It’s rare to find anyone with an AR not interested in hitting their target, but — depending on the purpose of your firearm — the right approach to optics can vary wildly. The good news is there are lots of products to choose from; be it traditional scopes like those from Burris, Nikon, or Bushnell, or more tactical products like those from Aimpoint, EOTech, and Trijicon.
One sighting system for those who appreciate a visual indication literally beamed onto their target, is the laser.
Many combat operators will use a laser to speed target acquisition. While the perception of lasers may be that of an urban combat tool, a quality laser paints a target out to 300 yards or more — even in broad daylight. Higher-end lasers may also include a pulse option which makes it easier to lock onto a target at longer distances.
The old adage that “one is none, two is one” applies as much to tactical professionals as long-range enthusiasts, so we dove deep into the world of AR lasers to separate the wheat from the chaff on these tools of the trade.
Comparison of the Best AR-15 Lasers
|Crimson Trace LiNQ Tactical Light|
|Streamlight TLR-2 Flashlight with Laser|
|TruGlo Laser Red Trupoint Light Combo|
|Surefire X400 Ultra-High Output LED + Red Laser|
|Streamlight Protac HL-X Rail Mount Red Laser|
|Streamlight TLR-8 Tactical Flashlight and Laser|
|Viridian Hand Stop Laser|
|TruGlo Micro-Tac Green Laser|
What to Look for in a Quality AR-15 Laser
The first step in choosing a high-quality AR-15 laser is to determine the purpose for which you need one. Is it for home defense? Is it for a faster sight picture? Is it for hog hunting at night? Do you need a light and laser combination?
1. Intended Purpose
Determining how you’ll use the product will help you choose the right laser or laser/light combination. It will also help you determine if battery life should be considered, the correct mounting option, location on the rifle, and more.
2. Rail Fit
The right laser will integrate into your rifle set-up without disrupting its configuration or requiring unwieldy attachments. Most rifles come with a Picatinny rail, but not always. Is your rifle set up on M-Lok or KeyMod? Will you an additional adaptive plate to mount your laser?
3. Mounting Location
There are several considerations for laser-mounting options on an AR-15 — key amongst them is identifying the location where you should mount it.
Examine how you naturally grip your rifle. Do you have a hand stop? Do you reach out to the end of your handguard close to your front sight? Are you right or left-handed?
Assessing how you naturally use your rifle will help tremendously for determining the right location of your future laser and the best product option for you. The last thing you want is to throw off the balance and usability of your rifle by selecting the wrong laser.
4. Easy-to-Reach Controls
Some lasers are paired with lights, which opens the door to an array of functions & uses. Depressing a pressure pad or activation switch will often cycle through the functions from light only, laser only, a combination of both, or even strobe functionality.
If you’re planning for a combination laser/light, consider the location of the controls to ensure you can easily reach and activate the switches on the device.
Ambidextrous controls are a very useful feature as they can prevent confusion in a stressful situation or if a family member needs to borrow the rifle it’s easy for all parties to use.
5. Multi-Rifle Needs
The most common mounting systems are a basic Picatinny rail, Weaver-style rail, or a quick detach lever. Other designs integrate the laser into the grip or hand stop. Determine which of these you’ll need and if the addition of a new grip or hand stop is a feature you want on your rifle.
Will you be using this laser across multiple rifles? If so, a quick detach mount will make it easier to toolessly swap lasers from one rifle to the next.
6. Sight & Laser Combos
If you are running red dot sights on your rifles, consider a side-mount or under-mount orientation (to the side or beneath the handguard).
This will prevent your laser placement from disrupting the sighting plain and keeps it out of the way.
If red dots are the most common sights on your current rifles, a red laser may be the right choice because the colors will match — making it easy to pick up visually.
7. Laser Colors & Intensities
Laser color and lumen count are two other considerations. Red lasers and green lasers will have varying degrees of visibility in different light settings. Their effectivenetss can also vary drastically from one person to the next. Before making a purchase, ask a gun shop to demo a laser for you or try a friend’s laser to see which color works best for you.
Red or Green?
A red laser sight is generally the less expensive option, is more commonly available, and is considered old school — meaning its the color most shooters are familiar with. They’re also slightly more difficult to see than green lasers, which can work to your advantage if stealth is your goal.
Green lasers are visibly brighter which can make them a better option for situations which make it harder to see the laser, such as daylight or long-distance shooting. Human eyes are much better at detecting green light than red, and understanding why requires a little detour into biology. The three types of photoreceptor cells in the human eye (called “cones”) contain photo-pigments that are designed to sense color wavelengths.
Together, the cones communicate the colors we’re seeing to our brain. Our eyes pick up green light most easily due to the receptivity of these cones to the wavelength of green light. Simple, really.
Adding a weapon-mounted light to a home defense weapon is a good idea for low-light situations, increasing situational awareness, and as a defensive tool for blinding or disorienting an assailent.
When hunting at night, a flashlight is necessary to see your target and — just as importantly — what’s beyond it. This is when lumens come into play.
It bears repeating, defining the purpose of your laser/light combination will help determine the lumens and the distance required. A compact, 300-lumen flashlight will not illuminate a field like a 1,000-lumen rifle light will.
