When Arnold Schwarzenegger used a laser sight in The Terminator, such devices were in the realm of science fiction.
A few decades later, laser sights are now recommended pieces of equipment for self-defense pistols and revolvers.
Laser sights are simple things. They project a dot of light wherever your muzzle is pointing. Properly used, this allows you to get on target as fast as possible. This has obvious advantages for self-defense, whether you’re defending your home or carrying a concealed weapon.
Lasers of today are smaller as well and can fit nearly any weapon. Though some are designed for a specific handgun model, others are universal. If you wanted to, you could mount a laser sight on a musket!
However, not all laser sights are created equal. But whether you want a cheap sight that works well enough or the best of the best, we have you covered.
The 8 Best Laser Sights Reviewed in 2019
These are our top recommendations for pistol laser sights in 2019:
- Best budget: TACTICON
- Best budget #2: Pinty Compact Tactical
- Best for the money: Streamlight TLR-6
- Best for the money #2: Crimson Trace CMR-201
- Best overall: Crimson Trace Lasergrip Series
- Best overall #2: LaserMax Internal Guide Rod
- Best for revolver: Crimson Trace Lasergrip
- Best for 1911: Crimson Trace Master
|Category||Best Budget||Best for the Money||Best Overall|
|Product|| || ||
|Laser Color||Red||Red||Red or Green|
|Wavelength||625–650 nm||640–660 nm||620 – 670 nm or 515 – 535 nm|
|Battery||3 x AG3 or LR41||2 x CR-1/3N Lithium||1 x 1/3N Lithium or 4 x #2016 Lithium|
|Mounting Style||Picatinny or Weaver rail||Gun-specific||Gun-specific, replaces the grips|
|Accessories||- two sets of batteries|
- Picatinny rail section
- adjustment wrenches
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Budget Handgun Laser Sight – TACTICON Laser Sight
Laser Color: Red
Wavelength: 625–650 nm
Battery: 3 x AG3 or LR41
Mounting Style: Picatinny or Weaver rail
Accessories: Two sets of batteries, Picatinny rail section, and adjustment wrenches
There are many cheap laser sights. Take a laser pointer, make it compact, then slap it to a Picatinny rail mount, and you have a laser sight, right?
Well, you may get something that projects a laser dot, but if you go with that type of cheap manufacturing, you’ll end up with a large number of rejects. Cheap lasers are not known for their quality.
The TACTICON Laser Sight bucks this trend. It is a cheap laser sight, but it has a lifetime, no-questions-asked warranty!
It is a red laser, in the 625-650 nm range. This makes it great for night use. The laser is strong enough for day use within 100 feet as well.
Three AG3 or LR41 batteries power the laser, which is adjustable for windage and elevation.
The unit mounts onto a standard Picatinny or Weaver rail. It comes with a Picatinny rail section attached to the top, though you can remove that to save space and weight if you desire.
Being so cheap, there’s a higher rate of defective units than with more expensive laser sights. However, more people are happy with this sight than with any other laser sight of similar cost.
- Comes with Picatinny rail
- Excellent warranty
- Oddly-sized batteries
- Locking screw may be too large for some rails
If you want to save money and still get a laser sight you can depend on, the TACTICON Laser Sight is for you.
2. Second Best Budget Handgun Laser Sight – Pinty Compact Tactical Laser Sight
Laser Color: Red
Wavelength: 655–825 nm
Mounting Style: Picatinny or Weaver rail
Accessories: One set of batteries and adjustment wrenches
The Pinty Compact Tactical Laser Sight may be more compact than a flashlight, but it isn’t as compact as most of the other laser sights on this list. In fact, the laser housing projects forward quite a ways.
That does not make it a bad sight. In fact, dollar for dollar, this may be the best laser sight you can buy!
Do keep in mind that it is cheap enough to fall under the category of “gun accessories,” so you may need to take advantage of the company’s excellent customer service.
What you get is a moderately-sized, compact laser sight, two Allen wrenches, and a set of batteries. The sight mounts to a generic Picatinny or Weaver rail and can go on your handgun, rifle, or shotgun.
The red laser is bright, though the wavelength does stray a bit from what the human eye can see best. Expect this laser to work best in darker lighting conditions.
The adjustment screws seem to be prone to working themselves loose, so add some Loctite before use!
- Extremely inexpensive
- Good customer service
- Adjustment screws practically require Loctite
- Laser housing projects forward
With some Loctite, the Pinty Compact Tactical Laser Sight is a great way to add a cheap laser to your handgun.
