Jump to content
Practically Shooting

Night Shootin'


Recommended Posts

So we had a little night shooting class tonight. A local training outfit held it. There were only five of us and we had all done it before, so it was not so much a class as a series of drills.

Most night shooting portions of classes only end up running an hour or two at the most, so it is nice to spend some more time on it. This is sort of what these guys do. Since a typical class from a typical trainer might cover all sorts of areas, touching briefly on each little thing from one-handed shooting to movement, you only end up with maybe an hour or so on some things. These guys will hold a half-day class on one specific area so we can work on it a while. This was to be a pistol/carbine class, but we ended up doing mostly carbine work.

Lessons learned:

-Do NOT look through a really nice night vision unit like a PVS-14 and not expect to want one. If you don't look, you won't know what you're missing. Crap.

-Distractions are amplified at night, and different things make for unexpected distractions. I was doing the "Figure 8", which is walking a figure eight path around barrels when they call out target numbers to identify and shoot after you get to the correct cover spot. Behind me I hear a hissing sound, then a road flare lands among the targets. Big deal, right? To me, it was a bigger distraction than the strobe or yelling crap at me. I guess because it was something unusual.

-You have to see it to hit it, but sometimes it doesn't take much light. If it's really dark, any light is great.

-Identifying your target is different. That might take a lot of light.

-Identifying your target with a handheld, then shooting with the weaponlight prevents pointing guns at non-threats, but the process of doing it sucks. It seems to take forever from starting it to finishing it. If your weaponlight has the right beam pattern, you might be able to sort of cheat and illuminate the ground and see.

-You drop something in the daytime, you know where it hit the ground and can find it later. Drop it at night, and you have no reference point. In daylight, you know it landed three feet from the brown clump of grass. At night, it landed in the dark, which looks like that dark other there, and this dark over here. Dummy cords or a piece of reflective tape might be worth considering on more expensive items.

-LED lights last longer. Things still break unexpectedly, though.

-Secondary plans suck at night. If your light fails and you need your spare, make sure you can get to it easily. That sounds obvious, but maybe it isn't.

-Muzzle smoke/haze plays [censored] with lights. When we were doing shorter range work and moving, it cleared as we moved so was not a problem. Later, doing longer range shooting where we would got behind cover and pound rounds into the target while our partner moved, we'd build up quite a cloud at our muzzle. Since the lights are behind the cloud, that nice tight beam turns into a mess. It's sorta like high beams in the fog or looking through a greased-up window.

This was new to me. I hadn't got to do any longer range night shooting before. It was doable, but more challenging. A magnified optic helped cut through it. A red dot is easily visible, but doesn't help you see past your cloud of crap.

-It was in the mid to upper 20s, so that provided it's own challenges. I used the same chest rig I've used for eight years and pretty much know where everything is on it. Not tonight, because when strapped over four layers of shirts everything had moved. I fumbled for mags, looked for my dump pouch, and clattered around getting the pistol back in the holster. Guys with war belts had to get everything up past their clothing that had bunched and folded over the top. I don't know how those guys in Afghanistan do it, with the temp extremes they can see in the course of a day. They have to be adjusting gear all the time, with every layer that comes on or off.

-You can hit just as easily at night. You "just" need to get enough light on target. Shooting 240 yards with a 65 lumen light is a job. Shooting 240 yards with a 320 lumen light is a piece of cake.

-I used the AUG and SCAR 17 because it was my first chance to use them in a class. And because they were the newest toys.

The AUG flash hider worked great, but I kept getting a small red flash that looked to be from the ejection port which caught my eye. Nobody else saw it. I finally decided it was being reflected off the red dot lens.

I used the SCAR for the longer stuff (AUG=indoor rifle; SCAR=outdoor rifle). The SCAR has a combination muzzle brake/flash hider. I was dubious. A good brake usually enhances flash, and a good flash hider won't be much of a brake. It's a helluva brake, so I expected to be lighting up the world. I think we were all surprised to see it actually did hide the flash. I'd get a spark or two sometimes, but that happens. I've been seriously thinking of replacing it, but maybe not.

The Trijicon scope worked great. I thought it was a little too bright and "bloomy" at first, but that brightness was nice to have when shooting through a muzzle cloud.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 years later...

Saturday night was this year’s annual night shoot class.  

I’ve been taking this same class since around 2010, and have missed one, maybe two in that time. There is a core group of us that attend each year or close to every year, and we have a discussion before and after each class over what we’ve learned and what we’ve changed because of it.  Being the same people taking the same class over the years, it has been interesting to watch the changes as we learn what works and what doesn’t.  It’s funny that we mostly come to the same conclusions, though we do so independent of each other.  


For example, those of us who have attended for a while all have hand held lights.  We may or may not have a weapon-mounted light, but we all have and use a handheld.  A lot of the time, you have to move the light around to get it to come in from the angle you need.  We al use some sort of lanyard or retention ring on the light.   We may have night sights, but haven’t found them to be a necessity.


The last three years in particular, it’s been harder each year for me to find and focus on the front sight.  This is a daytime challenge also, but at night it’s a real problem.   This year I had several instances where I could not get the light where I could see the front sight at all.  This was new.   Even when I could see it, it was taking me forever to get a shot off.  I was feeling pretty vulnerable in the scenarios when I was without cover.


That was Saturday night.  As of Tuesday, I own a Sig P320 with red dot sight.   I’ve known a red dot was in my future, and finally gave in.  


As polymer framed guns go, I like the S&W M&P, but I used a friend’s red dot equipped P320 Saturday and liked it.  It did something no other red dot handgun has done for me- It let me see the dot when I extended to shoot.   No hunting for the dot, like every other one I’ve tried.   His had the Wilson Combat grip frame which made it feel almost 1911-like, and that’s probably why it worked so well for me (I mostly shoot 1911s and HiPowers).  


