Reader Joshua asks (nearly a year ago now):
Can you tell me how useful a Crimson Trace laser system would be for a beginner?
A red laser sounds pretty cool. Green laser sounds cool too, but given physics, is going to have more powerplant issues, and buying batteries is annoying, and replacing them often is annoying. The whole option itself gets this new shooter wondering: how important is a laser sight at all? Is it a supplement for dark environs? Is it to make things easier in a chaotic combat situation, day or night? How hard are red lasers to see, how easy are green ones? . . .
So let’s say three questions:
1. How important are laser grips for a beginner?
2. What can laser grips do for someone who is not a beginner?
3. How do those specific benefits translate into weighing the benefits between a green laser and a red laser?
I guess I can conclude with this: I don’t think any gun magically gets better by putting a laser on it. Operators are not obviated from the need to operate the trigger and handle recoil and aim properly, they just get some visual feedback if they are doing it wrong. So, how important is that? Is it more important the more of a beginner you are, or something an intermediate shooter should only then begin to think about incorporating into their shooting?
Anyway, I love your blog.
A laser is quite possibly the most useful thing you can put on a self defense firearm. But you have to understand its limitations, and practice with it.
In terms of a home defense situation, lasers are downright essential. When properly aimed, they give you a visual reference point as to where your round is going to land even in the pitch black of an Oregon night. Take it from someone who’s done a bit of competition shooting in that inky blackness: everything you intend to fire at night needs a laser. While you might think that a flashlight is good enough to let you see your sights, the reality is that under the dump of adrenaline, you’re going to feel they’re impossible to use.
Lasers also can have an almost instant behavioral modification effect on attackers. The psychological impact of seeing a laser pointed at your chest, especially one attached to a gun, has been known to make attackers think twice about going after people. Its comforting to know that I have one more option in my arsenal before I need to take that step to using lethal force.
But I get the feeling that you’re looking for the usefulness of lasers in terms of training.
For live fire training, lasers are marginally useful. You can kind of see where your shot is going to end up and watch how your muzzle moves as you start to squeeze the trigger. It’ll let you know if you’re flinching, and what your muzzle is doing, but the actual moment of recoil is still so overpowering that the laser isn’t really useful.
Where the laser really shines is in dry fire training. When I’m sitting at home watching TV, I have a bunch of pictures on my wall that I practice shooting again and again with the laser on my pistol turned on. I can see how the muzzle moves as I take up the slack in the trigger, and I can see any flinching or other nasty habits going on and correct them. It also aides in my point shooting practice, getting to the point where I don’t really need to use the targets to hit a man-sized object. In fact, there are a number of training aides on the market that perform the same function using lasers, but I prefer to use one attached to the pistol I’m actually using (as opposed to a facsimile of some sort).
So, to answer your questions, lasers are helpful for both beginners and those with some firearms experience. In a home defense or low light shooting situation, they make life MUCH easier and I cannot recommend them enough. Which is why my nightstand gun has a light as well as a set of CT lasergrips. But even for training purposes, using a laser for dry fire practice is a fantastic idea and highly recommended.
As for the green laser / red laser question, the answer used to be that reds are smaller and cheaper while greens are brighter, bigger and more expensive. However, Crimson Trace has done such a good job in creating low-cost and tiny green lasers that there really isn’t that big of a difference in price anymore. The question comes down to which one you’d prefer. Humans see green much better in the dark than red, but red is the color people usually associate with lasers and would be better if you’re wanting that “behavior modification” ability.