Conscientious gun owners who rely on a long gun for home defense often advocate using a weapon mounted light (WML) in order to properly identify nighttime threats. While many purpose-built WML’s exist, they are often expensive–frequently in the $300 range–and can be relatively large and heavy. For this reason, many shooters such as myself turn to “civilian” EDC lights to create their own ad hoc WML systems. Over the years, I’ve burned through probably a half-dozen lights trying to invent that better mousetrap, and I believe that I have finally succeeded with a WML system constructed around the Fenix LD30.
In my opinion, a rifle-mounted WML must check off some critically important boxes:
1. It must be as lightweight as possible, as it is mounted far forward on the gun where leverage and weight work against each other
2. It should have a single-mode “tactical tail button” with a memory setting which allows for simple on/off manipulation during high-stress situations
3. The lumen output must be sufficient enough to blind an oncoming attacker…
4. …while also being adjustable enough to function in a variety of environments without night blinding the user
5. It must be mountable
6. And it must be durable
Even though it is a “professional’s” light rather than a “tactical” flashlight, Fenix’s LD30 piqued my interest soon after I purchased it for EDC pocket carry. Upon receiving the LD30, I noticed that its compact size offered perfect proportions for rifle use. Indeed, when I mocked it up on my carbine, I found that the LD30 was noticeably lightweight compared to something like a PD36R, whose size is more akin to typical purpose-built WML’s found on the marketplace.
With its tactical tail button and side adjustment control, the LD30 utilizes five brightness settings graduating from 30 to 1600 lumens. For WML purposes, I like the 800 lumen setting for indoor use, as it is certainly bright enough to blind an attacker, yet I find that a momentary flash doesn’t create night blindness for me when snapping it on and off for quick room checks. For more light-sensitive shooters who may experience night blindness at 800 lumens, the 350 lumen setting is perfectly adequate for indoor use as well. On the flip side, when outdoors the 1600 lumen turbo setting is bright enough to identify objects as far out as 100 yards.
One aspect that is often ignored when WML’s are discussed is spill. I like the generous amount of spill that the LD30 produces versus most purpose-built WML’s which tend to have tighter beams intended for greater reach. Since my home-defense scenarios are most likely to occur either indoors or in confined outdoor spaces such as my backyard or a cleared camping area, I like that the LD30 illuminates a wide swath. A more focused spotlight will leave peripheral areas hidden in darkness, which is precisely the opposite of what I want a WML to do!
One aspect where the LD30 did prove troublesome was in its mountability. The LD30’s .9″ body is too small to be accommodated by industry-standard 1″ mounts, even with the rings tightened to their maximum extent. Complicating matters further, I wanted a 45 degree mount that attached via M-LOK. This system is lightweight and places the WML tight to the firearm. It also provides a convenient position for thumb manipulation of the tail switch when using a thumb-over grip on the carbine. This type of mount also sets the lens of the light in a proper position between the end of the hand guard and just behind the muzzle where it minimizes reflective glare back at the shooter while simultaneously generating the least amount of forward shadow.
After experimenting with a few different mounting options, I went with an Odin Works 45 degree M-LOK mount for a 1″ flashlight. I then wrapped the LD30 in a strip of bicycle tubing to create a spacer for proper fitment. This homemade solution works perfectly well, and it visually blends in with the matte black mount and light to the point that a typical observer would think it was all a factory setup. That said, when choosing mounts, I caution the shooter to use either a double-ringed mount (such as the Odin Works) or a single-ring mount with a very wide ring: my experimentation with a thinner single-ring mount resulted in the light shifting on the spacer, causing it to lose zero.
With regards to durability, I am a competition shooter, and I have the LD30 mounted on my Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) competition gun, which also doubles as my home defense firearm. While I would normally remove the light for competition days, I did take the mounted LD30 to the range for multiple Steel Challenge training sessions where it was tested under high-speed live fire. Even though my testing took place in daylight, I practiced with the light turned on, and the LD30 functioned flawlessly through about 500 rounds of fire. My PCC is chambered in 9mm, and I used ammunition ranging from light competition loads to major power factor defensive cartridges. I cannot speak to the LD30’s durability with high concussion rifle ammunition, such as .223rem, but I am confident in its ability to withstand the rigors of 9mm firing.
Having taken the LD30 through some relatively extensive trials, I am personally satisfied with it on my Pistol Caliber Carbine. In fact, I feel that it performs better as a WML than other purpose-built lights, as it is more lightweight and produces better spill than any other WML that I’ve personally used. I now sleep easier knowing that my family is protected with a properly outfitted home defense firearm.