If you find yourself in a situation where bullets are aimed in your direction, you may become strangely reluctant to leave cover. A weapon equipped with a laser sight may give you the extra confidence you need to return fire. By the same token, a laser dot radiating on a scumbag’s chest may give him pause for thought. And while we’re pausing, on the negative side, in the heat of combat, a laser sight might reveal your position. A lot of ink (if not blood) has been spilled debating these issue. But just like traffic lights and light sabers, it is generally agreed that green is better than red. Green lasers quadruple the distance of a typical red laser. Moreover, you can see the suckers in bright daylight. So, for a guy like me, a home defense-oriented rifle owner who likes options, how about a green laser sight with a built-in light? Don’t mind if I do . . .
After scanning the forums, talking to my gun gurus, and saving my shekels, I chose Viridian’s X5L (MSRP $349). It’s a small piece of kit with an integrated light. In fact, Viridian touts it as the smallest laser/light combo ever built. Although it’s got the edge in size, the X5Ls design is not a million miles away from the SIG SAUER STL-300J I used on my AK-47, minus the vertical foregrip.
Kevlar helmets off to Viridian for the packaging. They’ve laid out all of the adjustment screws, doodads and other stuff for fitting and adjusting windage and elevation beautifully in cut-out foam packaging. The sight’s designed to fit on Picatinny, Weaver or the light rails on your handgun; Viridian provides all the hardware you need for all possibilities. Mounting the X5L on my AR-15 was a minor chore, but I don’t mind that. What I do mind: digging for microscopic Alan keys to adjust the windage and elevation. As that’s a one-time chore (in theory), I’ll give the X5L a mechanical mulligan.
The real problem: actuation. There X5L has four buttons to turn on/off the laser and light and trigger pulse mode. The buttons have the tactile feel of my first girlfriend’s pleasure center—and they’re even more difficult to find under stress. Moreover, the haptic feedback is virtually nonexistent (yes, the analogy holds). Perhaps Virilian—Viridium could have made the buttons slightly larger. It’s only a matter of life and death.
The X5L’s 20-page manual goes into considerable detail regarding operational modes, and the operator’s ability to switch sides for ‘Selector’ and ‘Activation’. What are they, crazy? The unit cries out for a simple dial indicator on one side labeled ‘LASER – LIGHT — BOTH’ and a big-ass button on the other side to turn it on. Make two versions if you must since ambidextrous operation seems to be such a priority with Viridian.
I thought I wouldn’t need the codes to Commando after the 8th grade to use an auxiliary weapon system. But to get the light to work alone it is Up Down Up Down Left Right Left Right B A B A or something like that. Some may argue that proper training and a generous genetic intellectual inheritance are all you need to make the X5L instinctive. Yeah? YOU try turning on the light in a pitch-black basement when your hands are shaking and you hear voices in the distance and the Viridian is in laser-only mode.
I wanted to love the X5L. The green laser is more powerful than a steaming locomotive; and more crisp than any other laser you can buy. I took the unit out on the open water at night and lit up a bridge a mile away. [Note to Homeland Security: the light was not attached to Mr. Solomon’s weapon during this experiment.] At nighttime, the range borders on ‘why buy a 6x ACOG?’ I was agog.
As for the companion light—-not so much. It’s not a patch on the candlepower of my SIG SAUER unit. But then again it is a quarter of the size and battery power. For a handgun light, the X5L works well compared to the competition. Unscientifically, it seems to have the naked-eye lumens of the little guys from Streamlight or Insight. I guess I’m spoiled by the SIG light, which will blind an assailant in a pitch-black room and leave him seeing purple and green splotches while I take aim. [ED: In theory.]
The X5L is a haptic engineer away from greatness. I’m keeping it for another rifle as a range toy. The green laser is just too bright and cool. But the X5L doesn’t make the grade for my go-to gun. The buttons are too small; there’s a good chance I’d do something sub-optimal. Like actuate the light over the laser and give away my position. Or laser the floor when I meant to light up a dark space. Whether or not you approve of laser sights, a bad one is worse than nothing at all.
Style * *
It’s a little black box that resembles any electrical junction under the hood of a modern automobile—except there’s a light and laser on the front. Tacticool it ain’t.
As easy to manipulate as Henry Kissinger.
Reliability * * *
Once you get er’ going she works great!
OVERALL RATING * *
The green laser rocks. Now work on the ergo.