Once appearing on the business end of a bad guy’s gun — a la Terminator — weapon mounted lasers and lights have leapt off the Hollywood big screen and onto the pistols of consumers looking to add more capabilities to their concealed carry and home defense pistols.
While training instructors years past discouraged the use of aiming devices, tides have turned and now more and more trainers and schools are coming on board the laser/light train. Why are laser/lights gaining steam in the training community and what advantages do gun owners have in slapping one on their gun?
Laser/light combos are devices that offer both illumination and laser aiming capabilities. The goal is to offer both a lighting solution that enables users to keep both hands on the firearm and a laser that allows users to effectively aim the firearm at the intended target. Laser/lights come in a few flavors but the most popular styles are the rail mounted and grip mounted versions. A rail mounted laser fits snugly just in front of the trigger guard on a rail equipped gun, while the grip mounted device replaces the factory grip on the pistol.
The laser/light market itself has expanded with companies like Streamlight, SureFire, Viridian and Crimson Trace offering more products designed for consumers looking to add-on to their current CC or home defense pistol.
Though instructors have long encouraged the use of handheld lights to identify targets prior to engagement, laser/light combos have had their fair share of doubters. One of the biggest concerns has been that lasers will encourage lazy gun owners who don’t seek out training, solely placing their faith in a mechanical device. A device that some say can easily fail under pressure.
“It’s one more thing to manipulate,” Instructor John Lovell explained while outlining the cons of laser/lights in a video. “You can have it there but you don’t always have it toggled on or it doesn’t have a pressure switch or its another button you have to remember to hit. An untrained person is just not going to remember to do that.
Despite the risk that some users might turn their backs on training in favor of the laser capability many trainers are now advocating for the use of laser/light combo, stating they are more helpful than harmful. In addition to expanding options for gun owners who might not be able to get pistol training right away, laser/light combos also offer the benefit of helping shooters better see their target in low light situations as well as offering a means to better shoot in unorthodox situations.
“It’s great for untrained people who, under stress, aren’t going to look at the sight picture. If it’s built into the grip and they can just point and the laser happens to appear, they have a much higher likelihood of hitting their target —even if doesn’t have perfect zero— than something with iron sights,” Lovell added.
Instructor Rob Pincus said he’s spent the past few decades evaluating and reevaluating his stance on laser/lights and now believes these tools can be a helpful resource for gun owners.
“I currently believe that a laser mounted on a small defensive carry gun expands the circumstances under which you could use the gun for defense much more than a light would,” Pincus said in a post on social media. “For larger guns, having a light/laser combo similarly expands contextual usefulness for the average armed homeowner or CCWer much more than just a [weapon mounted light] would.”
Do laser/lights replace quality instruction and good technique? No. But what laser/lights offer is a fighting chance in low light and unorthodox positions.
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