“High tech!” “Tacti-Cool!” “High speed, low drag!”

We hear these terms in discussions about guns that are so modern and deadly looking they’ve found their way into blood-n’-guts video games. However, for every actor who wears a humongous Desert Eagle in a thigh holster, there are many more real-life citizens with concealed carry permits who carry something much more mundane, a snub-nose .38 revolver, perhaps, or a compact semiautomatic pistol.

The fact is some of those tacti-cool and techni-cool items can be of particular value with smaller handguns.

Some pistols come with no sights at all, like the neat little Seecamp, and one variation of the splendidly manufactured Rohrbaugh. Some have just a little groove down the top of the slide, including one recent variation of subcompact Colt .45 auto. Many others have sights that are little more than rudimentary.

Let’s look at where “high tech” can help—especially after dark!

Laser Sights

The first laser sight I ever saw came from SureFire, circa 1979-1980 if memory serves. It was an ungainly thing, mounted on a 6-inch barrel Colt Trooper Mark III in .357 Magnum. Its grip was doubled in length to house its batteries, which died 17 minutes into my first test on an ultra-cold winter night in New Hampshire.

We’ve come a long way since, and SureFire and other makers now offer us state of the art laser sights. At reasonable distances indoors, at short ranges outside in bright sunlight, and anyplace in the dark, they can be a dramatic help in aiming. There is the occasional person whose vision is such that they can identify their target just fine, but can’t focus at the distance where conventional gunsights are. For them, the red (or green) dot projected on the target by a laser beam is a Godsend.

A laser sight lets you direct your gunfire without your eyes directly in line with the gun. They work particularly well for SWAT cops who have to reach around raid shields to fire, for example. Contrary to widespread belief, laser beams won’t usually draw a line to your position unless there is mist, smoke, or something similar in the air.

There are those who’ll tell you the laser sight creates awesome intimidation when the red dot lands on the opponent’s body. I’m not quite sold on that. I have no doubt that it has happened, but it’s not something I’m prepared to count on. And, because batteries can always fail, the laser sight must be seen as a secondary system for most. Of course, they’re very limited in bright light, too.

One of the most popular laser sights for compact handguns today is the Crimson Trace brand. The single bestseller in their line is the Lasergrip. For small 1911 autos such as Colt Defender or Officers subcompacts, it’s in the form of a grip panel. There’s a version for striker-fired subcompact autos such as the “baby” Glock and the Smith & Wesson Military & Police Compact, which straddles the back of the grip frame like a saddle. The “baby” Glock, Ruger SR9C, Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec P3AT can be fitted with Crimson Trace’s Laserguard, which attaches to the trigger guard and rides directly under the dust cover of the frame. In all cases, the bright, solid red dot is activated by pressure of the hand normally grasping the pistols.

For revolvers, Crimson Trace provides for Ruger, Taurus, and Smith & Wesson. The Lasergrip for the J-frame S&W is so popular that it comes in three sizes. Their least expensive, the LG-109, is cut to match the grip frame for zero increase in bulk, but also does not cushion recoil. The LG-305 is extended to allow all fingers to encompass the grip, and also cushions the web of the hand nicely, but its greater size slightly compromises concealment. The “middle ground” design, and my personal favorite, is the LG-405. It’s still a short, two-finger grip, but cushioned in the rear where the added dimension doesn’t really impact concealability.

LaserMax makes a unit that goes on small-frame revolvers, mounted on the side of the frame. The shooter has to deliberately press a button to turn it on and off, which some folks prefer. The autoloader version of the LaserMax replaces the recoil spring guide and projects its beam from directly under the muzzle.

The most recent design is from LaserLyte. This mounts alongside the rear sight on a wide variety of compact auto pistols.

In January 2010, S&W introduced its new line of polymer-framed pocket guns, a .38 Special revolver and a .380 auto, with integral laser sight systems developed by InSight. These too require separate movements of the shooter’s hand to turn on and off, and these InSight units start at solid red and go to a pulsing red dot with a second push of the activation button.

Pages: 1 2
Show Comments