Laser sights first came out in the early 1980s, their sales originally limited to police and military due to the regulations of the time. The manufacturer of the first laser sights would evolve into the SureFire company we know today. Those first “laser blazers” were about as practical as the Wright brothers’ first airplane—each prototype proved that the underlying concept could work, but neither was suitable for regular use. Those early lasers were huge, bulky and insanely expensive and, as I discovered then, would quickly die in deep cold. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since. Today we have laser units that mount on frame rails, on triggerguards, on grips, on sideplates and in recoil spring guides, and even one that combines with a rear sight. We also have white-light attachments, generally on accessory rails that are more compact than ever and amazingly powerful. And, of course, we have units that combine the white light with the laser-beam aiming function. And they’re all reasonably affordable. Let’s look at them, one concept at a time.

Laser sights do, however, excel in many applications. My friend Marty Hayes, the great instructor who founded Firearms Academy of Seattle, proved long ago that laser sights kick butt in dim light, so long as you can see to identify your target. Also, lots of people have eyesight issues that allow them to identify their opponent as a deadly threat but do not allow them to see conventional gun sights adequately. The projected red dot of the laser works for that. Back in 2005, I spoke in court for one of my graduates who saved his life with a single shot from his LaserMax-equipped Glock 23. It stopped the attack of a knife-wielder, who was mortally wounded. Our man wound up charged with manslaughter. At his trial, after the other side made a huge deal out of the laser as a high-tech killing machine, I explained to the jury why so many police and military personnel use them, why they were ideal for a man in his 50s with imperfect eyesight, and how they reduce the danger of a wild shot which can strike a bystander. The jury understood and acquitted him on the shooting.

In the ’80s, in my first test with a humongous Laser Products gun, I learned that these things brought point shooting to a new level. If you have to fire with the gun below line of sight, the laser dot can make the difference between whether you score a center hit and survive or miss and die (or miss and kill an innocent bystander). This feature is particularly important if you’ve been wounded or for some other reason cannot bring the gun to line of sight. Lasers are also great training aids. Got a shooter who keeps jerking the trigger and refuses to accept that he’s doing it? Put him in front of a backstopped target and have him dry-fire with a laser. He can’t deny what the violently dipping red dot downrange tells him. Follow the bouncing ball, as it were. The flip side is that, if you want a shortcut to good trigger control, do some more dry-fire with a laser-equipped gun or with the excellent laser-only dedicated dry-fire training gun known as the SIRT, from…


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