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SureFire Lights and Training

Written by Scott Oldham

Most officers know that SureFire makes illumination tools. Most have heard that SureFire offers low-light training. But few realize that SureFire is a diversified company that has as one of its core missions to support the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies above all others.

It began when the Los Angeles Police Department asked SureFire for small, high-intensity flashlights for its SWAT team. Besides the research and development for illumination tools and its training divisions, SureFire is deeply involved in the manufacture of firearms suppressors, edged weapons and hearing-protection devices.

Dr. Paul Kim is head designer for the SureFire lights and has been the one responsible for most of the illumination tools the company markets. Absolutely everything is mil-spec. O-rings, screws, coatings, buttons and every other small part that will find its way into a SureFire light is made to these stringent specifications. SureFire officials feel so strongly about these lights that they are covered by a lifetime warranty. SureFire has repaired, or in some cases replaced, models that were made more than 20 years ago.

The Ultimate Light

As has been stated, SureFire does an incredible amount of research into each product. For years, it has been chasing a “dream light.” This is a light that embodies “AAA:” Adjustable intensity; Adjustable color; and Adjustable beam width.

Adjustable intensity is the easiest of the group; the brightness of the light can be varied at will. Adjustable color is needed as there are times when a simple shift in the color spectrum can yield dramatic results in terms of the usefulness of the product under varying circumstances. In the category of adjustable beam width, Dr. Kim advises that he is not describing a light that can be focused and de-focused as some on the market but one that is similar to a zoom camera in function. Dial it one way for a tighter beam and another for a wider beam each with the same intensity and usefulness.

To accomplish this and other technological goals, SureFire has more than 40 engineers employed in-house. Besides the search for the “AAA” dream light, SureFire is investing heavily in other technology such as high-intensity discharge lights, Arc lights and high-end LED-based light sources.

While SureFire continues to produce halogen and other incandescent light sources, officials believe this type of light source has matured to the point that there will be no other significant developments in the future. Instead, SureFire is focusing heavily on developing other light sources that are not within sight of their technological limitations.

While research is ongoing into these light sources, there is also a significant effort being made to provide for alternative power sources. Batteries such as lithium ion, lithium manganese oxide and lithium polymer have all been the subject of this research as have been fuel cells and super-capacitors.

Kroma LED Light

Even while the research continues, SureFire introduces new lights to the market. Just now coming into production is the Kroma. This light begins to approach the “AAA” dream light that Dr. Kim is chasing. The Kroma is an LED-based light that is capable of adjustable intensity as well as featuring adjustable color lighting. The Kroma provides not only for a main white light source that allows for both a low-intensity setting and a high-intensity setting of 50 lumens but with the turn of the rotating selector ring will shift colors and will illuminate with either blue or red LEDs.

SureFire also believes that the time and technology are now right for high-intensity flashlights that are rechargeable. While the 10X Dominator flashlight has been in the catalogue for sometime, it is one of the lesser-known products that SureFire produces.

The 10X Dominator is perhaps the best all-around rechargeable light for a patrol officer that has ever been available. Featuring two intensity settings by use of two independent bulbs, the Dominator offers a low-beam setting of 60 lumens for three hours or a high-beam selection of a searing 500 lumens for 20 minutes.

Even after the power has been so drained as to negate the 500-lumen capability, there is still sufficient power to run the 60-lumen low beam for a significant amount of time. This flashlight is easy to use and possesses everything that a patrol officer could want in a duty light.

Besides the LED and rechargeable market, SureFire continues to offer many other small, high-intensity incandescent lights. These included the original SureFire light known as the 6P, and the 9-volt M3, one of the best handheld tactical lights available.

Weapon-Mounted Lights

In conjunction with the handheld lights, SureFire is one of the world’s leading producers of weapon-mounted lights. The company truly was the first to do it with the small, high-intensity light that was built for LAPD’s SWAT unit, and it continues to be on the cutting edge of this industry.

Surefire currently offers several series of weapon-mounted lights for both long guns and pistols. For rifles and other long guns, it offers the Classic and Millennium Universal series along with the Vertical Fore grip, Scoutlight and Dedicated Fore-end models. Lights from 6 volts and 60 lumens up to 18-volt monsters that provide 500 lumens of eye-melting power are available.

For pistols, SureFire again offers models to fit every need. There is the Nitrolon and Military models of dedicated pistol light and the revolutionary LED-based X200 that has taken the industry by storm.

