Viridian Reactor 5 Green Laser Sight Review - S&W Shield

Viridian Reactor 5 Green Laser Sight Review - S&W Shield

Photos by Mike Anschuetz

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.


Install

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.

Instant Activation

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.

Looking Downrange

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.

Viridian's Reactor 5 green lasers are currently available for the S&W Shield, Ruger LCP, LC9 and LC380; with additional models expected for Glock, Springfield and Kahr pistols later this year.

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.

The R5 is low profile and fits the contours of the Smith & Wesson Shield like a glove.
The included instant-on holster is equipped for Enhanced Combat Readiness (ECR), thought the author suggests one of the many aftermarket ECR holsters for IWB carry.
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 'œTactical 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 R5 weighs just .78 ounces and fits securely around the trigger guard.
The left side of the R5 is home to the activation switch, windage/elevation adjustments and set screws.

Recommended for You

Kahr's K9 9mm pistol is a quarter-century old, and to commemorate the milestone the company is producing a limited-edition 25th anniversary K9. Industry

Kahr 25th Anniversary K9

J. Scott Rupp - July 19, 2019

Kahr's K9 9mm pistol is a quarter-century old, and to commemorate the milestone the company is...

One of the newest in the Micro 9 series, the Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall is a serious pistol designed for personal defense. Compact

Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall Review

Jeff Chudwin - January 29, 2019

One of the newest in the Micro 9 series, the Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall is a serious pistol...

Learn the keys to a successful one-handed draw. Training

Perfecting the One-Handed Draw

Richard Nance - July 02, 2019

Learn the keys to a successful one-handed draw.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Teaching New Shooters

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

Dealing with Subcompacts

Dealing with Subcompacts

Jim and Rich cover the benefits and the challenges presented by very small pistols.

Handgun Basics

Handgun Basics

SIG Academy's Hana Bilodeau joins Rich and Jim to discuss the essential skills all handgunners should master.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Available in .38 Super, 9mm and .45 ACP, the Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander offers a terrific balance of weight, power and shootability. 1911

Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander 9mm Review

J. Scott Rupp - May 08, 2019

Available in .38 Super, 9mm and .45 ACP, the Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander offers a...

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a two-tone aluminum-framed model in 9mm (model # 6758). This review by James Tarr will focus on the 9mm. 1911

Ruger SR1911 Officer-Style 9mm Review

James Tarr - May 01, 2019

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a...

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer SKU # 180023) is an easy-racking, soft-shooting pistol. Compact

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 Review

James Tarr - November 06, 2018

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer...

See More Stories

More Sights

For the current issue of Handguns Magazine, on sale now, I wrote up the new(ish) Trijicon HD Night Sights

Shedding Light on Trijicon HD Night Sights

James Tarr - March 07, 2012

For the current issue of Handguns Magazine, on sale now, I wrote up the new(ish) Trijicon HD...

 Photos by Mike Anschuetz
Choosing whether or not to equip a carry gun with a laser is a choice Sights

Viridian Reactor 5 Green Laser Sight Review - S&W Shield

Dusty Gibson - April 09, 2014

Photos by Mike Anschuetz Choosing whether or not to equip a carry gun with a laser is a...

The new Streamlight TLR-8 G is a rail-mounted green-laser/light version of the popular compact TLR-8 red-laser/light. Sights

Streamlight TLR-8 G Laser Sight Review

James Tarr - July 24, 2019

The new Streamlight TLR-8 G is a rail-mounted green-laser/light version of the popular compact...

See More Sights

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.