With this article I’ll try to share with you the knowledge we have about handheld Tactical Lights (to name TL) in general and the use of the Strobe specifically.
1.Why do I think this is needed and 2. How come I (we) have this knowledge?
Much reactions I hear about the use of Strobe, are based on “hear say” or someone’s own opinion.
So, time to clear some facts about TL and Strobe as far as knowledge goes in 2013.
How do I get these “Facts” ?
I am working as a Police trainer (over 10 years) in tactics for regular cops and special force units.(hand to hand combat and firearms training) I am on the police force (in 8 different units and special arrest squads) since 1972 and still in active service.
Most of the 40+ Police trainers on our Police Academy are combat specialists and we train in all sorts of technical and tactical equipment.
30+ years ago, we were already working with lights and made use of it to gain tactical advancement.
Last 10 years we noticed a strong increase in technical development in the handheld lights.
So we adapted our training methods to what was technical possible at the moment.
At the same pace our tactical (and technical) knowledge grew, and with that our insides of what was possible.
So far the why and how.
About 7 years ago we decided to take the tactical use of handheld lights to the next step, and make it into a long term study of the concept. We had the means, the knowledge and the people to work with (work on ) We not only train police officers in active duty, but also Police students in their different levels of academy training. (I am not ashamed to say, that many hundreds of them were our guinea pigs in training sessions on the Academy. )
We changed the concept several times and handed new samples of development to officers in different divisions. (Cops on regular duty, traffic squads, detective, arrest squads, K9 cops, cops on Horse duty, and other specialized groups)
We also did research on the possibility of eye damage or other health problems.
Most tactical and technical research was by trial and error, just learn from your mistakes, don’t take any “hear say” for granted, find it out Yourselves and if proven, adept your training and hardware. We made a list of questions that every student had to fill out after training. Of course we also saw the results of the use of our tactical lights during these training sessions. 90% of our trainings are non-weapon training. Fire arms training with TL is a little different, but most findings apply to both.
In our work with these TL’s, and the findings of our “guinea pigs” we came to the conclusion that strobe is by far the better choice to disorient an opponent, then a normal light beam (at same lm)
Having said that, the right strobe needs some clear specs.
We found, that with a slow or changing strobe, the opponent was able to (slowly) move their hands without being detected. The strobe is still very disorienting from the slower 5hz to 12hz and even higher, but the effect seems to get less when going much faster than 24hz.
We worked the strobe up to around 18hz to 20hz and that problem (noticing movements)was tackled. At 18hz to 20hz, the strobe was still extremely disorientating and the opponent could not move a finger without detection.
So, strobes at 8hz, 10hz, 12hz etc ARE very disorienting, but could have unwanted negative side effects for the LEO.
Thats why we chose for the 18hz to 20hz, less unwanted side effects.
Best result on a tactical level is a beam as tight as possible. With this tight beam, all the light is concentrated in the eyes of the opponent. This way you’re partner can approach the opponent undetected up to touching, and do the things you were trained for. (working in low/no light conditions)
Flood lights are for searching and should not be used in a dedicated TL. You’ll shine on your partner and make him an easy target. Working with lights that had a flood beam, especially in teams, we found that a big part of the flood was increasing the light level on the hole working place, up to the level that the blinding "tunnel" effect was greatly diminished.
Students found it impossible to estimate distances under the right strobe. They could not tell if the distance was 3 feet or 10 feet. That is a very worthy tactical advantage when approaching an aggressive person.
Many times the students made a flinch movement and automatically brought their hand/arm between the TL and eyes (easy to grab) Or they even closed their eyes, (what better opponent then a blind opponent )
Aggressive drunken persons had a harder time to stay upright. They had a tendency to stumble/fall before they could make their attack. Most students learned to use the TL strobe on aggressive persons with mental disorder. In Holland we train to hold back on OC/ Pepper spray when dealing with these sorts of persons.
They are more patients then criminals. So blinding them for a short period is as effective as spray, but does them no harm. We learned that it is better to use TL strobe indoors or in busses/trains etc.
Less chance of getting sprayed them selves.
On the firing range we found that this type of strobe did not diminish the results of shooting targets. Being strobed at, makes it very hard to shoot back effectively. To sighed your target You must look directly in that strobe, which is extremely difficult. (ehh yes, we shoot at each other with special non-lethal training ammo called simunition, it hurts thou )
Apart from the strobe there are lots of other requirements to rebuild a light to a dedicated TL for our profession.
