Do You Need a WML on Your EDC Handgun? [2024]

WML Featured Image 2

I've seen a resurgence in the conversation about Weapon Mounted Lights (WML) on EDC handguns. Specifically, do you NEED to have one on your EDC handgun. Well, I thought that I'd throw my hat in the ring for this topic. A few of the instructors that I follow have given their two cents, and as someone who has carried with and without an WML for the last decade, I think that I've got enough experience to give my opinion.

My Background

I'm just a guy. I've never been in the military, or been a cop, I'm just an average dude. I've worked blue and white collar jobs, and have been shooting and carrying handguns since 2013. I say all of this, as my perspective is entirely based on that of the civilian handgun carrier, and not coming from that of law enforcement, military, or security work.

Many of the handguns that I've carried have been covered here on the site. I started with the Gen 4 G17, and then moved to the HK VP9 and P30L, played with the SIG M17/M18, and moved back to Glock. I've also carried a myriad of smaller pocket pistols, and compact 9mm handguns. I'm armed all day. From when I get up in the morning, to going to sleep at night, I've got a handgun on me. It may be a Smith 442 or a G42, or it could be as large as a G45 these days.

With using a wide range of guns, I've found what I like, and what I don't. The decision to use a WML factors into that too. I'll also say it again, this is coming from the viewpoint of the civilian concealed carrier, not a more "duty" style of work. Guns in duty rigs can certainly fit a WML, in addition to a handheld light.

This may sound basic, but what is the point of a WML anyway?

Why Use a WML?

We cannot shoot what we cannot see. As such, we need a way to illuminate something that we may need to deploy force against. Having a light attached to our gun sounds like a simple solution, right? Well, it is, until it isn't.

The issue that I've seen with WMLs is in their usage. When we have a light attached to our gun, we need to be extremely careful in how we use that light. It is attached to a device that has the ability to quickly end life, and we need to be extremely cognizant of that. If we point our WML at a potential threat, we're also pointing a gun at that potential threat. What if that potential threat turns out to not be a threat? Well, we've now pointed a gun at someone that didn't need it, which is morally, ethically, and legally wrong.

X300U-B Image
I personally carried with various WMLs over the last half decade.

Does this mean that the WML is useless? Well, of course not. There are ways to search or illuminate using a WML that mitigate muzzling someone with the gun (umbrella or baseboard lighting). A WML is also very useful if we know for a fact that we have "bad guys" that need guns pointed at them, as we can maintain a full two handed grip on the gun while using the light. However, using a WML means needing to draw your handgun, which may not be needed. Well, this is where my stance on the topic comes in.

Need to Have Vs. Nice to Have

You should be carrying a handheld flashlight. In every instance where you'd need light to identify a person, or to search a structure/area, a handheld light allows you to do so, without having guns out. With the proper technique or tools, we can also use that light well in conjunction with a handgun. We can also use that handheld light in other non-self defense situations, where a WML would not make sense to use. Drop your keys beneath your car? Maybe you had a power outage at your office, and need more light than your phone. There are plenty of instances where a handheld light is invaluable, where a WML would not be remotely practical.

X300U-B + EDCL2-T
Nice to have Vs. need to have.

Now, does a handheld light make the WML useless? Not at all. However, it's a "need to have" Vs. "nice to have" battle. You need to have a handheld light, but it would be nice to have the WML. If you carry a WML with no handheld, I think that you are being negligent. If you carry neither, I'd also say that you are being negligent. A handheld light is the baseline, with the WML as an optional extra.

If you know that you will always have perfect lighting, and will never be in a dark building or out at night, maybe you don't need a light. However, as a wise man once said, "It's dark for half the day", so I'd recommend carrying a light.

I've made my point about what I think is required, and what I think is just nice to have. What are the other downsides to the WML?

WMLs & Tight Pants

Aside from the moral, ethical, and legal issues of deploying a WML without a need to use the gun, there are other problems. Namely, size.

In my experience, there are really only three WMLs worth using. They are the Streamlight TLR-1HL, the TLR-7, and the Surefire X300. The TLR-1 and X300 are both fairly big, with the TLR-7 being more compact. These options have great holster support, and have proven track records. However, the issue is that they all add bulk to the gun, especially when carried IWB/AIWB.

