September 24, 2010
A new color is making waves in the world of gun lasers.
Laser Aiming Systems' Viridian laser is weapon-specific. The first model, shown here on the author's Walther P22, perfectly matches the contours of the pistol for which it is built.
I have to admit that when lasers first came out, I dismissed them as goofy gimmicks best left to bad movies and rap videos. But as the quality increased, I came to see the value of lasers for low- light shooting, shooting on the move and engaging targets from unconventional positions. Today, all my regular carry guns wear lasers.
But lasers aren't perfect. As good as they are in low light, they are pretty much worthless in daylight or in brightly lit rooms. Granted, I can see my sights when the lights are bright, but I can imagine countless scenarios where a laser bright enough to see in daylight would be a tremendous tactical advantage.
The folks at Laser Aiming Systems Corp. (laseraimingsys tems.com) realized this, too, so its engineers set out to produce a laser that was clearly visible in any light. The company's new Viridian line of rail-mounted laser sights is the fruit of their labor.
The Viridian uses a green laser to provide a target designator that is visible in any light. That is possible because, at 532 nanometers, green is much closer to the center of the visible spectrum than red which, at 635 nanometers, is toward the upper end of the visible spectrum. In layman's terms, a green laser appears as much as 50 times brighter than a red one of equivalent power.
What that means to you and me is a daylight laser that is clearly visible at a considerable distance. The manufacturer claims it is visible up to 250 yards in the right conditions. In my own testing, it was visible to a little over 100 yards, but I found 75 yards to be the farthest I could acquire the beam quickly in bright sunlight against a variety of backgrounds. That is approximately 50 yards farther than I could quickly acquire the dot on one of my red lasers.
The green laser outshined the red one in low light, too. L.A.S. claims a range of over two miles at night. I have no way of confirming that, but I could easily see the Viridian's brilliant green dot at the end of my street, 400 yards away.
But that bright beam does come at a cost: Green lasers eat batteries about five times faster than red lasers do and generate considerably more heat. Fortunately, battery life is still sufficient to be considered practical—about four hours with a single CR2 cell—and heat doesn't become a problem until you reach about 20 minutes of continuous operation, which is highly unlikely in the real world.
The first Viridian to hit the market is the WP22 I recently had a chance to test. It is an attractive unit that slides right on the accessory rail of the Walther P22 it was built for (Viridians are weapon-specific). The polymer housing is rugged and attractive, and it precisely matches the contours of the little Walther P22's trigger guard.
After mounting the Viridian, I aligned the beam with the pistol's sights using the tiny Allen wrench that came with the unit. At the range, the adjustments proved true; the first shot landed precisely on top of the front sight at 15 yards.
I played with the new Viridian for the better part of an afternoon. It held zero well, shot where it was supposed to and generally impressed me with its brightness. Again, I have extensive experience with lasers, and I've never seen anything that works so well in bright light against just about any background.
Overall, I really like the test unit, but I did have a few concerns. My first is with the tiny activation switch, which is difficult to operate while maintaining a shooting grip, and even then only with my trigger finger. Second, the WP22's housing didn't have the rock-solid feel I expected from a tactical product. Third, I was not enamored with the weapon-specific aspect.
I called Laser Aiming Systems' Brian Hedeen to express my concerns, which proved to be a wise move, as Brian pointed out that several changes have already been made and implemented in current production models.
According to Hedeen, L.A.S. beefed up the design considerably, although it will still maintain its trim lines. Designers also incorporated a larger, ambidextrous switch that will allow users to operate the unit while maintaining a firing grip. Other changes include a low battery indicator, automatic shutoff and four modes of operation. In addition to the current constant-on setting, low, medium and high pulse modes have been added.
Hedeen also said new models are in the works. In fact, the improved WP 22 and new models for the Springfield XDs, full-size Smith & Wesson M&Ps, and Taurus' PT 24/7 are now or will soon be available.
While L.A.S. is committed to weapon-specific models, which Hedeen likes because the approach results in a cleaner, more attractive unit, a universal model will also be available by the time this issue hits the streets.
Overall, the Viridian is a quality piece of kit. Beamshot and Aimshot make green lasers, too, but Laser Aiming Systems is the only company the author could find that makes them specifically for handguns.
[Editor's Note: At press time we learned that Lasermax has also come out with a green laser in its Unimax line.]