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Seeing the Light

October 8th, 2012

Lasers are the Future

Once I got a laser mounted on my Vz 58 rifle, I had a moment of lucidity and realized all short-range weapons are incomplete without lasers. It’s a simple fact. There are a lot of people who hate lasers, calling them “crutches” and so on, but their ancestors probably whined about rifling and sights. Back when people fought by poking each other with sticks, there were probably stick gurus who said it was crazy to sharpen the sticks. Lasers just plain work. End of discussion.

Yes, the batteries can poop out. Yes, other things can go wrong, preventing a laser from working. What happens then? You’re right back where you were before you got it. You’re no worse off, so why not do it?

On the 99+% of occasions when your laser does work, you’ll shoot much better and much faster, without the need to use the sights, hold the gun with both hands, or even raise the gun. If the dot is where you want the bullet to go when you pull the trigger, you will score a hit. On top of that, you might even be able to think about shot placement, which is a gigantic advantage. A person who shoots a .22 accurately is ten times as threatening as a person who shoots a 10mm badly.

The only thing I can think of that could improve your survival chances more than a laser is practicing offhand shooting. If you can shoot well without aiming, you will rule any gunfight, because most people who get into gunfights forget their training and shoot that way. But you’ll have to use the same gun every time, and you’ll have to buy 5,000 rounds of ammunition to get there. You’ll also have to find a place where they let you practice. A lot of ranges do not like anything other than slow fire, so you might have trouble if you go to your local joint and start emptying magazines while shooting Mozambique drills from the hip.

A long time ago, I got my dad a Crimson Trace for his 9mm. It’s a nice thing to have. It turns on and off automatically when you grab and release the grip. But it’s hard to get the beam lined up with the sights, and it’s easy to block the beam with your hand while shooting. I’m told replacing the batteries is a pain, too. I decided the Crimson Trace was not for me.

I decided to try a Lasermax guide rod laser. This is a laser mounted in a guide rod assembly. You take the guide rod out of your pistol and replace it with the Lasermax. If you have a Glock, you have to spend fifteen minutes replacing the thing that releases the slide, but that’s not a big deal.

When I saw the Lasermax online, I figured it was going to be way out of alignment with the barrel. I decided I could accept a dot that was a few inches off-target at twenty feet, if it saved my life in a difficult moment. But when I installed the Lasermax, I found that it was surprisingly accurate. When I use the sights and turn on the laser, the dot is right at the top of the sights, in the middle, at self-defense distances. I haven’t tried it at the range yet, but I would guess that it will keep my shots within a 3″ circle at 7 yards. Maybe better. That’s as good as it needs to be.

The Lasermax dot goes on and off. There are two good things about this. First, it gets your attention much faster than a steady beam. Second, it makes the batteries last longer. The literature says they should run between one and five hours, continuously, and that you should have a set you use for practice, plus a fresh set for self-defense.

You turn the laser on by pushing the slide release to the left or right. This is very easy. You can do it with your index finger. Unfortunately, you may find that it turns on too easily, so you have to make sure your favorite holster doesn’t mash the release when you put the gun in it.

I had a problem when I installed it. The Lasermax is not very long. It doesn’t put much pressure on the barrel and slide when the gun is at rest. This means it tends to slip. This can make the gun hard to reassemble, and it can cause the laser to turn on when it shouldn’t. The solution is to rack the gun a number of times and release it. Supposedly, this settles the Lasermax in place and somehow makes it function correctly. It worked for me.

The dot is clearly visible forty feet away in a house in the daytime. At night, it should be considerably better.

This has me rethinking my truck gun needs. I believe the laser will extend my useful range with the Glock. Maybe that means I won’t need to keep a longer gun in the vehicle. But pistol rounds are not that powerful, regardless of whether you hit the perp. Can I hope the laser will improve my shot placement so much, the weakness of the rounds won’t matter? I don’t know.

Right now a really neat long gun is available. It’s called a PPS-43C. It’s a new semiautomatic pistol made in Poland. By “new,” I mean it’s not used. These things start life as 7.62x25mm submachine guns with folding stocks. Then they’re converted to semi-auto, and the stocks are tack-welded shut. That makes them pistols, as far as Uncle Sam is concerned.

They have 35-round magazines. They’re supposed to be super reliable.

