Low Light / No Light Shoot-Out

I recently had a chance to run a night shoot. 

That isn‘t quite correct.  I scattered IDPA targets and no shoots over the range and made sure each shooter had an empty gun when they finished.

CoF?  That’s simple.  From the start position each shooter was told there are people out there who have come to kill you.  Find them.  Stop them.  Don’t shoot the no-shoots!

We had a wide range of skill sets.  Some with TV and adventure movie training, others with serious professional training.  It gave me a chance to draw some observations.

I saw two different basic approaches depending on the shooter.  The IPSC-style shooters tended to select a path and never depart from it.  They moved in a straight line very fast.  While several of them used their lights sparingly, the straight line path made their location very predictable and a hidden troll would have had no problem ambushing them.

The IDPA-style shooters tended to move off the original path and continue along a new path.  They were required to use their lights more often, as their position relative to shoot/no-shoot targets constantly changed and they needed to confirm the target identity.  It took them longer to complete the CoF, but I believe the illuminate/identify/move-illuminate/confirm/shoot gives better survival options to the single good guy.

Most shooters, including myself, left their lights on too long.

All bets are off when moving with a squad and with targets that shoot back!

It’s quite amazing how moving among stationary cardboard targets gets your heart racing.  Engaging several armed individuals by yourself in the dark is clearly not for the faint of heart.  It also points out the advantage to be the hidden or ensconced shooter.

Low light - no light shooting
So what else is waiting in the darkness for you?  Illuminate, off light, move to different location!

Another observation I made was about the light used by each shooter.  No matter if shooter used a tactical or gun light, interesting differences were observed.  It’s very difficult to hold a light in one hand, a gun in the other and operate both independently.  Gun lights appear to be slightly easier, but most shooters still had difficultly.  In either case the shooters tended to look at the illuminated targets and not their front sights. 

Night sights/lasers.  Several shooters had them, but after using the lights, those glowing night sight dots became invisible.  Red lasers had their problems too!  Most people left them on too much and in the smoke and dark conditions they tended to point back at the shooter.   

At least one shooter using both light and laser was so conditioned to dot-on-target syndrome that he was unable to engage the target he had illuminated and identified as a shoot target.  Instead he froze in place trying to turn the magic dot back on. 

Another shooter had a light that it could have signed his position to a sniper on Mars.  It was so bright that it not only robbed him of his night vision, it reflected off surfaces and blinded him to shoot targets just outside the cone of illumination.  

Several targets are visible, but what else is there?
There's a shoot target behind the rear no-shoot.  It's a balance between little light and too much light.  

There is no question in my mind that anyone who found themselves staring into that light would have been blinded and confused, but it did make the shadows darker and deeper hiding places.  The shooter still has the obligation to his family to make sure there aren’t more than one of them.

Many of the shooters were using reloads; after all it was a practice night.  Other shooters used factory ammunition and some used defensive loads.  The difference in muzzle flash and smoke was impressive.  Some powders produces a feeble pale orange flash that the shooter scarcely noticed while others produced a blinding white flash that reminded me of flash photography. Some powders produced a significant cloud of smoke so much so I thought the shooter was fogging for insects.  

Not knowing what is what, my best recommendation is to have someone shoot your gun in darkness and evaluate the flash and smoke for yourself.  This is truly a case of little is good, none is best!

After everyone shot we got the road flares out.  Most of us thought we had moved the range to the gates of hell and were busy cutting crosses in our bullets.  It flashed through my mind that crosses were easier to carve in a bullet tip than a Star of David.  I digress….

The flare throws hellish light everywhere changing how anything looks
Flare light.  Did I say it was bright?
We found our eyes almost uncontrollably drawn to the incredibly bright red flare.  The irregular light made shadows move and change and that added to the complications.  Even with tactical and gun lights everything seemed harder: walking, shooting and especially hitting the targets.

I don’t know the tactical advantage of practicing by flare light.  Not too many of us will need to shoot it out against several armed intruders in a burning house or around a roaring camp fire.  It was however great fun.

I will say that mastering the ability to stay focused under these conditions makes staying focused under other less severe conditions appear simple. 

Maybe that’s the message of this blog.  Experience and mastery of a wide range of shooting conditions give you an edge when you need it.

Tip of the hat to Larry for the great images!!