December 22, 2013
By Keith Wood
When laser sights became widely available to consumers more than a decade ago, I didn't pay them much attention. They appealed to Hollywood because of their aesthetics—but most folks thought they were kind of a joke.
The first time I used a quality laser sight in a low-light situation, I realized lasers were real tools with real-world applications. When I attended a Crimson Trace sponsored event at Gunsite a few years ago, I used their laser in conjunction with a white light to "fight" my way though a shoot house in the pitched-black desert night, I was sold.
Despite the fact that most of us conduct our firearms training during daylight hours, bad things usually happen at night. Realistic home defense scenarios involve low light, movement, difficult angles, crucial target identification, unorthodox shooting positions and the panic of a life or death encounter—none of these are conducive to precision shooting.
A laser—preferably in combination with a white light—allows the homeowner to identify a threat, acquire a sight picture (the image of the laser on the target), and stop the threat without changing one's focus from the target back to the sights.
Let's say you find yourself in an awkward shooting position, such as holding your child or a phone in your weak hand, while holding a handgun at the retention position. Due to the close confines of a hall or doorway, you can fire accurately during an otherwise hopeless situation with a laser.
Also, a laser can be used as a compliance tool. When a red or green dot appears on a bad guy's chest, there's a good chance it will stop him/her from advancing their threat.
There are a variety of quality laser products on the market, so let's explore some of the best options for home defense.
Barska Micro GLX
If your home defense firearm is a compact handgun with a short accessory rail, your laser options can be limited. Barska
offers a budget-priced laser that is designed to be compatible with smaller handguns. The green or red Micro GLX
laser is only 2 inches long, so it won't minimize the handling abilities of compact or subcompact handguns.
U.S. troops have owned the night for decades, thanks to night vision goggles and IR/visible laser aiming devices such as the AN/PEQ-15. Burris
offers a similar IR/visible laser module for civilian use known as the AR-DBAL
. With this unit — designed to be mounted to the Picatinny rail of a rifle or carbine — the user can choose between a visible red or green laser and an infrared laser visible only to those equipped with night vision equipment. Unless you have access to a night vision device, this product is probably overkill — but if you have a set of NVGs at home, this is the ultimate home defense tool. I've used this setup for nighttime hog hunting and I can't even articulate how effective it can be.
Price: [imo-slideshow gallery= 390],036
Crimson Trace CMR-203
has been the leader in the consumer laser sight industry for many years. Their products were among the first available that offered the durability, performance, and compact size to make them serious tools for self-defense. Their CMR-203
model fits on the accessory rail of any common handgun or long gun so it's extremely versatile. Crimson Trace offers a variety of other models, including their trademark Laser Grips
and a laser/light combo, suitable for long guns.
Firefield Green Compact Laser
Not everyone has $500 to spend on an accessory for his or her home defense firearm. Firefield
offers several options that come in well below the $100 mark. Their tactical flashlight and green laser pistol kit is an interchangeable system that allows the user to screw on either an LED light or a green visible laser to the battery pack. I wouldn't expect the performance and durability of the more expensive models, but if your budget is thin — Firefield gets you in the door.
L3 Insight M6X
is compatible with both handguns and long guns, and offers both a white light and a green or red laser. The incandescent 125-lumen white light and laser combo is built like a tank and waterproof to 66 feet. Dropped your handgun on the pool? No problem. This device is available in Glock rail, 1913 Mil-Spec Rail, as well as universal handgun rail mounting options.
LaserLyte's FSL-4 fits on less than one inch of Picatinny rail space on any full size and compact handguns. The laser features constant on and pulse mode settings, as well as an auto-off feature to save batteries. This is mainly a no-frills laser that gets the job done for a reasonable price.
Lasermax Guide Rod Lasers
The downside to adding a laser to your handgun is that it usually adds external dimensions that may cause problems with holster compatibility. The Lasermax Guide Rod Laser
replaces the factory guide rod of your semi-auto handgun with a visible red laser. The other benefit of having the laser inside the firearm, is that it maintains a very close physical relationship with the bore — this minimizes parallax, and in theory provides for a consistent point-of-aim/point-of-impact. These lasers come zeroed from the factory and are not adjustable.
Price: $349 to $399
The Streamlight TLR-4
combines the utility of a 125-lumen LED white light with a coaxial red laser. The operator can choose to use both the light and laser simultaneously or separately, depending on the situation. In a home defense scenario where innocent family members could be present, the ability to illuminate the situation with a white light is crucial. The TLR-4 weighs in at only 2.81 ounces and mounts to a variety of firearms.
Surefire X400 Ultra
actually began as the Laser Products Corporation way back in the 1970s, so they know a little bit about making laser sights. Surefire's X400 Ultra
features an unbelievably bright 500-lumen white light and a powerful under-slung laser. Like the other models, the Surefire attaches to both handgun and long gun rails and can be activated using the ambidextrous toggle switch on the rear of the unit. The toggle allows for both momentary and constant-on use. What really sets this laser/light combo apart from the others is the power of the white light — nothing else even comes close.
The Viridian C5L
is a small yet powerful attachment that fits nearly any railed gun — even subcompact pocket pistols. It tucks neatly between the trigger guard and muzzle, and combines a durable 100-lumen flashlight with a 5mW green laser. The green laser is visible out to 100 yards in daylight, and extends out to one mile at night. Ambidextrous activation buttons are easily engaged with your trigger finger, or simply by drawing from Viridian's optional TacLoc
holster. The C5L combined with a TacLoc holster maximizes your effectiveness in any self-defense situation, and it's also a whole lot of fun at the range.
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