Can a Flashlight Blind You? Shedding the Light on the Matter

Carrying a flashlight has become so commonplace that it is very likely you already carry one with you. Flashlights are now made so compact that many can be latched onto a keychain, carried in bookbag, purse or pocket.  They have been built to be very sturdy and provide an extremely bright to provide the user with a very reliable light source for a considerable amount of time before you have to change its batteries or charge directly to an outlet.

Those in the prepper community know the value of having such a useful tool. For the most, it has become a defense weapon. It can be held as a baton to strike at your opponent.  The added quality is to use the brightness of the currently best selling halogens to temporarily “blind” and confuse your attacker. It gives you that extra moment to either attack or to run away. For the vicitim of such a strong beam of light, one begins to wonder, does this weapon have the potential to do permanent damage to the eyes of the perpetrator?

Thus, can a flashlight blind you? In a word–No. A flashlight, even a state of the art, sophisticated insanely high powered and bright flashlight won’t blind you. It will dazzle you, stress your retina a bit, and temporarily wash out your usable field of view. But your eyes–since they’re so important to your survival in general, are adaptable, and reset quickly. A moment or so of blinking, and you’ll be fine.

It’s not the visible white light that blinds you, but rather ultraviolet radiation from powerful light sources like a high power laser, or the powerful infrared energy from the sun. Consider–when the sun is in total eclipse, the visible light is gone. It’s the infrared energy from the corona that blinds people watching an eclipse with unprotected eyes that burn their retinas. The sun’s visible light is hardly even there.

A bright flashlight, (even the old plastic or sheet metal ones that never worked when you pulled them out of the drawer can do it–So long as they do, in fact, have fresh batteries and uncorroded contacts) can dazzle someone briefly by overloading the phosphenes in their eyes. But this is a temporary effect at best, and it’s easily circumvented with dark glasses.

There has been a lot of interest lately in so-called “tactical flashlights” that are promoted as being bright enough to stop a bear attack. While a bear might be temporarily dazzled and surprised by a super-bright light, “temporarily” is the key word here and it’s unlikely that you can put enough distance between yourself and the bear to be safe in the time it takes for it to blink its eyes back into proper function. A flashlight should not be considered a defensive weapon for something as powerful and robust as a bear.

The proper use of a “tactical flashlight” is to illuminate an area that you’re shooting into. If you dazzle an attacker or two, consider it a happy accident. A better way to choose a flashlight with the intention of using it as a secondary weapon is to look for one that is big, tough, and heavy.

You know those long, heavy aluminum shelled flashlights, stuffed full of nice dense D sized batteries that the police carry? Ever see how the police hold them, choking up on the business end with the long, heavy, battery compartment over their shoulder? In that situation, it’s a club that’s ready to brain you if you should make an unexpected move. It’s already raised and ready for action.

There is one tactical flashlight you might want to consider. It is one which I highly recommend. Click here for more details.

Choosing a Flashlight

Flashlights have earned their place in the survival kit simply by doing what they do best–Shine a light. When it’s dark, it’s a pretty safe bet that good light is going to greatly improve your chances of survival for any of a number of reasons. Simply knowing a good place to put your foot and to make your next step can be important information. When choosing a flashlight the word “lumens” comes up a lot. It’s obvious that “the more of them the better,” but what is it?

The dictionary definition for “Lumen” follows: “The SI unit of luminous flux, equal to the amount of light emitted per second in a unit solid angle of one steradian from a uniform source of one candela.” Uh…Yeah. Right. I got lost at “SI unit.” A more practical way to think about lumens is that you get about 1600 of them from a good old fashioned energy wasting 100 watts light bulb. Remember that when you’re trying to figure out which LED bulb you’re going to replace it with. Four watts of LED goes a long way up that lumen ladder.

  • 1-14 lumens. Illumination that is bright enough to read words on a piece of paper
  • 15-59 lumens. Gives off light that gives one ability to see in a  room, but you can’t see anything very far outdoors.
  • 60-149 lumens. Provides lighting to see outdoors at night When the brightness reaches more than 100 lumens, it will impair the vision if shone into one’s eyes.
  • 150-299 lumens. Light brightness up a large room. As one gets close to 300 lumens, will temporarily affect the vision of an attacker during the daytime.
  • 300-699 lumens. This power strong enough to light a football stadium. With such flashlights, you’ll be able to lighten a football field.
  • 700+ lumens. This level of brightness that can illuminate 2 or 3 football fields.

These are some other qualities you may want to consider:

  • The strength of the beam
  • The ease of use and handling of the flashlight tube
  • The strength of the flashlight construction
  • Its multifunctional capabilities (ex. have a flashing feature for an emergency)
  • Multiple ways to charge up the flashlight
  • A strap attached at the bottom of the tube to wrap around hand or wrist

Light as a “Psychological” Weapon.

If you look across the campfire and see a red dot centered over the chest of a camp-mate; What’s going to be the first thing you think of? If you think “Oh no–They’ve targeted my buddy!” You may be watching too many action flicks. Or maybe not. As cliched as it may seem, the red dot hovering over a kill spot has become a classic warning symbol. (If you want to experience another one, grasp the left lapel of your jacket pull it forward, and reach into your inner chest pocket. Try it in a crowded international airport. Some cliches will get you killed.)

If a flashlight is your best weapon, it might be worth it to attempt a psych-out. At the very least they know that you know where they are. That being said, there IS a psychological weapon that has been getting some attention from the military and law enforcement. Ever see a guy suddenly find out he’s epileptic when he drops to the dance floor in a flashy night club?

Overloading sensory systems with unusual or overpowering stimulus can have bizarre effects on an otherwise capable body. Helicopter pilots have been known to become disoriented and even crash on account of the strobe effect of sunlight through spinning helicopter blades. Researchers in nonlethal defense technology at MIT have been experimenting with a “dazzler”–A big overdeveloped flashlight that strobes color changing LED’s at varying frequencies to induce temporary confusion and nausea as a nonlethal method of incapacitation. Still a new thing but I wonder how long a pocket-sized version start appearing in the prepper catalogs?

Final Thoughts

Humans like light. Once upon a time, there really were monsters out there in the dark forest that had the nerve to sneak into the cave and drag one of us, kicking and screaming, off into the night. Harnessing fire as torches gave us the balls to sneak into their caves and teach them that humans are not a food group. Fire and electricity have helped us to conquer the dark, extend our day, and our productive hours.

But when it comes to weapons, light isn’t really there. If I had a real, Buck Rogers-style laser and had to defend myself, there’s a pretty good chance I could do more damage by shorting out its power source and tossing into a group of enemies ala a hand grenade. Ever see a burning hoverboard?

Flashlights have a right and proper place in the survival pack, desk drawer, or pocket to be ready for all sorts of situations where our eyes might need a little help to overcome the lack of light. But if you need to defend yourself and prefer to give your attacker time to contemplate his life choices behind bars, rather than help fertilize a cemetery, there truly are better choices than a flashlight.

I highly recommend this tactical flashlight that is one of the best on the market and affordable.

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