Coming from the old school of cops with revolvers, I was never a big fan of lights attached to a gun. Holding a flashlight was why you had an off hand.
Back then you held it well out away from your body because the FBI told us that was where the bad guys would shoot. Then the Harries method and the Ayoob method and the Melvin from Sheboygan stick the flashlight in your mouth techniques came about. I thought, Why on earth would you want to use those methods when the good old FBI method was still valid? Ahh, more support for the gun. But really-think about it-you're still using a one-hand hold. It's supported, slightly, by the back of your off hand. Maybe a couple fingers support it if you're using the syringe method. But, when it comes right down to it, it's a one-hand hold. And, any reasonable person must agree holding your duty weapon with two hands is the best solution.
Another reason that I didn't used to be a fan of weapon lights for handguns is that it was hard to find a holster that would accommodate them. But now holster manufacturers are supporting weapon-mounted illumination tools. They're even offering good Level III systems.
All that support has enabled manufacturers to offer us better and better systems. And now, many offer integrated laser sighting systems as well. They use high-tech light emitting diodes and lasers and have about as much in common with the flashlight as a 1920 Stanley Steamer has with a brand new 2009 Lamborghini. These are truly illumination tools.
Let's take a look at some of the latest and greatest.
I've carried Crimson Trace Laser Grips on my backup and off-duty (now permanently) S&W J-Frame for years. They work well and give you that little extra edge you need when things get really fast and nasty.
After a couple of systems for the AR-15, CT Laser Grips has come up with a real winner, The MVF-515. The MVF stands for Modular Vertical Foregrip. I have no idea what the 515 denotes and you won't care either when you see how it works and how well it's built.
The MVF is substantial. It's made with polymer grip panels over a full length 6061-T-6 aircraft aluminum substructure. The ambidextrous activation switches are overmolded and allow independent momentary, strobe, and constant-on function.
The white light is selectable between 150 and 200 lumens by rotating the bezel. It's also replaceable-if you ever need to. Both the white light and the laser are programmable. The default is momentary-on, but you can set it up so the light and laser strobe or in a constant-on position where the light or laser will turn on and stay on until the switches are depressed a second time.
The MVF mounts to any Mil-Spec M1913 rail or just about any other accessory rail similar in structure to the Picatinny. Again, the mounting system is substantial incorporating a two-bolt-and-nut system. Mounting bolts are positioned at the front and rear of the MVF and once installed and tightened to the recommended 50 to 55 inch-pounds it would take more than a couple whacks with a sledge hammer to dislodge it.
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LaserMax has two new products. First is the Sabre. It's an external frame-mounted system fitting medium frame and compact frame Glock pistols. The LMS-SA-GF fits full size models (17, 17L, 18, 22, 24, 31, 34, 35, 37) and the LMS-SA-GC will fit the compacts (19, 23, 32, 38).
The Sabre incorporates what LaserMax calls a "whale tail" or what is commonly referred to as a beaver tail. It not only houses the laser system but allows the shooter a grip higher and closer to the line of the bore, thus reducing perceived recoil. It also places the laser emitter higher and more in line with the bore, providing more room for indexing your finger.
The master switch at the rear of the whale tail is easily manipulated for the pulsating and steady-on modes as well as the off position. The battery compartment is co-located with the master switch. There is no need to remove the Sabre to change the batteries, so you don't have to re-zero it.
LaserMax's other new offering is a distinctive M1913 Picatinny rail mounting system with a green laser. It allows the user to mount another accessory such as a light to the bottom of the laser module, only increasing size by little more than .25 of an inch. It can also be mounted on a long gun with a rail and in the case of an AR, a remote activation switch is available to fit to a vertical foregrip or along the rail.
The human eye processes green better than any other color, so while the laser is no more powerful than the red laser, it's much more visible, especially in daylight. LaserMax has a new point of sale demonstrator available at your local retailer. Pick one up and give both systems a try.
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SIG Sauer's Stoplite STL-300J is so bright it's a weapon all in itself.
Four CR123 batteries power the unit's astounding 700 lumens of blinding white light. With this level of brightness the strobe function might be able to disorient a charging bull on PCP. Even the steady mode is highly disorienting to anyone looking toward the light. You just can't do it; you've got to look away. The different modes are accessed using a rotary selector on the side of the unit.
