Laser Sights have grown in popularity in recent years because their ever-improving technology has led to smaller, lighter and more powerful lasers with more features for greater functionality. The increase in your accuracy and target acquisition speed will help you make a shot when it's most important. During an attack, even the most experienced shooter will have a decrease in their shooting effectiveness. While a laser sight is no substitute for practice and experience with firearms, it will help you stay on target even in the worst situations. That confidence will help you sleep a little easier at night, and the visual of a gun with a laser sight is a great deterrent against attackers.
What Should I look for in a Laser Sight?
So you've decided you want a laser sight. With all the options on the market today, it can be a struggle to find the exact model for your needs. You'll need to ask yourself a few questions as you begin your search:
- - What firearm are you using? Manufacturer? Model? Caliber? How long is the barrel? How are you going to mount your laser sight?
- - What color laser do you need? Will you be shooting in the day or night?
- - Do you also plan to mount a weapon light?
- - Will you be using Night Vision?
- - Will you be using a holster?
It's important to have a clear answer to each of these questions before you buy a laser sight, else you might pick an inadequate sight.
Laser Sight Mounts
The first thing you need to consider is the firearm you're using, and how you'll attach your laser sight. If you choose a laser sight that needs 2 inches of rail space and you only have 1 inch free, you'll be out of luck. Fortunately, there are a number of different mounting options available today.
A laser grip attaches to the grip of the gun, and are specially designed for each style of gun. You can find a number of great designs for most major handguns from Crimson Trace. From Glocks and 1911-style pistols to Walther PPs and Berettas, you'll likely find a laser grip for your handgun. Most of these laser sights have an activation switch on the back of the grip or the side near your thumb. When you draw your pistol from a holster the laser activates just from the pressure of your hand. This is incredibly convenient, and can save time when it's needed. A laser grip will affect your holster fit, as the retention straps may not fit. Fortunately, Galco has a wide selection of holsters that were specially designed to be used with Crimson Trace Laser Grips. You can find these great holsters right here at OpticsPlanet. If you have any questions about which model is right for your new laser, contact us and we'll help you find the perfect fit.
One other thing to note about laser grips is that they will change the size of your grip slightly, so you may need practice to get used to the new feel of your pistol.
Rear Sight Mount Lasers
Rear Sight Lasers attach instead of the rear sights on your handgun, and are generally very lightweight and easy to use. Unlike a laser grip, they rarely affect your holster and are easy to quickly attach to your gun with little-to-no additional parts or replacement of existing parts necessary. Rear Sight Lasers, because of their smaller size, tend to be less powerful, but there are some great options available from LaserLyte that can be mounted in no time and are great for adding accuracy without adding much weight or bulk to your pistol.
Trigger Guard Mount Lasers
Trigger Guard Mounted Laser Sights have grown in popularity because of their versatility. While not all of these sights are universal, many can be used on a wide variety of firearms. The greater room available for these laser sights allows them to be a little larger, and the greater size provides a more powerful laser. There are two things to keep in mind with trigger guard lasers: they will change the shape of your gun, most likely necessitating a new holster, and because of the way they mount they rarely retain accuracy after even just a few shots.
Internal Guide Rod Lasers
If you want to use the same holster, an Internal Guide Rod Laser is a great choice. These lasers actually replace the internal guide rod, so they don't change the size of your handgun, but they do have their drawbacks. Installation, while not incredibly difficult, is more complex than some other laser sights, and you cannot adjust an Internal Guide Rod Laser. The design almost always provides for accuracy to two inches at twenty yards, but if you settle for no less than perfect accuracy keep in mind that you cannot adjust these sights for windage or elevation.
Rail Mounted Laser Sights
The most common laser sights mount to a rail. You can find great laser sights that mount on Weaver or Picatinny bases. You need to make sure you have enough rail space for the sight, though there are options available today such as the LaserMax Unimax Micro Rail Mounted Laser that are designed to fit on Sub-Compact pistols. This sight is tiny, yet adjustable for windage and elevation, and powerful enough for most situations. Rail mounted lasers are the go-to choice for most rifles because they tend to be more powerful and have more features than smaller lasers.
