The first Viridian laser I reviewed in 2008 impressed me. I didn’t know much about the product at the time, but I quickly came to appreciate the green laser’s range and versatility. In bright sunlight, I had no trouble picking it out at 75 to 100 yards, depending on the color of the target. At times I had to be right on my sights to see it, but that little green dot was always there.
As much as I liked that first Viridian laser, I wasn’t too thrilled with the fact that the unit was weapon-specific. Viridian’s Brian Hedeen explained that Viridian made them that way to ensure that each unit was as ergonomic as possible for the gun for which it was intended. But a year later, Viridian launched the XG Series, which included the X5 laser, the X5L light/laser combo and the X5SC for subcompact pistols–all of which fit on Weaver, Picatinny and universal rails.
I reviewed the X5L in this column in April/May 2009, and while I liked the unit overall, I wasn’t crazy about its switches. They were small, difficult to reach and complicated to use because they control so many functions, and I said so in my article. Once again, Viridian responded to those criticisms with an improved line it christened the C5 Series.
The new C5 Series consists of two models, the standard C5 laser and the C5L light/laser combo. Both are built on rugged, aluminum frames and weigh just 2.4 ounces. Both are compact units sized specifically for the smaller pistols that are so popular today. But thanks to a unique interchangeable rail system, both C5s can be fitted to any existing rail system on any size pistol.
The rail system is unique because it mounts on the light’s frame with a single pin. To change the rail, simply push in the pin holding the right side rail approximately a quarter-inch with the supplied tool and replace the right side rail. Then, push the pin back in until it protrudes from the other side by about a quarter-inch and replace the left rail. It is a quick, simple and innovative system that allows the C5 series to fit on nearly every rail-equipped pistol on the market.
The C5 series operates on a single CR2 three-volt lithium battery. Battery life is one hour with the light and laser or four hours with just the laser. The laser is fully adjustable for windage and elevation with the included Allen wrench.
Each unit comes with a battery, two adjustment wrenches, two mounting screws, one rail set pin removal tool and three sets of rails in addition to a great demonstration DVD and comprehensive owner’s manual.
One of the C5’s greatest assets is a pair of greatly improved control buttons. Both use matching silicon disks, one on each side of the unit.
The C5’s buttons operate the green laser’s two modes: constant and pulsing. Touch the button once to turn it on and once again to turn it off. Depressing the button longer than three-quarters of a second activates the momentary function, and the laser will deactivate when you release the button. The C5’s buttons are simple to activate and much larger and easier to reach than the X5’s activation switch.
The same two buttons control the C5L, though they control four more functions. To select one of the C5L’s six functions, simply turn on the unit and then push both buttons to cycle through them. They include: constant laser with no light; constant light and constant laser; constant laser and strobe light; pulsating laser and no light; pulsating laser and constant light; and constant light with no laser.
Once you find a function you like, simply hit one button to turn the unit off. It will automatically activate in your position of choice until you change it again.
The C5L has another level of programmability Viridian refers to as its Deep Programming Mode. To use it, hold both buttons down for three seconds to cycle through the various pulse rates for the light and laser and to adjust the output of the 100-lumen LED light.
It sounds complicated, but it’s really quite simple. Simply decide how you want your light and laser to operate, and then set it and forget it. It will work the same way every single time until you decide some other function is better suited to your mission.
Viridian got it right this time because I had no trouble hitting the button at will. The C5L I received was a pre-production model that didn’t come with an owner’s manual. I learned how to work all the functions described above on the phone with Hedeen. I held the unit and went through the functions while he explained them to me. I was pretty much up to speed in just a few minutes, which says a lot about how simple the new C5L is to operate–despite having six functions and the Deep Programming Mode.
Once I found a setting I liked (rapidly pulsating light and constant laser), I mounted the C5L on Springfield Armory’s XD Sub-Compact and S&W’s M&P Compact. It snapped right on both guns and fit both perfectly. Its compact size complemented both very nicely.
Since it was the last gun I tried, I left the C5L on the S&W M&P Compact and started practicing. I worked on hitting the control button on demand from a Ready position and with the gun on target to see exactly how ergonomically the buttons were placed. Viridian got it right this time because I had no trouble hitting the button at will.
I have been a fan of green lasers from day one, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised at the C5L’s brightness or range indoors and out. However, I was shocked at the performance of the unit’s tiny little LED light. The lens is smaller than a dime, yet it emits a truly blinding 100 lumens at parlor distances. The little light has enough power to buy you the extra time you need to get the drop on an intruder or illuminate the darkest recesses of any room.
On the range, the C5L’s laser was fast and easy to zero, and it stayed zeroed throughout my limited testing. Based on my experience with my other Viridian units, I don’t expect any zero shifts. All lasers are great for low-light shooting, but the Viridian’s green laser stood out brilliantly against multiple targets in br
If you’d like to up your hit rate and any-light fighting capabilities, you would do well to consider Viridian’s C5L. Its earlier products are certainly worthy of consideration, but the C5L is the best of the bunch.
Heck, it may just be the most useful handgun accessory I’ve tested in a long time.