Bump in the Night, on Goes the Light

by Jim Schatz

Many Americans keep firearms in their homes for the purpose of protection from the criminal element that preys on the unwary. No longer can you feel safe inside the security of your home. Assaults too often come at night, while you are asleep in your darkened home. As real as this threat is, there are other dangers of employing a firearm in a home for protection, especially at night. That threat comes against the very family members we strive to protect. It is unfortunate, but all too often we hear of individuals being shot by other family members, mistaken for a burglar or rapist. These accidental shootings are heartbreaking but many could easily be prevented.

Many Americans choose the right firearm for in-home protection but fail to outfit that weapon properly for its intended use. The firearm must be outfitted for safe use 24 hours a day and special consideration must be given for its use during darkness. How many readers have a working flashlight as easily accessible as that handgun or shotgun by the bed? Fewer still have that light actually attached to the weapon itself, where it should be.

Generally, in the event of an intrusion in our home many of us envision turning on the hall or bedroom light to see the intruder. In most cases this provides the homeowner little in the way of an advantage over the intruder. The intruder may be between you and the light switch. Turning on a light in your room with the intruder in the hall will only help to illuminate you and not the subject lurking uninvited in your home.

The advantages of mounting a light on your home protection firearm provides many advantages when you need them most. Remember, the intruder will have the advantage initially. He will be entering your home on his terms. You may be asleep and thus disoriented when awakened by movement in the house. His eyes will already be accustomed to the low or nonexistent lighting. If he has a weapon it will certainly be poised for immediate use.

A flashlight attached to the weapon will provide you with an immediate source of light as quickly as you can put your hand on the weapon. This will save you precious moments when the intruder may be only a few feet away down the hallway. The light provides immediate illumination in the area you are in and thus reorientation from the darkness and clarification of the circumstances of the moment.

The light, when mounted on handgun, allows the individual to keep one hand free to perform tasks such as dialing the telephone, opening or closing a door or removing a safety lock from the pistol. A common tactic inside a structure is for the intruder to wait behind a door or around a corner and grasp the barrel of the long gun from the side as you enter that space, wrestling the weapon from your grasp using the leverage gained from the Iong barrel. A pistol can be held close to the body and does not broadcast your arrival into that area before you can see the intruder lurking in the shadows.

A handgun fitted with a light module makes alignment of the light and pistol far easier than using a separate flash light. This skill requires practice and coordination that is not required when the light is an integral part of the weapon itself. To illuminate the dark figure in the home, modern high powered flash lights attached to the firearm need not be pointed directly at the individual for identification. "Bouncing" the light off the floor, ceiling or walls will provide more than enough illumination to clearly see who the person is and their intentions at that moment. Bouncing the light off the room is key to the safety of the individual awash within the light itself, especially when that individual is a family member returning unexpectedly from a business trip.

Once the individual is identified as a threat, then and only then should the light beam, and the attached firearm, be pointed directly at the subject. There is sufficient light produced by modern flashlights mounted on a weapon to allow easy alignment of the sights against the illuminated target.

Most importantly, a light affixed to the weapon directly will not only illuminate the intruder but it will also disorientate him by temporarily blinding him. The intruder may also feel less threatened, and therefore less dangerous, not knowing that behind that brilliant ball of light is a loaded firearm in competent hands. You have turned the lighting conditions in the home to your favor and against the intruder.

In addition, this light, if easily removable from the weapon, can be used in an emergency situation or if the electricity in the home is out. The detached light can be used to chase the local pesky cat or raccoon from the trash can in the back yard or to assist you in dialing for help on the telephone. The uses of this light at home, or while carrying that same firearm away from the home, are limitless.

Many people have mounted visible red lasers and/or tritium night sights on their home protection firearm, feeling these accessories have enhanced the usefulness of the weapon. While these items are useful under some situations, they can be dangerous when used for home protection, simply because lasers and tritium sights provide no illumination of the taraet. They only provide a means to align the weapon on the figure during periods of limited visibility, a potentially fatal fault that you might regret forever.

Certainly lasers, and to some extent tritium sights, are as expensive to purchase as a light for your firearm and are far less useful. They are more popular because of how they have been promoted in movies and firearms industry. The merits of flash lights mounted on weapons used for home protection have yet to be appreciated by the uninitiated. Heckler & Koch hopes to change that with the concept of the Universal Tactical Light (UTL).

