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Why Use a Laser Sight?
The question of whether or not to add a laser sight is a good one.
For most normal gun use, a laser sight is superfluous or even distracting. If you’re shooting for points on a paper target, you don’t want a dot bouncing around.
So, if you spend most of your time at the range, you may not need a laser sight. Owning one is still a good idea for reasons I will get into later.
However, laser sights are excellent for self-defense. I would even say that they are required!
When using a gun in an emergency, you won’t have the advantage of taking your time. Your shooting stance won’t be perfect. You may not even be able to raise your gun to see the sights.
This is where laser sights shine. They let you know where your muzzle is pointing, no matter your gun’s position.
In a split-second situation, that can help you pull the trigger first and walk away the survivor.
However, laser sights do have some disadvantages.
For one, they are only good at short ranges. Lasers get harder to see the further away they point. Most laser sights are sighted in for 50 feet.
They also are less visible in the sunlight, though a green laser is better for this purpose.
Also, some people have a tendency to aim solely with the laser rather than using the sights when the laser is not needed.
But on that point, lasers can be a strong practice tool.
It’s hard to catch bad habits when pulling the trigger, unless you have a laser. That dot will bounce around if you aren’t pulling smoothly.
The laser dot can also catch muzzle sweeps and remind you to keep the gun pointed at your target!
Pros of using a laser sight
- Helps train shooting skills
- Faster target acquisition
- The laser dot is visible in low-light conditions or even in the complete dark
Cons of using a laser sight
- Adds bulk and expense to the handgun
- Hard to see in bright light
- Requires batteries, sometimes expensive ones
- Some people become fixated by the dot and forget to use proper shooting techniques
Why Pick a Quality Laser Sight?
You can buy lasers for cheap nowadays. Why would you spend over a hundred dollars on one when you can get one for twenty bucks?
Two reasons: power and quality.
Cheap lasers won’t be as powerful as expensive lasers. The more powerful the laser, the brighter it will be and the easier time you’ll have using it.
Also, you get what you pay for with lasers. More expensive lasers will have higher quality components with stronger soldered connections and more reliable switches.
They may also be able to handle stronger recoil or worse weather conditions.
Lastly, while budget-friendly lasers may be sold by companies with good customer service, any return will be a hassle. You won’t need that when you invest in a quality laser sight.
Built-In vs Separate Lasers
Broadly, there are two types of laser sights: built-in lasers and separate lasers.
Built-in lasers are hidden in a part of the gun, either the grip or the guide rod.
Separate lasers are attached to a Picatinny or Weaver rail.
Separate lasers tend to be cheaper than built-in lasers. They are also easier to install or remove, so you can use them on other guns as well.
Handguns with built-in laser sights tend to be easier to use because you don’t need to reach forward to activate the laser. Depending on the style of the laser sight, either push part of the slide release or naturally grip the handgun to activate the sight.
Built-in laser sights can also be used on pistols without rails. They are also more compact than separate lasers and, in the case of guide rods, take up no external space whatsoever. This makes them more resistant to damage and easier to fit in holsters.
However, built-in laser sights are designed to mount on specific handgun models and cannot be used on other guns. Also, installation is more difficult than sliding the laser onto a rail and tightening a screw.
Replacing a grip is somewhat easy (though not as easy as attaching a separate laser), while replacing your pistol’s guide rod is an involved process.
How to Choose a Laser Sight?
There are many varieties of laser sights out there. How can you settle on one?
Rail-Mounted or Gun-Specific
A quick way to narrow down your choices is to determine whether you want the laser sight to live on a single pistol or if you want to be able to move it around as you desire.
Removing a laser sight and mounting it on different firearms is an economical way to train with all of your guns. In this case, you will need a Picatinny or Weaver mounted laser sight
However, if you want to avoid the hassle of zeroing the laser every time you move it, then you’ll want to get a gun-specific sight. That style will be the most compact and have the highest quality.
If you’re using the laser sight on a handgun intended for self-defense, then you’ll be limited by your holster.
A bulky laser at the end of your gun may not fit your holster!
Also, if there’s a chance you will be using the laser sight during the day, you’ll want the brightest, most powerful laser sight possible. Typically, this means that you’ll have to buy a more expensive model.
Red vs. Green Lasers
The two most common laser colors available on laser sights are red and green. This is for a good reason.
Red lasers are cheap to make. Companies then pass on the savings to you, so red laser sights are less expensive than green sights.
However, green sights have a strong advantage over red sights: biology. The human eye is more sensitive to different wavelengths, and green lasers match up with peak color sensitivity.
So, for a given output power, a green laser will be more visible than a red laser.
This is not important if you will use the laser indoors or at night. However, if you ever use the laser outdoors during the day, then using a green laser can mean the difference between seeing the dot at 50 feet and 50 yards!
Crimson Trace leads in the handgun laser sight business. If you want the best laser sight possible, buy one of their products.
Before Crimson Trace, laser sights were bulky products that took up a large amount of space on your gun and were difficult to use. Crimson Trace took to the philosophy of making their laser sights not only compact but also easy to use.
Extremely easy to use.
Crimson Trace uses the trademarked Instinctive Activation technology to ensure that the laser is right there with you as soon as you hold the gun. Then, when you put down the firearm, the laser turns off so it won’t waste battery life.
