Low Light Shooting vs. Fighting; Looking But Not Seeing | MDTS Training
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MDTS Training

MDTS is a New York based firearms training and personal protection consulting company. We specialize in pistol, concealed carry, shotgun, carbine, defensive knife, less lethal, physical defense and threat awareness training courses. Mobile training courses are available in N.Y. and abroad. Contact us to host a training course at your range or location. Click logo below to see schedule of classes near you.

lowlight pistol

Low Light Shooting vs Fighting; Looking But Not Seeing

Low Light Shooting vs Fighting; Looking But Not Seeing


Practical Pistol Low Light Skills

Three different levels of light the eyes have to work in.


Directed Vision

The eyes provide us with information screening some things out and letting what we think is important in. Very little of the eye is high resolution fovea, central eye, responsible for directed vision and identification of details and  things like faces. Each of the cells in the fovea requires thousands of support cells in the visual cortex just to manage the the beginning stages of seeing something. The fovea is for high resolution focus on what’s important to us. Most of our vision is low resolution and peripheral, giving us a generalized view of an area and for picking up movement. We filter what peripheral vision picks up and then point the fovea at what we think is important and requires direct focus and attention.


So, what is important in a low light defensive situation?


Visual Tasking Priorities

For self defense we need to prioritize what we direct that high resolution vision at. We recommend first and foremost the hands and waist of a potential unknown subject or unknown contact. The hands are what hold and operate weapons that can kill us or someone else. Bad guys carry guns and knives on the waist-line just like good guys do. Good guys, like police, wear badges on the waist-line as well. Does what the unknown is wearing matter, like a ski mask? Sure, it might provide information pertinent to the situation but its not the priority that requires directed vision at first contact.



lowlight pistol

Two different targets, two different use of force decisions. Direct vision and light at what matters to make a good use of force decision.


More Light, Better Information

Without enough light directed at the visual priority (hands and waist) the high resolution part of the eye doesn’t focus as well which means the identification process is slowed. This in turn slows our ability to make a good use of force decision. The more light we can direct at the visual priority the better the information we can collect. Less light means straining to see and hesitation due to uncertainty or worse, a rash decision based on what we thought we saw. “He had a mask on so…..”.



Shooting vs Fighting

Shooting in low light is learning the mechanics of shooting safely, accurately and fast in combination with a light. Fighting is combining those mechanics with a use of force decision based on accurate information. If we don’t have a priority of visual tasking in low light we will look but not see what’s important to a possible life or death decision. Time is wasted trying to look at everything at once vs seeing what actually matters at that moment. If we don’t put enough light on the visual priority and can’t properly identify what’s there, time is wasted trying to process and decide. If we understand what to direct vision at and then put enough light on it to properly identify we can actually see-process-decide and act faster and more accurately.


Study, train, practice, test.


Check the course schedule page to find the next MDTS Practical Pistol Low Light Skills course near you.


A few lights to consider from $ – $$$

I’m NOT a fan of multi-output lights but Streamlights TEN-TAP programming allows this light to be set to one output.






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