Some things to consider about lights on long guns...

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Thread: Some things to consider about lights on long guns...

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    Some things to consider about lights on long guns...

    Heck, I thought this would be easy How hard can it be to successfully mount a light on a long gun? Well, there's plenty of lights and plenty of mounting hardware, so that's not a problem. But, there are some problems one may not realize until he's tried something only to find it's not quite what he expected.

    Before we get into some of the issues, let's talk about why one would want to mount a light on a long gun. There are really only three reasons: self-defense, hunting, and some competitive events. Obviously a light is not needed for target shooting and daytime hunting.

    The reason for mounting a light to the long gun is that holding a light securely and efficiently operating a long gun is all but impossible. Give it a try - e.g. a pump shotgun - even with a semi-auto shotgun, the recoil wreaks havoc (I hate cliches but sometimes they say what you want to say concisely) with the security and pointing of the light.

    And trying to hold a light and manipulate the light and an AR is awkward at best. There are techniques to do this, and some not bad. However, darkness is already a compromise, further compromise of having to manipulate two separate things really pushes the envelop and increases the risk of something going wrong.

    So, to be clear, this is not about light philosophy etc. It is just about some of the issues involved in mounting and applying lights on long guns.

    The first problem is that not all long guns have a convenient way to mount a light. And remember we're talking about SD, night hunting, and competition - that covers a wide range of long gun types, needs, and applications. Bolt action rifles are probably the most challenging. I know guys that actually duct tape lights to their bolt rifles, and other rifles, e.g. lever action but that's a bit iffy and if not done right can damage the finish on the gun. Even ARs can have light mounting problems, esp. those with the round forends. Shotguns can be less problematic than rifle/carbines because the combination of a barrel and magazine tube and clamps offer some possibilities that aren't available on other guns, e.g. an integral clamp and rail as shown here:



    There are a couple of problems with that mount you should be aware of. One, it can mar the finish on your gun, as it did on this particular gun, and two, you can't field strip the gun without removing the clamp. Sometimes you can't access the screws to the clamp until you have removed the rail. The particular clamp shown in the pic above, is a Nordic clamp and bolt on rail. There are two clamping bolts on each side of the clamp and since there is a rail on one side (and there can be a rail on both sides, the rail(s) have to be removed to remove the clamps - all a great deal of inconvenience, esp. in the field.

    So with regard to shotguns what about just a magazine tube clamp instead of a barrel & mag clamp? Well, it depends - you still have to remove the clamp to remove the barrel for cleaning or whatever - the barrel ring that encloses the mag tube won't slide past the clamp. I say it depends because if you can mount the clamp behind the barrel ring, the barrel can be removed. Or, if you can find a QD (Quick Disconnect) type mount that would make things easier.

    One last possibility is a barrel clamp. The clamp secures the light to the barrel alone and hence the barrel can be removed without removing the light or the clamp. However, now you're limited to mounting positions. E.g. you can orient the light to either side of the barrel, but not to the bottom of the barrel. So with a light on one side, you've got a wider package.

    Bolt guns are especially problematic too - there's few places on a bolt gun to mount a light. So if one is using a compact bolt gun, like the Mossberg MVP, for night hunting pigs, mounting a light may be a big problem. Seems like I have seen a rail that is secured to the gun via the forend sling screw. That would be pretty clean but likely very, very hard to find.

    I'll offer an alternative for some of the hard to mount guns. It's a method I use on specific guns and it's close to universal across the board - ARs, shotguns, and even bolt and lever guns. There is a few caveats however that I'll get to them shortly.Here it is on a Benelli Supernova Tactical shotgun:



    And from the top:



    A little closer for the mount details:



    And a couple of views from the business end:





    Although this allows a light to be mounted where there are almost no other alternatives, there are a number of things to be aware of and consider with this type of mount. Since this post is getting pretty long, I'll continue in the next post...
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    First, the receiver rail method requires a Picatinny rail on the receiver. And that has a couple of problems, one, there may not be a Picatinny rail available for that particular gun, although I expect a gunsmith could pretty much come up with a rail for just about any long gun. Second, if your gun has a short rail, there may not be room on the rail for and optic and the light mount, although the light mount doesn't really require a lot of room - only about an inch for the side mount rail to clamp on. On ARs the scope mounts often have to be mounted forward to accommodate eye relief requirements. This doesn't leave room for even an inch in the front of the rail. We could consider mounting the light behind the scope, but that's very problematic which I'll address next.

