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Laser wars.

After 20 years of offering red lasers, Crimson Trace is making a push toward green. G&A asked why.

IRON SIGHTS ARE COMPARABLE to a manual transmission. They both have a proven track record of reliability that no one seems to question, and, in my opinion, both should be mastered. However, just as the automatic transmission makes driving easier, a laser on your firearm can make shooting easier.

The Laser Advantage You can't argue that lasers simplify sight alignment. Rather than dividing attention between the front sight rear sight and the target, a laser reveals precisely where your gun is aimed assuming that it has been zeroed. Gun people, who advocate for lasers on a firearm, call out the fact that there is a strong instinctual urge to focus on the threat when under duress. This makes it difficult to align sights. There is also a tendency for people, who don't benefit from regular training, to point shoot during a critical situation often producing errant shots. Lasers help negate the "threat focus" problem by making us aware of where our muzzle is pointed.

Lasers are also beneficial when you are forced to shoot from unconventional positions. You won't get to decide where a gunfight takes place. If you are the intended victim you're likely to be ambushed in a situation where you are more easily overcome, and your gun will start out below your line of sight. A laser can also help increase your odds if you find yourself shooting from behind cover. Accurate fire is easier to deliver on target without the need to place your head directly behind the gun where it could be exposed.

Finally, a laser has proven to be a psychological deterrent to a potential attacker. If a bad guy realizes there's a dot on his chest, he often becomes less motivated to attack and more worried about being shot. As an active police officer, I've witnessed this phenomenon. There's even a laser on my Taser, and this has happened to me several times when I've experienced the need to deploy it.

Trend Setters. In the back of an Oregon machine shop in 1994, Lew Danielson founded Crimson Trace and revolutionized the shooting world with the introduction of his firearm laser sight. It was an internal laser adapted to a Glock pistol that he still owns. His company paved the way for other laser companies, and, as the name implies, Crimson Trace built its reputation on red lasers. However, in the last 22 years, technology advanced and a demand for green lasers grew as the result of their market's competition. It looked to be a passing trend, but in the last few years green lasers have come a long way. As other laser companies quickly jumped on the green-laser bandwagon, Crimson Trace spent the last several years in the lab researching and developing green-laser science. They didn't want to simply profit off of a me-too product. This year they have a full line that compliments their red laser units. You now have a choice: red or green? Why green? My first exposure to green laser technology came in 2010.1 found a Viridian C5L sample to work with ahead of "Guns & Ammo TV" filming, and decided to use it on my handguns. As everyone seems to notice right away, the green laser appears much brighter than a red laser. When I was subsequently training in a darkened environment, such as, a shoothouse, I had to be honest with my initial assessment. Both colors work well in low-light environments. However, it is in daylight where the advantage of a green laser is clear.

The human eye's visible color spectrum range lands between 400 and 700 nanometers (nm). Ultraviolet (UV) light falls below 400nm and infrared (IR) is higher than 700nm. Peak visibility for the human eye is right around 555nm, and a red laser has a longer wavelength. Typically red lasers have a 650nm wavelength, while the average green laser's wavelength is at 530nm and is much closer to the peak visibility of our eyes.

So, why aren't all lasers green? I've asked that question of several different companies lately and uncovered some drawbacks. For example, green lasers are inherently more expensive to manufacture and often have a shorter battery life than comparable red laser devices. The reliable temperature operating range for a green laser is also smaller: 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees. Beyond that the brightness will dim, and it's not due to the battery. A red laser's performance is reliably better than green when subjected to below-freezing temperatures, as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider how hot or cold the inside of your car can get throughout the year and carry accordingly.

What would make a company built on red lasers offer an extensive line of green lasers? Are red lasers soon to be a thing of the past? These are a couple questions I recently directed to Michael Faw, marketing manager at Crimson Trace.

"Red lasers are not going away. In fact, they continue to be very popular products for us. Crimson Trace offers more than 200 red laser devices. Due to market demand and customer requests, Crimson Trace decided to expand their product line to include green laser versions of their popular red laser models. We have no intention of being a copycat. Instead, we sought to deliver the highest quality and most user-friendly green laser platform."

When asked what distinguished Crimson Trace green lasers from the competition, Faw explained the quality of their lenses and diodes are part of the Crimson Trace secret sauce. That and the proprietary "Instinctive Activation" feature that makes these laser products perhaps the most ergonomic and intuitive to operate.

Many models now feature four batteries rather than two. This not only extends battery life but also produces an even stronger beam by pushing more power.

With regard to a laser's wavelength, Faw said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires green lasers to not exceed 530nm. (Yes, the FDA is the body that regulates lasers. How the FDA became the regulating body is another story.) According to the classifications in product literature, Crimson Trace's green lasers are akin to a green laser pointer. It turns out that such green lasers can be hazardous to our sight if pointed directly into the eye, especially for an extended period of time.

Lasergrips Thanks to Crimson Trace Lasergrips, a handgun doesn't necessarily need a special holster or a rail to wear a laser. Lasergrips are engineered to be user-installed by simply replacing a handgun's grip panels.

Lasergrips are equipped with a master on and off switch, which is strategically positioned to prevent accidental activation. The green laser versions provide two hours of continuous activation, which usually equates to one year service life when carrying that gun. Most importantly, due to the Instinctive Activation feature, when you achieve your natural grip, the laser automatically activates.

I've used Crimson Trace Lasergrips for years and find them tremendously beneficial. My only complaint is a personal one that's more a result of a safety-rule habit. With the Lasergrip's emitting diode positioned near the slide's rail, I tend to rest my index finger near the top of the frame, which gets in the laser's way when I'm not on the trigger. Of course, when I really need the laser, my finger is inside the triggerguard and no longer obstructing the laser.

Laserguard As with Lasergrips, the Laserguard models are easily installed and maintain Crimson Trace's Instinctive Activation technology. Similar to the Lasergrips, the Laserguard doesn't require a rail to mount. Instead, it attaches to the triggerguard. The Laseguard is a popular accessory for compact and sub compact handguns. These firearms usually have undersized iron sights and a short sight radius, making them difficult to shoot quickly or accurately.

Rail Master The Rail Master can be mounted to any Picatinny accessory rail. It is extremely lightweight and takes up surprisingly little real estate on an rail system. Unlike the Lasergrips and Laserguard, the Rail Master does not support the Instinctive Activation feature. Instead, the laser is activated by a tap on a paddle switch located on either side of the unit. A second tap deactivates the laser. The Rail Master is a universal laser that can be used with handguns, rifles or shotguns.

MVF-515. The Modular Vertical Foregrip 515 Green (MVF-515) features a green laser, as well as a light. The unit easily attaches to the 6 o'clock position of your rifle's railed handguard. Not only does MVF-515 serve as a convenient vertical grip to help support the weight of the rifle and drive the muzzle, it enables you to easily activate the light and/or laser.

A vertically oriented pressure pad on either side of the grip activates the laser, while the horizontal-positioned pressure pad located just above activates the 150 to 200 Lumen LED light. The unit's laser and light can be turned on simultaneously by simply squeezing all of your fingers.

I was impressed with how ruggedly built the MVF-515 is. It is constructed of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum, with a proprietary and tacky grip texture on the front and back that is reminiscent of skateboard tape.

Mounting a laser on your firearm doesn't alleviate you of the responsibility of learning to shoot with iron sights. Preparing for a worst-case scenario means acknowledging that even high-quality pieces of kit can fail at the most inopportune time. That being said, laser technology enables us to more easily and precisely aim our firearm. To discredit such technology is foolhardy.

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Author:Nance, Richard
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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