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One thing that any experienced firearms person will tell you is that if you want to improve your skills, the only way to do it is to practice. Now, if you have unlimited money and time, live fire ammunition is the right approach. For those on a budget, if you have a .22 pistol you can get 500 rounds of ammo for about $25 easy peasy lemon squeasy. That said, there is a world of difference between firing a .22 and any kind of larger bore gun such as a 9 mm, a .40 or, .45. Not to mention that larger bore ammo costs a lot more. In my area, I can find aluminum case 9 mm ammo for about $11 for 50 rounds, which translates to $110 for 500 rounds.

A good alternative to live fire ammo is dry firing which has four big disadvantages. First of all, there’s a significant difference between pulling the trigger on an empty chamber and pulling it on a loaded one. That said, if you have done everything right in terms of acquiring the sight picture and slowly squeezing the trigger such that you are vaguely surprised when the gun actually goes off, there shouldn’t be much difference in the trajectory of your “virtual” bullet and a real one.

The second issue, which is particularly annoying for owners of 1911′s, Glocks, and other single action (SA) guns is that without a live bullet to drive the slide back, you have to manually rack the slide between each shot. Granted, this gives you a lot of practice with tap and reloading drills but it can certainly get tedious pretty quickly. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this – you either live with it or get a pistol with Double Action (DA) capability that you can repeatedly pull the trigger on.

The third issue is somewhat related to the first problem. Assume for the moment that you think that you are doing everything right with your grip, trigger pull, etc. The problem is that a minute twist of the wrist or flick of a trigger finger is difficult to see unless you can see where an actual bullet hit the target. Did you really manage to squeeze the trigger smoothly or did you jerk it at the last minute? The only way to know for sure if you’ve been training yourself correctly is to see where your bullets land on your next trip to the range.

The final issue is one of the biggest, at least for me. Frankly, dry firing is boring as hell.  Pulling the trigger with no bang gets old. Fast.

There is, however, help for these latter two issues (and by some extension our first issue) – a laser training system. Basically, laser trainer consists of a laser emitter that either goes down the barrel or into the breech of the gun and using some technology to determine when the gun fires, flashes a brief laser pulse at the same time. The benefit of this system is that you can see where your bullet likely would have landed had you fired for real. The feedback also helps to relieve the boredom of repeatedly aiming and pulling the trigger in near silence.

Laserlyte has taken this technique one step further with their  Laserlyte Training system. This system consists of two parts – the laser unit that goes into the gun and a laser sensitive target.

To use the system, you simply load the laser module into your gun, aim it at the target and go to town. Your shots don’t automatically appear on the screen.  In order (I assume) to save on battery life, the target registers your shots but does not display them.  After you finish your string (I suggest between 5 and 10 rounds), you fire a precision shot at the lower left laser-sensitive circle marked “Display”  This activates the illumination of your shots on the target and you can see where they went.  You then fire another precision shot into the right laser-sensitive circle marked “Reset” and the target is cleared and ready to accept your next string.  Rather than trying to do a precision shot, I generally keep one of my laser sights with me and use that to activate the Display and Reset areas.  One note here:  Cheapo laser pointers don’t seem to work for this as they (presumably) don’t have the power necessary to trigger the sensors in the target.

The various laser emitters (like all those cool action figures when we were growing up) are sold separately.  Laserlyte has three major types. The LTS Universal, the LTS Pro, and the Training Cartridge.  I would probably not bother with the Universal unless you absolutely need it.  The Universal model reminds me of one of my bore sighters – a very long tube that protrudes from your pistol barrel.  The problem with this is twofold; first of all, you can forget about performing any holster drills as the tube protrudes several inches and might be difficult to get to clear the holster on your draw unless you pull quite a bit straight up before pivoting the gun forward.  Secondly, the extended length of the emitter is almost certainly going to result in the laser dot projecting off axis from the gun barrel to some small degree.  This means that the further you are from your target, the farther away the laser dot will hit from where an actual bullet would have.  The two main advantages of the LTS Universal are the fact that it is the cheapest model and that with included adapters that go up to .50, it will fit just about any handgun or rifle including .410 shotguns.

The next step up is the LTS Pro.  This one goes almost completely into the barrel, protruding about 1/4 of an inch.  This enables you to practice drawing from a holster and with the emitter so close to the end of the barrel, the difference between the laser dot projection and where an actual bullet would have hit is minimized. The LTS Pro shares the same advantage as the Universal in that it includes adapters to allow it to fit most typical calibers.  The main disadvantage of the LTS Pro is that you need to take it apart and remove the batteries after each training session otherwise the batteries will drain in a couple of days.  It is also a bit more more costly than the LTS Universal.  With both the Pro and the Universal, the use of separate snap caps is recommended to protect the striker pin.

The final leg up is the dedicated cartridge.  This is a miniature laser system built into the body of a bullet in the caliber that you wish to use.  At present, Laserlyte offers .380, 9 mm, .40, and .45 calibers.  These cartridges carry the same MSRP as the Laserlyte Pro, but as they are limited to one specific caliber, they can be the more expensive option if you have multiple calibers in your gun collection.  These cartridges do incorporate a built-in snap cap so you don’t need to use a separate one like you do with the other variations.  The only other real issue that I have with this system is that there seems to be some variability as to how long the cartridges last before starting to have problems.  While my .40 and .45 seem to be holding up well, my 9 mm now only fires the laser intermittently as it seems the snap cap which triggers the laser is getting a bit flaky.  Go online and you will see similar criticisms of the cartridge system from some people.  More R&D is necessary before I can render a final verdict, but at the moment, I can’t recommend the 9mm cartridge.

