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May 28, 2007

Vol. 1   No. 11

Laser Sighting Devices

Are they worth the money?  Will they help you Stay Alive?

Many articles have been written extolling the virtues of laser sighting devices.  With so much praise being heaped upon the little "red dot", how can anyone afford to be without one?

Well, if the articles are written by Crimson Trace, LaserMax, Beam Shot, or by any of the dozens of firearms publications who carry the manufacturers' paid ads, maybe we should take a closer look.  Maybe there are more things to consider than the manufacturers' claims of (1) improved accuracy, (2) faster target acquisition, and (3) the bogus claim that once the bad guy sees that you have that little "red dot" on him, he'll be overcome with fear, drop his weapon, put his tail between his legs, and run home to his mother.

Let's take a closer look at the more popular claims and see if lasers are the magic bullet many claim them to be:

(1) Improved accuracy

What determines accuracy?  Most will agree that accuracy is determined by the shooter's ability to employ ALL of the fundamentals of marksmanship:

Stance

Breathing control

Grip

Sight alignment

Trigger control

Follow through & recovery

Of the fundamentals listed above, the only one affected by the use of a laser sighting device is "sight alignment".  While the other fundamentals remain just as important as ever, once the shooter has the "red dot" to look for, I believe the tendency is to place far less emphasis on practicing the other fundamentals.

(2) Faster target acquisition

Back to the fundamentals.

If the shooter's stance is square with the target, and the gun is brought to the shooter's centerline, the majority of target acquisition has been accomplished.  What could be faster?

By focusing on the front sight through repetition of the target acquisition process the shooter is able to develop the muscle memory necessary to refine a gross motor movement into an exceptionally fast and accurate acquisition of an aggressor.

Add a laser sighting device to the process and the shooter has to first find the dot, and then adjust the gun to place the dot on the target.  In a stress situation, the fine motor movement necessary to accomplish this adjustment will result in slower, not faster acquisition.

(3) The "red dot" as a deterrent

I personally witnessed a situation where a laser dot was pointed at one of two individuals, who were walking together.  It was not until the non-targeted individual told the other about the "red dot" on his chest that the targeted individual even knew it was there.

A short humorous note:  The guy didn't bother to tell his buddy that he had been targeted until he had moved about 10 feet away from him; no sense getting hit by any over-spray.

Bottom line:  A targeted aggressor will most likely never see a laser dot, properly aimed at "center mass".  How then, could an unseen "red dot" possibly act as any kind of a deterrent to further aggressive action?  Short answer, "It couldn't."

Other disadvantages of laser sighting devices include:

  • The device can give away your position.  They work in both directions.

  • The "red dot" is hard to find in sunlight.

  • Concentrating on the "red dot" increases tunnel vision.

  • Although the problem is more common in law enforcement, when multiple users have laser devices, the shooter can not distinguish his "red dot" from any other.

  • Maximum effective range varies greatly with ambient lighting conditions, reflectivity of the target, and the shooter’s vision.

  • The shooter can easily become "laser dependent".  When your life depends on it, the laser sighting device can fail.

    Main Entry: flash·light
    Pronunciation: \'flash-,līt\
    Function: noun
    Date: 1886
    1: a receptacle in which one stores dead batteries

    In the event that you have no flashlight, you can store your dead batteries in a laser sighting device.


Practice, Practice, Practice

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