A light that provides a strobe option is great for disorienting an intruder by decreasing their direct and peripheral vision. Blinding flashes also blow out their night vision, which induces fear and can reduce both their desire and ability to use force. A blind assailant is much less likely to assault anyone, especially if they know there’s a rifle on the other end of the light.
9. Battery considerations
Another consideration when choosing a light and laser combination is the duration of use. Do you plan on using this for hours at the range? Do you plan to use it on overnight hunts?
The intensity of the light and the duration of activation will impact battery life. Many of the lasers on the market are powered by CR123A batteries, which are readily available but not the most powerful. Look for battery saving features on a laser and light — some can last almost a full day or automatically shut off after a certain period of inactivity, saving your batteries for another day.
The Best AR-15 Lasers Reviewed
Crimson Trace LiNQ Tactical Light
This Crimson Trace device is a two-piece kit: a green laser with a 300 lumen LED flashlight and an activation switch built into an AR-15 grip. The AR-15 grip is unique because it uses Crimson Trace’s wireless connection, called LiNQ which allows complete control of the laser and light through the grip itself. This grip-based activation eliminates the need to reach for the forend and activate the light or laser.
When pressure is applied to the grip switch the laser and light activate. The only downside is without a proper grip neither the light nor laser will be activated. While a quite natural means of activation, manipulating the grip switch to ensure the laser has been triggered can take some practice.
Streamlight TLR-2 Flashlight with Laser
- C4 LED technology, impervious to shock with a 50,000 hour lifetime; 510 530nm direct drive green...
- Streamlight TLR 2 HLG Tac light with laser black finish, includes rail locating keys for Glock...
- White and green laser settings. TLR 2 HL G runs 1.5 hours (Laser/LED simultaneously). 17 hours...
The Streamlight TLR-2 is an 800-lumen flashlight and green laser combo in one easy-to-mount device. When mounted to a Picatinny rail this device can be activated with both left and right controls and uses two common CR123 batteries, keeping it lightweight. Once mounted, the laser can be adjusted for both windage and elevation so you can dial in the placement on the target.
TruGlo Laser Red Trupoint Light Combo
This TruGlo laser/light combo mounts directly to Picatinny or Weaver-style rails. It comes with interchangeable backplates for right or left-hand use, which means when installed it can only be activated from the side onto which it’s mounted.
The Trupoint also features a quick detach lever for fast removal if mounting onto another rifle.
Surefire X400 Ultra-High Output LED + Red Laser
- Virtually indestructible ultra-high-output LED delivers 600 lumens of blinding white light; produces...
- TIR lens shapes versatile beam with enough reach and surround light for close- to longer-range tasks
- 5mW (505nm) Class IIIa red laser sight is highly visible to the human eye and rarely needs...
The Surefire X400 is both a light and red laser in one powerful device. Compact enough to be easily mounted on long guns or pistols, this 500-lumen light can be activated with one finger for momentary push control or toggled on for constant-on operation.
Streamlight Protac HL-X Rail Mount Red Laser
The Streamlight Protac Rail Mount is a 1,000-lumen AR-15 rifle light with an integrated red laser. One of the best features the “dual fuel” battery, which can be powered by a Streamlight rechargeable battery pack or two CR123A batteries. Mounts to all Picatinny rail systems.
Streamlight TLR-8 Tactical Flashlight and Laser
- Body and facecap: 6000 series machined aircraft aluminum with black anodized finish
- C4 LED technology, impervious to shock with a 50, 000 hour lifetime; borofloat high temperature...
- 500 Lumens, 4, 300 Candela peak beam intensity and 131 m beam distance. Laser provides long-range...
The Streamlight TLR-8 is a 500-lumen LED flashlight and laser in one device, machined from aircraft-grade aluminum. The CR123A battery limits the light to a 1.5-hour life, but provides the laser 18 hours worth of run-time.
The left and right switches provide ambidextrous operation for ease of and it mounts onto any Picatinny rail.
The Viridian Hand Stop Laser attaches to all M-Lok rails and can be sighted in with both windage and elevation adjustments.
The laser activates when pressure is applied to the hand stop and works with any grip style — thumb-over-bore, C Clamp grip, or a traditional off-hand rifle grip. It’s an ideal home defense laser and incredibly straghtword to use — which is a must have for stressful situations. The Viridian laser is only available in green, but offers up to 90 minutes of run-time and is visible for up to 2 miles at night.
TruGlo Micro-Tac Green Laser
- Easy ambidextrous push-button Activation for left and right-handed users; Recessed on/off buttons...
- Next generation, High-Efficiency Superconductor Laser Diode Green Laser; Operating temperature:...
- This product is a Class 3R (IIIa) with power output <1mw and wavelength 500-540nm
This TruGlo laser has an incredibly small profile and takes up almost no room on a handguard. The laser automatically shuts down after 5 minutes to preserve battery life, and easily mounts to any Picatinny or Weaver-style rails. A key feature is the ambidextrous push-button for both left and right-handed shooters are mounted in a way that’s easy to activate but recessed to avoid accidental activation.
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