Who says you can’t carry a good gun and look awesome at the same time? Now that the grip screw situation has been solved, I can set up my Springfield Armory RO with my red Crimson Trace 20th Anniversary Master Series grips. This grips…man they just look amazing. The best part is that they still perfectly perform their intended function as an aiming device.
One of the new products for 2016 that I’m legitimately interested in is LiNQ from Crimson Trace. In simple terms, it brings the best feature of Crimson Trace’s laser grips, instinctive activation, to the world of AR15 pattern rifles. How does it do this?
Dark sorcery Science. Here’s Crimson Trace’s explanation:
LiNQ™ combines a green laser sight and 300-Lumen LED white light with Instinctive Activation™ for AR-Type Modern Sporting Rifles. Utilizing a secure, individual connection, LiNQ offers complete wireless control of the laser and light module. The replacement grip is ergonomically designed for quick activation and mode changes, eliminating the need to reach for the rifle’s forend to operate.
Bluetooth in guns? What a fascinating modern age we live in. Hit up Crimson Trace’s website for more information.
Two topics we’ve spent a lot of time and energy on here at Gun Nuts: lasers on defensive pistols and red dot sights on defensive pistols. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of both ideas for a lot of reasons, and that I recommend Crimson Trace lasers for any serious defensive pistol. But what if you only have the money for one electronic sighting system? Which should you choose, a dot or a beam?
First, let’s look at the pros and cons shared by both systems, and then some of the pros/cons that are unique to each.
1. Allow the shooter to keep his/her eyes on the threat
This is actually a big one. To me, the biggest advantage of red dots or lasers is the ability for me as the shooter to keep both eyes open and focused on the bad person who is intent on doing bad things to me. That means I can see their hands, see their movements, and just generally have a better idea of what they’re doing. This is especially useful from an LE point of view, where you may be required to hold someone at gunpoint for an extended period of time. It’s also still useful as an armed citizen.
2. Easier for new shooters to pick up
The interface is pretty simple. Assuming the dot/beam is properly sighted in, it’s “put dot where want bullet go, press trigger.” No worrying about sight alignment or anything like that, just point and click. Too easy.
3. Works at night
Night sights are important, that’s generally something we can all agree on. Dots and beams have the benefits of night sights, but again are easier to manage in most circumstances owing to their nature.
Hey, no one likes to talk about this, but it is an issue. Despite the fact that most modern dots/beams have a battery life measured in years, this needs to come up. It needs to be brought up because if you’re the sort of person that forgets to change their oil and lets the smoke detector beep at you for two weeks, you’ll probably forget to change the batters in your fancy electronic sight. As a side note, Trijicon makes an RMR that doesn’t use batteries, which is cool.
Again, dealing with reality here. There are a lot of people who balk at the idea of putting a $200 laser on a $400 gun, or a $500 optic on a $500 gun. I get that. Money is a real issue, and after you’ve already followed my advice and spent $500 on a Glock 19, plus another $100 on a quality holster and belt, the thought of dropping basically all that again just to get some fancy electronic sight? Seems crazy.
3. Mounting and holsters
Here’s the last issue. Say you do want a dot, well now you have to mount it. That means either mounting in the rear sight dovetail, which isn’t a very durable long term option, or getting your slide milled by a machinist, which means another $200-400 out the door. Lasers have a similar problem, because if you’re unlucky enough to have a gun that Crimson Trace doesn’t make a laser grip for, you’re going to need a special holster just to fit your rail mounted light/laser combo. That can get expensive depending on your gun.
Red dot sights have a specific con of their own; the dot is slower to pick up for the first shot than traditional iron sights for experienced shooters. My personal experience shows that novices and less skilled shooters are quicker with the red dot; but that’s a training issue. Lasers have an issue as well, in that they could give away your position. Personally I think that’s a stupid objection to their use unless you’re planning on fighting ninjas in the dark, but if I don’t mention it someone will.
But the real question is which one is better? That’s complicated, because there are a lot of variables in that equation. I’ll try to eliminate some of those, and we’ll assume that this purchase is for a moderately experienced shooter. Let’s say IDPA Sharpshooter class, they’ve taken a scattering of classes here and there, they practice sometimes – basically 80% of my readers. For that shooter, I’d actually recommend the laser, and especially a Crimson Trace Laser Grip. Don’t get my wrong, I love red dot guns, I really do.
Ideally I’d say get both, but if you could only have one and you fit the shooter profile listed above, I think the laser is the better choice. The instinctive activation that Laser Grips offer coupled with all the advantages of keeping both eyes open and being able to focus on the threat make it a no-brainer anyway. When you add in the fact that you can track the dot in recoil and it makes shooting at moving targets comically easy (try it sometime) I can’t really think of a single good reason to not get the laser.
That being said, I have guns with lasers, guns with dots, and guns with neither. I really try to let whatever I need the gun for drive the train of how it’s going to get used. But for the shooters I’m talking about, I think the laser is the best choice.
