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Laser Gun Sights: How They Work, and the Top Choices for Your Firearm

These days, there's a great laser sight option out there for any firearm.

Once upon a time, a laser sight was as big as a D-cell flashlight. Today, laser sights have become so small that they've been integrated into other components, like the Crimson Trace Lasersaddle or the HS1 Laser Handstop from Viridian.

The tiny Rail Master laser sight is so small you might not even notice it mounted to a rifle, and it barely takes up any real estate on a handgun's Picatinny rail and CT became famous for being the first company to build laser sights right into a handgun's grip, and the Lasergrip line is still popular today.

Some units are a laser and tactical light combo, and there are even laser sights out there that are built into the guide rod of a Glock.

Red laser sights once stood as the only option, but now green laser sights, which are much easier to use in brighter lighting conditions, are common--and both are great for low-light shooting.

As far as sighting systems go, a laser sight is pretty straight forward. And that's what it is, it's not an optic and it's not a sight in the conventional sense. A laser emitter mounted on a firearm projects a laser beam in the same direction as the muzzle.

Via windage and elevation adjustments, the laser beam is adjusted so it is zeroed to the firearm's point of impact at a desired range, or so it lines up with the gun's iron sights. Where you put the red dot projected by the laser is where the shot will hit. The laser activation is caused by either toggling an on/off switch or pressing a intermittent pressure switch.

The advantages of laser sights in close quarters are numerous, too. They allow for extremely fast target acquisition, accurate aiming in the darkest shooting conditions, and they allow shooters to aim a firearm and fire it accurately without a sight picture, which can be really useful in a self-defense situation.

The struggle over the years has been miniaturization, laser power, and battery life, but those problems have been largely minimized.

Best Laser Sight Options

Viridian HS1 Laser Handstop 

laser sight

The HS1 is designed for AR-style firearms. It combines a green laser sight with a handstop mounted in an M-Lok slot. The grip activation buttons and windage and elevation adjustments are hidden in the seamless design.

Lasermax Guide Rod Lasers 

laser pointer

This is a different kind of pistol laser that doesn't require a rail mount. Because the laser is part of the guide rod, it's essentially part of the handgun, leaving the rail free to use for a light. Lasermax makes models for Beretta, Taurus, Glock, SIG Sauer and Heckler & Koch handgun models.

Crimson Trace Lasersaddle 

shotgun laser

The Lasersaddle was first introduced for the Mossberg 590 Shockwave, which is made to be shot from the hip. This kind of firearm benefits more from a laser sight than perhaps any other. The Lasersaddle fits over the receiver of a shotgun with no rail or M-Lok slots required.

CT currently makes models for 20- and 12-gauge Mossberg shotguns and for the Remington 870/TAC-14. The Mossberg models include a top Picatinny rail for mounting optics.

Crimson Trace CMR-201 Rail Master Universal Laser Sight

laser pointer

This is one of the most versatile and least obtrusive laser sights out there. It can be made to work on pretty much any handgun, rifle or shotgun that has an accessory rail. It will mount on any Picatinny or Weaver-style accessory rail and offers quick activation with ambidextrous activation control tabs, one on either side.

It also features a 5-minute auto-shutoff, and four different rail inserts so that it will mount rock solid to any gun. It will run for four hours continuously on one 1/3N Lithium battery.

SIG Sauer LIMA 365 Trigger Guard Laser

laser sight

This laser unit is made by SIG to perfectly fit its widely popular line of P365 sub-compact handguns. It is shaped to blend right into the gun's frame, and the back of the unit sheaths the trigger guard and leads to a switch activated by the shooter's middle finger. Like many other laser sights, it features an auto-shutoff feature to save battery power when not in use.

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Laser Gun Sights: How They Work, and the Top Choices for Your Firearm