Takeaways from two LMS Defense Low light Courses

| February 6, 2016
Categories: Learnin'

Today Mike the Mook brings you through some lessons learned during an LMS Defense Low Light class. Courses shot in darkness are relatively rare for a number of reasons (such as range restrictions). As such, it’s addressed less–but it can be some of the most important training you can receive. Read up. Mad Duo

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Takeaways from two LMS Defense Low light Courses

Mike the Mook

When bad things happen to good people, it will most likely be at night. Bad guys don’t come at you on the shooting range on a 70 degree Saturday afternoon. It will be 2 a.m. in your home or at midnight while leaving a movie theater. If you’re really lucky it’ll be while you’re reaping the whirlwind with the Residential Sergeant Major and you’re just about to get a round out.With that in mind, it makes sense to train for night shooting. Recently I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to do just that with LMS Defense and Instructor Daniel Bales, attending two different LMS Defense Low Light courses.


LMS (Last Man Standing) Defense is one of the top shooting schools in the country. All of their instructors are fully vetted and at the top of their game.


LMS Defense Low light

Bales is an experienced law enforcement officer who knows his way around firearms and is a patient and knowledgeable instructor. Our class was held at the Mustang Range in Fernley, Nevada. Not exactly a hop, skip and a jump from Nancy’s Squat and Gobble but hey – maybe the Old Lady will finally do what she’s been promising for forty years and open it up to franchising!

Technically these were two separate classes: Day one being low light pistol and day two for low light carbine. There were themes that held true throughout both, though. These were also not beginner classes and each had minimum prerequisites.

Shooting began after the 2:00 pm safety brief on both days. There was plenty of light in the beginning so students could familiarize themselves with the four different hand-held positions of the various weapon light techniques before moving into the lowlight segment. Each day the class ended with shoot house scenarios at 10 p.m., so a 4:45 pm sunset meant for a good 5 hours of low light shooting.


Bales puts shooting on the level of athletic competition. That is not to say that the classes are run like an IPSC shoot (or for that matter the creamed corn wrestling match at Nancy’s), but body mechanics and hand/eye coordination play a significant role, particularly when the temps are down along with the lights.

Physical fitness is important when it comes to defending yourself and maintaining mental acuity under stress. You should know this and be helping all us Minions preach it.

Equipment failures

Courses are always a good way to gauge your tools and make sure everything is working properly.

We rolled out with what we had: my choice of the USP Compact Tactical 45 was base solely on the fact that itwas the only handgun for which I had a light compatible holster. Unfortunately it wasn’t a partial drop leg (no, none of us make that a habit) nor did it have MOLLE to allow mounting on our chest rig. My coat kept getting in the way of a smooth draw, re-holstering was a bitch and I ended up either shooting in the cold without a coat or tucking it into my belt.

What was it we’ve said since our first Victory First class so long ago? “Cover garment is a bitch.”

Thankfully I had zero malfunctions and all rounds stayed on target, even shooting one-handed. I noticed several other shooters having problems due to wearing gloves and their interference with the action of the slide or limp wristing due to unfamiliarity with one-handed shooting. Problem noted — they hopefully corrected those problems later.


The light looked dead an hour into day one, but it turned out to be an unusually heavy carbon build up on the bulb from shooting over 1000 rounds through a silencer without a wipe down. Your local dancing mom might do that for you if you ask politely, but always check your gear before a class. Another reminder brought home, this one quite personally.

Our only real equipment failure was breaking a rifle sling and swivel on day two, but I quickly jury rigged a new swivel and had a second sling in the truck.

Speaking of which, the rifle I used had a 4X Trijicon ACOG, Surefire M900 fore grip (yeah, I know, 2003 called and wanted their gear back). Still, both units worked well and we may have been on the lower end of the lumen scale, and I had no problems with these antiquated solutions. Keep in mind also the last time I did any serious lowlight training it involved an M16A2, ANPVS-4, mini-mag flashlight and hose clamps! It could be bit heavy firing one handed with our flashlight held in the other FBI style of course, but that wasn’t insurmountable.

Note that I did miss a bad guy going through the shoot house — not miss as in the shot, miss as in I didn’t identify him as a threat. A brighter light may have allowed me to see the threat’s weapon better.

Course takeaways

Night sights are almost completely useless except right at dawn and dusk. You can see the sights in total darkness and the Heine Straight 8’s on our H&K USP Compact Tactical were mostly used to properly guide the pistol into the holster. You cannot see your target without a flashlight and the light renders the sights useless. Fiber optic sights on the other hand gather that light and give a better than average sight picture. I will never add Tritium sights to another firearm, nor pay more money for that option in the future (and we’re curious about your thoughts on the matter, so weigh in below in the comments).

The second day gave us 27 degree weather with rain, snow, sleet, hail and wind. I was thinking out loud about how much suck it was going to bring, but then Household-6 weighed in with one of her rare moments of tactical omnipotence by remarking,

Yeah, but when you might need to use these skills, it will probably be in that kind of weather.”


Photo by Larry Atil of Pillarmediagroup.com

A common problem, particularly in the shoot houses, involved most of us going too fast and “outrunning our headlights.” Whether it was adrenaline, trying to beat the cold or folks getting tired and trying to compensate, we all seemed to do it but we quickly recovered and dialed it down by the end.

When scanning for threats, remember to look up and down. During one course of fire we thought we had addressed every threat until it was pointed out that we completely overlooked two who were lying on the ground. Just like we learned in 1st MARDIV Patrol 101: LOOK EVERYWHERE!



