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Technique & Skills

Shooting at Night: Part 1



Shooting at Night 1

Bad things mostly happen at night. Banks get robbed at lunchtime and 9/11 occurred in the morning, but all things being equal, bad guys do bad things most often in the dark. We're here to contemplate the mysteries of shooting at night, defending your life or your home and family when confronted by an attacker in the wee hours. Chances are not good with your encounter with an armed bad guy as you blink into the inky depths of nothingness. To do so safely, effectively, and tactically, you'll need to spend time protecting and preparing your eyesight.

Shooting at Night: Better Night Vision

In seconds, you may have to adjust your eyes from various stages of light (street or porch lights, your flashlight, or even his flashlight) into partial or complete darkness and then back again. How well you do this can affect how safely you can engage with an armed bad guy, or how accurately you can avoid him hurting you. The toughest part of maybe or maybe not having to use your gun at night is how quickly you may have to switch from dark to light or light to dark, from your well-lit kitchen to your dark garage, or your pitch-black bedroom to your fully-lit patio. This constant back-and-forth is tough on your pupils and makes it hard to keep and maintain proper night vision. Since we can't always control when, where, and how we encounter light or its absence, we have to train ourselves to make adjustments in the environment as we encounter it.

Keep in mind that how well or how poorly you can see at night when facing an attacker goes both ways. His poor eyesight, unlucky genetics, bad nutrition as a child (not enough carrots does make a difference), or his drug and alcohol use, can impact what he sees clearly or not. Opiate addicts can’t see their hands in front of their faces in the dark. Meth addicts and booze drinkers, with their full-blown to slightly dilated pupils, may see you better than you see them.

Shooting at Night: Darkness Can Be Our Friend

Contrary to what those Hollywood horror movies have told us, darkness can be our friend. True, some evildoers lurk in the shadows, but what works for them can work for us too. They use it to hide; we can use it to hide. They use it to cover their movements; we can use it to cover our movements. And they use it to flee if we have won or better yet, scared them off of the fight; we can let them run and tell the cops which way they went.

If you're blessed with perfect 20-20 peepers, it's certainly much easier for you to see things close up, far away, during daylight, and in the gloom of night. Some of you under-age-30 types can see a boll weevil peeing on a piece of cotton at 100 paces. Some of us need glasses, contact lenses, or several (expensive) laser surgeries to see 10 feet directly ahead. If your parents had sharp eyes, chances are you do too. Strong eyeball genes and plenty of healthy food as a kid probably gave you good night vision and sharp visual acuity at a variety of distances.

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Shooting at Night: Protect Your Eyes

It’s critical that you learn to protect your eyes. Accidentally zapping your eyes with the path of your own high-intensity flashlight can put you out of commission (eyeball-wise) for the next 10 to 20 minutes. It takes that long for your eyes to adjust to the shock of bright lights and the slow return of darkness so you can see somewhat clearly again. But just as a flashlight can blind you if you let it, you can also use it to disorient your armed attacker, to knock him off balance, and protect yourself.

Positioning yourself outdoors is important, as a bright street, exterior, or porch light coming from behind you may “silhouette” you to the attacker, but it can also serve to temporarily blind him or wreck with his night vision too. While it's certainly true that you should avoid a backlit position whenever possible, if you don't linger in this area too long, you may avoid the consequences of being fully exposed.

Even if you do get caught in this zone, keep in mind that the attacker has to look hard into bright lights to find you. The time it takes for him to readjust his vision may give you the time you need to move to a different location. The trick is to think tactically and make the best of the lighting situation you have. Use the shadows to protect your position and venture out into the available light only when moving is necessary.

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Shooting at Night: Additional Tips

Get Regular Vision Check-Ups

Keep your exams and prescriptions current and tell your eye care doctor that you want the best night vision you can create. You may need a prescription for glasses for you only wear at night.

Avoid Glare and Eye Strain

Protect your eyes from glare-filled TV sets, computer screens, cell phones, and other bright lights. Give your eyes a break from reading anything up close by looking across the room every few minutes. Break the habit, tonight, of looking at your smartphone or tablet just before you go to sleep. There are two important reasons for this: these devices give off a blue light, which stimulates your hormones to make you stay awake instead of fall asleep, and reading the bright screen in the total darkness of your bedroom can cause more eyestrain when your eyes actually need the rest.

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Buy and Wear Good-Quality Sunglasses.

Invest in an expensive pair of sunglasses with optically-correct lenses, because even the minor distortion found in cheap drugstore sunglasses can do harm to your eyes. Get good advice from your eye doctor and invest the necessary money in a pair which will filter out 100 percent of the ultraviolet rays that always bombard your eyes during daylight hours. And know that extremely dark sunglasses may be worse than no glasses at all because the darkening effect can cause your pupils to dilate fully and allow more damaging UV rays in to hit your eyes.

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