This process, which involves a button on the front of the grip, makes Crimson Trace’s products a joy to use.
On the high end, you can purchase grip lasers made from exotic woods such as cocobolo. On the cheap end, the grips are a black polymer. They are comfortable but unexciting.
However, you pay for this ease-of-use and quality. Crimson Trace products are not cheap, though the Rail Master laser sight is much more budget-friendly than the Lasergrips are.
Where Crimson Trace leads in ergonomics, LaserMax leads in ruggedness.
LaserMax is owned by Crosman Corporation, the market leader in air guns and related products. Their funding has allowed LaserMax to become another market leader, this time in hardened lasers.
Lasers made by LaserMax are used in science labs and in industrial settings. They also help soldiers hit precisely where they’re aiming.
They not only produce rugged lasers but also innovate their use. The best example is the LaserMax Guide Rod lasers, which replace the recoil spring guide rod to add a quality laser sight without compromising the firearm’s utility in any way.
One testament to the quality of LaserMax products is how a police officer from Estes Park, Colorado, lost their handgun in a lake. Four months later, it was recovered, and the laser sight still worked perfectly.
LaserMax lasers may be more expensive than those sold by other companies, but you can be assured they will survive circumstances which would kill other lasers.
Gun accessories can be expensive, which can keep them out of the hands of the people who most need them.
TACTICON Armament is a small company run by combat veterans dedicated to selling inexpensive yet quality tactical gear. Their handgun laser is one of the top-rated and best-selling laser products on Amazon, and not just because it’s so cheap.
The founder will go to any lengths to ensure that every customer is satisfied with their purchase. If you buy a TACTICON product, not only can you expect to save money, you’ll also benefit from a lifetime no-questions-asked warranty and may receive a hand-written thank you letter!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do most green lasers use a wavelength of around 550 nm?
Lasers emit light of a specific wavelength. One of the most common wavelengths found in laser pointers is around 550 nm.
The human eye, while it can see many colors, is more sensitive to certain wavelengths. The rods in your eye are most sensitive to 500 nm light waves, and the cones are most sensitive to 555 nm light waves. 550 nm lasers thus are more easily visible than lasers of other wavelengths.
Red lasers can range from around 625 nm to 825 nm. The lower the wavelength, the closer it is to the 550–555 range preferred by the human eye, and so the laser will be more visible.
How often should I change the batteries in my laser sight?
Lasers are power hungry. Laser sights have small bodies and rarely hold large batteries. So, laser sights often have a short battery life. They often only last for several hours.
It’s wise to practice with your laser at the range before relying on it with your life. However, I would not put a laser-endowed gun on my nightstand after a long practice without using a fresh set of batteries. You don’t want the laser to die during an emergency situation!
If you leave the gun at the ready, though, without using it for months at a time, the batteries should stay fresh. I would test them occasionally to ensure they still hold juice.
If you have any doubts as to how much life is left in the batteries, why not take the gun to the range and practice until the battery needs to be replaced? Then you’ll know the laser has fresh batteries, and you can sleep soundly.
Will using a laser sight negatively impact my shooting skills?
A lot of people recommend not using laser sights because those people think lasers can be a crutch.
Follow the dot too much and you will lose your handgunning skills, they say.
That is not true. A laser sight is nothing more than an augment to your gun that allows you to accurately use the gun when you normally would not be able to.
A laser sight allows you to know where your handgun is pointing, even if you do not have a perfect sight picture. This allows you to get on target quickly even if your gun is by your side.
You still need to use the iron sights when accuracy is required, such as when shooting at long range. Also, a laser can show you where the muzzle is pointing during training, so you can easily see mistakes, such as jerking the trigger.
So, laser sights extend your shooting skills rather than diminish them.
Does a laser sight give away my position?
Another persistent myth of laser sights is that they give away your position more than they help you find your target.
That is not really the case. Laser beams are invisible in the air except when shone through smoke, and the laser emitter focuses all of its light on the dot.
A flashlight will give away your position more, and those are even more recommended for home defense firearms than lasers!
Why do the police not use laser sights?
Generally, you do not see laser sights on the guns used by police officers.
However, some police do use laser sights! It’s just rare. Police departments which allow laser sights do so as a personal choice. The officers still need to qualify using iron sights, and the laser sights are not issued by the department.
This means that the officer needs to pay for their own laser sight and are not trained in their use by the department. Also, some police officers believe them to be a crutch, so there is resistance against using them.
Also, police tend to use handguns at a variety of ranges, not just room-clearing distances. As mentioned before, handgun lasers are more range-specific than iron sights, and the dot disappears into the distance. So, in longe-range situations, laser sights offer no advantages.
Can I hunt with a laser sight?
If you live in the United States and want to hunt with a laser sight, you may or may not be out of luck.
Many states (and some other countries as well) prohibit the use of lasers while hunting. You will have to look up your own local laws.
But if the laws do allow you to use a laser sight while hunting, feel free to do so! Keep in mind that laser sights are typically only accurate at a specific distance because a laser travels in a straight line while a bullet follows a curved, ballistic trajectory.
Also, I recommend a green laser for hunting, because they are more visible during daylight.