Lasers! Many shop-keeps, keyboard commandos and opinionated range goers will tell you that lasers are lazy and stupid. The common argument is that folks with lasers on their sidearms don't bother learning how to aim using iron sights, and the skills of how to shoot and reacquire those sights with enough proficiency for a real-life, adrenaline-pumping self defense scenario. Batteries do die, and electronics can go bad, so I'm not disagreeing with those talking heads. However, after giving a laser device a try for a few months, I've picked up on some strengths and benefits to carrying a protective firearm equipped with a laser.
Obviously a laser acts like a pointer, and can greatly increase the speed of "point shooting" which is firing a handgun without using its sights. Though certainly not pinpoint accurate or consistent when speed is the focus, point shooting uses the shooter's arm and body geometry to aim the muzzle in the desired direction. It doesn't take much practice to put rounds on a torso sized target at extremely short distances... its almost as easy as pointing the remote at the television. For shooters with less than perfect eyes that can't focus on iron sights, or difficulty during low light / night, as laser on your piece can be your ace in the hole.
Not only that, but it literally encompasses the gun safety commandment: Never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy. For new shooters, a laser can be a useful training aid that teaches muzzle control. A laser can also show a shooter's stability, as it telegraphs every twitch, shake, or fault in the user's arms and body as it dances around on the target. This movement is more exaggerated at further distances, as a jiggle of around a quarter inch circle at 10 feet will expand when aiming at 20, 30, 40 feet and so on. It's great for giving the shooter instant feedback as to their stance's stability, but a sniper it does not make.
I've also heard people (mostly salesman) say lasers can be a threat deterrent. I can't speak to that personally, but I have asked acquaintances in law enforcement and private security who run lasers on their sidearms and they claim it reinforces the immediate danger the suspect is in, when guns are drawn and verbal commands are given. Lucky for me, my review doesn't have to prove or disprove any of those theories. Let's take a look at product geared for smaller pocket pistols, the Laserguard from Crimson Trace.
There's very few laser companies with as many product variations as Crimson Trace. Whatever handgun or long gun you own, chances are theres a CT product that can work for it. The Laserguard is a unique design that adapts to smaller, pocket sized and sub-compact pistols that lack any provision for attaching lights or lasers via an accessory rail built into the frame. With the rise in popularity with smaller handguns like the Glock 42/43, S&W Shield/Bodyguard, Ruger LCP/LC9, Taurus Curve, Kel-Tec PF9 and others, there was lack in support for accessories. Crimson Trace designed a housing that snaps around the trigger guard and snugs up against the underside of the muzzle. I picked one up for my Sig P938, as it doesn't have a rail and the ambidextrous 1911-esque thumb safeties would inhibit a laser equipped grip panel anyway. I did get the Laserguard with the holster bundled since my preferred method of carry is inside the pocket, so its nice CT provides the right size pocket holster to fit my gun with the LG-492 installed.
CT did a good job making the Laserguard easy to install yourself. It comes with the two allen wrenches needed for the housing screws and the windage/elevation screws, as well as your first battery. After installing the battery in the right half of the Laserguard, you simply snap it onto the handgun's triggerguard, then align the left half, press together, and tighten the tiny screws to complete the housing. The Laserguard puts the laser diode directly under the muzzle, with an activation pad right where your middle finger contacts the frame during a proper grip.
The button location makes it pretty idiot-proof and doesn't add any awkwardness to the drawing of the firearm. Just grip normally and the squeezing pressure of your finger will press the activation pad. There is no toggle or programmable modes, so to keep the laser on you will need to maintain the grip pressure. The downside to the LG-492 model designated for my SIG P938 is that there is no master on/off switch, so if I want to shoot without the laser activated, I need to slightly bend my middle finger as to not press the button (or remove the Laserguard entirely). My biggest complaint is I really wish CT made the master switch a consistent feature across all the Laserguard models.
Zeroing the laser is pretty easy to do in just a couple minutes. Often I would do this in store when I worked behind a gun counter as it really is simple. Just hold the gun with one hand and aim at a particular point on the wall (in a safe direction, with an empty and safe firearm please). With the other hand, insert the small allen key and turn the windage or elevation screws until the dot moves to where your sights are aiming. Turning the screws counter clockwise will move the dot left or up, and turning clockwise will move the dot right or down. Keep in mind if your handgun's sights require a 6 o'clock hold for accurate point of impact, as you'll want to knowingly move the laser dot higher to where that bullet will hit.
