As I mentioned in the initial post in the Glock modification series, I tend to focus on the use of a pistol for self defense. My guns could certainly run in any of the competitive pistol endeavors and do just fine (their owner, on the other hand…) but my primary interest is setting them up for use in serious social situations. It’s a fair bet that if you are going to have to deploy a handgun to defend yourself from another human being, you will have to do so in low light. There are a lot of very important things that happen before the decision to fire a handgun in self defense is made, and there’s a whole lot of important things that happen after the shooting has stopped…but in the moment where you make the decision that you have to shoot someone to preserve your life or the life of a loved one, one thing matters more than anything else: Hitting your intended target.
Methods of hitting your intended target have varied over the years. When you look back through the history of pistol shooting techniques you run into an awful lot of point shooting. In the military and law enforcement it was commonly taught for “combat” shooting…meaning the kind of situations that involved shooting at dangerous people rather than bullseyes. To give you some idea of what it looked like, here’s a film the FBI put out in an era where everybody was in black and white and wore suits:
Do any Googling on the topic of point shooting and you’ll soon encounter names like Fairbane, Sykes, Applegate, Jelly Bryce, and Bill Jordan. Each had their own take on “combat” shooting techniques and practices, but all of them relied heavily on point shooting, especially in low light situations. Textual jihad has been waged on the subject of point shooting over the years and I’m not going to rehash it all here, but I do want to put it out there that one of the reasons why they relied heavily on point shooting was because of the limitations of their equipment. I have a curio and relics FFL license and I dearly love collecting old guns. Whenever the subject of point shooting comes up in person, I like to pull out an old 1911 or my 1903 Colt hammerless semi-auto and put it in the hands of the person asking the question. It usually causes the lightbulb of understanding to flicker on. The sights on these pistols are vestigial little bumps that even a skilled shooter would have difficulty using at speed in perfect lighting. In low light they are utterly useless.
Today we have tritium sights like the Warren Tactical sights installed on the Glock 34 a couple of weeks ago to aid in low light shooting. We have the option of mounting a red dot sight to the slide of the pistol, a practice that isn’t without its drawbacks but is gaining in popularity. We also have the option of the laser.A properly zeroed laser is the most efficient low light aiming reference currently available. In terms of putting bullets where you want them to go in low light, there’s simply nothing better at making it happen than a laser. Human beings under stress tend to default into a target focus, meaning that the focal point of their eye is the target or the person/thing that is threatening them. Ideally for accuracy when shooting a handgun we want to focus on the sights so we get a good aiming reference. The laser works with human stress response by putting an aiming reference on the target where our eyes naturally want to focus. If you have less than perfect vision, having the aiming reference literally on the target tends to make it easier for you to determine where your bullets are about to go.
Of the laser options on the market today, my favorite are the products from Crimson Trace. The downside to lasers is that they can be finicky pieces of equipment. If not manufactured properly the electronics in them can go south or the laser diode can wander because of poor mounting throwing off the zero of the laser. Crimson Trace’s products generally do a much better job of staying zeroed and in functional order than any of the other options on the market. On top of that, they generally don’t interfere with any of the working parts of the weapon they are mounted to so as not to impair function if they do happen to break. The options on the market that replace the guide-rod of a pistol tend to have weak lasers due to the size restriction on their batteries (which have to be small to fit inside something the diameter of a pistol’s guide rod) and when they break they can actually lock up the pistol. You don’t have to worry about that with the Crimson Trace offerings.
The controls are intuitive and by mounting on the grip they don’t interfere with most holsters or prevent use of the forward accessory rail on pistols. The Crimson Trace products on the market tend to be more expensive than other laser units, but the extra cost buys you better ergonomics, better engineering, and in general a product that’s more likely to function as you want them to for more than 5 minutes. On Glock pistols the Crimson Trace units also serve the purpose of preventing the slide from biting the web of my hand. My 3rd Generation Glock 17 is from a small run of guns where Glock, for reasons that mystify me, altered the dimensions of the grip just enough so that the Grip Force Adapter will not fit on them. Adding the Crimson Trace unit gives me an excellent low light aiming reference and keeps the pistol from biting me during recoil. Win/win! You’ll note that the CT grips I purchased for my Glock 17 are “Zombie edition” grips, and you may be wondering why. It could be because I’m going to have the whole pistol cerakoted in Zombie green with Umbrella Corporation logo accents…or it could be because the “Zombie edition” unit was on clearance $50 bucks cheaper than the non-zombie themed unit. I’ll let you guess which.
A laser should not be your only low light aiming reference if you can help it, but I believe it’s a worthwhile addition to any pistol you intend to use for defensive purposes. Once you’ve learned how to use the laser, it makes you faster and more accurate in low light than you would be with even the very best tritium sights. In a situation where you are forced to use a handgun to defend your life there’s already a whole lot going on. You’ll be plenty busy. Equipment that makes the process of putting a bullet where you want it, when you want it to be there is going to pay dividends when everything is on the line.