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  • Post last modified:January 9, 2024

In this quick read, let's explain what is a photonic barrier, and how it affects weapon light performance.

What Is Photonic Barrier

Photonic barriers in the context of weapon light applications are incoming light sources that outpower the beam of the weapon light. When that occurs the user experiences the following:

  • Can't see what's around or behind
  • Can't positively target identification
  • Can't positively acquire target or engage back
  • Less powerful light can't beat photonic barriers

How To Combat Photonic Barriers

glock 17 with surefire xh30 TIR beam pattern

There are 3 ways to combat photonic barriers in low light situations.

  1. Get a light that has ENOUGH horsepower to push through fog, backlight and other urban light sources. (Why high lumen & candela light is trending)
  2. Avoid being lit up
  3. Under night vision, shine a stronger IR light back

Seeing clearly VS barely seeing it makes a huge difference.

Please see the illustration below:

A Weak Light Against Photonic Barrier

Photonic barrier with weak light
Stronger Photonic Barrier - 1800 Lumens Olight M2R Warrior Pro
  • Can't see anything around or behind
  • Can't positively ID anything
  • They have tactical advantages over you

A Powerful Light Against Photonic Barrier

powerful light against photonic barrier
1800 Lumens Olight M2R Warrior Pro Burned Through 500 lumen light Photonic Barrier
  • Stronger light beats the photonic barrier created by less intense light
  • Able to lit up what's behind and around
  • Now you have tactical advantages over them

Basically you need a strong light that can burn through a photonic barrier, and later in this post we will talk about the light specs you need to look for.

Why Lumen Intensity Matters When Combating Photonic Barriers

lumen vs candela vs lux

Lumen is the preferred measurement of total brightness output by a light. The brighter it is, the more you can see and the faster you can make tactical decisions.

As far as combating photonic barriers, higher lumen creates higher lux.

Lux is the area intensity of the light measured as 1 lumen / squared meter.

  • Anything over 10 - 1,000,000+ are considered photopic
  • Anything between 1 and 10 is called diurnal Threshold
  • Anything from 10 to 0.01 are considered mesopic
  • Anything from 0.01 to 0.000001 are considered Scotopic

There are few technical terms to know before we dig deeper:

  • Scotopic - Full starlight, full darkness, overcast darkness
  • Mesopic - Moon light, Common street light
  • Photopic - Daylight, Full color, Perceivable contrast and hue

Humans generally don't see well in the dark, and we need artificial light to help us see better.

If you encounter these types of light sources head-on, the more powerful your light will need to be to overcome these photonic light barriers.

lumen light

In another word, a 500 lumens VS a 2000 lumens light in a head on firefight is gonna be very rough for the guy with the 500 lumens light.


Fun fact - The Human eye lacks a Taletum Lucidum, which is a layer of tissue behind the retina that reflects visible light back through the retina to increase the amount of light available to the photoreceptors.

Some animals have it, not for humans.

How Does Photonic Barrier Affect Night Vision Devices ?

Same concept applies when dealing with night vision IR technologies. A stronger IR light pointing back at you will have photonic barrier.

A IR light or laser that have higher output measured in milliwatts (mW) will break through photonic barrier by a weaker IR light.

IR light photonic barrier

Recommended Tactical Lights To Burn Through Photonic Barriers?

Bottom Line - As long as your light has more horspower than the light source shining back at you, you can beat the photonic barrier.

A 1000+ lumens and 20000 - 70000 candela light will definitely get the job done! We recommend Cloud Defensive REIN and MODLITE.

Check out our Modlite PLHv2 VS OKW VS PLH 5K article, where we show them side by side.

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