In the long history of handgun development, laser optics are a relatively new creation.
Laser optics represent a departure from the standard sighting systems found on handguns for over a century, and while lasers have grown immensely in popularity over the past two decades there are still a number of misconceptions about their functionality and use.
When used properly, lasers are a very effective tool for close-range shooting and are a valuable addition to a personal protection handgun. The key to using lasers successfully involves understanding how lasers work and learning how to use them effectively. Shooting a firearm with a laser doesn’t require shooters to change the way that they shoot, and rather than being considered a gimmick or a crutch, laser optics should be viewed as a valuable tool that can improve accuracy, speed and confidence. That requires an understanding of basic laser function and how they can benefit shooters.
We’ve compiled some of the most common misconceptions about lasers to help explain the truth about these beneficial optics.
For years shooters have spread the notion that lasers are only effective at a very specific range, usually a few yards, and that beyond that range accuracy begins to deteriorate. This myth is largely due to the fact that many shooters sight their laser in too close, say seven to ten feet.
The laws of geometry state that two non-parallel lines intersect at only one point, and if the laser is sighted in at close range, the steep angle of the beam ensures that the projectile won’t strike where it was intended to at longer ranges. To remedy this, sight your laser in at fifty feet or so, and the bullet will strike very close to the point of aim at close range as well.
This is a common misconception and one that Crimson Trace specifically addresses on their website. This notion is largely perpetuated by television and film, and many shooters believe that having a laser mounted on your firearm will make you a target. In the realm of self-defense, when you draw your firearm, you are in imminent danger and must be prepared to shoot quickly. The Hollywood idea of being entrenched in some long-lasting shootout with multiple assailants rarely applies to personal defense. When you pull your firearm and activate your laser, the threat is close and imminent, and giving away your position is a moot point because you are already engaged in a life-or-death situation.
Today’s lasers are extremely compact, and they add very little bulk to your firearm. The lightest accessory lasers weigh 4-ounces or less, and the latest designs are very compact and durable. This is impressive considering the durability of modern lasers; the constant pounding generated by the recoil of handguns chambered in powerful cartridges like .40 S&W and .45 ACP requires laser mounts and housings to be rugged and durable, and yet many of these lasers weigh only a few ounces.
Mounting a grip-mounted laser on your firearm may actually reduce the overall weight of the gun depending upon what types of grips were previously mounted on the weapon. Even a laser that weighs a few ounces offers considerable peace-of-mind at the cost of a few ounces of added weight.
The use of lasers doesn’t automatically impact your grip, stance or eye alignment. The principles of good shooting apply no matter what type of optic you are using, and learning to shoot with a laser doesn’t require a radical change in your technique. Lasers do offer some serious advantages, though.
Many shooters have only ever practiced with the gun extended at full range from a standing position. Laser sights are much easier to use in awkward positions, whereas traditional sights require raising the firearm to align with the eye for accuracy. Lasers don’t require you to change the way you shoot, but they offer a life-saving alternative when you can’t properly align more traditional sights.
Lasers require batteries, and batteries die. But today’s lasers offer much longer battery life than previous models, and you can expect between two and five hours of continuous run time between battery changes. In addition, most lasers have an automatic shut-off that will help preserve battery life when not in use.
If you are carrying a firearm for self-defense, be mindful of how long the battery has been in use, and if you have spent long sessions at the range, consider changing your batteries.
Companies that develop lasers for defensive shooting have gone to great lengths to engineer products that are intuitive and easy-to-use. Most modern lasers have an activation pad on the rear or front of the grip, and some require the shooter to extend the trigger finger and activate the laser. By and large, most lasers are intuitive, and a firm grip on the gun results in automatic activation.
Lasers have become more compact and streamlined over the past decade. Very few lasers are bulky or have sharp edges, and the notion that drawing a laser-mounted firearm from a holster isn’t an issue. You’re far more likely to get hung up on excess clothing or have your draw delayed because of improper carry technique than you are to have a laser slow your draw.
There are a number of holsters specially designed for firearms with lasers, and, as with any defensive handgun, you should practice frequently with your firearm to ensure that you are ready to stop an attacker. Modern lasers are sleek and small, so the notion that firearms with laser optics will slow you down simply doesn’t hold water.
Law enforcement and military groups use lasers, and there are a growing number of target and defensive shooters who employ lasers on their own firearms. Properly mounted lasers offer a number of advantages; they allow for rapid target acquisition and are great training aids for shooters of all levels.
Lasers also offer the advantage of dual sighting systems; iron sights are a mainstay and are virtually bulletproof, but lasers offer an additional measure of confidence when shooting. In addition, lasers project the sighting system onto the target. The human eye is only capable of focusing on one plane at a time, and lasers offer a sighting system that allows the shooter to focus on the target and the sight simultaneously.
In a life-or-death situation when nerves are prone to fail, having your aiming point on the same plane as the target is a major advantage.
Lasers make perfect sense for self-defense applications, and there is a growing tide of instructors and organizations that have included laser training in their curriculum. Lasers aren’t designed as a substitute for proper training and practice, but are instead a valuable tool and a method by which to place accurate shots rapidly in any lighting conditions.
The cost of a laser is a small price to pay for the added benefits that they offer, and those who train and familiarize themselves with these twenty-first century optics find that there are many benefits to their use.