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The Great Persuader

The little red dot of a laser sight can stop the bad guy right in his tracks.

January 01, 2003  |  by Dave Douglas

The Intimidator

Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is the deterrent factor as illustrated in the border incident previously described. None of us really wants to end a life unnecessarily. If given the option, I would much rather take a suspect in wearing handcuffs instead of a toe tag.

This is one of the few areas that I can think of in which Hollywood has done law enforcement a favor. After all those films and TV programs showing a laser dot sweeping a room and coming to rest on the chest of a bad guy, the public has been indoctrinated to recognize this as instant death or the resolution of a bad situation when the suspect throws down the gun, thrusts his hands in the air, and gives up. And the public who has seen these images includes the suspects that we sometimes have to challenge with deadly force.

Here's another example of the power of lasers on the minds of suspects. Officers I interviewed for this article told me about a suspect they had been chasing for about 15 minutes through backyards, over fences, and down to a brackish pond at the bottom of a canyon.

The suspect lay on his back mostly submerged with just his eyes and nose peaking out as in an old "Lone Ranger" episode. The only thing that was missing was breathing through a reed. Repeated attempts with drawn pistols to get the felon to come out did no good.

But one of the officers was equipped with a laser sight and, when he placed the dot on the suspect's forehead, the suspect gave up. According to the hysterically laughing cops who told me the story, he jumped out of the water looking like a Polaris missile launch with weeds still hanging off his ears.

Justified Expense

Police Budgets are a bit tight right now everywhere across the United States. But when you consider the intimidation factor of laser sights and their ability to prevent police-involved shootings, such equipment can be easily justified.

Run this cost analysis: one laser sighting system vs. one officer-involved shooting. On one hand you have between $200 and $600 for the sight. On the other: administrative leave, Internal Affairs investigation, possibly a homicide investigation, crime scene processing, detective call out, critical incident debriefing, weapons lab work from the crime lab, use-of-force review, Officer's Association attorney, psychiatric counseling, officer leave, citizen's review board, and civil litigation lasting years.

Crimson Trace

Crimson Trace has been making handgun Laser Grips for many years now and is a leader in the industry. The Beaverton, Ore.-based company was recently selected to supply 10,000 units to the Singapore National Police for its duty pistols. Additionally, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office has just authorized its 8,500 deputies to purchase Laser Grips for duty use.

Laser Grips replace the user's stock handgun grips. Two #2032 wafer lithium batteries power the 5mw peak, 633nm, class IIIa laser, which is mounted at the top of the right grip and is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. In addition to the standard red dot, Crimson Trace also makes an infrared laser sight that is sold only to law enforcement and the military.

Most Laser Grips models can be activated using either hand. If your strong hand is disabled, the weak hand can take full advantage of the system.


LaserMax in Rochester, N.Y., is one of the laser industry's pioneers. In addition to gun sights, the company manufactures lasers for the telecommunications, biomedical, semiconductor, and aerospace industries.

The LaserMax handgun system is the only totally internal system on the market. It simply drops into place, replacing a weapon's original recoil spring guide. Best of all, the system requires no permanent modifications to the gun, and the sight, which cannot be knocked out of alignment, can be removed at anytime.

All of the main components of the LaserMax sight, which is powered by small watch batteries, are contained within the guide rod. Activation is accomplished by pushing the replacement slide stop.

The LaserMax sight is not only unique because it installs inside the gun, it's also the only laser sight that uses a unique blinking or pulsating beam. The company's optical scientists believe the pulsating beam is approximately three times more visible to the human eye than a continuous beam of the same power. According to LaserMax, this means that in high-stress situations your eye will locate the beam quickly and target acquisition is faster in the presence of other distractions. The drawback is that the electronics that generate the pulsating beam are more expensive to manufacture.


SureFire developed the first laser sight for firearms and that legacy continues with the SureFire laser sights available today.

The company offers three types of lasers: red, green, and infrared, and the sights can be mounted in conjunction with a SureFire WeaponLight System or as a separate unit. SureFire uses continuous-beam operation, which the company says allows a brighter constant beam that is easy to follow when tracking a target.

SureFire's L72 Visible Red Laser Sight can be used in a Millennium Universal System modular housing for Picatinny rail mounting or in an existing SureFire WeaponLight system. The machined aircraft aluminum module weighs 4.6 ounces without the battery or mounting system. It's fully adjustable for windage and elevation, and is powered by two DL123A lithium batteries with a continuous runtime of around 24 hours.


Streamlight is the Law Enforcement distributor of the Insight Technology M-6 Tactical Laser Illuminator. The M-6 is a combination white light and laser sight system.

One of the great pluses for the M-6 is that it's extremely light, including two DL123A lithium batteries; it weighs only 3.7 ounces. The M-6 is also extremely versatile and adaptable. It will fit on just about any gun with a standard rail. Adapters are available for Beretta, SiG, Remington 870, Mossberg 500, Heckler & Koch MP5, and all AR-15 series carbines.

A unique feature of the M-6 is the available holographic lens inserts. A common complaint among laser-equipped tactical teams is trouble discerning, in close quarters, which dot belongs to which shooter. Streamlight's solution to this problem is the holographic insert. When activated it projects different types of dots, diamonds, circles, squares, etc., so that shooters can differentiate their sight from the sights of other team members.

Sgt. Dave Douglas is a frequent contributor to POLICE and a 25-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department

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