Overall, the system is pretty good and has made my dry fire practice more interesting.  Check out the company’s website for videos and other information about the product.

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  1. Great review, thanks. I looked at that site and, given your problems with the 9mm, researched a bit to see if there are similar systems. Is there anything similar and maybe more robust, or is this system pretty unique?

    • Unfortunately, not that I could find in the price range. There are high end systems, but you are into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

      I’ve looked at the 9mm closer and the issue is that the striker pin does not seem to always make positive contact with the end of the cartridge. Since mine is still under warranty, I’m going to try replacing it, but I suspect that if I cut a very small piece of thin rubber and adhered it to the pressure pad on the cartridge, it would add just enough room to allow the striker to hit it effectively every time. I also don’t think it is a gun issue as I tried it in my Sig P239, my Beretta 92 and my XDM with similar inconsistent results.

  2. Don’t mix 1911’s with the Glocks, No slide jacking to fire a 1911 or any other pistol with an external hammer. I would recommend snap caps to possibly prevent wear and tear on the firing pin. While not the best thing in the world you can sit in your living room and practice. Just my 2 cents

  3. Has anyone used this or modded it to fit a 1 7/8 J-frame? it says min barrel length is 2″ so thats 1/8″ off

  4. I was wondering if the 9mm issue has been resolved somehow. I got the training system for my wife and I to use and have already noted the inconsistent performance of the Lasterlyte Pro variety (the red type that slides into the end of the barrel) and want to know if the dedicated cartridge type is worth pursuing or if the whole thing will need returned somehow. The only thing that kept me from buying the 9mm cartridge type was this review you had done, so can you shed any light on the current performance of that particular cartridge?

    • Bob…I can tell you from my own experience that the 9mm cartridge from Laserlyte is a great investment. I have been using it for a couple of years in my Glock 19, and mostly in my S&W M&P Shield. I have shot thousands of rounds with it with no trouble. When the batteries go bad after thousands of shots, just replace them. There is also a little “switch” that the firing pit hits to activate the laser. It is guaranteed for 3000 shots before you have to buy another one and then they are only $10. But if you call Laserlyte, they will usually just send you another one free, along with a return envelope to send the old, non functioning one back. They have great customer service. I can’t tell you how much my one and two handed shooting has improved by having this great training aid. You don’t have to buy the target they advertise, just shoot at different objects like lamp shades, light switches, etc. Or you can make a man sized cardboard target as I did, and mark off the ocular cranial area, the heart, the throat, the solar plexus, and the groin areas. You can put the target at different distances in your house (usually between 10 and 20 feet away, which are realistic self defense distances) and practice drawing and hitting different areas on the target. I can pull my Shield from concealment and hit the different areas in two seconds or less. Make sure as you practice that the laser beam doesn’t “slide” across the target, but makes a solid hit. Then you’ll know that you are not missing the intended spot where you meant to hit. I know you can only make one shot at a time because you have to rack the slide between shots, but remember, the first shot is the most important anyway. It will also teach you to ignore the anticipation of the recoil and the “bang”. I highly recommend this training aid that will save you thousands of dollars in live ammo. And every time you actually go to the range to shoot live ammo, you will really see the improvement you have made!

    • I just commented on Bob’s post, but I don’t see the comment, so I am going to do it again. Bob, this is the best laser trainer cartridge on the market. It will improve your shooting, one handed or two, immensely. Just make sure when you practice with it that your shots do not “sweep” across the target, but make a solid hit with the laser light. You can shoot thousands of rounds before the batteries begin to go bad, so you just replace them. Same with the little “switch” which the firing pin hits to activate the laser. That little switch only costs about $10 if you wear it out, but usually if you call Laserlyte, they will just send you another one free, with a return envelope to send back the defective one. They have great customer service. Make your own man sized target out of cardboard and mark off the ocular cranial, throat, heart, solar plexus and groin areas and practice at different self defense distances of hitting the spots quickly while drawing from a concealed holster. You’ll be surprised at how fast your shooting will improve. Practice one and two handed. I highly recommend this training aid. It will save you thousands of dollars in live ammo costs and it will teach you to ignore that anticipation of recoil and “bang” on the all important first shot. Great product.

  5. I just received a LaserLyte LT-PRO and TLB-1 target this afternoon from MidwayUSA.

    The stuff works, but it’s very intermittent.

    I removed the little plastic insulator and screwed in the cap, and adjusted the black expander for my .45 ACP Les Baer pistol.

    The problem is, the LED lights up brightly upon a hammer fall / dry fire only about 2/3 of the time. The other 1/3, I can see a tiny flash of red LED hit the target, but it will not register as a hit. I can aim at a blank wall and see the same thing… BRIGHT BRIGHT BRIGHT dim dim dim BRIGHT BRIGHT BRIGHT. I have tried swapping the batteries with the extra set that was provided, and the behavior is the same. I am very disappointed in the reliability this product has exhibited so far, and I believe it is defective.

  6. Bought for my Taurus Millennium; the Laserlyte cart is about 1/4 too long and the slide will not close. Looked at amazon reviews and turns out this is a common problem with many .45 models. Best ask the company what guns it is compatible with; it does not work in many.

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