Lasers have been a point of controversy within the firearms family for as long as they have been available. When originally introduced, a laser was a large add-on device that had very limited application–if for no other reason than its sheer size and the lack of a holster to accommodate it if mounted on a handgun. Many heated discussions have taken place regarding the tactical application of a laser equipped long gun or handgun.
Many firearms trainers felt that their students may rely too heavily on the laser for precision shot placement; they may lose their ability to hit the target when the mechanical device failed to operate, and iron sights were all that was left to guide the bullets to the target. The purveyors and the naysayers carry on to this day with their deep-seated beliefs as to who is right and who isn’t, regarding the type and use of a laser on a firearm.
Overall size of the gun and laser combination was a problem for most people trying to conceal the two.
In the beginning, lasers were too big for any practical use on a handgun, not to mention the fact that mounting a laser on a handgun was a chore in itself. Those that allowed themselves to think beyond conventional wisdom saw some potential for the laser in certain applications. This called for increased study on how to reduce the size of the laser and make it compatible with most handgun and holster combinations in order to achieve acceptance among the consumers and potential users of the product.
Laser manufacturers ventured in different directions in an effort to provide the customers with what they wanted. The path of least resistance was chosen by the majority of manufacturers in creating a module that attached to the handgun in front of the trigger guard by way of an adapter, or on the popular picatinny rail. Due to their size and construction these lasers generally had the desirable characteristics of durability and long battery life.
Soon, improvements were made by incorporating a light and a laser into the same module with a minimal increase in size. This latest improvement was welcomed by many but a few drawbacks still existed. Perhaps the greatest was the lack of holsters that would accommodate the gun with the laser mounted to it. The holsters that would accept the mounted laser and light combination were tactical thigh rigs or large duty rigs with an occasional attempt at a concealment holster that was so large that only a special few could actually operate with it concealed. Overall size of the gun and laser combination was a problem for most people trying to conceal the two.
A second issue persists with the trigger guard forward mounted laser; actuating the laser and or selecting the light, laser or both for operation is somewhat inconvenient. The choices are having either a pressure pad connected to the base module by way of a length of wire or having a toggle switch to be worked by a thumb or index finger. Under stress, where fine motor skills are diminished, the selection of this feature of the device and operating the device might be iffy at best. While the pressure pad is operated by simple grip pressure, the problem is that under stress it might just as likely be operated unintentionally as intentionally. The ease with which the toggle may be operated is largely dependent on hand size and grip selection of the shooter.
As always, when changing grips on any handgun, make sure that the new grips fit your hand well and give you the same natural point that you had with the original grips.
The LaserMax folks took a different direction in developing a replacement for the recoil spring guide in auto pistols to maintain the outside dimension of the pistol in its original configuration. This is a big advantage to the concealed carry operator in that in most cases support equipment currently in use does not have to change. Another plus is that this device is positioned very close to, and directly beneath, the bore line of the pistol.
When shooting for the utmost in precision, this concept has the advantage of consistent bullet impact over a variety of distances. Each model for the variety of brands that the LaserMax is produced for has an on/ off switch built into a replacement part (take down lever, slide stop, and so on) located conveniently near the center of the frame, to be operated by the thumb or index finger.
In operation, the laser is either on or off without the option of a spring loaded toggle to provide intermittent use of the laser. Battery life and durability are good with this piece of equipment and will get even better as the technology is improved.
The folks at Crimson Trace took yet another approach to marrying a laser to a handgun. Their idea is as simple as replacing the grips on a pistol or revolver to have the attributes of a laser available. With only a grip change, it is unlikely that any of the standard carry gear would have to change to accommodate the laser. Most of their products have on/off switches that work in conjunction with a pressure pad within the grip to allow the shooter to control the display of the laser. These grips are extremely durable and have an excellent battery life.
Left-handed shooters may have to modify their grip somewhat to prevent obscuring the laser when using a two handed hold. If it is necessary, do enough repetitions of grip and draw so that the draw is second nature and does not interfere with the laser when using
a standard two hand grip. As always, when changing grips on any handgun, make sure that the new grips fit your hand well and give you the same natural point that you had with the original grips.
“it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
No matter which type of laser you have, training with the laser in both live and dry fire will improve marksmanship potential by allowing the shooter and the coach to see where the muzzle is pointing at the moment of hammer fall or discharge, and where it returns to after the shot. The bullet goes wherever the muzzle is pointing when it exits 100 percent of the time. Those last second twitches can be recognized and repaired with a little work with the laser and the handgun.
Tactically speaking, the laser is not a replacement for anything, especially sights. It is another tool in the bag to help ensure success. A prime example of how a laser might benefit an attacked individual carrying concealed and justified in using lethal force would be if the individual is lying on their back, and the attacker is coming in to finish them off.
The individual would hold the laser on the area they want to hit and pull the trigger, just like they had practiced in training. No complicated series of things to do under stress, just point and pull until the attacker is no longer a threat.
Regardless of the need or circumstance, when it comes to lasers on your concealed carry gun, I would have to defer to the old saying “it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
George Harris has spent over 30 years in the field of adult education with more than 17 years at the SIG SAUER® Academy. He has focused his efforts in the arenas of small arms, small arms training and combat skill development. George has evolved from an infantry soldier, small arms repair technician, and drill instructor to become the coach and firing member of the internationally recognized United States Army Reserve Combat Marksmanship Team. As a competitive shooter, George has the coveted distinction of being Distinguished with both the service pistol and the service rifle. As director of the SIG SAUER® Academy, George is committed to the safe and successful use of firearms by armed professionals and responsible citizens alike through using the SIG Principle of Training: Simple Is Good!