For reasons that are probably not entirely rational, I find that I’m extremely fond of my little Smith & Wesson 638. It’s become my little buddy…we’re going everywhere together these days. The other day I even packed it as my only firearm on a trip to the gym. If generic apocalyptic event had transpired on my way to, time in, or return from the gym I would certainly have been in quite a pickle armed with just a 5 shot J frame, but thankfully the world as we know it did not decide to end at an inconvenient time for me. Good job, world. Now about this ebola thing…
There are, of course, some things I’m not terribly fond of on my little 638. Chief among them is the sights. The J frame still uses the same sort of gutter-style sights that you could find on a S&W revolver manufactured before the turn of the last century. Seriously. Go over to The Arms Room and take a gander at this hand-ejector model manufactured in 1896 and note the similarity in the sights between that gun and my model 638 manufactured well over a century later. If anything, the sights on that old hand-ejector might be a skosh more high profile than the ones found on the modern J.
Under ideal conditions it’s possible to wring some surprising accuracy out of the sights as they sit on the revolver. While at a friend’s place function testing another gun some weeks ago, I pulled out the 638 and fired the first 5 rounds out of it. To my great delight, all 5 shots were essentially touching the 1″ square pictured to the right. A 1″ square is an exceptionally tiny target but I frequently use a target that small to work on accuracy fundamentals because it leaves zero room for error. (You can download another similarly useful target with a 1″ square here.)
As soon as the conditions aren’t ideal it becomes much more difficult to use the sights with that sort of precision. A few smiths out there will actually mill a J frame for more modern sights like small Novak sights or even these purpose built J frame sights from D&L. While there is a demand for such products and services, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough for someone to make a living doing just that modification. The cost is pretty high and the wait times can be substantial…and the service isn’t always available for the Airweight revolvers.
To improve the sights on my J, I used some old school trickery and some new age stuff: A Sharpie and some new grips from Crimson Trace.
One of the things you can do to improve the existing sights on a J frame is to add some contrast. I started using the brightest flourescent yellow paint I could find on black sights years ago to try and make at least the front sight easier to find in a hurry. On the 638 we already have a light colored front sight, so I added some contrast by blacking the rear sight notch out with a Sharpie. It’s not as good as a proper set of sights, but I find that it does help me get a quicker read on the sights. Enough so that I haven’t yet found the need to paint the front sight a loud color…the silver front seems to stand out plenty well on its own in combination with the blacked out rear.
The Sharpie/contrast trick does very little to aid you in low light. As it comes from the box, the little revolver is next to useless (from an accuracy perspective) in conditions of low light. You are limited to point shooting and hoping that’s good enough to get the job done. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’m not a fan of relying exclusively on point shooting.
I’m generally a fan of Crimson Trace’s products but I think their offerings for the J frame and similar small handguns make the biggest difference in, for lack of a better term, “shootability.” I can make shots with a laser-equipped J frame that I would have absolutely no hope of making otherwise. Crimson Trace has a couple of different models for the J frame with each having their place. The LG-305 grips are fairly large and are ideal if you’re looking to make the tiny J frame grip more substantial. A larger grip on the J frame, believe it or not, often makes it easier to shoot. If you are belt carrying the little revolver then the larger grip might well be the best option for you.
I often carry the revolver in a pocket, so the 305’s are out. That leaves the LG-105 and LG-405. The 405’s have some really nice features and actually do make the little revolvers a bit more comfortable to shoot, but I’ve always gone with the LG-105 grips because A. they’re cheaper, and B. being made of hard plastic they’ve proven to withstand the abuse of daily carry extremely well.
It does add somewhere between $150-$185 bucks (depending on your luck in finding deals) to the cost of the revolver, but I think it’s still a bargain. You can literally put these grips on, adjust the laser to match your sights (if your revolver shoots as well as mine does!) and you’ve just made the little weapon much easier to hit with in most conditions…and let’s face facts: When you’re using a 5 shot .38 revolver with a sub 2″ barrel on it, hitting is of primary importance. Anything you can do to make hitting easier with a handgun like this is a wise investment because low capacity and on-the-bubble terminal ballistics performance makes getting the maximum effect from each shot that much more critical.
Fans of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International series will know that the best character in the books, Earl Harbinger carries a Smith & Wesson 625 revolver as his go-to sidearm, usually accompanied by a Thompson SMG as his primary. I don’t know if Earl has Crimson Trace lasers on his 625…but he should.
Yesterday, we talked about the importance of lights and lasers on defensive firearms. I wasn’t particularly surprised when both here and on Facebook comments showed up saying that lasers were bad. These comments all followed the exact same pattern:
“Well actually I prefer to train to use the sights because I’ll get dependent on the laser which will fail and break when I need it, and besides I don’t need any of that tacticool gadgetry on my gun because I’m so awesome and I learned to shoot in the Army during Vietnam.”