    Reflection: when a light, especially a bright light is mounted on a long gun, everything in front of the light becomes a light reflecting object. Believe it or not, such light can even flood out the front sight. Otherwise all protrusions such as clamps, sights, even a glare from the barrel can become a potentially cause a problematic reflection from a very bright light.

    A second issue is shadowing. When a light it too close and or too far back on the barrel, the barrel will block some of the light causing a shadow of the barrel down range. You may still have a good view of your target, but you will lose illumination and hence field of view on the side the shadow is on. And this can occur with forward mounted lights as well. The solution for the more rearward mounted light is to get it further away from the barrel - that moves the shadow further to the right (left mounted light) and improves the FOV down range.

    Forward mounted lights have less of a barrel shadow problem because there's less barrel to cause a shadow, but it can still be in the way. Again, mounting the light further away from the barrel will help. Another option is available for forward side mounted lights and that is to use two lights, one on each side as shown here:



    That will minimize barrel shadow plus double your lighting power. But don't expect to be able to see twice as far - that only works for specific conditions.

    If you get lights too far forward which is more of a problem with handguns than long guns, although as you could see in the pic of the Benelli M2 with the barrel/mag tube clamp, the lens of the light is even or past the muzzle. Residue will be deposited on the lens and it can reduce the effectiveness of the light and possibly permanently damage the lens.

    This consideration is for indoor use, typically a SD application. Indoors we have bunches of things that are good light reflectors - light colored walls, glass door cabinets, even windows, mirrors, TV screens, refrigerators, etc. If a bright light hits one of these and reflects back in your eyes, your night vision will be diminished considerably.

    Now, having said that, this is one of those things that depends...I guarantee you if you've been asleep for any period of time and you are awakened by something, your eyes are just about maxed out for night vision capability. If you turn on a bright light, your eyes will start to close down. It's more light than they were adjusted to, so they close down to the new light level. The brighter the light they see, the more they close down. But to a large degree, that's ok, you can see well with the light and your adversary, if there is one, has the same problem but worse well if the light was pointed in his direction. The problem arises when you turn the light off. Now you eyes have to re-adjust to the darkness.

    And, I need to add this: there are a number of variables here. If you are in a very dark area, this is more of a problem than if you are in a subdued lighting area. I like bright lights, but I don't like bright spot lights - they are not nearly the best choice for indoors. You need a wide beam indoors - you don't need to see something 20 yards away, you need to see things in the nooks and crannies. The more light on the nooks and crannies the better and quicker you can identify threats.

    Hunting: I'm not sure you can have too much light for hunting purposes. We don't see nearly as well in the dark as we do in the light, so we need all the light we can get generally, and of course, a lot depends on what, where, and how you're hunting. Speaking of hunting, let's get this out of the way - the color of the light. Some claim red is the best, some claim green is the best, some claim white is the best, some claim it doesn't matter. I'm in the latter group - I don't believe it matters.

    The typical claim is some animal, say a pig, has poor color vision and hence can't see green light. That's not quite right. The pigs can't tell what color a light is, but they can certainly see intensity of the light. It's not if you shine a green light at a pig, he is completely blind to it. NOT AT ALL - he just doesn't know what color that bright light is.

    On my last pig hunt, since the pigs didn't show, I played with the racoons. I repeatedly shined a bright white light at them and they would generally look up and then return to eating. If I moved the light about, flashed it on and off enough, they would lose their nerve and leave, only to return in about 5 minutes.

    Another thing I learned from the hunt is how moisture affects the efficiency of the light and your ability to see. Two nights fog rolled in about 9:30 pm. Turning on a bright spot light on the rifle simply created a white out due to reflection of the fog. However, if the light was located further from the shooter, you could see significantly better. in this latter case, much of the light reflects away from you whereas with the WML it reflected straight back at you. Consider how much lower (or higher) fog lights are mounted than our headlights on cars and trucks - it's the same principle - the closer the light is to your eyes, the more reflection we get and hence the less we see.
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