3. Best Handgun Laser Sight for the Money – Streamlight TLR-6
Laser Color: Red
Wavelength: 640–660 nm
Battery: 2 x CR-1/3N Lithium
Mounting Style: Gun-specific
For the most bang for your buck, you cannot beat a flashlight and laser combo.
The Streamlight TLR-6 is perhaps the best pistol flashlight and laser combination unit available. It is compact, mounts easily, and you can replace the batteries without removing it from your pistol.
The flashlight puts out 100 lumens, and the laser’s wavelength is from 640 to 660 nm.
The battery life ranges from 1 hour when both the light and laser are on to 11 hours with just the laser active. There’s a 10-minute auto shut-off to preserve battery life if you accidentally leave it on. You can choose to use the light, laser, or both at your discretion using the ambidextrous push-button.
However, you need to get the right TLR-6 for your specific pistol model. There are many versions of the TLR-6, each one designed to mount on just one or two handguns.
For example, the 69270 is for Glock 42 and 43 handguns, while the 69275 is for Sig Sauer P238 or P938 handguns.
There are also TRL-6 models for non-railed 1911s, railed Glocks, the Glock 26/27/33, M&P Shield, the Springfield Armory XD, and more.
- Auto shut-off
- Flashlight and laser combo
- Long battery life
- Gun model-specific and therefore cannot be used on a rifle or shotgun
With both flashlight and laser, the Streamlight TLR-6 is a great choice for certain pistols.
Streamlight TLR-6 is also available at:
4. Second Best Handgun Laser Sight for the Money – Crimson Trace CMR-201 Rail Master Universal Laser Sight
Laser Color: Red
Wavelength: 620 – 670 nm
Battery: 1 x 1/3N Lithium
Mounting Style: M1913 Picatinny rail
Accessories: Inserts to fit specific firearm models and adjustment tool
The Crimson Trace CMR-201 Rail Master Universal Laser Sight lives up to its name. It is designed to fit generic Picatinny rails and comes with the fitment inserts necessary to mount it on other handguns as well.
Though the CMR-201 was designed to mesh best with handguns, it can also be mounted on rifles or shotguns. It is extremely low-profile and can fit in most holsters.
The 5mW laser is also very powerful. You activate the laser by pressing a button on either side of the unit, and an automatic shut-off keeps the laser from burning through the single 1/3N Lithium battery.
That shut-off period is only 5 minutes long, however, which is rather short.
- Auto shut-off
- Powerful laser
- Short run time before the auto shut-off activates
The Crimson Trace CMR-201 Rail Master Universal Laser Sight is an aptly named laser sight that fits most handguns. If you want to go even more compact, you need to pay a lot more.
Crimson Trace CMR-201 is also available at:
5. Best Overall Handgun Laser Sight – Crimson Trace Lasergrip Series
Laser Color: Red or Green
Wavelength: 620 – 670 nm or 515 – 535 nm
Battery: 1 x 1/3N Lithium or 4 x #2016 Lithium
Mounting Style: Gun-specific, replaces the grips
The Crimson Trace Lasergrip Series of laser sights is one of the best types of laser sights out there.
There are two methods used to make a laser sight as compact as possible: you attach it to the grips, or you use it to replace the guide rod.
Crimson Trace became famous for mounting their lasers to the gun’s grips. This has advantages over less-expensive Picatinny rail mounted lasers.
One advantage is that the sight hides on your gun better. You’ll be able to use more holsters without having a lump hanging from the end of your gun.
Another advantage is that you can these sights to guns that do not have Picatinny rails, such as revolvers and subcompact pistols.
My favorite advantage, however, is the natural activation system. All you do to turn the laser on is grip the gun naturally; the button is on the front of the grip.
No thought is required to turn the laser on, and it turns off as soon as you put the gun away.
They even come sighted-in from the factory!
- Available for a wide variety of handguns
- Factory sighted
- Turns on when you grip the gun
- Replaces your chosen grips
Crimson Trace Lasergrips are bright, compact, and are activated by gripping the gun, making them the best option for self-defense laser sights.
Crimson Trace Lasergrip Series is also available at:
6. Second Best Overall Handgun Laser Sight – LaserMax Internal Guide Rod Green Laser
Laser Color: Green
Wavelength: 520 nm
Battery: Silver oxide, model specific
Mounting Style: Gun-specific, replaces the guide rod
Semi-auto pistols use a recoil spring guide rod to keep everything working smoothly.
