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Shedding Some Light

Shedding Some Light

No weapon-mounted flashlight? No problem with this method.

The Graham Method puts a hand-held light in the same position as a gun-mounted light. The light is activated via a "combat ring" and pressure from the support hand.

I have spent more than three decades studying armed conflict. It started before my entrance to the basic police academy and continues to this day. My search for knowledge has combined all the people (including felons) I have spoken to who have prevailed in gunfights with what I saw and experienced throughout more than three decades of law enforcement and security experience.

I have attended many training courses at my state's peace officer training academy and have been a student at most of the noteworthy shooting/tactical schools. I have read and watched more books and videos than I can remember, and at this stage of my life it has become exceedingly rare to discover anything truly new and noteworthy.

Yes, "new" techniques have been introduced of late, but they are new only to those who have not seen them before. You will probably discover the "new" technique you are seeking was developed somewhere between 1870 and the 1940.

Recently I was at a shooting school that taught a "high ready" position where the handgun is kept in front of the shooter's face so the front sight is in the eye/target line. The very enthusiastic instructor who taught this "new" technique extolled its advantages, chiefly that it was easy to watch the front sight as it traveled to the target for a faster, more accurate shot.

We shot a number of live-fire drills to reinforce its advantages, but I could not help but smile as I did so as the instructor was probably in junior high when the "tactical high ready" was being touted as the shooting technique of the early 1980s. Unfortunately it was discovered that when used on the street, it blocked the officer's field of view and sometimes the gun ended up pointed at his own head.

So while most of what I see is just a rehash of things that have come before, every so often I come across a nugget that is new and noteworthy (at least to me). Such was the case recently when I was reading one of Handguns' sister publications, Combat Tactics.


I was flying somewhere between New York City and Burlington, Vermont, on my way to teach a course when I happened upon the article "Fire in the Sky" by former federal air marshal Matthew Graham .

I have great respect for the Air Marshal Service, having worked with a few of them when they were a small cadre of professionals prior to 9/11. Their level of training was exceptional, and I'm sure it still is.

The focus of Graham's article was a new flashlight technique (Combat Tactics is presented by flashlight maker Surefire) that Graham invented for in-flight armed confrontation. Once again, necessity was the mother of invention as the air marshals needed a true flashlight shooting technique versus a searching technique, which is what most commonly taught methods truly are.

For those of us who have had to use these techniques on the street, searching techniques' weaknesses are readily apparent. When the lights go out on a plane, which is just a metal tube, pandemonium is at its highest, and what air marshals primarily need to see is the threat. Graham originally wanted a weapon-mounted light, but this request was turned down by the chain of command due to concealability issues.

The author found one-inch-tube lights a bit large for his hands and so moved the "combat ring" onto a 5/8-inch light.

Graham did not give up and developed a technique that places the hand-held light in the same position as a weapon mounted model, but it's held by the support hand. The technique relies on the use of a Combat Ring, which is now made by Surefire for all of its one-inch-tube lights.

The ring slides over the tail cap and permits retention by looping it over a support hand finger. As this hand wraps around the shooting hand, the tail cap is activated by the inward pressure of the support hand against the knuckles/fingers of the shooting hand.

I read the article several times and immediately saw the importance of the technique. I began to work with it by dry-firing and realized how natural it was. Once I had a handle on it, I began live-fire practice and have found this technique to be exceptionally easy to do, even from the holster.

I have been using it for months now, and I see no serious downsides. I did find that my small hands had difficulty separating around a one-inch-tube, so I cut the Combat Ring and wrapped it around a 5/8-inch Surefire light. I have also tried it with the short one-cell lights and found that the shorter light actually bolsters the technique.

If you have not tried this, you need to as all it requires is a solid two-hand grip and natural inward pressure. The Graham Method is something truly new and noteworthy.

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