G45 PHLster Floodlight
My G45 in a (rather large) PHLster Floodlight 1.0.

I carried with an X300 AIWB for 4 years. Using custom kydex and then eventually moving to a PHLster Floodlight, I made it work. Was it extremely comfortable? Well, sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't. How was concealment? Well, it was good in the cold seasons, less good in the warmer seasons. It wasn't till Spring of 2023 that I went back to carrying without a WML on the gun, to which I realized how much more comfortable it is.

I know quite a few fellas who don't carry their EDC guns every day. They're also guys who try to carry guns with WMLs. EDC means nothing if you skip the "ED" part, and comfort plays a big element. If you aren't comfortable wearing the gun, then you are more likely to leave it at home. If the extra space from the WML makes the gun that much more uncomfortable that you aren't carrying it, then the WML is a detriment.

I'm sure that the "lose some weight" comments will come in, but I've seen plenty Gumby-looking fellas have issues too. In comfort, but also in concealment. Concealment is paramount for the civilian, especially with Non-Permissive Environments. Generally speaking, if the gun isn't comfortable, it isn't concealing well either.

WMLs & Concealment

WMLs adding bulk hurts comfort, but it also makes a larger footprint for impacting concealment. Smaller WMLs will hurt concealment less, but they are still worse than just the bare gun.

Your holster needs to be wider to accommodate the undermounted light, leading to a wider spot being taken up in your britches. Sometimes, the holster needs to have more spacing between the belt attachment methods too, to fit the wider holster. All of this leads to more factors being in play when trying to conceal the gun.

Now, this really matters depending on the clothing that you are wearing. When I'm in thin summer shorts or gym clothes, a WML on the gun would impact concealment a lot more than if I had thick winter khakis on. For me, the comfort element plays a larger part in using a WML than the concealment element, but it's a symbiotic relationship with concealment. When comparing the exact same gun in two different holsters (PHLster Pro and PHLster Floodlight), the G45 certainly conceals better without the light.

G45 PHLster PRO
This package is much smaller, and I all did was remove the light, and use a slightly different holster.

Again, if you can pull off the comfort and concealment with a WML, don't feel like I'm targeting you. I've just heard so many complaints from folks, and seen it myself, about how uncomfortable and hard to conceal WMLs are.

What qualities should you look for in a handheld light? How about techniques to use it with a handgun?

Handheld Light Recommendations

A fairly bright handheld light is really the only requirement. From there, we have more "nice to haves", for features for the light. Does this mean that you need 8 million lumens and 40 gazillion candela? Nope, but it would be nice to have. We've reviewed a bunch of handheld lights over the years, and I'll link them down below. I still personally carry my EDCL2-T as my standard handheld, with a Surefire G2 as a spare.

Surefire Flashlights
My current go-to lights, the EDCL2-T and venerable G2X.

I find that tube-shaped lights are easier to use in conjunction with a handgun. Either with a Thyrm Switchback, or via the more traditional techniques, cylindrical lights tend to work better. There are some more square lights (Surefire Stiletto & Streamlight Wedge) that can work too, but I find that you need to "test-drive" them more than tubular lights. On top of shape, button placement plays a big part too. I prefer a button on the tailcap of the light, rather than for it to be on the body of the light itself.

You want a relatively durable EDC light. It doesn't need to survive a 20 story fall, or being run over by a tank, but it should be able to take a shoulder height drop without failing.

For techniques for using a handheld light with a handgun, there are 4 that I find myself using

Handheld Light Shooting Techniques

There are 4 techniques that I use or have used. These are ones that I've spent a good chunk of time trying out, and have found some that I prefer more than others. In addition to the below written sections, I recorded video in which I show live fire demonstrations of the techniques.

I don't think that all of the techniques are perfect, but I do prefer some over others. I've listed them in the order that I prefer to use them.

Thyrm Switchback Technique

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With this technique, we're using the Thyrm Switchback to use the light with our handgun. I've got a full article on it, but essentially, we're using our index and middle finger to actuate the light while gripping our handgun. I've found this technique to impede my shooting ability the least, but it does require having a Switchback on your flashlight to use.

