Why Laser Sights are Overrated

June 10, 2010

When I tell people about my new AR-15 that I bought (a Smith & Wesson M&P15OR with EOTECH night-vision-ready holographic red dot sight, quad-rail w/ covers, vertical fore-grip, and SureFire M951 with momentary switch and infrared filter), the first question I’m asked is invariably the same: did you get a laser sight? The second question is just as consistent: why not? After mentally compiling the list of reasons why I prefer a red dot sight instead, I’ve decided to write them up here.

1. A laser only works in the dark.
True, you can use it in daylight, but it becomes nearly impossible to see. Red dot sights work no matter what the lighting situation.

2. A laser gives away your position.
At the least, a laser lets your enemy know you are on to them. At the worst, it tells them exactly where you are. A red dot sight is only visible to the person holding the weapon.

3. A laser is inaccurate.
Because of the offset between the laser and the barrel of the gun, a laser sight can only be accurate at one distance. And since a bullet falls as it flies, it becomes more inaccurate the farther your target is. A red dot sight has the same problem, but if you zero it at 25 meters, it’s also zeroed at 300 meters (on an AR-15). Since lasers mount below the barrel or to the side, their beam only crosses the path of the bullet once.

4. A laser won’t be visible if the target is too far away.
A laser beam never expands (kinda the point), so what is 1/16 of an inch across up close is still only 1/16 of an inch a mile away. A red dot sight is always the same size, regardless of the target distance.

5. Lasers don’t actually have a visible beam.
Those of us who know guns already know this, but most people still have a misconception (taken mostly from Hollywood) that laser sights have a visible beam that originates on the weapon and terminates on the target. This is actually why most people think they are so useful. The truth is the only thing a laser sight does is paint a red spot on your target (unless you have some serious dust or smoke going on).