The caliber is a little weird. It’s a .30-caliber round that can be pushed as high as 2000 fps. If you use FMJ bullets, they will zip through two thicknesses of body armor. Not all body armor, of course. But most. They go through things like car doors really well. They don’t expand or tumble, but 35 rounds with good placement…nothing to be sneezed at.

As I have said before, I am not overly concerned with “overpenetration.” Most shots fired in gunfights miss completely, which is like overpenetrating by as much as a mile. Every time you use a firearm in self-defense, you are taking a chance on hitting an innocent person. That’s just a fact of life. And the general rule is that a round that won’t “overpenetrate” won’t penetrate enough.

If I get a 7.62x39mm pistol or rifle, the rounds will move at about 2200 fps. That’s better than the 1500-2000 (probably more like 1600) you can get from the Polish gun. But I’ll also have to deal with muzzle flash. I guess that’s not a big deal. Flash hiders can help. The noise would be worse, but the sound of a 7.62x25mm round going off is not exactly therapeutic, either.

The really nice thing about the PPS-43C is that it’s very cheap. It won’t ruin your life to have one stolen. They cost about $270. Wolf makes pretty good hollowpoint ammunition for it. Presumably you lose some penetration with that.

Anyway, this is a good puzzle to have. It’s not a bad choice to deal with. In many countries (and some states), people have to choose between hiding under the bed or in the closet.

9 Responses to “Seeing the Light”

  1. Gerry From Valpo Says:

    After shooting a few different handguns equipped with laser sights I learned one thing and one thing only, how shaky my hand is. For me the laser is too distracting and takes away my instinctive reflexes. I end up spending too much time looking at that dang dot jumping around. I have found my own handgun quickness and accuracy is much better without one.

  2. Aaron's cc: Says:

    I’d like to have the opportunity to try. I don’t shoot often enough to have developed trained instinctive reflexes.

    Side note… at Boy Scout summer camp this year, the shotgun range offered to let me try multiple clays. I consistently got the second one and the instructor noted that that’s a good sign indicating that had I had more practice, I’d regularly get both. He could see that I was pulling slightly too quickly away from the first shot. Most people get the first and aren’t close to the second and are much harder to train to get both.

    My eyes aren’t great though, with worsening keratoconus in my dominant right eye, so I have to shoot through my clearer left eye. Ultimately, I can aspire to excellent but competitive-quality accuracy isn’t going to happen.

  3. Mumblix Grumph Says:

    I put a green laser sight on my Saiga-12. I know it’s unnecessary, but I like it.

  4. Jim Says:

    Just pipe-dreaming, but with “enough” lazer, who needs the gun, anyway?

    Not that I’d ditch the gun, they’re too fun, and useful!

    Just that it’d be nice to have a Plasma Rifle in the forty gigawatt range. ‘Bout the size of a S&W Shield 9mm, would do nicely.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  5. Tom Says:

    Rather than screw around with the 7.62×25, why not go with the 7.62×33? Also known as the M1 carbine… Cheap variants abound, it’s light, relatively high powered, controllable, short, and with hollow points, very effective. A very nice truck gun.

  6. Steve H. Says:

    I think that’s not a bad idea, but man, $270!

  7. Steve H. Says:

    I just did a little checking, to refresh my memory RE the M1 carbine. I’m seeing velocity figures like 1900 fps, and I don’t see any good hi-capacity magazines out there. I don’t know if the extra money is worth it. It’s a neat gun, though, and one I’ve wanted for a long time.

  8. Tom Says:

    Cheap is cheap. You’d be buying a longer-barreled tokarev. Spend the $270 on something else. I’ll readily admit that the M1 isn’t a rifle cartridge, but it is a hell of a pistol cartridge. In a carbine, it’s a sweet shooter within its capabilities (out to about 150 yards). Ultimately, it’s your money, if you want a toy, who am I to talk you out of it?

  9. Firehand Says:

    Top velocity you get from the M1 Carbine round is just shy of 2000fps. That said, with a good soft- or hollowpoint bullet, at home-defense ranges? Not bad at all.

    On magazines, the standard is 15 rounds, the longer is 30. Again, for home defense, how many do you need?

    I admit to prejudice: they’re short, light, handy and reliable, and fun to shoot. For optics you can put a Ultimak mount on(replaces the handguard) for a red dot or scope; a very solid mount.