The best takeaway was learning from the other students. LMS attracts shooters from all walks of life. Training at this level means your peers are more serious than the guy who just bought his first rifle and thinks the S&W SD40VE is the best thing since the railed Hi Point pistol he traded out of. It’s good company to keep.

If you are training to deal with a threat you must train for when it will happen and that is usually not when it’s bright and comfortable. Bad guys find comfort in the dark and so must we if we want to fight and prevail. Even if that means 27 degrees at night in the snow!


You can visit LMS Defense online here


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Searson 1About the Author: Mike “the Mook” Searson is a veteran writer who began his career in firearms at the Camp Pendleton School for Destructive Boys at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire life, writing about guns and knives for numerous publications and consulting with the film industry on weapons while at the same time working as gunsmith and ballistician. Though seemingly a surly curmudgeon shy a few chromosomes at first meeting, Searson is actually far less of a dick and at least a little smarter than most of the Mad Duo’s minions. He is rightfully considered to be not just good company, but actually fit for polite company as well (though he has never forgotten his roots as a rifleman trained to kill people and break things, and if you look closely you’ll see his knuckles are still quite scabbed over from dragging the ground). You can learn more about him on his website or follow him on Twitter, @MikeSearson.

Mike Searson 4

The Mook doing his Boondock Saints thing (and accurately, perhaps not surprisingly).

Searson 2 - many years ago

The Mook, many years ago. We think this was taken sometime during the Banana Wars.



  1. Mike

    Great article!

    Myself and our dept firearms instructor took a low light class from Chris Fry of MDTS. Surprising we discovered the same thing that might sights are almost useless in total darkness without a handheld or weapon mounted torch. We were required to use only a handheld light which really forced us to concentrate on one hand shooting both strong and weak side. It was the best civilian course I had taken in several years. Forced me to rethink about the importance of hand held flashlights. Now I carry one all the time whether I had a weapon minutes light or not.

    Both of my Glocks have Tritium sights but when it’s time to replace them I will probably replace them with fiber optics.

  2. Dave0317

    I have definitely come to the same conclusion as you regarding night sights, at least on a duty weapon with a light. During the low light shooting I have done, and plenty of runs through a blacked out shoot house with sim guns and role players, and 6 years of nightly police patrol, I can’t think of any time when night sights were an advantage. They wash out as soon as you turn a light on, and the glass vials make for a crappy sight picture in the sun.

    My duty gun now has Dawson Precision sights with a fiber optic front, black rear. Between ambient light in most places, a weapon mounted light, and handheld light on my belt, my sights provide a great sight picture in any light.

    For a CCW, I prefer just a tritium front. I personally do not concealed carry a weapon with a light attached, so I feel the tritium could provide a needed reference point in dim light. But I honestly would not feel handicapped to carry a pistol with all black Defoor sights. For a person to rob, rape, or otherwise attempt to harm you, they will need to be close enough to talk to you and take what they want, and have enough light to actually see their victim. Arms length to six or ten feet, most of us may not see or need the sights anyway, and the crisp black sights will be there if light is adequate and a more precise or more distant shot is required. Active shooter in a movie theater or mall with no power, we can what-if all day, but just get the tritium front or a concealed carry holster to accommodate a weapon mounted light if those are the scenarios you wish to be prepared for.

    To sum up: duty gun, go with a fiber optic front or plain black sights, but a weapon mounted light is mandatory. Off duty or CCW pistol, tritium front might be nice, but I still don’t see it as necessary. Carry a separate handheld flashlight always.

  3. Wilson

    Good article.

    One bitch I have with civilian training classes however is the prerequisites.

    Now, I know a lot of people reading this are bracing for a serious barrage of incoming stupidity, but hear me out.

    Here in the Denver area I was thinking about doing a refresher course on shooting while moving (as opposed to just standing in a stall punching paper) with [***Redacted***] since they have a pretty good rep.

    What I discovered was that they get so many people with no experience that they require you to take all courses starting from the bottom regardless of prior experience and that the classes get progressively more expensive.

    I won’t bore you will all the details but it get’s hellishly expensive very, very fast.

    Long story short, I bit the bullet and signed up for the Basic Pistol class. I got to fire 14 rounds and then sit and watch the instructors deal with people who had never fired a gun before.

    The rest of us just stood there watching this for 45 fucking minutes. Needless to say 16/18ths of the class was seriously pissed off and wondering why the hell we had to be here. (The answer is so you can say you completed the class and get the sign off so that you can come back, pay more money and take the next class in the series.)

    Don’t get me wrong. I understand that people show up claiming all sorts of things and are huge liability when they lie but I’m not going to shell out $8500+ to spend a bunch of time sitting in a classroom having the intricacies of my rifle’s charging handle or mag release explained to me. Playing with my balls is more useful and much more entertaining.

    What I think training facilities SHOULD do is offer a “course” that’s like $50-$100 where you bring your own gun(s) and ammo, no rentals allowed. This course acts as a placement exam, meaning that you get placed into a course that’s appropriate for the skill levels you demonstrate both in terms of shooting and the administrative handling of a firearm.

    This would weed out the inexperienced and allow people with a greater skill level to get into a class where they actually learn something rather than paying to watch an instructor deal with remedial issues.

  4. Roger Looez

    I have taken over 100 hours of training from LMS. These people are the best of the best. Each instructor has his strong suit and since of humor. Some of my best training has been in bad weather and as Jason Paletta likes to call that the weather enhancement package always add to the class.

    I’m not sure of the author but I like this quote

    “The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be”

  5. MIO

    Rest review, awesome training and refreshing truth


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