster?

There are many holsters already available for configurations of lights and optics on the pistol.  My preference right now is the Safariland 6392RDS ALS holster.  You can get the Safariland holster with or without the shroud and hood.  If you don’t like Safariland, keep looking – you’ll find more holster options.  I’m hoping that TDL (Tactical Design Labs) hurries up and comes out with a holster for the optics.

Lighting on Duty Pistols and Patrol Rifles

InForce high lumen light installed on a ST Compressor from Spikes Tactical upper

One of the fundamental things we must do when dealing with a lethal threat is to identify that threat!  Having light, lots of light, shining onto our adversary is a good thing.

Without the use of quality lighting systems, we take away our primary source of information, the eyes!  We need quality information coming in for judgment, justification, and accuracy.  The combination of dominating light and an optic that lets us keep our focus on the threat is an immeasurable advantage that we should absolutely seek out.

Most modern lighting systems have the ability for the user to control the amount of light that is discharged and have the ability for the user to passively turn the light on and off without adding to the stress of the situation.  Consider a pistol-mounted light that allows for installation of a remote switch like the Streamlight TLR-1 HL  at 800 high lumens with the contour remote (part #69300.)  I’ve come to really like my InForce light on my patrol rifle.  Train with the system you go with to the point of failure. Change the batteries before you need to by scheduling it on your calendar – maybe once yearly at qualifications time or even more often if you use them frequently.

Be Responsible.

Identify your threat.

Train with your optic and your light.

Have a backup plan (more lights, iron sights).

Have a sling on your rifle. A rifle without a sling is like a pistol without a holster.

Work towards changing your policy if it prohibits the use.

Be safe and if you can’t be safe, be deadly.