Laser sights

I have seen too many people forget the basics and rely on finding the laser dot instead of looking down the sights on pistols. They became much slower with the laser.

So began a Facebook thread in a closed group of ‘operators.’ There’s an antinomy, a form of paradox, in this sort of discussions that I always find interesting.

The paradox arises from the often parroted statement that most armed encounters take place at night or in low light. This premise is less than provable, but let’s accept it at face value for purposes of discussion.


Now, let’s follow up that premise with dismissal of a sighting system because ‘it doesn’t work’ during periods when gunfights are LESS LIKELY to take place.

In this particular FB thread, I will put myself in the category of ‘highly trained,’ since that’s what their membership group supposedly consists of. Years ago, it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were things I could do with a laser on a pistol that I simply couldn’t do without them. That held true even during the day, unless I was on a brightly sunlit ‘square range,’ which is so often said to be a poor and ‘non-realistic’ training environment. In any indoor environment, there is no issue with ‘finding the laser dot,’ even in a well lit room in daylight.

Note visible laser dot.

Note visible laser dot.

Once we get into the realm of low light, where the popular mantra says the majority of gunfights occur, most of us will agree that iron sights are fairly useless. We’re largely reduced to point shooting because the sights can’t be seen.

I wondered about the difference between iron sights and lasers during low light. I think of the time frame between sundown and End of Civil Twilight (dusk) as low light. The US Naval Observatory provides specific definitions of these and states

Some outdoor activities may be conducted without artificial illumination during these intervals, and it is useful to have some means to set limits beyond which a certain activity should be assisted by artificial lighting.

Target Acquisition and, to a lesser extent, Target Identification, is still possible during that period. However, between sundown and dusk, night sights aren’t really visible (not bright enough) and neither are the irons (luminous efficacy of the eye’s cones is insufficient).

To establish a quantitative measure for that difference, I chose several parts of the Handgun Testing Program at the elite Rogers Shooting School. The targets were more visible than they show in the video but I couldn’t see the irons. I proceeded to shoot the tests with a laser equipped Beretta. Having taught at Rogers for five years, I’m fairly confident in saying that, without the laser, I would have made the all the body hits (7) and around half of the hits on the number 1 head plate (8) for a score of 15 out of 69 targets. My score with the laser was four missed targets for a score of 65 out of 69.

There’s a reason I have a laser on my house gun.

The issue of parroting something that was heard without questioning, analyzing, or testing is a separate topic that the training community has yet to address adequately. That’s for another time, though.

16 responses

  1. Mr. Werner, do you have a favored laser option for a gun that has a rail, but no CT Lasergrips available?

    1. No, I don’t. That’s a good question but I haven’t evaluated other options.

  2. “The issue of parroting something that was heard without questioning, analyzing, or testing is a separate topic that the training community has yet to address adequately. That’s for another time, though.”

    The sooner the better I hope. It is one of the most valuable topics around. Thanks for doing so.

  3. The problem with parroting is that many of the ‘facts’ in dispute can be, as you have shown here, determined for one’s own self. Of course that might require getting up from behind the keyboard…

  4. I find that “some” folks with lasers do indeed spend more time trying to “find the dot” than they would with irons. But it wasn’t an issue of daylight vs darkness (PS that’s why I have tritiums), it was an issue of simply finding the dot and moving it around till they got it on target. Then there is the issue of snatching the shot when the dot is where you want it.

    I do think lasers are good though. They are great for holding people at gunpoint and in situations where you have cover and/or distance. But for closer range work on moving targets I do think irons or point shooting has the time advantage.

    1. But for closer range work on moving targets I do think irons or point shooting has the time advantage.

      I’d need to see some data on that.

  5. Reblogged this on the things worth believing in and commented:

  6. My eyes suck. Badly. I don’t own a gun that doesn’t have a laser on it and honestly consider the laser the primary sight most of the time.

    I thank you for this Mr. Werner. In the Old Man Gun thread, you made some comments about sights and eyesight that really helped push me to try a laser and I haven’t looked back.

    Do you have any tips for increasing speed with the laser?

    1. The key to using lasers correctly is to have a proper drawstroke. Scooping, bowling, and flycasting will impede sight acquisition, no matter what kind of sight is used. The pistol should be pushed up into the dominant eye-target line as early in the drawstroke as possible. Then whatever sight system, iron or laser, becomes visible first is used and can be used quickly. An improper drawstroke is at the root of many marksmanship issues, especially as they pertain to the most missed shot in shooting, the first shot.

  7. Any thoughts on lasers on home defense long guns?

    1. I’m quite interested in trying out the laser system for the Ruger 10/22 but have not so far.

  8. […] Here’s my friend and mentor explaining why he does as well. Laser sights. […]

  9. Thank you so much for the good information and work you do. How does a RMR compare to lasers, especially for a “nightstand” pistol?

    1. Having only the briefest usage of an RMR, I can’t really comment about how the two systems compare.

  10. Traiteur Rabat Regal; Traiteur de ronome au Maroc

    This is my expert

%d bloggers like this: