Flashlights, Lasers, and Optics — When To Consider These Accessories For Everyday Concealed Carry
How much do you accessorize your concealed carry handgun?
Accessories, when talking about a pair of cuff links or a nice pair of shades, sound superfluous. They’re something we do in addition to the main thing to make ourselves stand out.
That isn’t the case in concealed carry. The whole point of carrying a concealed handgun is to hide it from plain sight. However, red dot optics, mounted lasers, flashlights and extended magazines undoubtedly have a force multiplying effect when placed into the situation of needing to put rounds reliably on target.
After all, that gun is there to save your life.
When your life or the life of someone near you is in clear danger — what’s in your holster?
The Role of the Flashlight
Flashlights are primarily effective to illuminate a target. They can also blind or distract a target caught in the beam. In enclosed indoor spaces or around morning or dusk, the addition of a flashlight can help distinguish friend from foe.
The problem with bottom-mounted flashlights is that they make your existing holsters useless. Any holster that’s molded to the gun — in order to give a high retention grip — will be ineffective the second a flashlight gets added.
This may make some concealed carriers relegate a specific pistol to a nightstand or other accessible location. But that also limits that concealed carrier’s ability to carry a flashlight.
We can’t know the conditions of that fateful if where any of us are called to use a gun to protect ourselves. It can be night time. It could be dark outside. It could be raining. These are all conditions where a flashlight is probably very useful. And if it’s mounted to your gun, all the easier if you need to use it.
Flashlight PROS: Illuminate target, potentially blind or distract hostile target
Flashlight CONS: Need to buy a whole new set of IWB and OWB holsters to accommodate. Need to remember to check the batteries. Need to keep the on/off switch accessible.
Why Modular Optics Systems Are The Future
As much as we’ve been continually hammered by an endless wave of new, flashly red-dot optics, there is a very practical upside to them. They’re relatively cheap, reliable, and many do not interfere with IWB/OWB holster configurations.
The other added bonus to a red dot optic system is that, once properly sighted in, it gives near instantaneous target acquisition. Unlike a red dot mounted laser, the holographic dot of a modular optic system can be easily zeroed in. It also takes far less power to run. That means you get a bit more out of those expensive batteries.
For a truck pistol or a car pistol, an optic system works fine. For everyday concealed carry, it can present some challenges because the optics are usually blocky and can print badly under thin clothing.
As a concealed carrier, this is something you’re already tackling on your daily commitment.
Optic Systems PROS: Faster target acquisition, can be zeroed very easily, may not need to buy a whole new holster to carry
Optic Systems CONS: Must be mounted (gunsmithing sometimes required), requires batteries to be effective, may present some barriers to concealed carry
Extended Magazines — Most Bang At Cost Of Printing
For compact and sub-compact concealed carriers, you know the pain of not being able to use your pinky to get a firm hold of your gun. Often times the concealability of the gun comes at the sacrifice of capacity. Smaller gun usually equals fewer bullets.
Enter the extended magazine.
No, I’m not talking about some thirty round monstrosity lodged into a sub-compact frame. That’s fun for the range but it’s just not practical for everyday carry. For most compact and sub-compact pistols, there are manufacturer and aftermarket magazines that can squeeze a couple extra rounds in and even give you somewhere to fold your pinky. This makes for a more consistent shooting experience and a few more rounds to work with.
Extended Magazines PROS: A few extra rounds never hurt anyone — except maybe the bad guy.
Extended Magazines CONS: May show a bit. Dress accordingly.
Mounted Lasers — Nothing Says ‘Hands Up’ Like A Red Dot On The Bad Guy’s Chest
There are a number of companies that produce aftermarket lasers that can be mounted either beneath the receiver or even sometimes integrated into the handle itself. Viridian makes a green laser which is supposed to show up better in the dark. Most traditional lasers are red.
They can burn out retinas just like pen lasers — so this is a hazard that the gun owner needs to be aware of when practicing at the range.
If properly calibrated and practiced with, a mounted laser can speed up target acquisition much the way a modular optic system would. The principle difference being — the laser can be seen by whomever it’s on.
This may be an advantage or disadvantage depending upon how you consider it. As a concealed carrier, you can quickly acquire your target and if your target has any sense whatsoever, he should surrender before that red dot gets center of mass.
Like flashlights and optic systems, lasers require batteries. Without batteries, they’re just a useless appendage on your gun. Like mounted flashlights, a mounted laser is going to require a new holster rig. This means shelling out more money for an IWB you can wear with the laser mounted.
Mounted Laser PROS: Faster target acquisition, visible to your opponent
Mounted Laser CONS: Requires batteries, practice, and calibration to be effective
These are just some of the accessory options that concealed carriers add on to their everyday carry guns. These are tools which, in the right conditions and with the right practice, can give the carrier additional confidence when employing his or her gun for self-defense.
These tools aren’t necessarily required in order to be a good concealed carrier or to save a life. All they can do is make it a little easier for you to operate reliably in hostile conditions. That’s all that counts.
So, whether you’re interested in mounting a laser, flashlight, or new optic system into your gun, always remember the basics always apply: carry more than one magazine, practice regularly with whatever pistol you intend to carry, and always check your targets before engaging.