Apart from pistols themselves, I suspect that the accessory most often purchased and yet least carried is the pistol mounted flashlight. Rails on pistols of all sizes have wildly proliferated to the point where it’s more strange to see a new gun without one than with. It then only follows that gun owners would run to the store and buy things to put on there, whether they make sense or not.
I am not immune! The first thing I bought for my USP-45F after a holster, was H&K’s “Universal” Tactical Light (strangely named since it only fits on the pistols of one manufacturer!). It mostly sat in a drawer and stored dead batteries.
Similarly, soon after I sold the H&K and bought some Glocks, I purchased a Streamlight TLR-1 and, again, promptly stored it in a drawer. It did get attached to a G17 I had designated the “house gun”, but since I had no holsters to accommodate the gun with the light attached, it didn’t see use at the range very often. Then it was moved to a Streamlight 870 mount that I attached to my Remington 1100 shotgun and didn’t see a pistol again for a couple years.
I’ve been curious about carrying my G19 with a light attached since I bought it, and was finally motivated to action by Comp-Tac’s recent 14% off Valentine’s day sale and bought a C-TAC for a G19 with a TLR-1 attached. This holster ran me $110 shipped and arrived within a week. If you aren’t familiar with the C-TAC, it looks like an overly complicated kludge at first, but once everything gets adjusted right under a tight belt, it’s probably the best holster I’ve ever worn in terms of keeping a heavy pistol tight to your body at a consistent angle without needing constant readjustment. It also seems to grab my cover shirt less than other holsters.
I had initially wanted a Blade-Tech IWB, but I was informed by their customer service that the G19 with TLR-1 combo was too wide for comfortable carrying. As I have discovered this was not the case with the CTAC, I presume their holster is designed incorrectly. Raven Concealment offers another option, but at almost $40 more than the CTAC with a several month wait, I passed.
Compared to a normal G19 CTAC, the support struts are a good 1.5″ further apart, and the Kydex body of the holster is about an inch wider and longer overall. This means that if you already own a normal CTAC, your struts are going to be adjusted differently on the light holster to get a similar carry angle.
The holster body appears to rely on friction for retention instead of a mechanical lock, and thus there isn’t that satisfying audible and tactile snick as you holster the gun. Since the mouth of the holster is shaped wide enough to accommodate the gun and light, there is more space between the holster body and the trigger guard. It is possible for me to squeeze a finger in there and trip the trigger. THIS IS NOT A CRITICISM! It is not a reason to not get the holster, but is an inevitable consequence of the design and is something the user needs to stay aware of. A wider opening means more risk of getting clothing, draw strings, and other foreign objects caught in the trigger guard when holstering, with obviously catastrophic consequences.
Concealed carrying the gun with the light was surprisingly not much different than without the light. The struts were farther apart, but despite a bulkier holster, the difference wasn’t visibly noticeable. If you rely on using the CTAC with a shirt tucked over the rig, there might be enough difference to matter, but I haven’t tried it.
The biggest change I noticed was the length and width of the holster body made its presence more felt when sitting in the car or bending over. It’s not a big loss in comfort, but it’s there.
At the range, drawing the gun is unchanged. Reholstering is actually somewhat easier than the standard CTAC, since the mouth of the holster body is much longer front to back. Angling the pistol forward, dropping the bezel of the flashlight in, then rotating the pistol vertical as I shove it in seems to work best for me. I’m not a good enough shooter to notice a huge difference in shooting the G19 with the light attached, but it does feel less snappy overall and it seems like I’m faster to get the sights back on target.
A brief sidebar on using a pistol with a light: It’s imperative to keep in mind that you do not have a flashlight that’s also a pistol, but rather a pistol that has a flashlight attached. You should absolutely not use the light for searching or general illumination if you aren’t justified in pointing your gun in that direction. If you only have the attached light available and need to light up a room, pointing the gun and light at the floor bounces enough light around the room to see what you’re doing. A class dedicated to the use of the gun in low light situations would not be a bad idea!
To sum up, I’ve found that carrying a pistol with a light attached is definitely possible and downright convenient. You give up a degree of concealment and comfort for always having a light available that does not impede your shooting, reloading and gun handling. It is not a replacement for carrying a dedicated flashlight, and the price tag of a specialized holster, the light itself, and a supply of batteries is not small. The trade offs are affordable enough for me that I don’t think I’ll go back to carrying a bare gun. It is not something that I can confidently recommend to everyone, the pistol mounted light is not as much a no brainer accessory to your pistol as carrying a reload or a cell phone. But if it’s something you think might be useful to you, I can enthusiastically recommend the CTAC for carrying a gun with a light.