Hollywood has done a lot to popularize laser sights since Arnie picked up his .45 longslide with laser sighting back in 1984. They’ve come a long way since then – probably the reason the Terminator used a longslide is the sight was longer than a standard 1911 – and are pretty much standard infantry issue. Laser sights have a lot going for them in close quarter battle. They allow fast target acquisition, even if you don’t have a chance to take up a proper fire position. In a home defence context they can have a similar effect to the sound of a pump shotgun being cocked – their intimidation effect can de-escalate the situation enough that you don’t have to fire at all.
Laser sights weren’t the first aiming modules though. Flashlights were being mounted on firearms long before battery-powered lasers were even a possibility. It’s difficult to pin down when someone first had the idea of fitting a lamp to a gun, but it was probably as far back as the Second World War and possibly earlier. By the 1970s, various Special Forces units, including the SAS, were fitting their MP5s with handgrips that integrated a powerful light. The basic principle is exactly the same as a laser sight – some lamps project a bright center spot, which can be placed on the target. With others, the shooter just centers the target in the beam and fires. It’s not as precise as a laser, but at the ranges these sighting aids are used it’s usually precise enough.
It seems like old-fashioned white light would be obsolete now that compact, reliable lasers are available, but that’s not the case. Lasers have an advantage in bright light because the spot they project is more visible, but in other circumstances conventional lights are as good, or even better. For one thing they provide illumination, while a laser doesn’t. Unless you’re using an IR laser and night vision gear, a light is going to let you detect targets in low light, and visually confirm exactly what you’re engaging before you pull the trigger.
Where a graduated response is required, white light can serve another purpose too. Modern LED lamps are extremely bright; some weapon lights can throw a useful beam more than 300 yards. If you shine such a focused, intense light in an aggressor’s eyes he’s going to be seriously dazzled, possibly even to the point of becoming disoriented. He certainly isn’t going to be aiming a weapon at you for the next few minutes. A laser can also dazzle, but it’s much harder to get the beam onto the target’s eyes. There’s also a risk of causing permanent damage.
A few years ago, fitting a light to your weapon usually meant buying a custom handguard or rigging something together, but with the popularity of 1913 rails there’s now a huge range of modular lamps available. You can even get a multifunction sight combining a light and a laser. This is probably the ultimate in flexibility. It’s so easy to add this capability to your weapon that every shooter should consider it.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.