Harries Technique

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The Harries Technique was created by Michael Harries, and is a classic Gunsite technique. With this method, we're basically creating an "X" with our support hand pulling against the primary hand, to both use the light, and better support the gun hand. This technique is particularly fatiguing to hold for more than 30 seconds, but helps to stabilize the gun very well. I would not use this technique for searching, but when it comes to actually needing to shoot, I find it to be fairly good.

Neck Index 

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The neck index is one that feels very natural. With this method, we're bracing the flashlight in the crevice between our neck and shoulder. Here, we can have the light point where our head is facing, which makes the convergence between your gun and the hotspot of the light pretty easy. This is a solid method when transitioning from a more normal, "icepick" hold when searching, to a more active, shooting technique.

Rogers (Cigar) Technique

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Made famous by Bill Rogers, the Rogers/Cigar technique involves holding the flashlight in your support hand like a cigar, between your index and middle fingers. Here, we use the palm of the hand to depress the light when gripping the gun. I've moved away from this technique due to using a Switchback, but also due to it being very flashlight-dependent to be able to use.

These techniques work well, so I'd recommend picking one or two, and really working them in. Some are better in specific instances, but all are tried and true. What's also nice is that you can use these techniques even if you have a WML on your gun. It's very easy to transition from a neck index searching technique to using your WML, or from ice pick hold to the WML. Sometimes, you can have your cake an eat it too.

WML TL;DR

This was a long article, so we'll summarize it here:

  1. No, you do not NEED a WML for concealed carry as a civilian. It is merely a nice thing to have, if you can carry one relatively comfortably and without compromising concealment.
  2. You NEED to be carrying a handheld flashlight if you carry a gun. It's dark half of the day, so the need for a dedicated, non-WML is paramount. Unless you live in a world where it's never dark, you need a handheld light. No, your cell phone does not count.

It's fairly simple. You've gotta have a handheld light. WMLs are nice to have, but are not required.

The Verdict

Well, I've given my two cents (plus the rest of my wallet) on this topic. I think it's fairly simple, but a lot of folks start to fall into the slippery slope when it comes to carry guns. I've been there, so I get it. We can convince ourselves that we "need" certain "nices", which leads to us carrying comped Glock 17s with X300s on them. Sure, I carried it and was able to conceal it, but it was no where near as comfortable and concealable as something more reasonable. Plus, it's a lot of strain on my balls.

G48 & Surefire EDCL2-T
An EDC combo that I very much love.

During NPE Counter Robbery last year, Darryl Bolke made a comment about dudes worrying about getting "kilt in the streetz". Basically, that a lot of folks are prepared to get jumped by half a dozen ninjas, even when it is absurd to prepare for. Having a skillset, and a set of tools that are always on you is much more important than a massive gun that you only carry every so often. If no WML on your gun means that you actually carry it every day, I'd call that a win. Alternatively, if you are comfortable with a WML on your gun, and you can conceal it well, please, do so. It really comes down to a matter of "reading the room".

Tailoring your EDC to what you actually do, and might actually experience are paramount.

Additional Reading & Patreon Link

Below are our reviews of flashlights from over the last few years:

Dan took a low light class from Chuck Haggard back in 2020, linked below. You can also check out his low light training with Darryl Bolke, Mike Pannone, Matt Little, and Gunsite Academy:

If you'd like to support me on Patreon, I've got the link for that here. Nearly everything that I do on Primer Peak is paid for out of my own pocket, and my content is not shilled or driven by manufacturers or companies. If you decide to donate, I'd really appreciate it, as it would allow for me to continue to bring you quality work.

About Paul Whaley 194 Articles
Paul Whaley is a guy with an interest in practical and defensive pistol shooting techniques with an eye for quality gear. He has received training from Holistic Solutions Group, John Johnston of Citizens Defense Research, Darryl Bolke, Cecil Birch, and Chuck Haggard. When not trying to become a better shooter, he can be found enjoying a Resident Evil game or listening to Warren Zevon.

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