The Pros and Cons of Laser Sights

A laser sight is a good training tool, as it’ll help you see and therefore control pistol shake and to see if you’re pulling off target as you press a handgun’s trigger.

In the world of self-defense, laser sights have become increasingly popular, with many different models available for most handguns. Many shooters, including myself, find them to be a wonderful addition to a handgun. Others find them to be a hindrance. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.

Pro: Improved aiming ability.

The basic skills required to become proficient with your handgun won’t change as a result of the addition of laser sights. Trigger control, safe handling, muzzle control, and more all remain an integral part of the shooting equation. However, sight picture when using iron sights can become a problem, especially when the shooter has older eyes that cause the sights to “fuzz out.”

I’m 43 years old, and I am certain that my eyes aren’t what they were when I was in my 20s. I can still shoot iron-sighted rifles well, but a scope, with its single focal plane, makes aiming much easier. The same goes for handguns. Aging eyes (if you’re over 40 I’m sure you know about reading glasses) don’t focus on both iron sights and the target well.

My father, who is 64, has such trouble with iron sights. He was expressing these concerns to me not too long ago, while we were shooting his WWII-vintage 1911.

“The sights are fuzzy, and I’m using instinct more than ever,” he said.

Dad doesn't easily embrace new technologies, but when I told him about Crimson Trace laser sights, he didn't put up too much of a fight. The sight is mounted in a set of replacement grips, using a pair of hearing-aid style batteries, and generates a red laser from a diode on the right-hand side of the grip, just above the index finger knuckle. It is fully adjustable for elevation and windage via a tiny Allen-key wrench.

Installation was as simple as screw-off and screw-on. Within a few shots, Dad and I had the laser aligned to hit the bullseye at 15 paces, and I immediately noticed his accuracy improved. The laser is plainly visible in the brightest daylight, and shooting with one becomes a simple process of “painting” the bullseye with the laser, and using your natural shooting skills.

Some lasers add bulk to a handgun. For concealed carry you'll likely have to purchase a holster made to fit a laser-sighted pistol. These Lasergrips from Crimson Trace offer an adjustable laser sight embedded in the grip panel and the activation switch in the front strap, adding minimal bulk. Similar products are available from Hogue and other grip companies.

“I’ve got to tell you, those laser grips are a huge advancement in handgun products,” said my father, a man doesn’t dole out compliments easily. He feels like he has a renewed lease on his sidearm.

Con: Possible loss of fundamental skills.

Detractors feel that using a laser sight takes away from the fundamental handgun skills that should be acquired by shooters of any age. They may have a point. When using a handgun in a highly stressful situation, muscle memory will take over, and you should be completely confident in your shooting form. A laser has the possibility of making someone lazy about maintaining good form.

Lasers also add bulk to a handgun and, for concealed carry, you’ll likely have to purchase a holster made to fit the laser sight.

The choice is ultimately up to you. If you feel comfortable adding a laser sight to your rig, be sure and do the legwork to become proficient with it, but certainly don’t ignore the traditional iron sights, and be sure to practice good handgun form.