Pocket Flashlights Vs WMLs – Which Is Better?

Lights, cameras, guns? Flashlights are a critical part of being a prepared citizen. As a species, we rely on our eyes to provide us with more information than any other sense. From a defensive standpoint, sight is essential. You need to be able to identify the threat, aim at the threat, and evaluate the threat. To see in the dark, we need light. A suitably armed citizen has likely already considered some form of flashlight. In the world of concealed carry, there are two options for a defensive light: the weapon-mounted light and the handheld light.

Every concealed carrier will eventually have to consider which to carry in the journey to build a capable everyday carry regiment. If you take your security seriously, a light source is a must-have. Today, we will dissect both options and give you a better look at their strengths and weaknesses.

Weapon Mounted Lights Vs Handheld Flashlights – The Showdown

As we dig into this optic, let’s establish a few things. First and foremost, when we discuss these two styles of lights, we compare high-quality options for weapon and handheld flashlights. We aren’t trying to compare a Walmart 4-dollar LED flashlight with a Surefire X300 Turbo. We’ll avoid talking too much about lumens and candela and mainly discuss the use of these light systems.

If one option’s downside is another option’s strength, I won’t repeat it as a pro or a con. I think that’s self-explanatory. It just bears mentioning. If you don’t see a downside you recognize, keep reading. It will probably pop out at you.

The Weapon Mounted Light

The Weapon Mounted Light, or WML, offers shooters a lighting system that mounts to the weapon. For the vast majority of modern firearms, the rail attaches to the dust cover of the firearm, typically on some form of rail system.

Weapon-mounted lights vary in size now more than ever. While WMLs were typically used on full-size and compact weapons, in recent years, powerful lights have been released for pistols as small as the P365 and Hellcat series.

The primary benefit of weapon mount flashlights is that they provide one system of gun and light. It’s simpler. When using a WML, you can have both hands on the gun and maximize control. In a situation where you can only use one hand for whatever reason, you can still use a gun and light simultaneously.

Manipulating the gun and light tends to be very simple. You don’t run into a pat your head while rubbing your belly situation. These two tend to be easier to carry together. They just fall into a holster, and you’ll be carrying a gun and holster anyway.

In some situations, this isn’t a massive benefit, but it can be a real winner in restrictive clothing. Women’s clothing doesn’t often encourage the carry of defensive accessories.

The downsides include needing a specific weapon that can use a WML, which eliminates the vast majority of revolvers. Most pocket pistols aren’t compatible with weapon lights, either. WMLs can be limited to guns with rails, and while most guns have rails, that doesn’t mean all have rails.

Handheld Flashlights

Handheld flashlights offer a much more versatile tool. I can use a handheld light to find my keys if I drop them at the movie theatre, or I can use it to help me find the keypad at my Airbnb. You get the point. A flashlight becomes super handy outside of defensive encounters.

In situations that aren’t violent, but if your spider sense is tingling, a handheld light can be used to identify a threat without pointing a gun at it. If that noise in the alley isn’t a burglar but instead the meter reader, you’ve just avoided an aggravated assault charge.

Handheld flashlights tend to be the more powerful option. Even pocket-sized lights are bigger than most WMLs, and more room allows for more power. More proof gives you great range and the ability to pierce through photonic barriers. Not only can they be more powerful, but they can be cheaper. WMLs come at a premium, and handheld lights can be super powerful and affordable.

The handheld light is the more tactically flexible tool. It can be used around corners and under obstacles without removing your gun from a potential threat.

A handheld light offers you another tool you will have to master. It’s something else to shove in your potentially crowded pockets. The handheld light is also bigger and heavier in most cases than the WML.

No Clear Winner

As fun as it would be to provide you with a clear winner, that’s just not possible. There is no clear winner here. There isn’t one right and 100% better light option.

In my mind, the common sense approach is that for concealed carry, a handheld light is mandatory. It can do everything the WML can do and everything it can’t. WMLs are a nice optional addition. When it comes to home defense, I feel that the WML is necessary, and the handheld light is more optional.

Those are my thoughts, but I’m just one guy. Do you disagree? Did I miss anything? Let us know below!

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.


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