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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.

Ergonomics *

As easy to manipulate as Henry Kissinger.

Reliability * * *

Once you get er’ going she works great!


The green laser rocks. Now work on the ergo.

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Brett Solomon got his first taste of the magazine world covering car electronics for CarSound & Performance Magazine. He landed the job by being noticed for designing high-end car audio systems. Which was fine by him because there was no way he was going to pass the third level of calculus toward an electrical engineering degree at University of Delaware. Not with those DuPont scholars around campus, he’ll take Journalism over Engineering, thank you very much. He has since written for a number of publications (think in-flight journalism) that lack the chutzpah of Robert Farago, and having all of those milquetoast reviews pent up in his system now allows his pen to spit fire. We’ll, he is just not that mean but happy to tell the truth…and the truth is most firearms are fun!


  1. Good article, I took the points here into consideration when deciding to purchase an X5L in January and figured I’d add my own observations for anyone interested.

    It’s light, reliable and very easy to use. On the down side though, I tried several holsters (included the kydex model sold by Viridian, designed for this unit) and the laser keeps activating. The buttons are too sensitive and they’re the highest point on the side surfaces, leading to random activation throughout the day and thus making the unit useless on a carry gun.

    Knowing I was voiding the warranty (I’d already had it serviced for an unrelated malfunction) I opened it up to mod the activation switches, which is showing some promise but for a 250+ unit should not be necessary. The first gen X5L has become a side project for me but is of no use for its intended purpose. It’s an expensive cat toy.

    Back in the plus column, I think it would be a great accessory for a nightstand gun. I also have nothing but positive things to say about Viridian as a company, their customer service was first rate.

    I suspect these issues have probably been resolved with the Gen2 X5L and I’d like to try one out to be sure. But based on my experience with the Gen1 model I won’t be purchasing one.

  2. The 2nd generation of the X5L resolves the issues stated above. Glad they took his comments into consideration.

  3. I just sent my 5xl gen2 in so it can get fixed. It would shut off after a round or two. I would have to loosen battery cap then tighten it again. Starting off cap was as tight as I could get it. Pretty bummed about whole situation!

  4. Damn shame… I was really excited about this X5L Gen 2. The first one ordered from Amazon had a defective button. If you didn’t click it just right it wouldn’t come on. The click should mean you pressed the button correctly. So I sent it back and got another one. This one does it as well. You shouldn’t need to press the button just right, you should only need to press it.

    Overall I think this thing is well made. It’s a fine piece of manufacturing and then they give you these soft “plastic” mounts. They feel more like rubber. The first time I put it on I kept torquing down the screws expecting them to feel tight at some point. They still felt loose yet I could see I had deformed the hell out of the mounts. So I backed the screws out until the thing at least looked like it did when I opened the box. Sighted it in with the irons in my living room and after only an hour of just handling it it, not even shooting it, it was already off by several inches at only a few feet.

    The whole thing is pretty much a failure. Really disappointed. Run far away from this thing. Get your self a maglite and some duct tape and me and my Viridian’d H&K will give up the fight every time.

  5. Interesting comments. I own one too and cannot disagree with any of it. One thing a never see mentioned though is my experience with battery life. When I returned to mine and found the battery dead I contacted viridian. Apparently, according the the folks at viridian, the unit uses battery energy while NOT operating to keep the programmed memory alive. They recommended replacing the battery every 6 months. As the unit is deployed next to the bed (nightstand style) and, thankfully, folks seldom break into my house, it remains idle. After the six month period I turned the unit on, light and laser both on pulse, to see how long it would hold up. I got one minute out of it before the battery died. In order to keep it reliable as a tactical tool, I figure you would have to feed it near $100 worth of batteries per year.

    Another reason to keep it in the role of a “range/cat toy”. I would like to know if the gen 2 fixed that problem – it does use a different battery.

  6. Great laser light if it was reliable. Batteries do NOT last. The first one I got came with the batteries dead. I returned it for a new one and the batteries also did not last. I used the second one only a couple of times. Once when I got it and then at the range to make adjustments for alignment. 15 minutes total. I then had it by my bedside for about four months (off of course) and then brought it out to show someone after bragging about it and found the batteries dead, AGAIN! Embarrassing. What a shame that the batteries don’t last as expected. poor design.

  7. I will never buy anything from a company that supports built in obsolescence. (IE. Apple)
    I purchased a Viridian x5l-Gen 1 3.5 years ago. Yesterday I went to replace the battery and it was jammed.
    I tried very gingerly to remove the cap but it separated from the circuit board. Today I called customer service and requested an out of warranty repair which was caused by my own mishandling and was told “we no longer support or repair the Gen 1 X5l…we have no parts, the product is 3-4 years old.”
    What kind of company deserves to be in business with this kind of customer satisfaction policy? I spend between $800 and $2000 a year on weapons and accessories…Not a penny will ever go to Viridian again.
    I will gladly pay the higher dollar for the Surefire line which has excellent customer service and no built in obsolescence for it’s products.



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