Instinctive Advantage Of The Laser Sight

Instinctive Advantage Of The Laser Sight

Red sight

Lighting up your aiming solution with a laser sight isn't a gimmick, it's plum revolutionary.

So, here’s the problem: You’re violently accosted by a goblin with murderous intent. Maybe he has a club, a knife, a gun or tire tool. It really doesn’t matter—regardless of the goblin’s chosen weapon, his plan is to use it on you. He’s only about 30 feet away, and you have mere seconds or less to react. What are your options? The liberal left would suggest you put your hands up and beg. Those of us who understand that our safety is our own responsibility will fight back.

Now, the bad guy is even closer. You clear your cover garment and draw your handgun, and it’s time to properly execute the most difficult element of shooting to save your life: You have to shift your focus from the thing you’re most afraid of to that very small front sight on your pistol. Then, you have to place the front sight on the stopping spot, position it in the rear sight notch and press the trigger … without altering sight alignment.

Yes; it’s just as hard to do as it sounds!

Most of us struggle to complete that exercise in fewer than three seconds when we are not about to piss our pants. Logic dictates that the best solution would be to make the shot without having to shift our visual focus. Some folks call that “point shooting,” and while point shooting can work at extremely close range, it was largely abandoned—because point shooting is very accurately named. There’s a reason it’s called point shooting and not point hitting.

What if we could very swiftly and accurately use a handgun to place a shot into the stopping spot on a bad guy and never have to take our eyes or focus off that bad guy? Wouldn’t that be a magically wonderful and effective way to address the situation? Of course it would. If you believe otherwise, you’re either as high as my grocery bill (I have three kids), or you’ve forgotten where you put your tinfoil hat.

Laser Sight: Crutch Or Essential?

This is why a laser on a defensive handgun is a good idea. It allows you to maintain a target focus. In other words, you can keep your eyes on what you’re shooting at. What a novel concept! Don’t you realize this is the exact reason a scoped rifle is so much easier to shoot accurately? The riflescope puts the sight (the reticle) and the target into the same focal plane.

A critical aspect of utilizing these devices on a defensive handgun is that it must be zeroed correctly. The dot should appear on the target directly above the front sight at about 10 yards.
A critical aspect of utilizing a laser sight on a defensive handgun is that it must be zeroed correctly. The dot should appear on the target directly above the front sight at about 10 yards.

I continue to be flabbergasted by the number of shooters who claim a laser is just a crutch or gimmick.

OK; let’s think about this logically. I can point my handgun at a bad guy, and a little red or green dot will appear on his torso. I can then move the handgun so that this highly visible dot is in the exact spot I want to place the bullet. I can then pull the trigger, and … guess what? The bullet will land in the exact place the little bright dot was pointing. I don’t know about you, but this is not only logical, it’s a revolutionary way to hit things with handguns.

Why are some so critical of laser sights? Well, there are several reasons.

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The first is that early handgun lasers were ridiculous contraptions that were very unreliable. That was late in the last century. Crimson Trace solved those problems more than 20 years ago.

Another reason is that some believe the laser will fail when you need it most. This is largely due to a mistrust of technology and electricity. Um, electricity is pretty damned reliable; after all, you trust it every day when you drive your car or ride in an airplane. And, if you’re worried about battery failure, check the damned thing on a daily basis. (For what it’s worth, Crimson Trace offers batteries for life when you buy one of its lasers.)

It’s the little compact handguns such as these that are popular for concealed carry. They become easier to shoot accurately with these aiming solutions.
It’s the little compact handguns such as these that are popular for concealed carry. They become easier to shoot accurately with a laser sight.

Maybe the most common reason for distrust of lasers is that some people think when you go to stop that bad guy and his knife and don’t see your laser on target, you’ll melt into a pile of indecision and ultimately be carved up into little slices of gruesomeness.

Countering Laser Sight Arguments

There are three very simple and practical counters to this argument. The first is training.

No matter the handgun, rifle or shotgun you plan to defend your life with, if you’re not training with it, you’re a fool—or so bleeping lazy that self-preservation is probably not a serious concern of yours in the first place. Frequent practice with a laser-sight-equipped handgun will not only speed up your engagement times, it will also help you learn and develop the ability to point your handgun at the right spot almost instinctively.

The second solution is to zero your laser sight correctly. Although there are several schools of thought regarding how this should be done, for a defensive handgun, there is really only one correct answer: The laser should appear just above the front sight at realistic self-defense engagement distances—something between 5 and 10 yards. When this is done, you’re looking for the laser in the exact spot you should always be looking—at the front sight.

