The traditional problem with using several types of laser designs on a carry gun is finding a holster that allows you to wear the gun with the unit attached. Another hiccup is the added step in activating the laser when it’s needed most — in a life-threatening critical situation. Viridian is smart and understands its customers. It applied some braintrust toward creating an automatic-activation system that only ignites the laser when the pistol is drawn, and it didn’t sit back and wait for a holster maker to create a carry rig around its product.
The solution is the Viridian Reactor 5, and it’s offered with Viridian’s own ECR Instant-On hybrid polymer/leather holster. Currently, it’s for outside-the-waistband (OWB) carry only. The magic of instant-on laser activation is due to an earth magnet that’s molded into the Kydex above the laser unit. The green-laser and holster combo is custom fit and currently available for the Ruger LCP, LC9s, Smith & Wesson M&P Shield and all Kahr 9mm and .40 S&W polymer-frame pistols.
The Viridian Reactor 5 ECR laser unit comes with interlocking tabs that snap on to the Kahr pistol’s polymer-frame triggerguard at the rear and are secured underneath the dustcover with three blackened Allen-head screws. (Careful; you can overtighten these screws and strip out the threads.) The same hex key used to clamp the sides of the unit to each other is required to adjust the laser’s zero by way of stainless windage and elevation screws.
To activate the laser, press the power button on the unit’s left side. It’s recessed to prevent accidental deactivation, which also means it can be tricky, though not impossible, for big fingers to toggle between modes: solid constant on, a grab-your-attention strobe and off. A light beneath this button briefly displays the battery-level readiness. Insert a pistol-equipped Viridian Reactor 5 in the provided ECR holster in either of the two active modes, and the earth magnet will instantly turn off the unit. Withdraw the pistol, and the unit will revert back to the last mode it was holstered in. It’s intuitive and simple to use.
If you can appreciate the use of a laser on a carry pistol, the Viridian Reactor 5 is a capable unit. A scalloped relief for the middle finger is present to help shooters establish a better grip, and the position of the belt-loop slots is adjusted to position weight proportions properly on the belt. A sample was ordered for the popular Kahr CM9 and worn continuously for 30 days.
Viridian’s signature green laser brightly projects at the maximum legal power (532nm) every time the pistol is unholstered and reliably holds its initial zero; set and forget. Battery life for the Viridian Reactor 5 green laser is said to be approximately one hour, but in 30 days of frequent use, we never had to change it out. Are you someone who’s forgetful about changing batteries? The Viridian Reactor 5-R red laser can last more than six hours of constant on.
The Viridian Reactor 5 ECR still needs refinement to compete with other hybrid-material holsters. A seasoned CCW permit holder will want more-rigid leather material and a confidence-inspiring friction fit. That said, at no time did the Kahr CM9 fall out or rattle within the Kydex. If the leather was hardened and areas such as the belt-loop slots were stitched for reinforcement, perhaps user-adjustable tensioning screws and S-clips for an IWB carry option are all that’s needed to make this holster a perfect package deal.
Unfortunately, this laser and holster combo is only going to attract those at the gun counter who are new to concealed carry where the attractive price might translate to an impulse buy. At the very least, it will mean that someone stands a good chance of leaving home with the basic tools he needs to start carrying.
I predict that it will only be a short while longer before name-brand holster makers start offering models with an earth magnet imbedded. Until then, Viridian is offering a do-it-yourself ECR upgrade kit for any Viridian-accommodating holster for just $15.