The HK UTL is a quickly detachable light module specially designed for use on the HK Universal Self-loading Pistol (USP). Unlike other handguns on the market today, the USP was developed with the attachment of such a light module in mind, not just for the police SWAT team member but also for the home owner who wants a pistol/light combination for personal and home protection. The HK USP pistol was designed from the beginning to be used with just such an integral light module. The frame of the USP incorporates a pair of universal mounting grooves that run parallel and below the center line of the barrel. These grooves automatically line up the light with the bore of the weapon, easing alignment and zeroing.

The HK Universal Tactical Light was designed exclusively for HK by Insight Technology, Inc. (designers of the Laser Aiming Module for the HK .45 caliber Offensive Handgun Weapons System). An important design requirement dictated that the HK UTL quickly and easily snap into the mounting grooves on the USP in a matter of seconds and without tools. The shape of the module molds itself into the lines of the pistol and adds little weight (5 ounces with a pair of batteries) to the weapon. Unlike other lights sold on the market, the HK UTL only protrudes approximately one half inch beyond the muzzle of the weapon.

Its position underneath the weapon allows normal use of the pistol's iron sights or other aiming devices that might be present alone the top side of the weapon. The balance of the weapon is unaffected and the size permits the pistol/light combination to be easily secured in the same lock box, carrying case or dresser drawer that the pistol is maintained in without the light module. Various well known holster manufacturers such as Safariland and Eagle Industriesproduce holsters that allow the weapon to be carried with or without the HK UTL attached.

The performance of the HK UTL is unrivaled in the marketplace. Its 9 Candle-power output is greater than a full size flashlight and is powered by two 3-volt lithium batteries that provide maximum power for their size and weight. The power output is constant and can run for 30 minutes or more. The shelf life of the lithium batteries is in excess of ten years so the light will work at the critical moment it is needed. Unlike rechargeable batteries, lithium batteries have superior low temperature performance qualities and die gradually rather than abruptly near the end of their useful life, thus warning the user that new batteries are required prior to complete failure of the light.

The light has a contoured switch lever that is located along the bottom of the unit and protrudes back along the trigger guard of the USP pistol. This switch is actuated by the shooter's master and/or weak hand in either direction. When pressed only slightly this switch activates the illuminator and springs back into the off position when released. If fully pressed, left or right the illuminator will remain activated until the switch lever is moved back to the central off position. An optional cable with a pressure pad on/off switch allows the UTL to be operated remotely.

Standard features of the HK UTL also include an adjustable beam focus which is accomplished by a small rotation of the bezel ring surrounding the illuminator lens assembly. The beam can be instantly adjusted from an intense focused beam to a fully diffused flood beam.

The HK UTL will operate normally after immersion in water to a depth of 12.5 meters for a period of at least one hour and will regularly withstand a drop on a concrete surface from a height of 1.5 meters without subsequent component damage.

The 3-volt lithium batteries are commonly available around the country at electronic, camera, drug and department stores. The batteries are relatively inexpensive (usually less than $10 per pair) considering their merits over more conventional alkaline or mercury batteries.

The merits of the HK UTL do not end with its use in conjunction with the USP pistol. A specially designed multipurpose carrying pouch is available that allows various modes of carry. This padded pouch protects the light from damage and can be attached to a belt using two Alice clips. Ports in the pouch allow the light to be used from inside the pouch by both right and left handed individuals. Two elastic straps, stored in the back of the pouch, allow the UTL to be quickly and easily attached to nearly any type of firearm or item such as a bike, tools or your own forearm. Room is also provided within the pouch for items such as additional batteries, filter caps or a spare bulb for the illuminator.

A police officer or hiker can carry the Heckler & Koch UTL on his or her belt in lieu of a larger and heavier conventional flash light for use when concentrated illumination is required or it can be quickly removed from the pouch and attached to the USP pistol when needed. In fact, the light could be used hands free while the pouch is attached to a belt. The possibilities for use of this light/pouch combination are limitless.

The UTL is no "ordinary" flashlight. Its new bulb technology results in a beam so bright it exceeds the SOCOM pistol requirements for full facial recognition at 25 meters. Component designs and advanced engineering plastics are specifically selected and tested to withstand punishing recoil forces. Even the bulb assembly is on a special shock absorbing mount.

To see what's going on, take an illuminating look at the truly multipurpose HK Universal Tactical Light (UTL).

Information courtesy of Heckler and Koch