Choosing whether or not to equip a carry gun with a laser is a choice that keeps getting easier. Modularity is king, and guns with Picatinny rail systems are adaptable with more accessories than ever before. Meanwhile, lasers are becoming smaller, brighter and designed for universal compatibility with all types of railed firearms—not just handguns.
But in the case of subcompact pistols lacking integrated rail systems, available laser options become severely limited. Rather than having one-size-fits-all compatibility, rail-less pistols such as the Smith & Wesson Shield require laser units to be custom tailored around the contours of the firearm. Viridian has done just that with their new Reactor 5 (R5) Green Laser sight for the S&W Shield.
Green Beam Dream
The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is no longer “minute and far away” for Smith & Wesson Shield owners. Great Gatsby allusions aside, Viridian’s R5 laser is a dream come true for those looking to equip their Shield with a bright green laser.
But just how bright is Viridian’s green beam? Simply brilliant—this laser reaches the maximum brightness Viridian can legally pack into each unit for commercial sale.
The 5mW peak intensity and 532nm of power enable the laser to be effectively seen in daylight conditions. Viridian advertises the laser for effective targeting out to 100 yards in daylight, and they’re not kidding. In sunny conditions, my naked eye can easily detect the laser at 100 yards. It’s actually visible far beyond 100 yards in sunlight with a magnified optic.
Nighttime performance is absolutely stunning. The beam paints a clearly visible, bright green line for several hundred yards as it extends into the darkness. Advertised nighttime visibility of 2 miles is entirely plausible, though I can’t even find a line of sight near my Midwest home longer than 1.6 miles to stretch the laser to its limits. Nevertheless, the green dot will appear vibrantly on objects over a mile and a half away.
Exceptional daytime and nighttime performance make the R5 effective at any distance one would reasonably engage targets with a subcompact pistol.
Though the Viridian R5 laser doesn’t mount in traditional fashion to a rail, installation onto the Shield’s trigger guard is a breeze and takes only a few minutes.
The R5 unit is a two-piece polymer design that clamps around the trigger guard. Start by inserting two of Viridian’s 1/3N lithium “Tactical Energy” batteries (included) into the left side of the unit. Then, join the two pieces together longitudinally around the Shield’s trigger guard and tighten them together with a pair of set screws.
The next step is adjusting the R5′s point of aim with the included allen wrench. I prefer to adjust the laser so it’s sighted in with my irons at 5- to 7-yards—which are the typical distances I practice self-defense tactics.
After firing roughly 200 rounds of various loads, the R5 remained locked in place and the point of aim/point of impact did not shift.
It’s important to remember that the R5 unit must be removed from the Shield when replacing the batteries, so I suggest tuning the windage and elevation adjustments after replacing the batteries to be sure you’re still shooting straight. Luckily, the included batteries pack some serious juice and are optimized to give the R5 about one hour of run time. An auto-shutoff timer conserves battery life by deactivating the laser after five minutes of inactivity. It also has a low battery indicator so you know when it’s time to add more Tactical Energy.
The Reactor 5 Shield laser features two modes (constant on and pulse) that can be activated instantly with Viridian’s Enhanced Combat Readiness (ECR) technology.
ECR is a huge advantage for the close-quarters engagements we encounter in defensive situations, but don’t let the term “ECR” intimidate you—unless you’re the bad guy. Think of ECR as “Auto-On.” When drawing from an ECR-enabled holster, the R5 automatically turns on the moment it leaves the holster.
The R5 comes with a padded IWB-style ECR holster with a belt clip (pictured below), but I found it best suited as a dedicated vehicle holster, as inside the waist carry was slightly uncomfortable. But don’t fret, several major holster manufacturers—Crossbreed, Desantis and Galco—are offering concealable holsters specifically compatible with the R5 Shield laser’s ECR technology.
It’s also important to note that an ECR holster is highly recommended, especially for right-handed shooters. The button to manually activate the laser is located only on the left side of the laser, and as a right-handed shooter it would be unreasonable to expect I could manually activate the button in a personal defense scenario. ECR holsters solve this issue immediately—no fumbling for buttons, just draw the Shield and the laser is ready to light up its target with a bright green beam.
My father recently underwent a successful Lasik operation that resulted in nearly perfect vision—as long as objects are a few feet away. Quickly aiming a handgun became an immediate post-Lasik challenge, until equipping his S&W Shield with the R5 laser.
My phone rang moments after my father’s first outdoor range trip with the Viridian R5, and the conversation that ensued sounded like he was once again claiming to out-shoot me for the first time. The R5 allowed him to finally get on target like he had before getting Lasik. Any piece of equipment that can substantially improve target acquisition is a hugely beneficial tool, especially for a concealed carry pistol.
R5 lasers are an ideal option for guns lacking Picatinny rails, and I personally trust the R5 on my daily carry gun. There’s no substitute for an accessory that can allow shooters of all types to get on target quickly, regardless of lighting conditions.
Thanks to Viridian’s R5, S&W Shield owners no longer need to dream about that metaphorical green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.