Should you have a laser on your concealed carry pistol?


I am asked from time to time what I think about having a laser on a concealed carry pistol.  I have given this matter considerable thought and tried to come up with an objective answer.   First,  you cannot use a laser or other optical enhancer during your CHL range qualification.   The reason is simple.   Lasers might be a great and wonderful tool, but they are an electronic device and have a battery.  That can fail and Murphy’s law tells us that things that can fail will do so at the worst possible time.   Even if you choose to have and use a laser, that isn’t a substitute for being able to operate without one.

Personally, I sometimes find that little bouncing red or green dot distracting when I see just how much movement I make when I think I’m holding still.  Keep in mind that moving your muzzle 1/16 of an inch translates to about 4.5 inches at just 10 yards.  Just like with the projectile, the greater the target distance, the more that laser dot is going to move with just the slightest movement of your hand.   It distracts me and causes me to focus on the dot instead of the target.  But, that’s just me and my opinion.  Your mileage may vary.

If you determine that you want a laser, you’ll need to decide more specifically what you want.  Do you prefer a red or green laser?   Red lasers consume less power (longer battery life) and they are less expensive.  The green tend to be easier to see in brighter conditions and therefore can be seen in some cases where it just isn’t dark enough to see the red laser.   However, they either have less battery life or are somewhat larger to accommodate a larger battery.  Also, different models offer constant-on, pulse mode, and auto shut-off timers to conserve battery life.   A blinking laser is easier to locate than a constant on laser so the pulse mode may be a very desirable feature.  Evaluate the importance of these features in the models of laser you are considering.

The most common set-up is a rail mounted laser.  These can be moved from one pistol to another with ease.  However, the addition of a rail mounted laser might mean your carry holster no longer fits the pistol when the laser is attached.  It may also mean that you have to adjust your grip if you are used to putting your hands in the space now occupied by the laser.

Some pistols, such as Glocks for example, offer you an additional choice.  There are drop-in replacement guide rods with integrated lasers.  These are specific to certain pistol models.  So, they aren’t readily moved between different pistols but they also don’t change the exterior shape of your pistol so that you can keep your favorite holster and use the grip you prefer.   Because of their small size, battery life might be shorter in a guide rod laser.

Laser Grips are a third option available for pistols that have interchangeable grips such as a 1911.  The pistol grips are replaced with a grip that has an integrated laser and battery.  I am not personally a big fan of these because my grip often covers the laser and I end up with a red or green dot on my hand and nothing projected down range.   You may have to adjust how you grip if you go the laser grip route.

Finally, keep in mind that the laser isn’t a perfect solution.   The barrel and your laser are not perfectly aligned to begin with.  That is especially true with off-center laser grips that are located to one side of your barrel.   The laser beam travels in a straight line but your bullet never will.  Gravity, spiral rotation, and even wind are going to affect the bullet but not the laser.   So your laser is aligned to intersect the bullet path at some specific distance.  At distances that are much closer or much farther than what you use to calibrate, you’ll have variation between the laser and the bullet point of impact.  Even variation in the ammo used is going to affect that point of impact so align the laser with the ammo you intend to carry and sight in at the representative distance you want to shoot.

Lasers aren’t a perfect tool but then again, nothing really is.  If it helps you feel more confident that you can hit the target quickly, then that’s a good thing.   Keep in mind that the laser dot is not a guarantee that you’re illuminating the point of impact.   Distance and other environmental factors are going to affect the point where the bullet and the laser path intersect.  Practice with and without the laser and don’t rely solely on electronics that can fail.

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