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One of the first commercially successful manufacturers was SureFire, which started business back in 1979 as Laser Products Corp. Its first commercial model was designed for the Colt Trooper .357 Mag revolver and was a large helium-neon-gas laser sight fixed to the gun’s original sight posts. The laser was powered by a custom-built rechargeable battery integrated with a modified Pachmayr grip. Offered to law enforcement and special forces, it led the way to lasers mounted on shotguns, like the Remington 870, on the formidable Heckler & Koch MP5 and on M16 carbines by the 1980s.

The general public’s first visual of a laser-equipped pistol was the AMT Longslide wielded by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator—after that, everybody wanted one. But back in the 1980s laser sights were almost as big as the guns they fit. Today, a laser sight mounts inside a standard-contoured pistol grip or slides, under the Picatinny rail, on any number of properly accessorized revolvers, semi-autos, rifles and shotguns. As a home-defense option, a tactical laser is an affordable accessory that can make the difference between an accurate, lifesaving defensive shot and a clean miss.

The field of tactical lasers has become one of the most prolific in the arms industry, with innovative new companies adding their technology to the mix every year. Laser sighting devices are now sized for use on handguns from 2-inch snub-nose .38 revolvers to full-size Government Model 1911s. For home- and personal-defense use, we have selected a variety of firearms and lasers that offer concealment, performance and ease of operation.


 

LARGE GUNS
It began back in the 1980s with lasers for large-caliber firearms like the venerable Colt Model 1911 and 1911-based semi-automatics such as the AMT Longslide. At the time, many modifications were required to fit a laser on a 1911. Today all one needs to do is exchange the standard grips for the latest offerings from manufacturers such as Crimson Trace. Just remove four screws, wrap the laser grips around the frame, and put the screws back in. To move through the learning curve, take a trip to the shooting range, and dial in the laser alignment for elevation and windage. That’s it.

A .45 ACP, like the Taurus PT 1911, is an excellent choice for home defense: It has the weight and heft to make recoil more manageable, a long barrel for accuracy and an eight-round magazine. The Crimson Trace MS Master Series grips in G10 are a perfect fit for this workhorse .45 sidearm. Accuracy at up to 50 feet is remarkable, and this is a far greater distance than any home-invasion confrontation demands (most occur at less than 21 feet). At that distance the Crimson Trace–equipped PT 1911 will accurately and consistently place five shots under an inch.

Another advantage to laser grips is that they do not alter a gun’s configuration, allowing it to fit the same holster. For concealed carry this is a big plus, and for home defense having your gun in a familiar holster and stored as usual is an advantage. Once you become familiar with aiming a handgun with a laser, low-light situations are no longer an obstacle. As for the bad guys, they know all too well that the bullet goes where the red dot glows, and no one wants to stand in that spotlight.

LASERS for REVOLVERS
The LaserLyte CK-SWAT laser sighting system is designed with interchangeable mounting backplates to fit Taurus revolvers, including the Judge Public Defender and S&W J-Frame models. The LaserLyte is supplied with four backplates (for S&W and Taurus revolvers) and tools for mounting. Once again, this is a laser that does not interfere with the use of existing holsters.

Another option is Crimson Trace Lasergrips for revolvers, which are available for J- and N-Frame models, such as the S&W Model 325 PD chambered in .45 ACP. There are also S&W models that come equipped from the factory with Lasergrips. Lasergrips are a good option as they are the easiest of any to use. There is no switch to activate, although there is an on/off switch to conserve battery life. The act of grasping the revolver in the strong hand automatically activates the laser. A revolver with laser grips is an ideal combination for a basic home-defense handgun—it is the essence of simplicity.


 

LASERS for PISTOLS
Originally designed and marketed by Crimson Trace, the Laserguard was created to mount laser sights on small handguns primarily made with polymer frames and permanent integral-molded grips. The Laserguard attaches around the triggerguard, providing a secure mount that places the laser directly under the muzzle with a small activation pad positioned just below the triggerguard.

Like revolvers equipped with Lasergrips, grasping the gun is all that is necessary to activate the laser. The only downside is that, with the Laserguard mounted to a semi-auto (it fits guns like the Ruger LCP and LC9 plus some other semi-autos), a dedicated holster is required for carry. Fortunately, the Laserguard has been on the market long enough for holster-makers to begin offering rigs designed for Laserguard-equipped pistols.

RAIL-MOUNTED LASERS
Last is the rail-mounted laser designed to fit any weapon equipped with a Picatinny rail. This allows the greatest variety of handguns to be laser-equipped as most every manufacturer has at least one version with a rail on the dustcover, while gunmakers like Glock, have a rail on most models.

There are also the greatest number of lasers in this category, and the widest price range, from under $120 to $400 or more. Glock has its own proprietary line of combination laser/tactical flashlight devices in its GTL series (GTL 10, GTL 21 and GTL 22).

For more information, visit:

Crimson Trace
crimsontrace.com; 800-442-2406

FoxFury
foxfury.com; 760-945-4231

Glock
glock.com; 770-432-1202

Insight
insighttechnology.com; 866-509-2040

LaserLyte
laserlyte.com; 928-649-3201

LaserMax
laserMax.com; 800.527.3703

Streamlight
streamlight.com; 800-523-7488

SureFire
surefire.com; 800-828-8809

Viridian
viridiangreenlaser.com; 800-990-9390

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