Previous Post
Next Post

The above video arrived via a PR blast from LaserMax. “In advance of the Armed Forces Day weekend, LaserMax official Training Coordinator, SSG Joseph D’Ambrosia, US Army (Ret.), recently conducted an in-depth live-fire training course, Close Quarters Combat: Carbines and Lasers, for a group of active-duty US Army professionals preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.” LaserMax giving back. Got it. Love it. But the video raised a bunch of questions. For example . . .

D’Ambrosia says the enemy now has thermal imaging and lasers on their guns. Scary thought. “True story,” the Army vet told TTAG. “We used to own the night. Not anymore. Now we’ve got to be smarter, faster and tougher.” D’Ambrosia, a man who saw combat in Afghanistan, reckons lasers are a big part of that equation. At least for close-quarter combat.

“Laser sighting systems allow for faster target engagements and transitions in close quarters combat conditions,” D’Ambrosia told me, “especially in urban combat. … During the critical stress of a gunfight, the natural inclination is to focus on the target rather than the front sight. The laser places a threat on the same focal plane as your aiming point.”

D’Ambrosia says that using a visible laser – even without firing a round – has its strategic benefits. “They’re a deterrent tool for use in escalation of force procedures,” he said, using the military-speak so many of our vets adopt, “in many cases preventing lethal shootings.”

Bottom line: lasers are a big deal for a modern soldier.

In the video above, I noticed that the exercise used both the Army’s standard-issue laser system and LaserMax’s commercial unit. I wondered why the soldiers would need extra, outside, free training. I got a little curious about what our troops carry into battle, and how much training they receive in its use. Here’s what I found.

Our soldiers currently deploy with the Insight Technology (L3 Warrior Systems) AN/PEQ-15 Advanced Target Pointer Illuminator Aiming Laser (ATPIAL). (The big-ass tan unit you see on the top of most of the carbines in the video.) The system combines a red visible laser sight, an infrared laser sight and an infrared target illuminator. It’s a robust piece of kit that replaces the even larger AN/PEQ-2A, an infrared laser/infrared illuminator with no visible laser aiming device.

The green visible laser in the video comes from the LaserMax UNI Green rail mount laser. According to D’Ambrosia, it’s a versatile, low profile and stackable rail mount laser projecting a 5mw aiming laser. (Test unit on its way to TTAG.) No infrared. No target illumination. No-brainer.

That’s not something you can say about the AN/PEQ-15, with its three systems and multiple switches. Which is OK, ish, if soldiers are trained in its use, to the point where it becomes instinctive, even under the stress of combat. Here’s what Ambrosia wrote to me about the laser-related expertise of the soldiers in the video.

The soldiers who experienced this training came from a mixed background. A portion of the group was from a reconnaissance platoon, including their sniper section. The recon soldiers and snipers had the most experience behind the issued lasers, having extensive night fire IR training. The remaining bulk of the group came from several different infantry platoons, and their only stated experience with the issued units was night time qualification and familiarization during infantry school.

Of the soldiers I had spoke to, none of the line infantry soldiers had experience using their visible lasers. The reconnaissance soldiers had used their visible lasers on occasion with no formal training.

The unfortunate reality of today’s military training is that many of the combat-experienced leaders have left or are leaving the service as a result of a military draw down, often causing a gap in the knowledge of various equipment/weapons and their applications. Moreover, DoD budget constraints and many other factors limit the available training time for soldiers, forcing leaders to prioritize training on certain weapons, equipment, etc. over others.

That’s a platoon’s worth of not good. Understandable, given the constraints listed, but still a long way from ideal. So it’s a good thing, a wonderful, an admirable thing, that LaserMax is stepping in to help save soldiers’ lives, filling a gap in their close-quarters urban combat training.

Oh, and one more thing. I asked D’Ambrosia about the assertion that laser sights give away its owner’s position. He laughed. “This isn’t about stealth,” he said. “When you’re in close-quarters combat the enemy knows you’re there. They can hear you and they can see you. The laser lets you get on target faster and more accurately in a situation where it’s all about speed, surprise and violence.”