We will see how it shoots.  Maybe it will stick around.  I haven’t bought holsters and a bunch of magazines yet.  I picked a good time to need magazines and more ammo.  



Link to comment
Share on other sites

The whole concept of scenario shooting at night seems like fun and a challenge.  To not have the sun beating down on you is also a bonus.  Another plus is how many self defense shooting situations happen in well lit conditions vs. low light or dark situation?  I have zero practice shooting in low light conditions.

I too have old eyes and focus on anything less than 24" away has become impossible.  There is no way I could do a night shoot with my iron sights, without guessing at the aim point.  

You have made me rethink my training again.  You have a way of doing that.  Thanks.  :-)


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I grumble about the date every year, thinking a month earlier would be appreciably warmer yet still allow it to get dark early enough.   Then we get there and start fumbling in the winter clothes we just started wearing again.  That's when I remember it's a dual learning experience- the dark and the cold.  


Would I be out there in that cold for a regular class?   Nope.   That's the trick John the instructor figured out long ago.  The valuable opportunity of a night shoot lures us out there to find and sort out cold hand and winter clothing problems.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/10/2020 at 4:14 AM, BarryinIN said:

...As of Tuesday, I own a Sig P320 with red dot sight...

...We will see how it shoots.  Maybe it will stick around.  I haven’t bought holsters and a bunch of magazines yet...

I've shot it a couple of times now.  

More magazines should be here Tuesday; holster on Saturday.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
2 hours ago, BarryinIN said:

I’ve learned before that a couple more layers of clothing repositions the vests/chest rigs/belts enough to create some fumbling.

Same with trap shooting, extra clothes make the whole process more difficult.  I've learned the importance of the outer layer of clothing to have a non-grabby texture so it's easier to get the stock in the correct position.

Pictures are a must :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I never thought about that.  I did all my trap shooting in the summer months.  I bet with the importance of pull length, that is an issue.  

And if I know trap shooters, some have stocks for summer, stocks for winter, and stocks for spring and fall.   And all are adjustable within the confines of their intended season.


The class went pretty well.  It was a first-time experiment for the instructor, having changed the lesson plan from a two-day class to single day after getting beat up by people saying a two-day class was too hard to commit to.   Naturally, he caught grief for not spreading things out over two days.  

I’ve known the instructor for a while, but have only taken classes with him, not from him.

This was a Revere’s Riders course.  I don’t know how well Revere’s Riders is known outside of a couple of states.   They split off from the Appleseed Project a few years ago , and is sorta kinda the tacticool version.   They even hold a class or two each year here at the Camp Atterbury army ranges using the pop-up targets.  

I’m going to take this opportunity to ask people considering ANY class to read the course description and class requirements/prerequisites.  Then read them again.  And follow them.  

This was a basic class, but it wasn’t a beginners class. That’s not the same thing.   Nobody expected a bunch of John Wicks, but there were some expectations stated in the course description.  One of those expectations was having a zeroed rifle.   It didn’t matter what distance, just as long as it was zeroed and you knew it then you’d have something to work with.

Therefore, there should not have been people showing up needing to zero their rifles first thing.  There should not have been people being so “prepared” they had a bag of empty mags in one hand and boxed ammo in the other.    When a two day class gets compressed  into one, there is already no spare time.  Once you start fooling with zeroing, you can lose two hours before you know it.   
The instructor held this tight.   You got three rounds.   Go. 
Load your mags and keep up.


He did something I had never seen before in a class.  It could have happened, but I hadn’t seen it before.  Once he started the safety brief* he said that was the class start, and anyone showing up late and missing it was out.  Sure enough, here comes someone rolling it at 0810, and sure enough, they got sent packing.

*At 0800 sharp, the accurate start time being another first.


We did a lot of movement work all day, which was good so we could take advantage of the snow to sludge around in.   

The host club’s range layout was unusual to me, in that you shot one direction for 50 yards and turned 90 degrees to the right to shoot 100.  (They can get 200 there, but only after some reconfiguring.)  This was taken advantage of by letting us shoot close (25 and under) and 100 yards in the same drill.   It’s a shame, but the truth is that doesn’t happen as much as you might think or I’d like in classes.  You might shoot close, then farther, but seldom both at once. There are lots of devious tricks that can be used for.  

Since I’ve already bashed my fellow students, I might as well climb on my high horse and finish them off.  

Shooting at 100 yards was kryptonite to a lot of people.   Maybe I should stop there.   
I’m trying.  
I’m really trying not to say anything.
Oh man, this is hard.
OK, OK, Let me just say this:  If given an 8” plate at 100 yards...

from prone...

with a quality AR...

and a low power variable scope (plus at least one ACOG)...

that you’ve been shooting all day...

and three shots to hit it...

and you can’t pull it off...

Don’t spend the class talking about what gun or optic you plan to buy next.  Your priorities are off.

Then when we get a second run and you can’t do it the second time either...
It should become more plain. The gear is definitely not what is holding you back.

A bright spot was the AK guy banging the steel on the first shot. Twice.  I hope if anyone there was the type who say AKs are no good because they only shoot 4MOA, that they realized what they saw.  



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...
  • 2 years later...

This class is always held the first Saturday in December.  About a month prior, the instructor sent a message out saying there would be no Low Light class this year.  

I didn't realize how much I'd miss it until the time came and went.  

I also see I didn't update my last post, where I was about to use a red dot-equipped gun in the class for the first time.  It made a huge difference.  I can't put it into words.  Rest assured, it simplifies the problem.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...