The Stoplite is designed to function as a handheld tactical light and it can be attached to just about any long gun accessory rail. When attached to a rifle the unit also acts as a forward vertical grip ergonomically designed to reduce hand fatigue. The light can function in three on modes-momentary, steady, and strobe. There's also an off position.
The Stoplite includes an integral red laser-aiming module capable of full windage and elevation adjustment. It also includes what SIG Sauer refers to as a hot shoe designed to power upcoming accessories. SIG has been somewhat closed mouth about what these upcoming accessories might be, but a digital camera, video and still, has been batted around.
The Stoplite's heavy-duty polymer casing and rail attachment system leave you thinking that the unit could double as a hammer in a bind.
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Streamlight's new addition to the TLR line of products is the TLR-3. It's a rail-mounted tactical LED light system incorporating one of the new C4 LEDs.
The TLR-3 uses one CR2 lithium battery and provides more than 90 lumens of bright white light; all this from one of the smallest form factors I've ever seen. Many of the "compact" systems previously available didn't offer much light or much run time; the TLR-3 offers both.
The body is constructed of an impact-resistant nylon polymer and is dust and shock proofed. The light is also IPX7 waterproofed. The IPX7 designation is an international standard for accidental immersion in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes.
The TLR-3 mounting system gives the user a true custom mount making it configurable for just about any gun. The TLR-3 comes with rail keys that fit onto the mounting system to place the light at the correct angle and to precisely fit the locking channel of just about any rail system.
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SureFire's new X400 is a powerful LED weapon light with an integrated laser sight mounted just below the LED.
The X400 has a recoil-proof LED generating 110 lumens of white light. It will continue producing tactical-level light for 2.4 hours on a single set of batteries. The X400 incorporates a Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens, which gathers virtually all of the LED's light and projects it forward creating a tight beam. It also generates a substantial surrounding beam or corona for peripheral vision.
The MIL-SPEC Type III hard-anodized finish aerospace-grade aluminum body and a Pyrex glass window protect the electronics and O-rings and make the X400 water resistant. SureFire's proprietary Rail-Lock system attaches to Universal and Picatinny rails through the use of included adapter plates. Its Nylok screws won't back out from recoil and make it so the unit hardly ever requires re-zeroing.
This system is industrial strength just like its predecessors, the X200, which was replaced with the still available X300 weapon light. However, SureFire didn't simply add a laser module to the bottom. Yes, the white light LED is the same as the X300, but the entire housing structure is beefed up to accommodate the laser.
The X400 will also accommodate optional pressure activated switches, allowing mounting on a long gun or so you won't need to alter your grip on the gun to activate the system on a handgun.
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Viridian is a relative newcomer to the field but its product would never give that indication. This is an elegantly designed, well thought out, and very well executed product. You'd think they've been in the business for a long time.
The X5L is an integrated white light and green laser system easily adapted to practically any firearm. The body is constructed of Zytel polymer and aircraft aluminum. The LED portion, while appearing quite small, blasts out 100 lumens of bright white light on continuous mode and 140 lumens in strobe mode all from a single CR2 lithium battery. It will run around an hour in the dual laser/light mode and up to four hours in laser only.
The X5L's mode and activation system is ambidextrous and provides 24 operating modes of the light and laser. Its green, 5mW peak, 532nm, Class IIIa, Continuous Wave laser can be easily seen up to 50 feet away during daylight and an astounding two miles at night.
As I mentioned before, green is the easiest for the human eye to see as the wavelength is closest to the center of the visual spectrum. Red is closer to the long wavelength edge of the spectrum. The 532nm (green light) can appear up to 50 times brighter than the 635nm (red/orange light) during daylight conditions. Sometimes in low-light conditions you can even see the beam projected from the emitter to the target, and on the receiving end that's pretty intimidating.
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D. Francis Ryan is the pen name of a retired police sergeant currently living in Colorado. During his 30 years at one of the largest Southern California police departments, he held a number of positions, including rangemaster-his last assignment prior to retirement. He's been writing for about 10 years for a number of law enforcement and firearms publications.