The third aspect is that when you present your pistol to the target, you always draw to the front sight. What I mean by this is that your default should be to look for the sight as your handgun is pressed toward the target. However, more than likely, you’ll see the laser on the target way before you have a chance to see the front sight. If for some reason (dead batteries, broken laser, failure to activate due a bad grip) you don’t see the laser where it’s supposed to be, guess what? The front sight will be there. A laser sight on a defensive handgun is a redundant sight system, just like the combination of a red-dot and open sights is on an AR.

Without question, you can shoot more accurately and faster with these upgrades. Yes, there’s a training curve, but improvement comes quickly.
Without question, you can shoot more accurately and faster with an instinctively activated laser sight. Yes, there’s a training curve, but improvement comes quickly.

There are plenty of other arguments to support the use of a laser sight on a defensive handgun—most notably, low light. In near darkness, open sights can become invisible. Other reasons are when shooting from unconventional positions, such as across your body; when you’re on the ground; or even on your hands and knees. In those positions, getting the sights in front of your eyes can be very problematic. With a laser sight, it’s unnecessary to get the handgun between your face and the threat/target.

Are you getting the picture? A laser sight on a defensive handgun is, if not a necessity, a damned fine idea.

But, as with everything in life, there’s more to the concept than might be readily apparent. The type of laser sight might be more important than simply having one. In my opinion, the only type of laser sight that should ever be installed on a defensive handgun is one that’s instinctively activated. By that, I mean the laser should come on when you establish a shooting grip on the handgun. If you have to do anything else, if you have to push some additional button or flip some kind of switch, you have the wrong laser. Sure, you could argue that these types of activations are applicable for tactical teams or military units, but we’re talking about regular folk like you and me, not highly trained assault teams.

I’ve been a proponent of instinctively activated lasers on defensive handguns for more than 20 years. I even wrote a book about it: Handgun Training for Personal Protection, How to Choose & Use the Best Sights, Lights, and Lasers (Gun Digest, 2013). And, for more than 20 years, I’ve been using and trusting instinctively activated lasers from Crimson Trace.

Are there other practical options? Probably. I periodically test new laser sight products, but I’ve yet to discover anything that’s as reliable and sensible as what Crimson Trace has to offer.

Top Crimson Trace Handgun Laser Options

Crimson Trace options are easy to install. They simply replace the grip panels on your pistol or revolver.
Crimson Trace Laser Grips are easy to install. They simply replace the grip panels on your pistol or revolver.

Regardless of the defensive handgun you’ve chosen, there’s a high probability Crimson Trace makes either a set of laser grips or a laser guard for it. I have several handguns I trust to carry for personal protection. With just a few exceptions, they’re all equipped with either Crimson Trace Laser Grips or LaserGuard.

Crimson Trace Laser Grips
The genius behind the Crimson Trace Laser Grip is that it doesn’t really seem like an addition to your handgun. You simply remove the grip panels on your handgun and install the laser grips. They have an activation button that’s either on the front strap or back strap of the grip, right where your middle finger or the palm of your hand rests when a proper shooting grip is obtained. This is where the brilliant instinctiveness of the concept is activated: You don’t have to think about it; you just grip the pistol, and the laser comes on.

For revolvers and semi-automatic handguns with grip panels, these laser grips replace the factory stocks. For the more modern polymer-framed pistols such as Glocks, Crimson Trace’s Laser Grip wraps around the grip—high, where the web between your thumb and index finger contacts the pistol. Although most laser grips, regardless of the type, increase the grip size slightly, in most cases, you’ll hardly notice it at all. One of the most appealing facets of Lasers Grips is that they don’t impact holster selection. MSRP: $220–$410.

Crimson Trace LaserGuard
The LaserGuard from Crimson Trace is a bit of a different “animal.” The LaserGuard attaches to a pistol’s dust cover forward of the trigger guard and under the barrel. It’s made from a rugged polymer material and sort of sandwiches the forward frame of the pistol. Because a portion of the LaserGuard extends back under the trigger guard, it still offers that instant, instinctive activation when a shooting grip is obtained.
The downside of the LaserGuard is that it will require a special holster, because it adds bulk to the pistol. However, it only adds minimal weight: a LaserGuard weighs between 3 and 4 ounces. And, there’s a big plus to the LaserGuard: In addition to the instinctively activated laser sight, it can be had with an instinctively activated white light (Surely, I don’t have to delve into the benefits of a light on a defensive pistol!). MSRP: $250–$330.

For more information on Crimson Trace laser sights, please visit

The article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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  1. I have had a Crimson Trace grip laser on my 1911 .45 Commander for a couple of years now. I like it for a quick defensive system; such as would experienced by the attacker scenario. Truth is, at the range, I can’t shoot well with the laser when aiming down the sights. I have to make sure that I have laser “off”. With the laser off, I can easily hit my target; twenty to thirty yards away. It seems that using the laser instead of the open sights, I concentrate on where the “dot” is , and end up watching my hand shake. The laser amplifies the hand movements(shaking), immensely.


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