Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gone in a flash...

We live quite a ways out from the nearest city and it always amazes me how dark it can get when there isn't much ambient light around like you'd find in town.  Over the years, I've known a lot of folks... even a few in law enforcement, the military, and competition shooters... that have shot for many years and yet have never fired a gun in the dark like a basement without lights or the darkness of a moonless night. 

No matter how good you think you are, how awesome those tritium sights are you've watched as you've shot or dry-fired a thousand times, or how bright that weapon light is... when you shoot in the dark, you need to be ready for the muzzle flash created by your guns and the brief re-adjustment you'll need because of it.

Now in the photos I've taken to illustrate my point, you'll see that with regular, off-the-shelf factory ammunition... handguns like the Ruger LCR revolver firing 130 grain .38 Special +P's and the Ruger SR9 semi-auto pistol with a Streamlight TLR-1s mounted on the rail firing 124 grain 9mm +P's can give you a pretty good muzzle flash just a couple of feet in front of your face.

Use of a flashlight or weapon light might mitigate some of the adjustment needed, but that's assuming you have it on constantly... which often I don't.  I tend to turn it on as needed, especially if I don't want to give away my location or position.... and in the dark of the night, you'll probably not see your hands and firearm like you do in these photos as you won't have a camera with a flash unit lighting things up.

A couple of shots fired in a row can leave your field of vision dark with a few spots as your eyes momentarily adjust.  We're fortunate with our own shooting range out back to be able to occasionally... if not regularly... practice shooting in low-light, dark, or even pitch-black conditions.

You'll also find that different firearms and ammunition combinations produce different amounts of muzzle flash, and a flash-hider or flash suppressor on a gun... like the Ruger SR-556c above... can greatly reduce the muzzle flash. You can see just a hint of the glow from the burning powder about three inches out from the muzzle and a few spots venting through the flash hider/suppressor.

If you want to practice in the dark or experience the actual muzzle flash from your firearms, you might check with a local range and see if they have a time or the willingness to allow time to be scheduled to practice shooting in low-light or dark conditions.  I know some indoor ranges have low-light scenarios set up for IDPA, three-gun, and other competitions.  Just remember... always be sure of your target and what is beyond it... especially in low-light or dark conditions.

Finally, on a side note... if you've ever wondered about or been a student of mine and heard my instruction about watching your thumb placement, especially for folks with big hands and short, snubby revolvers... you can see the gases escaping in the tiny gap between the front of the cylinder and the breech end of the barrel.  You don't want your thumb covering that area.

So if you haven't practiced in the dark lately... or ever... you might want to plan ahead and give it a try... otherwise when things go bump in the night and nocturnal predators are threatening... if you're not ready...

You're night vision... or you... could be... Gone in a flash...


  1. Good post. I've often thought that we're most likely to need to defend ourselves at night, but it's hard to practice for that. My club closes at dark. I'm registered for an advanced conceal carry tactics class this summer and part of the class involves nighttime work at the range. I'm really looking forward to that part of the course.

  2. Did you re-do the range? Care to post pictures?

  3. Great post. I have tried to Simulate this a little. One of the guys who trains me told me to shoot at the range with dark sunglasses, so I do. I have gone around my house at night, but never with my gun.

  4. @David... I think you're right... low light or dark situations probably are more appealing to zombies and two-legged varmints...

    @Don... I'm actually meeting with the second and third of three excavating contractors to get some firm financial figures this week, plus we need some drainage tile in other parts of the property... although it probably won't be dry enough around here to move major dirt and trench until July...

    @agirl... thanks... and that is a good thought, but the sunglasses not only darken what your shooting at, but also your gun, any tritium sights you might have, and the muzzle-flash... if it's even visible in the daylight or lit up indoor ranges... I just hope folks will think about it and maybe try some night or low-light shooting as part of their training, practicing, or competitions...

    @Lowry... thanks...