As I drove up the long lane to the house, the lights of a vehicle suddenly came on and momentarily blinded me. I quickly stopped the cruiser about a hundred yards from the other vehicle just as my eyes adjusted and the silhouette of a man with a shotgun stepped in front of the lights. Grabbing my pistol with one hand and the handle of the spotlight with the other, I lit him up... with the spotlight... it was the farmer who called in the prowler he saw behind his house. That was more than two decades ago, but it taught me early on and reminded me quickly that as much as we were instructed and trained about the temporary blinding effects of unexpectedly shining our flashlights or spotlights on a suspect... the same could happen to us.
As close as I can recall from my memory and records, I've completed nine different training opportunities as a police officer or regular citizen over the years that either included a component of shooting in low-light or at night or were focused specifically on that type of shooting or self-defense situation. I've even participated in two force-on-force courses that involved low-light scenarios. The idea that a flashlight or other light might be shining back at me was never even discussed in any of these training courses or opportunities.
As much as we were taught the importance of clearly identifying our potential threats and targets and instructed on the many techniques for shooting in low-light while using a flashlight, tactical light or weapon light... none of those courses ever dealt with encountering a person or aggressor shining a light back at you... in your face... temporarily blinding you. I asked a friend about it who is a recently retired LEO with many years of Special Response Team experience... and he said he had never seen that situation presented in training even though he had encountered it while on duty several times over the years.
If you were to base your assumptions about possible encounters with aggressors or criminals... or even neighbors... at night or in low-light situations based upon much of the training currently offered or that most people receive... YOU are apparently the only one that brings a light with you into a low-light or dark situation. I would hazard a guess... that if you encounter someone, there is the distinct possibility they will have a light with them, even if it's just the one on their iPhone. The basic low-light course I teach incorporates a number of different scenarios to help train people using a tactical light to clearly, accurately, and quickly identify and confirm a possible threat. One scenario I have my students try is confronting a target that shines a flashlight back in their face.
Positively identifying people and whether or not they pose a threat in low-light or dark situations is a difficult task that requires the proper mindset, tools, training, and practice to do well... but encountering a light shining back in your face can really make that process difficult by temporarily blinding you. Even a low-power flashlight like the the cheap ones I use in various scenarios on the shooting range, like in the photo above, can temporarily cause all else to go black as the light blinds you, your eyes try to adjust, and your OODA loop becomes O...O...O...O.
It's a really tough situation to be in, but it's not an unlikely situation. Maybe it's a burglar who brought a flashlight with him. Maybe it's a neighbor with a spotlight you encounter in the back yard who heard the same "bump in the night" that you're investigating. Maybe it's the lights of another vehicle or porch lights that jut came on. There is a strong possibility that you will sometime find yourself staring into a blinding light that diminishes your visual sight to identify potential threats.
This situation presents a number of problems for anyone interested in self-defense as darkness seems to come around about once a day and lasts several hours. If someone "lights you up" in the dark, you need to make quick decisions. Can you quickly get back behind cover or concealment? Are you in the middle of the yard or a garage where you have no readily available cover or concealment? If you shine your light on them, can you see well enough to identify them and if the pose a threat?
Here's a couple of thoughts to consider. Try to not look directly at the light, but don't look completely away either, and scan around the light to determine where the person is in relation to the light. Also, you can shine your light back at them putting them in the same disadvantaged situation. Either way, this is a tough situation to be in. Fortunately for us, we have a private range where we can practice these low-light situations. If you don't have access to a range that allows low-light shooting, you might try incorporating it into your practice at home with either your dry-fire practice (try lighting yourself up in a mirror) or consider role-play (not using your real gun) in your home with family members playing the other person or intruder with a light shining back at you.
So... have you trained... practiced... or visualized what you're going to do... when you're...
Blinded by the light... shining in YOUR face!
Note: If any of you have been to training that addresses this situation in the classroom or on the shooting range... let me know when and where and who... I'd love to sharpen my iron with other instructors or training opportunities...