LaserMax laser sights replace the guide rod and slide release instead. Your gun looks and feels like how it came from the factory, except with a laser sight right next to the bore!
This does mean that you need to buy the model specific to your handgun. LaserMax has covered many firearms from Beretta, Glock, Sig Sauer, Springfield Armory, and Taurus. Outside of those manufacturers, though, you are out of luck.
The batteries, too, are specific to your handgun’s model and are sold by LaserMax as well. This is because each pistol’s dimensions are different, so each model has different battery size requirements.
To install the laser sight, you need to strip down your handgun and replace the guide rod with the laser. The on/off switch replaces the slide release and can be used for both functions.
As the laser is inside the gun, it is better protected than any other laser sight style.
The green laser is recommended, as it is more visible to the human eye than the red laser.
- Protected from the elements
- Ultimate in compact form factor
- Complex installation
- Expensive batteries
- Limited gun selection
If you want a laser sight that hides inside your pistol and do not mind the expense, get a LaserMax Internal Guide Rod Laser.
LaserMax Internal Guide Rod is also available at:
7. Best Revolver Laser Sight – Crimson Trace Lasergrip Series
If you want to add a laser sight to a revolver without a Picatinny rail, there is really only one choice: Crimson Trace Lasergrips.
Revolvers lack guide rods, so they cannot use that type of laser. They also only rarely have Picatinny rails. This leaves a grip-mounted laser as the best option, and Crimson Trace is the only company which produces those.
LaserMax does produce laser sights that mount to the front of the trigger guard; however, they add bulk and are more difficult to use than the Crimson Trace lasers.
As a bonus, Crimson Trace Lasergrips are made from a hard and smooth polymer that’s easy to draw and helps to mitigate the recoil from heavy-recoiling revolvers such as the Smith & Wesson 642 Airweight.
They also fit many other revolvers from Charter Arms, Kimber, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Taurus.
Crimson Trace Lasergrip Series is also available at:
8. Best 1911 Laser Sight – Crimson Trace Master Series Lasergrips
Whether from Colt, Rock Island Armor, or Kimber, 1911s are very common handguns. Some models have Picatinny rails, but those are few and far between.
So, since you cannot use a Picatinny rail-mounted laser, why not use Crimson Trace Lasergrips?
Part of the allure of the 1911 platform is the wide variety of custom grips. The normal Lasergrips series by Crimson Trace is a black polymer that looks rather generic.
However, you can get the benefits of Crimson Trace Lasergrips without compromising on the beauty of your gun with the Crimson Trace Master Series.
Master Series grips are beautifully designed and come in a variety of materials. You can find them in Cocobolo, Rosewood, and Walnut as well as G10 in several colors.
Those of you with round heel 1911s are not left out, either. Crimson Trace Master Series Lasergrips are available with a rounded heel as well!
Crimson Trace Master Series Lasergrips is also available at:
Why Use a Laser Sight?
The question of whether or not to add a laser sight is a good one.
For most normal gun use, a laser sight is superfluous or even distracting. If you’re shooting for points on a paper target, you don’t want a dot bouncing around.
So, if you spend most of your time at the range, you may not need a laser sight. Owning one is still a good idea for reasons I will get into later.
However, laser sights are excellent for self-defense. I would even say that they are required!
When using a gun in an emergency, you won’t have the advantage of taking your time. Your shooting stance won’t be perfect. You may not even be able to raise your gun to see the sights.
This is where laser sights shine. They let you know where your muzzle is pointing, no matter your gun’s position.
In a split-second situation, that can help you pull the trigger first and walk away the survivor.
However, laser sights do have some disadvantages.
For one, they are only good at short ranges. Lasers get harder to see the further away they point. Most laser sights are sighted in for 50 feet.
They also are less visible in the sunlight, though a green laser is better for this purpose.
Also, some people have a tendency to aim solely with the laser rather than using the sights when the laser is not needed.
But on that point, lasers can be a strong practice tool.
It’s hard to catch bad habits when pulling the trigger, unless you have a laser. That dot will bounce around if you aren’t pulling smoothly.
The laser dot can also catch muzzle sweeps and remind you to keep the gun pointed at your target!
Pros of using a laser sight
- Helps train shooting skills
- Faster target acquisition
- The laser dot is visible in low-light conditions or even in the complete dark
Cons of using a laser sight
- Adds bulk and expense to the handgun
- Hard to see in bright light
- Requires batteries, sometimes expensive ones
- Some people become fixated by the dot and forget to use proper shooting techniques
Why Pick a Quality Laser Sight?
