Are Lasers on Handguns a Good Idea?

Nothing quite says “I own you punk” like putting a laser on someone’s chest. I’ve heavily used infrared lasers (IR) lasers on rifles with night vision, but putting lasers on handguns has a few unique challenges. Scroll down to check out a list of PROs and CONs, product links, and a VIDEO i made on this subject.

As a word of caution, not all handgun lasers are created equal, and there are major design differences. There are three main ways to put a laser on a handgun: (1) mounted to or in front of the trigger guard like the Streamlight TLR-8 seen above, (2) replace or mount on the backstrap like the Crimson Trace laser seen below on the Smith and Wesson M&P, or (3) guide rod lasers like the ones by LaserMax.

Lasers on pistols

  • PRO – untrained people can point & shoot
  • PRO – psychological effect on bad guys
  • PRO – cops working with shields
  • PRO – unorthodox shooting positions
  • PRO – signaling for tactical teams
  • PRO – awesome in low light / night vision
  • PRO – people with poor vision up close

Lasers on pistols

  • CON – one more thing to manipulate
  • CON – failing batteries or operation
  • CON – hard to see in full daylight
  • CON – slower than red dots & iron sights
  • CON – gives away your location
  • CON – insanely hard to keep zeroed

Now for the ‘what should I get’ recommendations, which I’ll warn you are nuanced and hamstrung by my own limited experience. For example, I have not sufficiently tested guide rod lasers like the ones by LaserMax.

I really LIKE the Crimson Trace lasers that replace the backstrap on the M&P pictured above, while I DO NOT LIKE those that wrap around the backstrap of the Glock (my torqued-down grip can shift the zero and the laser adds bulk to the backstrap I dislike).

If you have a Glock, or like pistol, I’d currently steer you towards the Streamlight TLR-8 because it incorporates a powerful 500 lumen light. The laser is an easy add-on, has been reliable thus far, and seems to hold zero well-enough (this is a new laser so I cannot give more confidence until it has passed the test of time).

As for the small laser/light combos I see on smaller guns like the Streamlight TLR-6 for the Glock 43 — I think the light output is not bright enough to blind an attacker and so it becomes a ‘hey, shoot me’ light, but the laser used alone could still serve you well.

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