So now you know.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. I’d like to see how the normal red dot compares to lasers, the only disadvantage I’m aware of is having to look through the unit, which also applies to IR laser. Is there computing laser capability, here, to improve on a red dot? Because if not, I’d like to hear the justification for IR laser, IR illuminator, and IR screen as opposed to IR illuminator and screen plus red dot, which should reduce battery usage by a bunch with no degradation in capability.

  2. How is the PEQ 15 not instinctive to use. Put a push pad on your front grip. If you are wearing NODs, set your laser to the last setting, if not, set your laser all the way back, problem solved. And if you are using your laser to aim in daylight you have been trained wrong or not at all.

    • Yup. Nailed it.
      But the company is arguing for the use of the daylight laser. I’ve tried it with myself and many other soldiers, and getting on a target with a laser was always slower than with a zero magnification red dot sight.
      The value if the laser is that you don’t need to put your eye on line with the bore to see where you are aiming. That’s especially valuable with a pistol shooting out of a car.
      It can be valuable in CQB, but only if things are going well. If things are not going well, you may think your laser is on someone when in fact it is a teammates laser on them. Which means you are pointing somewhere else and ready to shoot.

      • I don’t see how it is even beneficial in CQB(and for the record I am a military qualified CQB RSO). At CQB distances you should be able to pump 10 rounds in a guys chest in under 3 seconds at 10 yards or less without any sort of sights. Trying to find your laser is always going to be slower than point/instinctive whatever you want to call it shooting.

        And what situation do you see yourself shooting out of a car without the ability to use your sights?

        • I have done a lot of shooting from inside vics, especially non standards. Unless your shooting on nods, I still don’t see how using a laser is going to preferential over irons. Experiences may vary. But everytime I have shot from a drivers seat, even the few times moving it has been with the sights.

      • Thanks, seans and JWTaylor.

        Your actual operator experience confirms something that I found with playing around with a laser on my handgun- its just more distracting than useful, bottomline:

        Trying to focus on the dot, takes away from focusing on the front sight picture traditional discipline for longer shots past 7 yards, and
        it wastes time vs getting good enough for instinctive point shooting for inside of 7 yards, for example.

        If I were to imagine using it on a carbine, the laser dot will just fake you out, as the movement at that long distance is much more variable than the small motion to control at the muzzle end, so I find myself chasing the dot, rather than controlling the front sight.

        If I had to use holdover or a wind correction, then the dot could be useless, where its not even possible to put the dot on something that reflects at that distance, many times, for example if your holdover is “six inches up, in the air”.

        Many kudos to you and the other guys that can spend the time to overcome all that, but its just too hard for this KISS guy, who needs to spend the $$ instead on the range and training, instead of on electronics that can fail, or run out of juice – and per Murphys law, WILL FAIL AT THE WORST TIME.

        • Lasers are just a tool guys. They have some utility some of the time, and yes it is better not to have to rely on them all the time.

  3. So why do they hold the carbines/rifles with their support hand that way? I’ve seen experienced shooters do it before and always wondered what benefits it has over holding from the bottom, near the magwell or barrel.

      • Leverage. It help control muzzle flip. Try putting two 1’x1′ targets up at a hundred yards. Shoot thirty rounds at one holding it by the mag well as fast as you can. Then shoot thirty rounds at the other one as fast as you can with your grip out farther on the handguard. See which one gives you faster and more accurate followup shots

    • If you place your support hand on the mag well of an AR and you move your barrel/point of aim to the side to engage a target, often times you’ll find the barrel has gone past the point where you want it to stop. Holding the hand guards just tends to give you better control.

  4. “D’Ambrosia says the enemy now has thermal imaging ”

    Pretty sure he meant the bad guys have night vision in that segment, right about at the 1:00 mark. I have been kind of torn about buying a green laser for my rifle, just seems like a nice to have but for my purposes mostly unnecessary piece of kit.

      • Even cheaper given the amount of gear that has been left in porta-johns, “walked off” of FOBs, or exchanged hands. I’ve even heard of gear being left behind after a vic was down hard and the unit didn’t want to (or couldn’t) tow it. A lot of weird stuff went down over the last 12 years in both AORs.

  5. A laser is faster on-target than a red dot, plain iron sights or simple CQ point shooting? Interesting. And someone who is designated by a laser will give up faster than someone who is looking down the barrel of an M4? Interesting.

    Why do I think that the military wants lasers because they love their toys more than they love their soldiers?

