By Annette Doerr, Women’s Outdoor News
If you have kids, you might be familiar with the game “Red Light, Green Light, 1-2-3,” but as a shooter, when I hear “red light, green light” I automatically think of laser sights. When they first became commercially available for firearms, lasers came only in red. Now, thanks to newer technology and research, we have the option to purchase our optics in red or green. But did you ever wonder why lasers are only marketed in red or green? What about blue, or pink or orange? Do you even know where the word laser comes from?
The word laser is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers themselves have come a long way from when they were first developed in the 1940s. With the advancement of technology, now anyone can afford to upgrade her pistols with laser sights.
I recently reviewed the new Spartan Laser by LaserMax. What’s cool about the Spartan is that you can install it on most semi-automatic pistols. If you decided to buy a laser sight, would you want it in red or green? I took a look at some reasons to consider each color. Here’s what I found:
- Some old-school shooters prefer the red beam because that’s what they’re used to.
- Red lasers cost less to manufacture, so are generally less expensive to purchase than their green counterparts.
- Red lasers are also said to have a better battery life, which makes them less expensive to operate.
- Red lasers are currently more mass-produced, which means they’re readily available in the marketplace (but green ones are gaining fast).
- According to the research done by LaserMax, the human eye can see the color green easier than any other color. This holds true in any lighting condition.
- Green looks brighter to our eyes than any other color.
- Many shooters like to have the newest technology; green lasers are taking the market by storm.
- Green lasers are easier to see in bright daylight. We don’t think about how much optical power it takes to see a color, but apparently it takes less effort for our eyes to see the color green. In daylight, our eyes can see all colors well, but we still see green the best.
Knowing the above, I ran my own unscientific test. In broad daylight on a sunny day, I was unable to see a red laser on my target at about 25 feet, but still able to see the green. I played around with my distances and lighting conditions: Other than in bright daylight, I was able to see both, especially as I reduced the light. In a low-light situation, I’d be comfortable with either color.
There are many benefits to shooting and training with a laser:
- If you find yourself in a low-light situation, the illumination of the laser can give you a better sight picture.
- A laser sight tells you exactly where your shot will go.
- Merely pointing a laser at a threat may be enough to stop the threat without having to pull the trigger.
- Lasers give you a quick sight picture.
- Lasers provide instant feedback when dry-fire training, and they make dry-firing much more fun.
That said, there are also some misconceptions about lasers:
- A laser will give away my location. Well, maybe…and if we’re talking about using lasers during military operations, it may be a valid point. However, if I wake to a home invasion, my yelling at the intruder that I’ve called 911 and that I will defend myself will also give away my location. Besides, modern lasers are not like what you see in movies: They do not create a visible line between the gun and the aim point. Any perceptible beam is only visible because of air contaminants, such as dust or smoke.
- You need more training if you need to rely on a laser. Using a tool that provides a faster sight picture and shows you exactly where your shot will go hardly makes you a terrible shooter. Most people with this train of thought have never tried shooting with a laser.
- What happens when your battery runs out? Two words: personal responsibility. If you’re shooting with a laser, you’ll always want to make sure your laser has fresh batteries so that when you need it, it will turn on. Most lasers today have a very long battery life and an automatic shutoff feature (the Spartan automatically shuts off after 10 minutes of inactivity). It’s up to you to make sure your lasers work, but don’t forget we’re not talking about a scope; your gun will still have iron sights on top. If in doubt, why not put some night sights on your gun in addition to the laser. (Safety first!)
The list of responses and/or questions as to why you choose to train and shoot with a laser never ends. I find that 9 times out of 10, the people who make negative comments are the ones who haven’t trained or shot while using a laser.
It’s now commonplace to purchase a pistol with a laser already integrated. Most manufacturers work with the leading laser manufacturers and have worked their designs flawlessly into the frame of the gun. They’re so well designed you don’t feel any extra bulk in the grip, even though that’s generally where the laser is based. Guide-rod lasers and grip lasers are also readily available if you want to retrofit your pistol. These are easily installed at home, without the need for a gunsmith. Guide-rod lasers are manufactured specifically for certain pistols, ensuring proper fit. And then there’s the new LaserMax Spartan, which is now available in a laser and light combination. The Spartan will fit on almost any semi-automatic pistol by connecting to your preferred location on the bottom rail. If you’re a revolver fan, No worries—LaserMax makes lasers for wheel-guns, too.
It’s impossible to say whether a green or red laser would work better for you. Variations in the human eye, degrees of color blindness, and other vision issues can affect how an individual perceives light, color and, ultimately, which laser they can see better. Both colors have benefits and work well. Either color is better than not having one.
Whether you’re purchasing a pistol with an integrated laser or buying an accessory laser for your existing handgun, rifle or even shotgun, that tiny beam of red or green light can be a terrific aid to your shooting and your safety. Do your research and see which color laser is best for you. Then grab one and start training.
It used to be red that meant stop. Now, according to companies like LaserMax, green means stop, too.