Rifle and Shotgun lasers can be a bit larger and heavier to allow for more power and longer battery life, as well as to incorporate other accessories such as weapon lights. A great way to save money, rail space and weight is to use a laser/light combo such as the Insight Technology WL1-AA Weapon Light w/ Laser. It's a bit heavier than most lasers, but the included flashlight gives you multiple options for enhancing the effectiveness of your rifle. There are also a few laser/light combos for handguns that are small enough to fit most compact handguns. The Streamlight TLR-2 is a great option for its amazing power and versatility. Remember that the TLR-2 will affect the profile of your gun, so you may need a new holster.
An important thing to take into consideration is the On/Off Switch for a shotgun and rifle rail-mounted laser. Many lasers come with or can accommodate an On/Off Pressure switch, such as the Laser Devices 10 Inch Remote Pressure Switch for EOLAD Lasers. You may not want your laser on at all times, and changing your grip to activate a laser when needed will cost you valuable seconds on the battlefield or when defending your home from an intruder.
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Green Laser or Red Laser?
Once you know how you'll mount your laser sight, you need to decide what color laser you want to use. Green lasers and red lasers each have their strengths and weaknesses, so consider when and where you'll be shooting, as well as the firearm you're using.
Red LasersThe traditional choice, red lasers are very durable and cheaper to produce. Since they need to stand up to the recoil from your firearm, the strength of a red laser is often ideal. Red lasers also have a wider operational temperature range than green lasers, so if you're in particularly cold or warm conditions a red laser will work when a green laser will not. While this range varies from laser to laser, a red laser is generally operational between 15 and 120 degrees, while a green laser is operational between 40 and 100 degrees. So if you're a police officer in a Northern State in the winter, you'll want to go with a red laser.
Also note that the simpler technology of a red laser consumes less power than green, so you'll get longer battery life.
The number one reason to use a green laser is daytime visibility. You will have a much easier time seeing a green laser in broad daylight than red. Green is close to the center of the visible light spectrum at about 532 Nanometers. Red is higher on the spectrum at 635 Nanometers. Because of this, a red light will be obscured by other light, whereas a green will not. While a red laser may only be visible up to 25 or 30 yards during the day, a green laser can be visible at 100 yards or more. This is huge for target shooters, as target shooting is generally done during the day, and red lasers are often ineffective. Green lasers are also extremely useful for laser bore sights, as you generally sight in your new scopes in the day and are trying to see a dot on a white piece of paper at 50 yards. Red lasers may not show up. (for more on laser bore sights see our how-to article on boresighting!)
The drawbacks of a green laser are price and durability. A green laser of comparable quality to a red laser will usually cost about double. This is because of the more advanced technology required to make them, and how challenging it is to make a green laser that can withstand the shock from recoil. The tech in a green laser is far more delicate than a red laser, so they are not quite as tough. You can certainly find a tough and reliable green laser, but you'll pay more for it.
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Some laser sights come with more than one mode. The differences between these will affect your speed of target acquisition.
A laser that pulsates, strobes or flickers is easier for your eye to see. This is because flickering light is unnatural. Think of emergency flashlights. There is generally a blinking or strobe function because rescue workers are more likely to see you if you have a blinking light because the eye will be drawn to the unnatural image. With a laser sight this will not only allow you to find the laser dot quicker, but also see the laser at greater distances on varied backgrounds such as foliage. Pulsating lasers also save a lot of battery life, as those each brief moments when the laser is off is another moment that the battery will last.
A constant on laser will give you a steady dot on target. This is fine for many situations, especially in close quarters such as home defense, but for greater distance you'll want a pulsating laser.
Some laser sights will come with a quick and easy switch so that you can change from pulsating to constant based on your preference. The Viridian C5 Sub-Compact Laser is a green laser with both a pulsating and a constant mode. If you combine the pulsating mode with a green laser you will be able to see the dot at an incredible distance, which is why these are so popular.
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Another option you may come across when selecting a laser sight is IR Lasers. An Infrared Laser is intended for use with night vision devices. Night vision intensifies light to provide an image, and while they can give you a great view in low light situations, they do require at least some ambient light to work. Starlight or moonlight is generally sufficient to give you a great view, but indoors or in areas of absolute darkness you will need to supplement the ambient light to see through night vision. Flashlights are a great way to get a better look in the dark, but they give away your position. Infrared light is invisible to the naked eye, but will give your night vision goggles plenty of light to see in the darkest situations.
IR Lasers allow you to see without being seen, but they are restricted for use by law enforcement and military professionals because having an IR laser flashed in your eye can do permanent damage, possibly even partially blinding you. While they are not ideal for home defense, in combat situations they are an outstanding way to gain a tactical edge over an enemy.
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