The X200 is an LED-based pistol light that features the ability to quickly be mounted to an officer’s pistol via the rail systems that are available on most of the law enforcement duty weapons now in use. The X200 is currently available in two models with a third on the way. The original “A” model features a tightly focused diamond shaped beam that is quite useful for longer pistol range engagements.

The “B” model features a more diffused beam, making it extremely useful for close range, urban-style engagements common to what most police officers will encounter. Finally the newest model of X200, scheduled to be introduced in 2007, will feature a laser co-witnessed with the light on the pistol, making aiming easier.

SureFire Academy

While lights and other illumination tools are SureFire’s core business, training at the SureFire Academy brings about the techniques and tactics of using this technology. Gone are the days when officers were given a cheap D-cell plastic flashlight and no training. Now—largely due to the SureFire Academy—there are tactics that can be employed with light that can significantly increase officer safety. The SureFire Academy teaches that there are 10 principles of low-light tactics:

One: Read the light and adapt. An officer should learn to determine what tactic is needed in a given situation based on the prevailing conditions and then execute it as if it is second nature. Is the room or area completely dark or are there some areas that have light? Reading and understanding what you are seeing will allow for an officer to more appropriately apply the tactics that the academy teaches.

Two: Operate from the lowest level of light. Occupy the dark space, leave the lighted area for the threat. In doing this, officers will preserve the advantage for themselves while at the same time denying a hostile opponent concealment.

Three: Avoid and control backlighting. Officers should make every effort not to stop in doorways or other areas where the light is behind them. In doing so, they will become silhouetted and make themselves an easy target for an adversary.

Four: See from the threat’s viewpoint. With practice, an officer will gain the ability to imagine what type of profile he is presenting to the target. Is the officer backlit? Is he moving from a position of darkness and toward the light? Once an officer has learned to see what kind of profile he is presenting from the threat’s viewpoint, it is easier to avoid costly mistakes.

Five: Light and move. Search with random flashes of light; illuminate an area, and then move. Do not stay in one place, and do not become a fixed, visible target.

Six: Use light at intermittently and at random heights. Various force-on-force encounters and actual gunfight analysis have determined that often, if given the time, a suspect will shoot at the light. SureFire teaches to move the light around, at various heights, both toward, and away from the centerline of the body so that the suspect is offered a very confusing target picture and can not easily discern where an officer is, what he is doing or how many officers are actually present.

Seven: Dominate with light. Simply, when it is to an officer’s advantage to leave the light on, then it is fine to do so. Examples of this are when an officer is unavoidably backlit or once an aggressor has been located. While many agencies have taught to focus on the suspects hands, the SureFire Academy is adamant that the officer should place the light in the suspect’s eyes and dominate the target with the light, negating any perceived advantage that he may have in the darkness.

Eight: Align three things. The three things are the weapon, the light and the eyes, which should all be aligned on the same focal point. By doing this, all of the tools are in place to observe and, if necessary, engage a hostile target.

Nine: Carry more than one light. This is no more than the old dictum, “Two is one, one is none.” Lights and other mechanical devices, no matter how well-made, still fail. Disaster is always along for the ride during every search and each confrontation, so officers should take care to prepare for such. Carrying multiple lights is simply insurance, and when your life is what you are insuring, carrying two is cheap indeed.

Ten: Breathe and relax. Everyone gets scared, and everyone gets tense. No matter how experienced an individual might be, it still is of benefit to learn to control the breathing and learn to relax when trying to solve a tactical problem. An officer will think more clearly and will have the position of advantage over an opponent if he is able to simply breathe appropriately.

In support of these guiding principles, students at the SureFire Academy will learn a variety of techniques for using both handheld and weapon-mounted lights during potentially lethal confrontations. It is all about winning the fight. Techniques such as the Harries, Chapman and Rogers/SureFire tactics are taught alongside others such as the Ayoob, Modified FBI and the Neck-Index.

All of these are techniques for combining a hand-held flashlight with a firearm in an effective search or for an armed engagement. Each technique has pros and cons. The instructors at the academy are honest and forthright about what works—and what doesn’t—in the real world.

The academy also teaches the proper method to enter a room, using light to create an advantage for an officer. Weapons handling while using a flashlight and a variety of other uses for an illumination tool are discussed and taught in an easy-going, friendly professional atmosphere. Lest one would think that these courses are taught by instructors who never get out of the classroom, it is important to note that they are sworn law enforcement officers who have intricate knowledge of the street.

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.gov.


Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2006

Rating : 9.0


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