Lights & Lanyards
September 24, 2010
How to stay attached to a vital tool.
Many tactical hand-held lights come with a detachable lanyard, which then brings into question whether or not to use it. And if you do, how is the best way to use it?
Lanyards serve a simple purpose: so we don't drop the light, since the object of a hand-held light is to allow us the ability to move about in darkness. If using it with a handgun, the light allows us to locate and identify any potential threat. And it can aid us if forced to shoot in self- defense. Also, with the light secured by a lanyard, we have the option of being better able to perform other actions with the hand holding the light.
Any discussion of the best methods of using hand-held lights with firearms has been well-covered elsewhere over the years, so there's no need to go into that here. Collective first-hand observations do show that either the light or gun (or both) can and will be dropped--more often than not at the worst possible time and place. (And, yes, a lanyard on a handgun is also a good idea.) And if you drop a light, you might end up with no light as all bulbs and flashlight bodies can and do break.
That's a very strong case for having a second or backup light, regardless of its size. The small LED backup lights do give off sufficient light, at least to navigate in darkness--or to find your dropped light, assuming you have the time or it hasn't rolled under a chair, beneath a vehicle or down through a sewer grate.
This searching for a dropped light was well-illustrated recently when one of my shooting associates, A.J. Stuart, shot his first low-light IDPA stage of fire. Since he had no experience shooting such a stage, he managed to not go first so he could see how others managed a light and gun. He said a number of shooters dropped their lights and were not able to find them quickly. He "solved" this potential problem by turning his light to constant "on" mode, figuring it would be quicker to find if he dropped it. (He didn't.) A lanyard would have certainly helped here, although in this case his was a clip-on light.
The downside of using a lanyard is that it can easily get wrapped up in your spare magazine when doing a reload or clearing a malfunction. However, I don't see this as sufficient reason to never use a lanyard where prudence dictates doing so.
One problem, though, is what to do with the lanyard when you're carrying the light in your pocket. I don't have a good answer. I fold the lanyard along the body of the light in such a way that I can push my thumb or a finger into the loop as I grab the light. How well this works depends on how the light shifts in my pocket. That's why I, like many others, use lights that clip on. They're not as effective, but they're much more convenient.
The debates I've encountered most often revolve around the best way of attaching the lanyard to you. One group goes for simply placing the lanyard around your wrist and letting the light go if you need to use this hand. Another group likes inserting only the thumb into the lanyard and wrapping the cord around your hand. The downside of the first method is having to work your hand into the lanyard's loop. With the second option, for me it's easy to "stab" my thumb into the loop, then wrap the remaining cord over the back of my hand and gather the light one-handed.
Using either method has a downside. If you are reloading or clearing your gun quickly, the violent hand and arm motions can result in the free-swinging light hitting you on the head. It is also easy to have the light or cord get caught up in your gun manipulations.
It is also easy to have the light or cord get caught up in your gun manipulations.
One tip: After determining how much of a loop you need, trim off the extra length so there is less of the lanyard to interfere with gun manipulation.
I've heard people say that if you're using a lanyard a threat could grab your light and pull you around and overcome you. I suppose that could happen, but I think people who make this argument are overlooking what you could be doing with the gun in your other hand in an instance such as this.
Most of the tactical light manufacturers use one of two types of lanyard adjustment and attachment systems. Both consist of a looped cord with two sliding keepers. One uses a finger-pressure buckle that releases the lanyard from a thin cord attached to the light. The other style has a metal end clip with a quick-release catch to easily separate the lanyard from the circular ring on the flashlight body.
For me, I've found using the thumb method to be faster and also allows me to put the light away more quickly. However, wearing it around my wrist is much more secure. In fact, I use both methods, depending on the circumstances and the light I'm carrying at the time, along with a spare key chain light.