The distance at which you zero your laser is entirely up to you. Supposedly CT zeroes all their products from the factory at 50 feet. The common misconception is that most self defense shootings occur at 21 feet, or 7 yards. That figure has been debunked, and the real average for self defense shootings is a distance closer to 7-10 FEET. Whatever you choose to believe, you should zero the laser for that realistic distance. I zeroed my Laserguard at 20 feet, because at that zeroed distance if I were to aim at a closer object at 10 feet my laser dot is only one inch low. When I back up to 90 feet or 30 yards, the laser dot is about 5-6 inches above where I set my sights. When aiming for tighter groups at different ranges, its good to know how the geometry of the upward angled laser diode when zeroed affects the dot compared to your point of aim.
My only other major complaint about the Laserguard, is it decreases the real estate for my fingers to grip the frame. On a small pistol like the P938 or others in it's class, you may find there's just enough room for all three of your fingers on the grip as is without any accessories, or you require an extension on the magazine basepad to accomodate your pinky finger. The addition of the Laserguard and the way it snaps around the trigger guard will add thickness and thus decrease the room for your fingers on the frame. This of course differs for all pistols as the space on the frame is different across the board, but its something to consider if the platform you shoot doesn't have an option for extended magazine bases or finger rests.
After shooting with the laser installed, its almost a certainty that the lens surface will get fouled by the carbon and other crud that comes out of a barrel after firing enough rounds, causing the beam to spread and degrade in sharpness and shape. CT includes cleaning swabs with their lasers, and if you simply use window cleaner or isopropyl alcohol to lightly clean the lens with one swab and dry it with the other, you should be good to go. If you carry inside the waistband or inside the pocket, I would say you should still add this to your maintenance of the firearm as a whole because dust, lint, and other tiny particles will still get on that lens with use.
Overall, I'm still on the fence on whether I'll keep the Laserguard on my little Sig. I don't have a disability or other physical reason to depend on the laser for aiming assistance, and I find I am much more accurate without it, just using the iron sights. But I do recognize in a situation where I cannot use a proper shooting stance, or even both hands, I can see the laser being a detriment to a fast and reasonably accurate response to a threat. Just like the gun it's mounted to, its better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it at all.
FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS
Claim to Fame: Laserguard® is the best-in-class laser sighting system for compact and subcompact polymer-framed pistols. Laserguard mounts securely to the trigger guard, enhancing your ability to engage threats quickly and accurately with a small-framed concealed carry handgun.
Target Market: Handgun owners, Concealed Carriers
FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):
- Polymer housing with Rubber Overmold activation pad
- Instinctive pressure activation location with middle finger
- Battery Type: One 1/3N Lithium or Two 357 Silver Oxide Batteries
- No gunsmith needed, easy to install
- Battery Life: Red- Four Hours, Green- 2 hours
- Factory Sighted at 50'
- User Adjustable for Windage and Elevation
- Warranty Three Year Full Warranty
- Wrench Size 0.05
- Dot Size Approx. 0.50" at 50'
- Master ON/OFF switch on select models
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Red or Green laser diode
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING?:
"It's a good laser sight, nice and bright. I mounted this on a Glock 26 firing 124 Gr. 9mm +P Winchester PDX1. I find that the light weight of the subcompact pistol combined with the nasty recoil of those 9mm +P rounds start my laser dot creeping off zero after about 50 shots (but very slow drift). This is acceptable in a self-defense situation IMO, but be aware that you may have to re-zero this little guy from time to time (which is very simple to do.) It will increase the size of the pistol beyond what will fit in most holsters." - Amazon Customer Review
- MSRP: $229-329 (red or green laser, with or without holster)
I NEED IT NOW! AVAILABILITY:
- Easy to install and zero in minutes
- Activation pad in natural position
- Some models have bundles available with pocket holsters
- Returns to zero when removed and reinstalled IF you tighten screws exactly the same amount (still verify zero each time to be sure)
Won't fit guns with Hogue grips that wrap around the front strap
Holster requires custom kydex shells
Reduces grip area for fingers
Zero shifts slightly after multiple shots (about the 250 round mark for me)
Master on/off switch not available on the LG-492 model