    • They’re good for crowd control. It takes all the guesswork out of “who’s gonna get shot first”. I think that was his point.

      It makes me think of that scene in Tombstone – “Yeah, you can rush me. But first I’m gonna turn your head into a canoe…”

    • In many Middle-Eastern countries, the locals got used to having barrels pointed at them. Very poor muzzle awareness. It was (and still is) common knowledge that your average jundi/askar/satanman had little or no ammo while out on a checkpoint. Lasers tend to get their attention. Especially after plenty of EOF experiences.

  6. Oh, and one more thing. I asked D’Ambrosia about the assertion that laser sights give away its owner’s position. He laughed. “This isn’t about stealth,” he said. “When you’re in close-quarters combat the enemy knows you’re there. They can hear you and they can see you. The laser lets you get on target faster and more accurately in a situation where it’s all about speed, surprise and violence.”

    First, D’Ambrosia’s statement that “this isn’t about stealth” directly conflicts with his later self-serving argument that “the laser lets you get on target faster….in a situation where it’s all about…surprise….” If the visibility of the laser doesn’t matter because it is all about surprise, well, have your cake or it, but not both: Either stealth/surprise matters, or it doesn’t.

    Given to lengthy comments, I’ll skip the multiple attributions for this from current and recent SOF folks: “Today lasers in SW are about IR lasers, not visible lasers!” At night you’re equipped for the night, with NVD. Your NV compatible HWS or RD provides the aim, an IR illuminator on a soft switch provides better illumination if needed (a KL5 head or similar on your weapon light), and if you’re lucky you have a dual thermal/NV rifle sight, giving a very complete, if expensive, sight picture.

    Agree with the implications of Ralph’s rhetorical statements of what we instantly recognize as non-fact. It is laughable to say “this isn’t about stealth, when we all can recall that the key arguments (even today) in favor of an EOTech rather than an Aimpoint 1x sight are…that the EOTech gives off no light visible from downrange, and allows slightly faster time to first aimed shot. It is difficult not to agree with Seans’ point, that “Trying to find your laser is always going to be slower than point/instinctive whatever you want to call it shooting.” Whether you credit his word or not, Robert O’Neill claimed his first (and lethal) shot on Bin Laden was instinctive (trained point) shooting, and that he only had his EO’s dot on Bin Laden by the second shot, both shots fired in less than half a second, total. So, too, Ray Davis, reputedly Pakistan station chief (alternately “a CIA contractor”) at the time he killed two young men on a motorboke (both alledgedly ISI employees), fired his first five shots through his windshield (at least one shot hitting each of the motorbike armed threats), then hopped out and fired four more. The inventory of Davis’ gear tallied by the Pak cops who caught him in a hot pursuit included his Glock 17 and mags, cell phone, some first aid bits, a small telescope, etc….and an IR illuminator useful only for signalling and for illuminating cell phone photos in near-dark conditions (i.e. clandestine photos).

    One all these lasers start criss-crossing a room the scene will be reminiscent of the casino vault’s laser alarm system in Oceans Eleven. Laugh

  7. So you say visible lasers are bad because theyll dance around and confuse you, butn IR lasers are great and magically won’t be distracting for an entry team? If one is bad they’re all bad, if one is good they’re all good. It’s the same thing.

    • Tommygunner: Don’t know who your comment was aimed at, but it is interesting to sort out. I think lots of the discussion ignores context and also divergence of situation and experience,

      Clearly military users have uses for long range IR and specialty lasers: I have little to say about those, the markers and so forth, They are used with tripod support. IR lasers on handheld small arms can be held steady by fit, young, and well-trained users, just as visible lasers can. I’m not young, not (this year…) particularly fit, and don’t need an alternative to an EO/Scope and some illumination.

      I can’t make use of an IR laser as a main target marker, though I can make use of IR illumination, a NV monocular, working together with an EO set to a low NV setting. I don’t have a need for the combination, though Texas hog hunters might. Out and about in the civilian world I’m still more comfortable bring a very bright little flashlight out before my handgun, for reasons that include law and local social environment.