You can buy lasers for cheap nowadays. Why would you spend over a hundred dollars on one when you can get one for twenty bucks?
Two reasons: power and quality.
Cheap lasers won’t be as powerful as expensive lasers. The more powerful the laser, the brighter it will be and the easier time you’ll have using it.
Also, you get what you pay for with lasers. More expensive lasers will have higher quality components with stronger soldered connections and more reliable switches.
They may also be able to handle stronger recoil or worse weather conditions.
Lastly, while budget-friendly lasers may be sold by companies with good customer service, any return will be a hassle. You won’t need that when you invest in a quality laser sight.
Built-In vs Separate Lasers
Broadly, there are two types of laser sights: built-in lasers and separate lasers.
Built-in lasers are hidden in a part of the gun, either the grip or the guide rod.
Separate lasers are attached to a Picatinny or Weaver rail.
Separate lasers tend to be cheaper than built-in lasers. They are also easier to install or remove, so you can use them on other guns as well.
Handguns with built-in laser sights tend to be easier to use because you don’t need to reach forward to activate the laser. Depending on the style of the laser sight, either push part of the slide release or naturally grip the handgun to activate the sight.
Built-in laser sights can also be used on pistols without rails. They are also more compact than separate lasers and, in the case of guide rods, take up no external space whatsoever. This makes them more resistant to damage and easier to fit in holsters.
However, built-in laser sights are designed to mount on specific handgun models and cannot be used on other guns. Also, installation is more difficult than sliding the laser onto a rail and tightening a screw.
Replacing a grip is somewhat easy (though not as easy as attaching a separate laser), while replacing your pistol’s guide rod is an involved process.
How to Choose a Laser Sight?
There are many varieties of laser sights out there. How can you settle on one?
Rail-Mounted or Gun-Specific
A quick way to narrow down your choices is to determine whether you want the laser sight to live on a single pistol or if you want to be able to move it around as you desire.
Removing a laser sight and mounting it on different firearms is an economical way to train with all of your guns. In this case, you will need a Picatinny or Weaver mounted laser sight
However, if you want to avoid the hassle of zeroing the laser every time you move it, then you’ll want to get a gun-specific sight. That style will be the most compact and have the highest quality.
If you’re using the laser sight on a handgun intended for self-defense, then you’ll be limited by your holster.
A bulky laser at the end of your gun may not fit your holster!
Also, if there’s a chance you will be using the laser sight during the day, you’ll want the brightest, most powerful laser sight possible. Typically, this means that you’ll have to buy a more expensive model.
Red vs. Green Lasers
The two most common laser colors available on laser sights are red and green. This is for a good reason.
Red lasers are cheap to make. Companies then pass on the savings to you, so red laser sights are less expensive than green sights.
However, green sights have a strong advantage over red sights: biology. The human eye is more sensitive to different wavelengths, and green lasers match up with peak color sensitivity.
So, for a given output power, a green laser will be more visible than a red laser.
This is not important if you will use the laser indoors or at night. However, if you ever use the laser outdoors during the day, then using a green laser can mean the difference between seeing the dot at 50 feet and 50 yards!
Crimson Trace leads in the handgun laser sight business. If you want the best laser sight possible, buy one of their products.
Before Crimson Trace, laser sights were bulky products that took up a large amount of space on your gun and were difficult to use. Crimson Trace took to the philosophy of making their laser sights not only compact but also easy to use.
Extremely easy to use.
Crimson Trace uses the trademarked Instinctive Activation technology to ensure that the laser is right there with you as soon as you hold the gun. Then, when you put down the firearm, the laser turns off so it won’t waste battery life.
This process, which involves a button on the front of the grip, makes Crimson Trace’s products a joy to use.
On the high end, you can purchase grip lasers made from exotic woods such as cocobolo. On the cheap end, the grips are a black polymer. They are comfortable but unexciting.
However, you pay for this ease-of-use and quality. Crimson Trace products are not cheap, though the Rail Master laser sight is much more budget-friendly than the Lasergrips are.
Where Crimson Trace leads in ergonomics, LaserMax leads in ruggedness.
LaserMax is owned by Crosman Corporation, the market leader in air guns and related products. Their funding has allowed LaserMax to become another market leader, this time in hardened lasers.
Lasers made by LaserMax are used in science labs and in industrial settings. They also help soldiers hit precisely where they’re aiming.
