Site-Rite 9mm Laser Bore Sighter: It’s a Good Thing

The increasing popularity of handgun optics means pistol shooters are now doing something that was more usually reserved for long guns: bore sighting. As with rifles, zeroing a handgun optic can be frustrating and time-consuming. It can also be expensive, especially the way ammo prices have been over the last few years. Fortunately, laser bore sighters are a thing, and Site-Rite makes zeroing your pistol almost painless.

Sight-Rite laser bore sighter
The Site-Rite Laser Bore Sighter is a valuable tool. (Author’s Photo)

An Emerging Need

Most pistols are accuracy tested before leaving the factory. I love companies that include the target. I just think it’s a nice touch. So, the factory iron sights are almost always dialed in right out of the box.

Optics are another story. Just like rifle scopes, the shooter must zero each optic to the gun and the shooter himself. Or herself. Also, like rifle scopes, getting rounds “on paper” is usually the most frustrating part of the process. Bore sighting speeds up and even eliminates that part of live fire zeroing. Laser-bore sighters save you time and they pay for themselves through saved ammo. How soon those savings are realized depends on how many optics you zero, but the time savings come quickly.

Sight-Rite laser bore sighter in pistol chamber
The Site-Rite laser cartridge fits right in your firearm’s chamber, guaranteeing accuracy. (Author’s Photo)

Laser bore sighters can also be used at home. So, you can get the time-consuming part out of the way before you even roll onto the range. That’s a big deal, especially if you use a public facility where you have to wait for the range to go cold every 30 minutes.

Laser Bore Sighters

There are two basic styles of laser bore sighters. One is ‘universal,” while the other is caliber specific. The universal variety inserts into the firearm’s muzzle. It has adapters to fit various calibers. It works with rifles and pistols. I tried one of those but didn’t care for it. I liked the concept, but the battery access was a real pain. That was made worse by the finicky battery life that seems endemic to laser bore sighters. At least the ones I’ve used. It was also significantly more expensive than the caliber-specific models.

The Site-Rite laser bore sighters that I’ve come to prefer are caliber specific. The downside is that you have to buy more than one, though most are compatible with several calibers. The upside is that they are far simpler to use, including changing the batteries. Ease of use is what swung me that way.

Pistol in gun vise for bore sighting
Make certain you have a stable base. (Author’s Photo)

Unlike the universal bore sighter, the Site-Rite is shaped like an ammunition cartridge. It inserts right into the chamber. That means you don’t have to fool with adapters or adjust the muzzle insert. Plus, seating the bore sighter in the chamber ensures accuracy every time.

A Word About Batteries

The laser bore sighters I’ve used have all demonstrated inconsistent, and sometimes downright poor, battery life. Sometimes I get 30 or 40 minutes before the laser fails altogether or becomes so dim that it can’t be seen past a few feet, even indoors. Sometimes I only get three or four minutes before that happens. I don’t know whether I’ve been singularly unlucky, or if that’s just the way it is. But I’ve used five or six different examples, so I tend to think that battery issues are just a feature of laser bore sighters.

Fortunately, the batteries are cheap. I buy 10-packs for $5 or $6 and just keep them around. So, with inconsistent batteries, the ease of changing those batteries has become a fairly big deal for me. That’s a big reason I prefer the Site-Rite products over the others I’ve tried. Just screw off the “cartridge head,” dump the old batteries, and insert the new ones. Screw the head back on. Quick and easy.

Disassembled Sight-Rite 9mm bore sighter with batteries
Battery changes are easy on the Site-Rite bore sighter. (Author’s Photo)

Bore Sighting Your Pistol Optic with Site-Rite

  • You will need a stable base for your pistol, whether that’s a vise or something else. You may want to level the gun. I use a portable Tipton Best Gun Vise. I have a small level I can place on the slide if I want. I lock the pistol’s slide to the rear before securing it in the vise.
  • Place a target at the same level as your pistol’s bore. You can measure if you want, but I’ve found that waiting until I turn on the laser, then placing the target with the laser on the bullseye is easier. Since I just tape the target to the wall, it’s no big deal. Honestly, the target isn’t strictly necessary, but I usually have one available, so I use it. Give yourself as much space as possible. I zero my handgun optics at 15 yards. It’s unlikely you’ll have that space at home, but remember, we’re just trying to get close.
  • With the laser pointed away from yourself, other people, and pets, activate the Site-Rite bore sighter cartridge by turning the plate on the case head. Sight-Rite provides a tool for that. It just engages the battery, like some small flashlights do. But use the tool. Screwing the case head down and back with your fingers can easily spring the head, resulting in small batteries bouncing in the floor. I’ve done that. So, use the tool.
  • Insert the laser cartridge into the pistol’s chamber. Make sure it’s seated firmly to ensure accuracy. Once the cartridge is secure, gently close the slide if you have a tilt-barrel design. Again, do it gently so you do not damage the bore sighter. This is unnecessary with a fixed barrel.
  • Here’s where you can adjust the target if you want. It isn’t really necessary, though.
  • Looking through your optic, walk the dot onto the laser point using the elevation and windage adjustment controls.
  • Once I can’t see the reticle for the laser, I punch up the optic’s brightness until I can see the difference. If you have a green dot, this will be easier. Make any final adjustments as needed.
Pistol in gun vise for bore sighting
I like to level my pistols in the vise. (Author’s Photo)

Bore Sighting is Not Zeroing

Do not mistake bore sighting for zeroing. They are not the same thing. Bore sighting can get you close, but you need to do a final zero at the range. Your zero depends on many things, including your optic, your mounting system, any plates you may use, the gun itself, and you, the shooter.

These Site-Rite bore sighters are designed to save you time and ammo when dialing in that final zero. Done correctly, you should already be on paper and fairly close to the bullseye when you start zeroing. But that’s all they are designed to do. So, don’t get lazy and assume your pistol’s optic is zeroed after it’s bore-sighted. It isn’t.

A Good Product

I have several sets of Site-Rite laser bore sighters. Most of those are for rifle calibers. As of this writing, the only pistol caliber Site-Rite offers is 9mm. But 9mm is, by far, the most popular pistol caliber, so it’s not like most folks won’t use it. Hopefully, though, Site-Rite will introduce other calibers like .45 and 10mm. Since some revolvers are now optics-capable, maybe we’ll see a .357 Magnum/.38 Special bore sighter. That would be cool. And the increased popularity of 9mm carbines makes the Site-Rite 9mm bore sighter even more versatile.

Laser bore sight picture
The bright red dot on the target’s bullseye is the laser. The dimmer dot below it is the Vortex Venom’s reticle. Use the windage and elevation adjustments to walk the reticle onto the laser. Note: This photo was taken at closer range than I normally bore sight my firearms to create a better photo. (Author’s Photo)

Each cartridge comes with a drawstring bag in which to keep the laser cartridge, batteries, and the tool that comes with each. I have a drawer for optics tools and accessories, and I just keep them there. Despite the battery frustrations, I like my Site-Rite bore sighters. Batteries are cheaper than ammo, after all.

If all this sounds good to you, consider picking up a Site-Rite laser bore sighter and trying it out. If nothing else, it gives you another excuse to play with your optics and accessories. And that’s always a good thing.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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