In the end, that dedicated Police TL, was not build by any manufacturer. They build what they THINK is good for us, not what we need.
So we had to make/design it ourselves. We approached many manufacturers, only 1 was innovative enough to take up the challenge.
The TL we now have, can even be used in lots of useful other ways. It can be turned 360 degrees in its holster, for hands free working. With 1 hand You can detach it form you belt and put the complete set somewhere to light a room.
To make this text not longer than needed, I’ll make a list of our findings with short explanations.
When is a TL a dedicated TL for police duty (for the situation in European country's)?
1. 1-handed quick draw, of course not weapon hand. (a device is only tactical if it can be used instantly without searching for it.)
2. Carry the TL in a special dedicated holster, upside down, attached to belt or holster with a short spiral cord. (not to weak that it breaks easily, but not to strong that it can be used to strangle a person)
3. Thump operated momentary rear switch ONLY. (Absolutely NO side switches and NO double switches. Those are not usable under stress when sometimes half a second is too much. Study’s proof, that it is almost impossible to make use of your fine motoric skills under higher levels of stress. What you can do, is just press your thumb and hold it or release it. With enough training you can learn to improve this just marginally)
4. ALWAYS starts up in strobe mode, after that it can be made to switch to other modes. This mode sequence may not be made changeable. (Police officers are 100% human; the majority is practical and NOT tactical in nature. So when it IS changeable, many will try to reset the mode to what they use a normal light mainly for. . . .read a driver’s license or to write something. Then it becomes a normal light and not a the tactical devise it was designed to be)
5. At least 450lm throw type beam at up to 2 hours. (at least 2500 lux at 3 meters). (The effects of blinding and disorientation are optimal enough on that intensity. On lower lm the effect is less and not optimal.)
Technically this is a challenge. Small head, much throw, high lumens. In 2013 we ended up with the choice for the XP-G R5 LED. In that small 34mm head it has less flood then the XM-L’s, and has a better power efficiency. For our findings, it still could be less spill, but that technical hurdle was to high at this technical level.
6.It has to be small enough for daily belt carriage. Max 140mm long, head wide max 34mm, body size about 1 x 18650 battery, weight max 400gr. Incl. TL/battery/holder etc. (when it is to large, LEO’s tend to leave it in the car or at the station and what is tactical about a light You don’t have on you when you need it.)
7. 100 % reliable under heavy duty. (hand to hand combat tests, drop tests and water tests should be of standard required level)
8. Cost effective, so rechargeable batteries and chargers. (Due to size and battery life the protected 18650 size is our preferred power source. We work with these batteries for the last 3 years and have had zero defects or problems with them.)
9. In Holland there are strict regulations about what weapons a police officer may carry. Metal rods with “strike bezels” are NOT one of those weapons. So our TL’s are NOT equipped with a strike bezel or sharp rims “to see if the light is turned on ?” . (we never put a burning TL with it's head standing on a surface and we don’t like the idea of making bloody wounds by ripping the flesh of someone’s skin during an arrest. A special hardend point to shatter a car window is an other thing, thats already on my key chain.)
Keep in mind,
a. This concept developed more into a tactical device (complete concept), that can also be used as a light. Not in the sense that the standard lights most people have and “more or less” can be used tactically in some situations.
b. Forget the word “tactical” in the sense that the sales market is using it. That is not tactical in any way but a tactical financial way.
With this article I hope to have given you some new info on the subjects of Strobe and Tactical Lights. Apart from a dedicated TL for regular LEO’s, we also developed dedicated lights for other specialized departments in the Police force. I can’t elaborate on that, but it is a work in progress.
Oh yes, forgot to mention that it takes practice to use the tactical advantages of a dedicated TL. You'll need a good trainer that is informed of the latest info and training methods. Even most Police trainers are not up to date in this knowledge.
That’s normal, we all have our specialty's. You can't know all.
Excuses for translational mishaps, I am Dutch so English is not my native tongue. I don't use translation programs, lots of language misses are not found by them anyway.
K. vd Linden
This article is mainly about the tactical use of Strobe for LEO's.
Different uses in the private sector is not part of this research. Thou we did start with some research on the use of strobe on animals.
Blinding lights can be dangerous when wrongly used in traffic or when high velocity is involved.