Here we will explain in further detail and with illustrations how to use the Coghlan's Signal Mirror.
Hold the mirror edges so as not to block any of the reflective surface. With only 6 square inches (14 sq. cm), less the aiming hole and lanyard hole, even a fingertip in the way can noticeably reduce the available signaling surface resulting in reduced range or signaling effect. Care should be taken to keep dirt and fingerprints from the mirror surface. Face the sun (or bright moon) and reflect light from the mirror surface onto your hand or a nearby surface.
Bring the mirror close to your eye, tyically 1 inch (2.5 cm) or closer, or just in front of your glasses. Looking through the aiming hole, locate the mirror's reflection on your hand or the nearby surface. You will see a bright spot, sometimes characterized as a "fireball," within the mesh in the aimer.
By carefully turning and tilting the mirror, locate your target through the clear center of the aimer while still keeping the bright aiming spot within the mesh. If you lose the aiming spot, stop and start over. It gets much easier with practice.
Continue turning and tilting the mirror to bring the target and the bright aiming spot towards each other within the mesh portion of the aimer. The bright aiming spot is only visible through the retro-reflective mesh. You cannot simply move the spot to the target in the clear center.
When the bright aiming spot covers the target, you will be flashing a signal to the target. Very little movement is required to create a flash, normally this occurs simply by attempting to keep the target covered by the spot, but wiggling the mirror very slightly to move the bright aiming spot across the target will provide a more definite flash. With moving targets especially, such as an aircraft moving across the sky, it is best to move the mirror side to side, not up and down.
If no target is in sight, the mirror has sufficient range to make it worth the effort to flash the horizon. Rescues have been made by aircraft occupants noticing mirror flashes beyond visual range. When doing so, flash the mirror on a particular spot on the horizon for two minutes, so that you will more likely generate multiple flashes that are less likely to be disregarded. Then, move your aiming point a few degrees and try again. If you happen to know that aircraft generally fly a track across a particular segment of the horizon or that hikers are likely to cross a particular ridge, concentrate on that area. Use any local knowldge to your advantage.
It is always better to practice with a tool before you need to use it and this is even more important when you might have to use it in an emergency. We encourage you to practice with your Coghlan's Signal Mirror. Be cautious, however, as the bright flash can be blinding and could cause an accident if flashed inappropriately. Practice by aiming only at inanimate objects.