Laser Myths

As I noted on this blog earlier, there is a high bandwidth of ignorant and misinformed internet opinions available at the click of a mouse. They live among, and sometimes overwhelm, factual, rational and real information that would be helpful to the curious and the uninitiated. Gun forums are particularly prone to becoming a venue for unsupported opinion and basic misinformation. The interesting but unfortunate consequence of this is that many wrong, stupid, ignorant and sometimes hazardous opinions are accepted as fact.

In this post, I would like to offer some facts and reasons to investigate a common internet gun forum topic about which laser sight is "better", disregarding that "better" in this context is a very undefined attribute.

I have read many forum posts that go back and forth about which laser sight is "better": the LaserMax CenterFire or the Crimson Trace Laserguard. Mostly, the comments center on perceived notions of size, shape, beam and actuation preferences. Price usually doesn't come up, although the CT (Crimson Trace) is much more costly than the LM (LaserMax).

It seems to me that the purpose of a laser sight on a handgun is to provide a highly visible aiming point on the same plane as the target when one wishes to fire a shot. This is especially important under low light conditions and with small handguns that are difficult to shoot accurately. All laser sights will do this with the same focal precision and power. The amount of power a laser sight maker can supply to the device is restricted. 

Looking at the LaserMax and the Crimson Trace models that attach to the underside of the frame, their size, weight and profiles are close enough to not make a real difference. I have used both and can vouch for this fact. Arguments about one being "slimmer" than the other are nonsense in any meaningful sense.

The main difference between the LaserMax CenterFire and the Crimson Trace Laserguard, disregarding cost, is the method of operation. With the LM you have a choice; with the CT, you don't.

The CT laser, given a firm grip on the pistol, is always on regardless of whether you want it on or not. I don't like technology that tries to do my thinking for me. I suspect that many people don't want to have to think about this so they go for the default "on" state. This indicates a lack of training on their part and their not understanding that the only time you need or want a laser shining from your gun is when you need to shoot.

Anybody can grab a CT equipped handgun and turn on the laser. Doesn't matter if they know what they are doing or not, whether their finger is on the trigger when they draw or not. As long as they hold the pistol with a firm grip, the CT laser is always shining. To disengage it, one has to modify the grip. Not a particularly optimal choice.

Additionally, I've noticed that with small guns like the LCP, where there are two fingers on the grip, depending on the shooter's hand size, the CT doesn't always stay on under rapid fire when the fingers may shift a bit under the recoil and mental pressure. If you are focused on the red dot and it suddenly disappears, you can be distracted and that next round may end up somewhere you didn't want it to go. Yes, if you can maintain a consistent hold and grip pressure during a self-defense shooting episode, this probably won't happen. But I submit that most people won't be that aware and precise.

Which leads to the fact that with the LM, the shooter always has the choice of the laser being on, or off. Whichever, it's not going to change from that state unexpectedly. 

You will see many posts about this by people who haven't bothered to learn and train sufficiently for defensive shooting. Think about it. 

If someone is set to quickly grab their gun and begin banging off shots with the laser on, I think this shows a lack of basic training on safe gun handling and shooting. When we train to operate defensively, we train to quickly and consistently draw our weapon from the holster, and position, of our choosing, in such a manner as to not shoot ourselves or an innocent bystander in the process. Proper grip. Trigger finger extended alongside the slide or trigger guard (varies with gun model of course). Extract gun and rotate clear of the body, pointing down range toward the target area. Finger extended, not on the trigger. Threat identification. Decision to shoot or not. If yes, finger goes to trigger as the weapon is centered on the target. Fire.

In the above scenario the only time the laser needs to be on is when you decide to shoot. If you are doing things right, the CT comes on when you grip the pistol in the holster. The LM does not. Why? Because you haven't turned it on. When can you turn it on? Whenever you choose because, if you are doing this right, as your gun clears the holster, your trigger finger will be resting on the LM slide switch. When your finger sweeps back to the trigger - whenever you decide to fire - the slide switch gets pushed in and the laser goes on as your finger slides into the trigger guard. Or, you may decide not to shoot but to actuate the laser anyway. Push the switch and it's on. Enough? Push the switch to turn it off. 

It is easy and natural to push the slide switch off with the thumb on your supporting hand to disengage the laser. Then, your trigger finger will automatically (it should!) be extended and again resting naturally on the LM slide switch where it all began.

With the CT, you are shining that laser beam around all the time, whether you have decided to shoot or not, unless you relax the grip on your weapon. And, if you are drawing, presenting and aiming correctly with a CT equipped gun, your trigger finger will be extended alongside the weapon, just like in the LM example, until you make the conscious decision to shoot. However, there won't be a switch under your finger because your laser will always be on, regardless of whether you want it on or not.

I've gone into some detail about this because this is a serious matter and deserves a serious and detailed examination, not off-hand remarks.

Statistics will show that the idea that all or most deadly force self defense shooting encounters are not of the split-second grab and shoot as fast as possible kind. Many encounters don't involve shooting at all, but the presentation of a deadly threat -  your weapon -  to a potential criminal perpetrator. Just the sight of your handgun may be enough to defuse the threat. Or that and the purposeful switching on of a little red dot on the middle of his chest. The fact remains, that if the person legally carrying is sufficiently trained to handle his or her weapon correctly, that person will be in charge of when and if the laser sight needs to be actuated and can do so as effectively and quickly with a LM as with a CT. But, with the LM, you get to be in control and make the decisions.

Simply put, if a person is trained to properly grasp, present, aim and fire a handgun in a self defense scenario, one is, by that very fact, trained to be in control of a LaserMax sight.

*** Addendum, September, 2015. The LaserMax CenterFire now comes equipped with a spring loaded actuation switch. Push the switch and the laser comes on and the switch springs back out when released. Push again to turn off the laser. This works the same on both sides of the unit, retaining the ambidextrous operation of the original.