They not only produce rugged lasers but also innovate their use. The best example is the LaserMax Guide Rod lasers, which replace the recoil spring guide rod to add a quality laser sight without compromising the firearm’s utility in any way.
One testament to the quality of LaserMax products is how a police officer from Estes Park, Colorado, lost their handgun in a lake. Four months later, it was recovered, and the laser sight still worked perfectly.
LaserMax lasers may be more expensive than those sold by other companies, but you can be assured they will survive circumstances which would kill other lasers.
Gun accessories can be expensive, which can keep them out of the hands of the people who most need them.
TACTICON Armament is a small company run by combat veterans dedicated to selling inexpensive yet quality tactical gear. Their handgun laser is one of the top-rated and best-selling laser products on Amazon, and not just because it’s so cheap.
The founder will go to any lengths to ensure that every customer is satisfied with their purchase. If you buy a TACTICON product, not only can you expect to save money, you’ll also benefit from a lifetime no-questions-asked warranty and may receive a hand-written thank you letter!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do most green lasers use a wavelength of around 550 nm?
Lasers emit light of a specific wavelength. One of the most common wavelengths found in laser pointers is around 550 nm.
The human eye, while it can see many colors, is more sensitive to certain wavelengths. The rods in your eye are most sensitive to 500 nm light waves, and the cones are most sensitive to 555 nm light waves. 550 nm lasers thus are more easily visible than lasers of other wavelengths.
Red lasers can range from around 625 nm to 825 nm. The lower the wavelength, the closer it is to the 550–555 range preferred by the human eye, and so the laser will be more visible.
How often should I change the batteries in my laser sight?
Lasers are power hungry. Laser sights have small bodies and rarely hold large batteries. So, laser sights often have a short battery life. They often only last for several hours.
It’s wise to practice with your laser at the range before relying on it with your life. However, I would not put a laser-endowed gun on my nightstand after a long practice without using a fresh set of batteries. You don’t want the laser to die during an emergency situation!
If you leave the gun at the ready, though, without using it for months at a time, the batteries should stay fresh. I would test them occasionally to ensure they still hold juice.
If you have any doubts as to how much life is left in the batteries, why not take the gun to the range and practice until the battery needs to be replaced? Then you’ll know the laser has fresh batteries, and you can sleep soundly.
Will using a laser sight negatively impact my shooting skills?
A lot of people recommend not using laser sights because those people think lasers can be a crutch.
Follow the dot too much and you will lose your handgunning skills, they say.
That is not true. A laser sight is nothing more than an augment to your gun that allows you to accurately use the gun when you normally would not be able to.
A laser sight allows you to know where your handgun is pointing, even if you do not have a perfect sight picture. This allows you to get on target quickly even if your gun is by your side.
You still need to use the iron sights when accuracy is required, such as when shooting at long range. Also, a laser can show you where the muzzle is pointing during training, so you can easily see mistakes, such as jerking the trigger.
So, laser sights extend your shooting skills rather than diminish them.
Does a laser sight give away my position?
Another persistent myth of laser sights is that they give away your position more than they help you find your target.
That is not really the case. Laser beams are invisible in the air except when shone through smoke, and the laser emitter focuses all of its light on the dot.
A flashlight will give away your position more, and those are even more recommended for home defense firearms than lasers!
Why do the police not use laser sights?
Generally, you do not see laser sights on the guns used by police officers.
However, some police do use laser sights! It’s just rare. Police departments which allow laser sights do so as a personal choice. The officers still need to qualify using iron sights, and the laser sights are not issued by the department.
This means that the officer needs to pay for their own laser sight and are not trained in their use by the department. Also, some police officers believe them to be a crutch, so there is resistance against using them.
Also, police tend to use handguns at a variety of ranges, not just room-clearing distances. As mentioned before, handgun lasers are more range-specific than iron sights, and the dot disappears into the distance. So, in longe-range situations, laser sights offer no advantages.
Can I hunt with a laser sight?
If you live in the United States and want to hunt with a laser sight, you may or may not be out of luck.
Many states (and some other countries as well) prohibit the use of lasers while hunting. You will have to look up your own local laws.
But if the laws do allow you to use a laser sight while hunting, feel free to do so! Keep in mind that laser sights are typically only accurate at a specific distance because a laser travels in a straight line while a bullet follows a curved, ballistic trajectory.
Also, I recommend a green laser for hunting, because they are more visible during daylight.