The bottom line is you should seriously consider adding a laser sight to your EDC/home defense setup as long as you understand the limitations.
I am going to wade into the middle of a very contentious topic within the gun world. I run a Crimson Trace DS-123 on my Springfield XD40 subcompact for home defense. As I explain the circumstances that led me to look into adding a laser to my setup, I found a lot of articles about the topic. Most of them centered around “should you run a laser sight on your weapon?” I personally advocate for it, with some caveats, while others strongly oppose with no exceptions. I wanted to write this article to explain my reasons and hopefully encourage you to at least start thinking about how you would perform in the same environment.
I want you to imagine this situation. it’s 2AM. You are in the middle of a REM cycle. Its pitch black in your bedroom as it should be at that time of the night. All of sudden the dog starts barking, and your wife kicks you out of bed. You grab the handgun next to you on the nightstand and rush out into the hallway.
As soon as you open the door though you are hit by a flood of light from the hallway. Staggering through the night blindness you find your way to the defensive position at the top of the stairs. To top it all off, in the mad rush to protect your family you didn’t have time to put your eyeglasses on. Reaching the pre-determined rally point you take a defensive stance and try to get sight alignment, only to find that the residual sleep in your eyes, coupled with the harsh attack of light, plus the lack of 20/20 vision has caused you to see double making a clear target picture almost impossible.
Most of you are smart enough to have guessed that this exact scenario happened to me. (In case you were wondering, the dog was barking at something, but not anything inside the house) If you have not run through this drill before, not that my situation was an intentional drill, you really need to. Trust me your significant other will have no issue kicking you out of bed. Part of training is understanding what your limits are, and that night I realized I had a big one.
The solution I came up with is to add a laser to my primary home defense firearm. With a laser you don’t need to aim down the attached iron sights, you just need to put the dot where you want to shoot. This makes target acquisition much faster, and much easier in situations where your vision is somewhat occluded.
Now I want to stop here and point out that as with everything in life, there is some give and take with laser sights. Below are some of the more common arguments, and potential drawbacks to consider before buying a laser sight.
- Lasers require batteries and they can run out:
Yes this is true. Batteries can die. However you can very easily avoid a situation where your laser doesn’t work with routine maintenance.
- Lasers cause you to be dependent on them and will encourage shooters to not learn proper iron sight technique:
I love this one. It always makes me laugh when I hear it. If someone is so lazy and has such little capacity for responsibility to properly learn how to use the object they purchased to save their life in the middle of the night, then adding a laser will not enable them to be more lazy. Think about it, if someone doesn’t want to learn the basics of anything in life, they are not going to. This is a poor life choice on their part but having/not having a laser on their gun will not make them learn proper basic skills. It is a choice that starts with their desire to train, nothing else.
- Using a laser creates a dependency that will cause issues if it fails:
I could see this happening to individuals who are swept up in Hollywood gun legend. Luckily if you are one of those people who mistakenly think that adding a laser to your piece will make you a crack shot, you are reading this article and now know this to not be true. If you are training to use your gun, you need to train to use it in all scenarios including what to do/how to react when your laser fails. Proper training, practice will make this issue an non-issue just like number 2 above it.
- It adds cost:
Well duh! If you buy something it usually means more money out of your pocket. But lets go back to our situation above. Whats more expensive, you not being able to get your aim on target, or a laser?
- It will give away your position:
OK lets get this straight, we are talking about home defense not tactical assault. The best shot is the one you don’t have to take to achieve the goal of expelling the bad guy(s). Lets be honest here for a moment, if you pull the trigger there will be serious consequences of the legal variety. You may not be charged but you will need a lawyer. If I can protect my family without pulling the trigger then that is the better solution. If a laser lets bad folks know I am ready, and encourages them to leave then all the better.
- Lasers need to be constantly adjusted and aligned:
Yes laser sights do need to be aligned. However if you buy a quality made laser, not some cheap Chinese made knockoff, it will hold alignment for more than the 10-30 rounds your firefight will last (for the record my torture test of the DS-123 laser from CT went over 200 rounds and held its factory alignment). If your battle is lasting longer than that then we are talking about a completely different situation. Additionally checking your laser’s alignment with your iron sights is extremely easy and fast. Just aim at a target with your iron sights and if the laser matches up then you’re in alignment. If not then turn the laser off until you can adjust it. Knowing your gear and how to properly maintain it is imperative regardless if we are talking about a hammer or a firearm.
So now that we have covered the negative side of laser sights, and you still want to add one to your gun, how do you select the right one? There are a few things to consider here. First is don’t buy a $30 laser on amazon and think its going to hold up. I don’t care how many stars it has in reviews. DON’T GO CHEAP!!!!! If you do you will find yourself re-zeroing after every shot or 2.
Second, find one that fits your gun. This will make finding a holster if you need one significantly easier. It will also guarantee that the laser will be able to be zeroed, or aligned, with your iron sights.
Third, be reasonable. Just like don’t go cheap, you do not need a $1,000 laser on your pistol if it just stays in the lock box next to your bed. If it’s strapped to your hip, being carried all day, every day then yeah maybe you do need something heavy duty. For the average American homeowner you don’t need to break the bank to get performance.
Lastly, buy from a manufacturer that will stand behind their product. This is why I chose Crimson Trace. They are an American company with amazing customer service. Their products have a proven track record, and when I have had issues in the past they always took care of me.
In conclusion I want to leave you with this: be honest with yourself. It is the only way you can properly prepare for the situations we all pray never happen. We all want to be couch commandos, but in reality we are not. Thankfully we don’t need to be, we just need to be capable of protecting our loved ones. With an accurate understanding of our competencies, we will know where to focus our attention for training, gear, and practice. If that leads you to believe a laser sight is the right choice for you then awesome. If you don’t see the value, then at least you performed a honest self-assessment and you know what you’re capable of.