      I cannot legally uaw night vision devices and IR for hunting. I have CTLG’s on my pair of 1911’s. Why? With a friend observing it is possible, with the laser on, to detect exactly where I’m going wrong into and through trigger pull: It’s a teaching aid. It also enables shots on target when I cannot get direct visual alignment. At short ranges 5-10 meters, and with a wide enough target box, the laser waggle isn’t nearly as maddening as “chasing the dot” is with some red dot sights.

      With the option of white light, the red laser, or just the simple night sights, I have options enough on the house pistol/long gun. For carry (1911 or G30S) I just forgo the attached white light, but carry a bright little flashlight. I suppose many people follow the same approximate rules. I don’t live in a dangerous environment day-to-day.

      I basically like lasers for training. I haven’t used a laser sight in combat, and so should leave comments on that to others.

  8. Never been a fan of lasers in general. The peq 15 was nifty and it worked pretty well, but it takes a lot of trigger time with it to really get the hang of it

    • Agreed. But PEQs really are not for CQB purposes. When room clearing or running the rabbit in hallways, eyes are locked with your muzzle scanning for targets. PEQs are better for integrating with NVGs at intermediate ranges–not up close and personal.

      • Curious what your level of CQB training is cause PEQ15s are absolutely vital in CQB. Taking shots at nights, deconflictions, signaling, illuminating the room cause its to dark for your NODs, If you want to get into upper level CQB were there is no talking I don’t see how you are not going be able to do it without a PEQ.

        • I’m not sure I agree it’s vital. Like someone stated above, for up close you should just be able to drive your barrel forwards your target and drop it without any sort of sights at all using your natural point of aim. Hell I can rapid fire a snub nosed LCR within 10 yards without using the sights and hit center.
          It could be useful for illuminating a room, but if the building is that dark where you can’t see with your nods on, my infantry unit’s sop was to have one person in a fire team flip on their IR illumination built into the NOD itself.
          Is the Peq Useful? Sure. Vital? Not sure I’m convinced. I’m with whoever said it’s primarily meant for intermediate distances.

        • 100% agree and I used a peq15 in iraq. cqb doesnt always mean room clearing either. across a street or in an alleyway or something similar. hell half the time when a target is moving or running by the time you raise the rifle and get your eye to the optic the bad guy is gone. the laser definitely let us get shots on target much faster

        • @ Steve, you got that right, brother.

          I recall sitting on Haifa Street one dark night in December of 2004 while a team cleared an IED ahead of us. You could see movement and knew there were guys running around the storefronts like cockroaches all up and down the street. We got out without any casualties, but I would have given my right . . er, body part for a laser that night.

        • @Tile Floor
          The problem with point of aim shooting at night is that you probably aren’t going to be able to get a cheek weld that well with NODs on. Maybe with a set of 18s(if you never switch shoulders), but not with 15s, and that is going to throw your instinctive shooting off.

          And the shooting is the easiest part of CQB. Again how are you going to communicate at night without talking if you don’t have a laser. How are you going show your buddy you got one threat and he needs to pick up another if he can’t tell what you are holding on.

  9. And where did the enemy get those sights and lasers?

    Answer . . . from us.

    $500M worth of equipment unaccounted for in Yemen alone, the stronghold of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). And much more than that in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • I am sure about any industrialized or even semi-industrialized country can come up with something that at least mostly works at night. I mean we have outsourced a lot of our electronic components to third world countries.

      • Very true, Indiana Tom.

        We leave behind tons of material, outsource the production of various components, and it becomes a simple process to a) use what we left, b) reverse engineer and build their own. Look at the thriving cottage industry in making guns in so many Third World nations. Electronic components are a bit more complicated, but with the resources of a government, or opposition government, often well funded by USAID programs, it isn’t all that hard to build their own.

  10. Retired SSG who works for a laser company makes sweeping statements outside his expertise based on anecdotal experience, and TTAG publishes it.

    Gun rags and firearms blogs…the differences are growing smaller and smaller.

    • sweeping statements? what sweeping statements did he make? that bad guys are likely to have night vision nowadays? thats pretty well accepted. the instructor was showing them how to use their actual laser equipment that they are issued and fielded. if he was infantry it is more than appropriate and pretty damn nice that they did this for free considering they dont make peqs

  11. Active lighting makes things more fun for those who are not at CQC distance. Don’t forget the batteries like the high speed operators do at GunSite. Do what you want but KISS it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here