January 03, 2014
The message was intriguing, but it also brought with it a reminder of the passage of time. LaserMax wanted me to go to Gunsite to help celebrate its 25th year. Oh my. It had been just a fraction over 25 years since my first trip to Paulden, Arizona, then as a hot-shot IPSC competitor and gunsmith. And now I'm going as a gunwriter? Alas, Jeff Cooper is there no more. But the place, focus and course of instruction he founded live on at Gunsite.
So I subjected myself to the indignities of commercial air travel, folded myself into what the airlines laughingly refer to as "seats" and traveled west.
The big news, once we arrived, was simple. LaserMax had been busy in the 25 years since their start. They had learned how to harness the green laser, and then they combined it with the original LaserMax product, one that had somehow slipped away from them, the Guide Rod Laser. Back in 1988, the Guide Rod Laser was its first product, and it was incredibly advanced for the time. I mean, it was not just a laser-aiming device, but one that replaced the guide rod and still worked.
"Slipped away from them?" you ask? Guide Rod Lasers have been in the LaserMax lineup since day one, but they just didn't get the fair share of attention. When the Guide Rod Laser image flashed up on the presentation screen during the welcoming introduction, my first thought was, "They still make those?" I had forgotten completely about Guide Rod Lasers. As it turns out, LaserMax now offers them for 29 pistols.
LaserMax does not make its own laser diodes. That is a highly specialized process they leave to others. However, the company leans hard on the diode makers to provide rugged, high-output diodes. And then it uses its own skills and knowledge to ruggedize laser systems so the guide-rod laser can endure recoil, heat, solvents and negligence. LaserMax wants durable lasers, both red and green, because they know what we do to them.
After much time on the range and in the classroom, learning the ins and outs of various LaserMax products, we then kicked back and waited for the sun to set. You see, one of the big advantages of the laser is that you can use it even when you can't see your sights. Most of us, at our home ranges, do not have a chance to practice this much, if at all. It is a rare range or club that lets shooters practice after sunset or with the lights turned off. Gunsite, in the high desert of Arizona, is removed enough from "civilization" that shooting at night, safely done, is not a problem. And the neighbors are used to it by now.
The approach LaserMax takes to laser use is simple. They are of the opinion that you want a laser on when you want it on. So there are no auto-on switches, no holster-activated systems. It's just you and your trained fingers. The expectation was that we would turn them on when and as needed and turn them off when we didn't. That was a good plan — right up until the moment when a contest was announced among the attending gunwriters.
At the word "contest," all idea of operational restraint was out the window. Once the timer went off, lasers were full on and stayed that way until the course of fire was complete. Well, done having fun shooting, but not done having fun. For two days we blasted paper and steel, in the daylight and at night, with laser-equipped firearms.
Current lasers are bright enough to give you an aiming spot and damage eyesight if you forget safety rules number two and four. The former is very useful, and the latter is a smart thing to remember also.
Upon getting home, I found that I had been followed by a package from LaserMax with lasers inside. The box contained a Guide Rod Laser for Glock pistols, a triggerguard laser for the Ruger LC9/380 and a triggerguard-mounted laser for the Colt Mustang. I had only to wait for an overcast day to get in some laser-guided practice.
The Guide Rod Laser is an interesting bit of gear. It is a self-contained system, with laser, switch and recoil spring all assembled as one piece. The process for Glocks is simple and well explained in the packaging. Basically, fieldstrip the Glock, disassemble the takedown latch and spring (a task so simple it could be taught to an illiterate during a coffee break), and replace those parts with the included LaserMax spring and latch. Then wrestle in the guide rod, and put the Glock back together. ViolÃ¡. In my second-generation G17, dating from 1992, the laser prints on a USPSA target within the A-zone out to 20 yards. Close enough to leave alone for a while.
I had to dig deep into the safe and come up with a Colt Mustang .380, which dates back to about the same time as my Glock. Colt had not changed the contours of the triggerguard, and the LaserMax laser pressed right on. Once I had tightened the assembly screws (battery included; thanks, LaserMax), it printed even closer to the sights than the Guide Rod Laser had.
Off to the Range
OK, a few tips. If you have falling plates at your range, and you commonly paint them white because, well, your sights show up better on white, then use different paint for your laser practice. A dark gray, perhaps, or a cheery puce, but not white. The buff cardboard of a USPSA target shows laser dots nicely, at least until you get so many holes in it that the dot gets lost beyond the holes. So tape your shots, just like with iron sights. Also be aware that, while a laser makes aiming in some instances a lot faster, or a lot easier, it doesn't do anything to combat your trigger crush. Trigger control counts just as much here, so don't get sloppy.
The great advances in lasers have brought us very powerful, reliable, compact units, but they are still, in some instances, too big. A compact pistol such as the Colt Pocketlite or the Ruger LC9 is great for concealed carry. Finding a holster that works for you, and holds your pistol when laser-equipped, can be some work. That's where the LaserMax Guide Rod Laser stands out. There is no need to change your holster. Just install the guide rod, and motor on.
LaserMax has made the activation of its lasers simple. There's a cross-button. Centered, the laser is off. Push in from either side, and the laser is on. You decide when, and you can use your off-hand index finger or thumb (those of us with big hands and small pistols) to turn it off or on.
Now that I've been reminded that Guide Rod Lasers are still being made, and better than ever, I'm going to have to peruse my safe to see what might benefit from a dose of LaserMax love.
Installing the LaserMax Guide Rod Laser is simple. Installing the external model is even easier.
If you'll pardon the pun, where lasers really shine is at night. It's hard to find a place to shoot in the dark, so thank you, Gunsite.
LaserMax also offers a series of rail-mounted laser devices in red or green.
The LaserMax Guide Rod Laser sits inside your pistol, thus there's no need to change holsters when you want to equip your pistol with a laser.
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