Handheld or Weapon-Mounted Light: What’s the Difference?

April 24, 2024

When it comes to gun accessories, choosing between handheld and weapon-mounted lights can make a big difference in how well you handle low-light situations. Each option has its pros and cons, so let's break them down to help you decide which one is right for you.

On the one hand, handheld lights give you more control over where you point the light, separate from your firearm. While this flexibility is great, you'll need to learn specific techniques like the FBI and Harries methods to use the light effectively while still keeping control of your gun.

On the flip side, weapon-mounted lights attach directly to your firearm, making it easier to aim and hit your target in the dark. However, they can add weight to your gun and might limit your flexibility in certain situations.

Ultimately, your choice between handheld and weapon-mounted lights will depend on your personal preferences, the situations you might find yourself in, and your shooting needs. In this article, the one-of-a-kind firearm professionals platform Arms Directory will help you weigh the pros and cons of each option, so you can make an informed decision.

Using a Handheld Light for Your Gun: 4 Techniques

To make the most of using a handheld light with your firearm in low-light situations, you'll want to master a few techniques. Here are some popular methods:

FBI Method

The FBI method, also known as the "thumbs forward" technique, entails holding the flashlight alongside the firearm with the non-dominant hand. This allows the shooter to independently manipulate the light's direction, illuminating the target while maintaining precise control over the firearm. The grip involves extending the non-dominant thumb forward along the frame of the flashlight, creating a stable and comfortable hold.

Harries Method

Developed by Michael Harries, the Harries method involves a two-handed approach to holding both the firearm and the flashlight. The shooter places the flashlight against the back of the gun hand, creating a stable platform for both light control and recoil management. This technique enhances accuracy by minimizing muzzle rise during firing, making it a popular choice in tactical scenarios.

Rogers/Surefire Technique

Named after its creator, Bill Rogers, the Rogers/Surefire technique incorporates a specific flashlight with a built-in pressure switch. This allows the shooter to activate the light with minimal hand movement, maintaining a consistent grip on the firearm. The technique involves holding the flashlight alongside the gun, utilizing the support hand to control the light independently.

Neck Index Technique

The neck index technique involves placing the flashlight between the jaw and shoulder, freeing up both hands for firearm control. While less conventional, this method offers a hands-free lighting option, allowing the shooter to navigate their surroundings without sacrificing control over the firearm.

Pros and Cons of Weapon-Mounted Lights

The decision to mount a light directly to your firearm introduces a set of advantages and drawbacks, influencing how effectively you navigate low-light situations.


Improved Accuracy.Weapon-mounted lights provide a direct alignment with the firearm's barrel, significantly improving shot placement in low-light scenarios. This alignment allows shooters to precisely illuminate and target potential threats, enhancing accuracy during critical moments.

Quick Target Acquisition.With the light fixed to the firearm, target acquisition becomes more streamlined. The shooter can point the firearm and light simultaneously, reducing the time needed to identify and engage a threat. This quick response is particularly crucial in high-stakes situations.

Unified Control.A weapon-mounted light allows for unified control over both the firearm and the light source. This simplifies the decision-making process in stressful situations, as shooters can focus on maintaining control with fewer variables to manage.


Increased Weight.One notable drawback of weapon-mounted lights is the added weight to the firearm. This may impact the overall balance and feel of the gun, potentially affecting the shooter's comfort and accuracy, especially during extended use.

Limited Flexibility.Mounting a light directly to the firearm restricts its movement to the orientation of the gun. In situations where separate control over the light and firearm is advantageous, such as searching or navigating confined spaces, this limited flexibility can be a disadvantage.

Potential for Flagging.There is a risk of unintentionally pointing the firearm (flagging) at non-threats when using a weapon-mounted light. This occurs when the light follows the direction of the muzzle, potentially illuminating individuals or objects that should not be targeted.

Battery Drain.Weapon-mounted lights are often integrated with the firearm's power source, and extended use may drain the gun's batteries. This can be a concern in situations where the light's functionality is critical, and spare batteries may be challenging to replace swiftly.


Choosing between handheld and weapon-mounted lights involves weighing key considerations. Handheld lights offer flexibility with techniques like the FBI and Harries methods, allowing independent control but demanding specific skills. Weapon-mounted lights streamline accuracy and target acquisition but introduce challenges like increased weight and limited flexibility. Selecting the right lighting solution hinges on individual preferences and shooting demands. Whether opting for the versatility of handheld lights or the integrated efficiency of weapon-mounted options, the paramount importance lies in aligning your choice with your unique needs and circumstances for optimal performance in low-light environments.


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