There are many problems with that line of reasoning, but at the core it’s simple. It is the argument of a lazy person. If you distill it to its essence, what they’re saying is “I’m so lazy that if I put a laser on my gun it would turn into a crutch, so no one should do it.” I have a solution, and a proptip: Don’t be lazy. Train to use the sights. Because the real secret of lasers is that they don’t magically make you into a super dooper ninja-shooter. If you’re a garbage shooter without a laser, putting a laser on will just make you a garbage shooter with a good sighting system. I’ve seen it in classes. I was taking a class once and the gentleman to the right of me on the line had some kind of Officer sized 1911 that was giving him all kinds of fits. I watched his laser bounce around the target, and every shot hit low and left. Of course he blamed the gun, until the instructor came over and center-punched the target repeatedly with the student’s gun.
A laser won’t magically make you better at shooting. But it won’t automatically become a crutch, either. Here’s the other big secret: if you train to use the sights and your laser fails, YOUR SIGHTS ARE STILL ON YOUR GUN. What a laser does is make it easier to get hits in low-light situations and retain a target focus. I have lasers on all my defensive guns, but I rarely have “laser-specific” training. I practice using my sights. All the time. Because I know that when I need the laser, it will be there, and if something goes TU and the laser goes down, well it’s not like my sights have disappeared from my gun.
The final thing I’d like to address is durability. I’m going to confine this discussion solely to the Crimson Trace line of products, because I have the most experience with those. I should note as an aside that I do have a Viridian unit on the way for T&E, and they seem to spoken pretty well of in my circles. Back to the durability point. Crimson Trace lasers have been around for decades now. I have a j-frame laser unit that’s been rained on, sweated on, dropped in the dirt, banged around a glove box, and it has never lost zero and still works. I’ve had dozens of different CTC products on guns over the years, and I’ve had problems with exactly 1 of them, and Crimson Trace fixed it. There is this idea that we’re still stuck with the lasers of the 1980s, which were delicate, fragile things. We’re not. Modern laser aiming devices from reputable companies are as durable and robust as a properly tough optic. They’re not going to just crap out for no reason…and if they do, you still have the sights on your gun.
Getting guns ready for Crimson Trace M3GI is always an interesting prospect. Ideally, I’d be able to set everything up with a light and a laser, but that’s not always feasible. Some guns lack the rail space for both, or in the case of my VP9 it’s impossible to find a holster that fits. However, sometimes I get creative with mounts:
That’s a Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro mounted upside down on a Warne 45 degree off-set mount. If it looks derpy to you, don’t feel bad. It looks derpy to me. The problem with the 930 SPX is that there’s no forward rail space on the handguard, so I couldn’t slap the light/laser combo on further down the gun. I obviously couldn’t mount it on the top of the rail without obstructing the sights. I have a different mount for a traditional flashlight that goes on the magazine tube…but the tube is too thick for the mount.
So out comes the Warne 45 mount, and on goes the Railmaster. Now, I should note that I haven’t shot it yet, and I’ve certainly not used it in low/no light. So I don’t know how well it’s actually going to work. One of the things that happens a lot is a light set-up seems perfectly reasonable during the day, but then when you use it at night you suddenly get a ton of light bounce and can’t see anything. That’s a very real concern with this set-up.
I’ll find out for sure once I get to Oregon next week! Here are the guns and light/laser combos the team will be running at M3GI:
- Surefire Wrist Lights
- HK VP9 with Crimson Trace Red Railmaster laser
- S&W M&P with red Lasergrip
- MuttAR-15 with Railmaster Pro Green, Leupold 1×4 optic
- Troy Defense Lamb Carbine with Railmaster Pro Green, Burris 332 optic
- Mossberg 930 SPX with extended tube and Railmaster Pro
I’ll also bring along my trusty Winchester 1300 as a back-up gun for the SPX should something go wrong, but I don’t plan on using it in the match. This really is the only 3-gun match I shoot each year, and it’s one of the best events in the shooting sports. Crimson Trace gets great range staff, sets up great stages, and generally runs an absolutely top notch event.
One of the coolest matches of the year is right around the corner, and I’m excited to get the chance to head out and shoot the Crimson Trace M3GI again. It’s basically the only 3-gun match I shoot each year, and I like to use it as an opportunity to test guns and gear that I’d use in an actual self-defense situation. This year I’ll be shooting my Troy Defense Lamb Carbine, my Remington 870 Magpul FDE, and (probably) the HK VP9.
Crimson Trace puts on a great match, the facilities are excellent, the stages are fun, and the added element of shooting in the dark actually makes the match a lot more applicable than most other 3-gun matches. Let’s face it, if I ever have to shoot someone with a shotgun, it’s probably going to be at 2am when they’re kicking down the door of my condo. If I can get my defensive gear set up to hit a clay bird 10 yards away at 2am, hitting a person shouldn’t be a problem.
The question for you, dear readers is this: what coverage would you like to see from M3GI? It’s actually…kind of a difficult match to cover as a reporter, because it’s in the dark. So there’s not a lot of great photography, and video is similarly difficult. That’s why I’m open to suggestions. What would you like to have us make? Podcasts? Photos during the day, and some stuff from the night? This one is all your court, gunternet. Make it count!
Do you have a Glock 42? Do you need a frickin’ laser beam? Crimson Trace lasers for the Glock 42 are now available direct from CTC.