Ironsights, lasers, lights, optics.
I'll take all of them if I can.
In the words of a true SME in the light/laser/nigh-vision field, John "Chappy" Chapman, "Lights to help you see the target; Laser to help you aim."
As long as you diligently train/practice in using it, it's a great accessory for transitional lighting (more in a minute), low-light, as well as for shooting from compromised positions (i.e. where obtaining a traditional sight package is difficult/impossible).
But you *need* to *train* towards that level of proficiency. Proper use of a laser sight should actually give the shooter a slight advantage
in terms of speed, and should NOT - contrary to popular belief - "slow" the shooter. If you're slower with the laser than you are without, you need more practice with the laser, period.
So, then, detractors will say that the practice is a bother....but this is true for all of shooting - or, for that matter, any perishable skill, no?
Detractors love to say things like:
"Ive never, ever, ever, ever witnessed anyone use a laser and hit what theyre aiming at. Everytime I see a laser shaking around the range, I immediately look at the intended target. Looks like birdshot and 30 yards."
My retort to that would be the following: Is that really true of all
shooters? or simply the ones you've witnessed?
There's a difference, isn't there?
The laser always shakes when viewed from the perspective of onlookers - this is inevitable, as even with a "rock solid" sight picture, we as human shooters still exhibit that "infinity-wobble," with a cone-of-deviation commensurate to our skill level, physical fatigue, and the particulars of the BSA template which we are engaging to. Everyone from novices to professional competitors, we all do this to some degree: all that the laser does is that it simply makes this motion visible.
The late Pat Rogers, in the Panteao Productions Make Ready with Pat Rogers: Carbine Two
DVD/streaming training video, bemoaned the sad state of modern pistolcraft among armed professionals (the context being the capability of shooters to successfully prosecute lethal threats at distances between the 25 and 50 yard line, with their duty sidearm). He then demos the carbine-to-handgun transition by pulling his duty handgun, which is equipped with a laser.
The laser dances around on the target, but the shots are delivered with-precision.
OK, didn't see it, so it didn't happen, right? Unfortunately, while I did try to find that clip online, it's not available.
But that's OK - here's one that is......
Take a look here at Bill Blowers, a SME in the field of NV/low-light operations, and one of the Surefire Field Notes
Does Blowers' laser bobble about a bit? Note that this is with his carbine, which has more points-of-contact to the shooter versus a handgun and is thus by-definition more stable.
Yes, it does - but it's just like that wobble we see through our sights: break the trigger when the dot is on the target and do not disturb that sight relationship until the bullet is out of the muzzle. The fundamentals are no different be it for ironsights (where our eye/brain cannot resolve this level of "wobble" - i.e. that it's "hidden"), for the self-contained red-dot sight, or the projected laser.
[ Aside: The DBAL and MWAL are now very frequently seen even in the role of domestic-LE, and the role of the laser as a force-multiplier in terms of low-light and no-light operations, is now integral to many TTPs. This even extends to some at the tip of the spear (I got this directly from Joe Weyer, BTW) now electing to no longer rely on the BUIS as a backup sighting sighting system - even in daylight - as it takes critical time/ability to deploy, whereas their laser is something that they can, and I quote: "instantly transition to." ]
So then there's the "crutch" argument, often from that very same imaginary detractor:
"Lasers are not a bridge to shoot better. From what Ive seen, they do the opposite."
And my response is that you're absolutely right - nothing is a shortcut to shooting better.
But just because a tool can be mis-used, doesn't mean that it's not without value when properly used, either.
Modern handgun-mounted micro-RDSs are now an accepted performance-enhancing accessory in not only the competition handgun world, but in the real-life duty/service/defensive role as well.
But remember just years ago, when folks were insisting that it made them slower and was nothing more than a crutch?
What changed between now and then?
It's the recognition that we must practice towards the device.
[ Oh, and BTW, the principles of using the RDS are the same as that of using a laser. Proper usage of either device is for the shooter to obtain a threat-focused sight package. Those who would insist that the dot projected on the threat is distracting them from shooting? yeah, that logic doesn't work if you also believe that a red-dot sight works.
PROPER use of good tools can help us be more effective shooters. In terms of lasers, the ability of the projected POI to show us our intended hit without the need for us to establish a traditional sight package - whether it be that there's insufficient light to resolve the sights or if, for example, your gas-mask or tactical helmet prevents a proper cheek-weld, or even if you're just forced into a heck of an unconventional shooting position - can be invaluable.
The following example is from yet another SME in the industry, Claude Werner:
I have seen too many people forget the basics and rely on finding the laser dot instead of looking down the sights on pistols. They became much slower with the laser. So began a Facebook thread in …
Werner isn't just a former Special Operations soldier - he also holds the distinction as having been one of the former Chief Instructors at the distinguished Rogers Shooting School in Ellijay, Georgia. The article above and his included video illustrates the capabilities of the laser in a transitional-light setting where there was plenty enough light to see the target, but insufficient light to resolve the sight bodies (and yes, this also means that there was too much light for tritium-illuminated sights to really work well).
But really, it doesn't even take top-level shooters to be able to show this difference:
That's a shooter who up-front notes that he's not an advanced shooter. His performance - at well over two seconds with first-shot A-zone hits from seemingly 5 to 7 yards, from an OWB, passive-retention-only holster - confirms his assessment.
On the clock, his performance suggests that at his level of capabilities and with that kind of BSA template, threat-focused shooting (here with a laser, but I would actually bet that he'd see the same with a slide-mounted or frame-mounted micro-RDS, too) manages to shave off a not-insignificant amount of time for him, and his proficiency is certainly far from that of a well-practiced shooter: armed professional, shooting instructor, competition shooter, etc.
The truth here is that all of shooting takes practice, be that with ironsights, laser, or a micro-RDS - or the LPVO on a CQB carbine, for that matter.
The observation that we're "slower" with anything other than ironsights simply reflects our time-on-task or lack thereof. We now know that the slide/frame mounted micro-RDS on a handgun does help both short-range speed as well as long-range accuracy and that, similarly, the "true"-1x LPVO on a carbine, for a similarly well-practiced shooter, can step into the CQB arena toe-to-toe with the unmagnified RDS. In both cases, we know now from students who have taken instruction from good instructors that such deficiencies are shooter-based, and what's more, can be corrected.
Why would this not also apply to the laser?
Certainly, the laser doesn't help compensate for bad shooting. The shooter has to be able to properly execute the fundamentals.
At the same time, yes, it will take practice: that same shooter has to be able to successfully apply those fundamentals to the laser.
But I really do not think it's a level of skill that's that difficult to achieve, and towards those two assertions above, I think that if the shooter is exhibiting that "birdshot at 30 yards" level of poor pistolcraft with the laser, that same shooter likely will also exhibit that abhorrent level of performance with ironsights, too.
The only laser I have on my gun is on my HD handgun - it's an old Insight M6 with an updated LED drop-in. I decided that I wanted a laser on this gun because I am very nearsighted. While my uncorrected vision is good enough to offer sufficient threat-ID and edge resolution, I can't pick up my handgun's sights without my prescription glasses. The laser obviates that need, and also offers me the ability to aim the gun from potentially awkward positions, without the ability to obtain a proper sight picture.
I'd love a MWAL on my HD carbine, but I currently don't have the budget to play in the NV area of the pool.