I want to start by saying that I LOVE laser sights. I own several of them and use them on high powered rifles, .22s and airsoft rifles. I bought my first Crimson Trace laser for a Kimber 1911 12 or 13 years ago. I use them for night shooting with night vision, I’ve used them a lot with my boys since they were VERY young to introduce them to shooting, and my wife’s M&P Shield came with an integrated laser.
In the right hands, lasers are a great tool on a defensive gun, but there are some big myths about them.
Awhile back, a guy asked me a couple of great questions on Facebook about lasers that highlighted one of these myths.
In short, he said that using a visible laser sight on a defensive pistol in a gunfight will get you killed because the enemy will know exactly where you are.
That’s one of 5 myths about laser sights that we’re going to cover today.
On TV & movies, this appears to be true, but reality is a little bit different. Two of the biggest problems with this myth involve science and tactics.
Science. For all intents and purposes, lasers, even visible lasers, are invisible until they hit something that reflects light. That could be an object, moisture, dust, smoke, etc. Depending on the laser, there will be a little or a lot of light at the “muzzle” end of the laser, but there won’t be a beam of light going from your gun to where the muzzle is pointed unless there is something in the air that reflects the laser light.
In a firefight in a warzone with lots of dust, smoke, explosions, and dirty ammo that causes excessive smoke, there will be more of a “beam of light” effect, but in a self-defense situation, it’s much less likely that you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have the “beam of light” going from your laser to the target…especially before the first shot.
Tactics. TV & movies show 2 things pretty consistently with lasers…there’s a visible beam that goes from the laser to the target AND the laser is always on. If you need to keep your location unknown, it’s just as bad of a tactic to turn on your laser and keep it on as it is bad to turn on a flashlight in a low light situation and keep it on.
When you need to stay hidden, you should only turn on your laser when you would otherwise be verifying sight alignment on your target.
But back up a second and think about the kind of typical self-defense situation that you’re likely to face.
Chances are that the attacker not only knows where you are, but has selected you as their intended prey. You are the goal or you’re standing between them and their goal. They’re going to use subterfuge to close the distance on you to 10 feet or less and use speed, surprise, and violence of action to do what they want to do with/to you.
They know where you are and they don’t need a laser to figure it out.
In these cases where you can’t hide your location or where you’re giving away your location with a flashlight, don’t worry about the laser giving away your location.
Laser Myth #2: “Lasers will help me shoot better in the dark.” Lasers won’t help you identify a target in a dark room…you still need light for that. Once you can see your target, lasers, night sights, and red dot sights will all help you aim better than factory sights that aren’t visible in low light.
Lasers can have advantages over night sights and red dots. Depending on how you hold your flashlight, you may find that the reflection off of your sights or optic washes out your target. On red dots, your ability to see through them in low light is going to depend A LOT on the quality and cleanliness of the glass. In these 2 respects, lasers are more forgiving.
Laser Myth #3: “If I have a laser, I won’t need to shoot…all I have to do is put the laser on the bad guy’s chest and he’ll stop.” This is true with some low-level attackers, but not for determined attackers who are drugged, drunk, or deranged. For people who insist on believing this myth, I suggest that they buy a toy gun and duct tape a cheap laser pointer to it. That way, when they hesitate to shoot an attacker, he’ll only end up with a toy and a laser pointer when punches them in the face and takes it from their hands. (That’s not REAL advice…I only say it to highlight how bad of an idea it is to depend on the laser without being willing to use the pistol.)
Laser Myth #4: “Lasers will make me a faster shooter.” This is a tricky one. Many shooters shoot slower with a laser because they’re shocked by how much it’s moving around. In a high stress situation, a laser will probably cause you to shoot slower but have more hits…IF you’ve got good fundamentals and don’t jerk or mash the trigger. In compromised positions, like I’ll address in a minute, they do make you a faster shooter, but that’s not what most people are thinking about when they make that claim.
Laser Myth #5: “I don’t need to practice. I can’t miss with a laser.” Lasers won’t help you grip the gun correctly, present the gun correctly, naturally aim the gun so that you’re only verifying alignment with the laser/sights, press the trigger without jerking or mashing, or manage recoil. All of these take practice.
So, what’s the best way to train with lasers?
It’s important to realize that lasers work better as a turbo charger to enhance good fundamentals than as a crutch to compensate for bad fundamentals…but they ARE a great crutch to help people with good fundamentals compensate for bad situations.
Specifically, lasers will help with the following bad situations…
- They help shooters who aren’t proficient with their support hand and who are forced to shoot with their support hand.
- They help shooters shoot around obstacles or in other situations where they can’t line up the sights between their dominant eye and the target.
- They help shooters who have a long history of shooting, but their vision has diminished to the point where they can’t see their sights clearly anymore and they haven’t done Tactical Vision Training yet.
- They help shooters with eye dominance issues, specifically cross-eye dominance or visual suppression issues.
- They help with small pistols with sights that are too small to see.
All of these are great reasons to use lasers, but a successful outcome, regardless of the sighting method you use, depends on practicing the fundamentals enough that you can execute them under stress without thinking about them.
It’s important to remember that the learning process in your brain is the same, regardless of whether you’re using iron sights, a laser, or a red dot sight.
Use the wrong training and wrong practice methods, like what most shooters use, and your performance will fall off a cliff when you add speed or stress.
by Mike Ox
Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, https://se965.infusionsoft.com/go/dftcmedia/loadout
Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster. His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at www.DryFireTrainingCards.com/blog
Featured image courtesy of Crimson Trace