A look at laser aiming devices

The first time I remember hearing about a “laser gun sight” was in the early 1970s when the American 180 submachine gun was adopted by the Utah Department of Corrections. The laser was factory-installed on the guns, which were issued to guards at the Utah State Prison.

To properly tell the tale, I need to describe the American 180.

Designed by Dick Casull, who later designed the .454 Casull cartridge and the Freedom Arms Model 83 single-action revolver, the American 180 was an ingenious invention. With its 177-round “pan” magazine fixed horizontally atop the receiver, it looked like a cross between a Lewis gun and a Thompson submachine gun.

Chambered for .22 Long Rifle, the American 180 spewed out its tiny projectiles at 1,200 rounds per minute. This meant that a few short full-auto bursts could crumble a concrete block wall and significantly alter the future of whoever might be huddled behind it.

The Crimson Trace Lasergrips® laser is located at the top of the right-hand grip panel. A pressure switch below the trigger guard activates the laser when you take a normal shooting grip.

As I remember the story, a video of the American 180 destroying a concrete block wall had been shown to convicts at the prison. Sometime later, a riot in the prison yard suddenly evaporated when guards in elevated positions pointed their weapons, and the rioters saw little red dots appear on their chests.

That story might or might not be true, but if it’s not, it ought to be.

A laser gun sight is not a “gun sight” like iron sights or scope sights that align your eye to direct the barrel of the gun at the target. Instead it “paints” a red or green laser dot onto the target without the necessity of aligning your eye in the process. So, it more correctly should be called “a laser aiming device.”

Somehow, I suspect my saying that is not going to change a durn thang, so I won’t object if you continue calling it a “laser sight.”

Anyway, I have more than one Crimson Trace Lasergrips®-equipped handguns. This design uses a pressure switch below the trigger guard to activate the laser when you take a normal shooting grip. I consider it to be ideal for adverse social interactions in low-light encounters.

Other versions are trigger guard- or rail-mounted and work well, except that they might need a modified holster to accommodate the device. The Lasergrips, however, work without modified leather.

All of mine use a red laser, which supposedly is inferior to a green laser. A green laser, it is said, is more visible under any light conditions. That might be true, but a laser is designed for low-light, close-quarters encounters, and in my experience, the red laser works just fine.

If you have to engage unfriendly folks at longer ranges with a handgun, you (a) should’ve brought a rifle (b) should transition to iron or optical sights and (c) are probably screwed because the law rarely regards such deadly encounters as “self-defense.”

Most concealed carry classes clearly outline when it’s legal to use a firearm in self-defense, and I highly recommend you attend and complete one of these classes before you consider carrying a sidearm either concealed or in the open.

If you do decide to carry a handgun, a laser sight is a worthwhile addition-whether red or green.

Stan Skinner

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