Should You Put A Laser On Your Gun? Pros/Cons

Have you ever considered equipping your pistol with a laser sight? Many people have. Chad with Green Light Shooting [YouTube channel] discusses some of the pros and cons of using lasers on our firearms in the video below, using a couple of different Crimson Trace laser models.

Chad from Green Light Shooting.
Chad walks us through the pros and cons of using lasers on our guns. Photo: Green Light Shooting

When Chad went to the range to try out the various lasers mounted on pistols, he tried to create situations that resembled home defense scenarios. I applaud him for his line of thinking to keep things realistic.

Smith & Wesson pistols with Crimson Trace lasers
Among the pistols used with Crimson Trace were two Smith & Wesson autos. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Without further adieu, let’s jump into Chad’s Pros/Cons.

What are the benefits of a laser sight on a pistol?

Intuitive Design

Many Crimson Trace models have the activation button on the front of the handgun’s grip, making activation automatic and easy. The laser stays on as long as the hand is grasping the gun’s handle. Even on models without the button on the front of the grip, the button is on the back strap.

Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 with Crimson trace laser
Here the button to activate the Crimson Trace laser is on the front of the grip. As soon as the pistol is gripped, the laser is activated. Here a Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 is shown. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)
Crimson Trace activation button on grip of S&W
This photo shows a model with the activation button on the backstrap of the pistol. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Awkward Shooting Postures

If we cannot gain the ideal shooting posture or position, lasers can help. Our position might be compromised. We may have to shoot from around cover. If sight alignment cannot be achieved, we still have an aiming point in the laser.

Chad from Green Light Shooting demonstrates shooting posture with a Smith & Wesson that has a Crimson Trace green laser
Chad aptly points out that we might not always be able to acquire a perfect shooting stance during a critical incident. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Fast Target Acquisition

Once the laser is close to the target, it is quick to move to where we need it.

Low Light

The laser helps in low light where we might not be able to see our sights well, such as in home-defense situations, law enforcement, or military scenarios.

Crimson Trace red laser in low light
Lasers work best in low light conditions. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Training Aid

The laser can show new shooters what happens when they are squeezing the trigger. Come to think of it, this isn’t a bad idea with us old salts, either! It can help in dry fire practice as well as live fire at the range.

Better Stats

Statistics show better hits are achieved on targets when lasers are used. The study was conducted by Crimson Trace on law enforcement officers. Hits went from as low as 25% up to 90%.

Psychological Effect

A person is affected psychologically when they see a laser on their body. This is believed to lessen the chances of having to use force, as borne out in numerous incidents across the country. There are cases documented of bad guys who gave up because they saw the laser on their person.

Easy Installation

The lasers are easy to install and remove from firearms.

Chad shows how easily the laser unit is installed on the pistol.
Chad shows how easily the laser unit is installed on the pistol. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Visual Appeal

Chad points out that he thinks pistols look a bit cooler when they have a laser attached. It adds a little extra to the gun aesthetically.

What are the negative points about using a laser sight on a pistol?

Slower

Chad says that target acquisition with lasers is not quite as fast as when using a red dot sight. He notes that his eyes always go to the red dot first, but he admits that it could be because he’s trained more with the dot sight.

Shooting S&W
Chad notes that, for him, the red dot sight (RDS) is faster than the Crimson Trace laser, although he admits it might be because he’s trained more extensively with the RDS. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Holster Incompatibility

Chad points out that, with his M&P 2.0, he can’t use his holsters when the laser is mounted. Because it mounts under the barrel in front of the trigger guard, it adds size to the pistol, preventing it from fitting his holsters. There are holsters that will accommodate the laser, but it’s an extra expenditure.

Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 with Crimson Trace laser
The unit attaches to the accessory rail and goes over the trigger guard, with the button at the front of the grip. It does interfere with being used in a standard holster. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Power

It runs on a battery, and batteries go dead. People become reliant on electronics. If/when they don’t function, it can throw people off their game and it can be catastrophic. 

Lighting Conditions

In bright light, the laser may not show up well on the target, making them ineffective in such conditions.

S&W pistol with red dot
In bright light, the Crimson Trace laser does not show up nearly as well as it does in low light. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Less Covert

In a combat situation, the laser could possibly give away your position. When it’s activated, it does light up, so be aware.

Location of Laser

With lasers mounted high on the grip on the right side of the handgun, we may cover up the laser with our index finger. Many of us are taught to keep that finger raised, off the trigger, along the slide. Doing so covers the laser. Adjusting our grip may be necessary.

Blocked Crimson Trace laser with finger extended on gun slide
Keeping our trigger finger along the frame as we are taught can cover up the laser. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Occupied Real Estate

You’re giving up your accessory rail, so you can’t mount a light down there if you’re using the laser.

Crimson Trace laser attached to Sig Sauer handgun
Mounting a laser prevents the mounting of a light when the accessory rail is used, as shown on this Sig Sauer pistol. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

Price

When Chad searched the website, he found the average price of the Crimson Trace lasers is around $300. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s an investment.

Overall Considerations 

Chad believes that the pros outweigh the cons. However, he points out again that you’re spending the initial investment for the pistol (many are around $500), then investing in the laser ($300, give or take), and then an additional holster to accommodate the laser ($50-75). So take all of that under consideration.

Closeup of Crimson Trace laser on a S&W M&P 2.0.
This Crimson Trace laser unit mounts on the accessory rail, fits over the trigger guard, and has a button on the front of the grip. The pistol is a Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

What are the uses for a pistol laser sight?

Chad opines that he is going to keep the laser mounted on his defensive carry pistols all the time. He likes the fact that as soon as the pistol is gripped, the laser comes on. He doesn’t intend to install a light because, in a defensive situation, he doesn’t believe that he will have the presence of mind to activate the light. That’s why he really likes the aspect of the laser being activated automatically.

Firing the M&P 2.0 at the range.
Firing the M&P 2.0 with the Crimson Trace Laser installed. (Photo: Green Light Shooting)

My Thoughts

Deterrent Value

I like the aspect that using a laser can potentially prevent us from having to use deadly force, in that the bad guy can see he’s been “painted” by the laser and is about to become ventilated. That psychological deterrent alone might be worth the price of admission for this piece of gear.

Any time that we can avoid shooting another person is extraordinarily good! On one level, we avoid having to take a life, along with all the associated psychological trauma that comes along with it. On another level, we avoid the legal system and its associated costs and possible prison time. Everyone wins.

Inside a prison.
Avoiding prison is always a good thing. Photo: Author’s collection.

Caution

I’m all for using gear that is going to enhance our abilities. The buyer will have to decide if the monetary price is worth it. For many, it probably will be.

However, I will caution people that they should develop good skills using the old-fashioned sights before ever thinking of relying on a laser or other electronic device. Using an aid to help our shooting can sometimes lead people to rely too heavily upon said aid. We often see people who are all too willing to substitute gadgets for shooting ability and practice. Devices can fail. Iron sights generally do not. You cannot purchase ability and skill. So, develop a good base ability with those sights, because they will always be with you.

Overall

This video review keeps things realistic and does an excellent job covering all the pros and cons. If you’re curious about the ins and outs of lasers, I highly recommend watching this video.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities.

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